On the Ethiopian side we spent around 2 hours. Immigration office outside looked like some brick-clay hut, but inside the first thing we noticed was a row of computers with some very professional-looking devices plugged into them (and not a single immigration official in sight). One of these devices looked like a passport-sized open flatbed scanner, the other one like a cyclops-eye mounted on a single chicken leg, to those with less imagination it might have looked like a webcam… Having waited good 10 minutes for someone to show up and then another 15 for their computers to start, we were then told these devices were ther to scan our fingers and eyes (yup folks, fingerprint scanners and Logitech-branded iris scanners in a small hut in the middle of the African bush-land!) . Anyway, the processing of the passport + visa and the scans were easy enough and took around half and hour.
Visa to Ethiopia: We got our visas in Berlin – and it was a multiple entry visa valid for 6 months, for which we paid 35 Euros. Charlie explained in the Embassy that we would be travelling through Africa overland, hence it was impossible to say when we would get to Ethiopia and with visias for tourists being valid only 3 months from the issue date they would be useless for us. He also explained that from the information gathered by us it was impossible for Polish citzens to obtain their visa anywhere else than 1) at Addis Abeba airport or 2) Berlin. Somehow they were nice enough to issue us (within 1 hour!) visas exclusive to foreign nationals of Ethiopian origins which offered extended validity. We were officialy declared Ethiopians 🙂
Customs – Well, we arrived at wrong time as they had lunch and they said we needed to wait till they finish their break. Terri asked them politely whether they could do an exception as we had long way to go and she really didn’t want to drive after dark. That didn’t quite work – Lunch is lunch. Finally, someone started checking our car papers and the cars (Carnet de passage is essential in Ethiopia) Additionally, for a first time we needed to declare what kind of electronic devices we had. So all laptops, cameras and gps’es had to be signed into the Ethiopian carnet-slip!
Ethiopia – first impression!
Here you have Ethiopia in 4 minutes:) It shows what you can really expect from that country:)
Ethiopian border is like a gate to the totally different world! And I seriously mean it:D Suddenly, everything has changed
1) The Weather
After the dry and arid lowland desertswith their extreme climate (Egypt in excess of 50°C/120°F in the shade, Sudan 45°C/110°F) it was so nice to enter this mountainous land with it’s soothing, refreshing, cool climate! It was a bit of a shock for our bodies as the temperatures rapidly changed from down to 20°C/70°F in the daytime, and sometimes less than 10°C/50°F when it rained in the night time.
2) The landscape
After more or less 20 km from the border the landscape rapidly changed. For nearly two months mostly what we had been seeing was desert, sand, rocks…In Ethiopia just after border crossing you are welcomed by highland and lush green landscape, which is seriously amazing
In Sudan, there was almost no people walking on the roads. Ethiopia – roads are full of people and their herds of cattle. Like in Egypt we needed to be careful of other cars and drivers, in Ethiopia we really had to watch out not to run somebody over. It looks that lots of people cannot afford to buy a car or even a bicycle, therefore tarmac roads are used for just walking.
Our first destination in Ethiopia was Gondar, and before we left the border we had checked on GPS the distance and estimated time to that city. It was less than 200 km and sort of 3 hours of driving. Unfortunately it was just a prediction! Shame, that GPS doesn’t have an option of taking into consideration all road obstacles while calculates the route. As I wrote: the roads were full of people, cows, donkeys, kids shouting to you or at your car…We were stopping more or less every 500 meters, and that caused lots of delays in our drive. Although we needed to be seriously careful on the road, we were enjoining beautiful scenery of Ethiopian mountains. Unfortunately the sun went down sooner than we expected and we had to drive in the dark. Driving in Ethiopia in the darkness is very challenging and not really recommended as there is no streets lights, lot of pot holes and the closer to the city, the greater amount of people on the streets (You need to be extra careful)