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Thursday, 11 August 2011

When the desert gives way to rolling, green mountains

The journey from Khartoum to Gonder in Ethiopia has been spectacular and a real treat. We have witnessed such beautiful scenes that have often required us to take a deep breath and say… “Wow, we are so lucky to be witness to this magic!”

We left Khartoum late Monday after spending most of the day exploring the city and having our eyes open to how modern and progressive the city is despite the negative demeanor portrayed by the media. Sudan in all has left us feeling very positive. We were pleasantly surprised to see how open, warm, hospitable and accepting everybody was. Perhaps it is our secular ignorance that expects all religiously devout to be condemnatory whereas the Sudanese completely undermined this insinuation with their overwhelming kindness and good will. Just goes to show…
Delicious dinner we were so kindly invited to... breaking Ramadan fast!

Our very eccentric hotel in Wad Medani, Sudan.

Our drive on Monday took us from Khartoum to Wad Medani. This little town on the Nile is a favourite destination of honeymooners and its picturesque setting explains just why. As soon as we turned into our guesthouse we were immediately whisked off by the staff who insisted we join them in their feast to break Ramadan… this is just the type of Sudanese warmth that I am trying to affirm! We went on to enjoy the best meal in Sudan… homemade is always best ;)
Child and donkey South of Khartoum.

Nomads riding through the desert on the road to the border with Ethiopia...

The next day we decided to tackle the long haul to Ethiopia. The drive was exquisite and we were enthralled by how the scenery slowly underwent a metamorphosis from dry desert plains to lush, green mountains… full of life, live-stock and people! It was also a very interesting and insightful transition to witness how the more South we went the more the houses and people changed from the Northern rock-cement houses of the Sudanese Arabs to the thatch huts of the Southern Sudanese refugees… which have found their home in the agriculturally rich areas south of Khartoum, out of the war-torn areas further South. To a passer by, if it weren’t for the sporadic UN vehicles and UN signs designating these areas ‘refugee areas,’ it would be all too easy to mistake these seemingly peaceful rural settings as completely normal.

Family life for the Southern Sudanese in Northern Sudan.

Despite our knowledge of this country’s violent history it seems that life is in fact moving forward and above all we witnessed a true spirit of brotherhood or “Ubuntu” between the Sudanese… at least here in the north! We are fans! ;)           

We were lucky to get to the border just in time and pass through within two hours (good for a land border me thinks!) After pulling through this arbitrary land border… EVERYTHING CHANGED… RADICALLY! It is incredible to see how the people and the landscape have changed so dramatically! We have been exported into a strongly Christian society established firmly not in the desert but in the rolling green mountains of the rift valley... 20 degrees cooler! The contrast in itself was quite breathtaking! We stopped at the first guesthouse we saw, 35kms after the border and just in time to escape the rain and dark which had combined with the numerous donkeys, cows, goats, children, rickshaws, people etc.. who rule the road in Ethiopia. We celebrated our arrival in Ethiopia with a well-deserved beer… the first in 10 days since Sudan.
Donkey cart in the first little village we slept in, in Ethiopia.

Lush mountains on the drive to Gonder... unfortunately I have only 100's of photos of the road beneath me due to putting my head camera at the wrong angle... tragic! The road was just soooooo beautiful!

View from our little sanctuary in Gonder... breathtaking!

We arose early to enjoy the drive to Gonder… and enthralled we were! This was without a doubt (for us both,) the best drive we have ever had the blessing to enjoy! Ethiopia is truly a magical place… and each step is just a treat! Being the only country in Africa to never have been colonized it goes without saying that it is a rather unique place on the continent… and this speaks too, to the pride of the people and the amazing preservation of their distinctive culture.

The drive took us through mesmerizing mountain views, winding up and down and through rural bliss! The Ethiopia we have seen is everything but the media’s view of abject poverty. Not ignoring the obvious problem with poverty, we just felt that a good dose of positivity and a respect for this harmonious rural lifestyle is in order. It was wonderful riding through these immaculate, pristine valley vistas… greeted with enthusiastic waving by children tending cattle. It is hard really to describe how special it has been to see this magical place.
Streets of Gonder

The Royal Enclosure in Gonder... beautiful and moving ruins!

We finally approached Gonder and into a rush of people and cattle flooding the streets only to retreat to a wonderfully peaceful mountain haven with sweeping views over this real-life Camelot! We spent the afternoon exploring this historic place… astounded by the beautiful ruins and evidence of the several generations that have made their mark on this region. A truly special day…

A real life Camelot.... the stuff of fairy-tales!

Outside the baths with our friendly guide who let us in on the secrets of these ancient ruins... Ethiopians are very proud of this history. Once every year they full up the old baths, which are then blessed by priests and a big celebration ensues! Sounds like fun ;)

Beautiful how the trees are in harmony with the ruins...


  1. WOW, looks so beautiful! So haapy for you two that everything is going well and you are having fun. Missing you and love you madly.Vesselina

  2. Awesome and very interesting. Enjoy!

  3. So glad that the Egyptian Blues are behind you and that you and Dad are having a much more satisfying journey. It's amazing how different an experience can be by just stepping across a border! What beautiful photos of Gonder - I feel like I'm there with you experiencing those beautiful places by just reading your wonderfully descriptive blogs - you need to write a book about this journey! Lol Mum

  4. Wow, what an absolutely amazing adventure. Beautiful pics and beautiful writing. So glad i can keep up to date with your journey. Sending love through the African skies, Lissa

  5. Sounding wonderful and glad that it is such a positive experience for both of you. I am glad that the bureacracy of Egypt is behind you and that the road ahead beckons brightly. What an absolutely awesome experience this is. Loving the pictures and the updates. Stay safe, enjoy and know that we are very proud of you and I love you madly ;~D loads of love and hugs Monique