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Pole to Pole

Day 76: Kanina to Shedi

Gallabat, Ethiopia 
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Michael Palin - Pole to PoleThe Sudan-Ethiopian frontier is a stagnant creek, over which a concrete bridge has been recently erected. It doesn't surprise me when Graham warns that it is an area of high malaria risk.

I walk across, through a jostling mass of donkeys, trucks and curious faces, into Ethiopia, where, as they use the Julian calendar and not the Gregorian, the year is 1984, and the month, I think, January.

While the load is moved onto a new set of Landcruisers, I revel in the pleasure of the first beer since Aswan, just over two weeks ago. It is almost body temperature but quite wonderful.

Because it's now so late in the day we are advised not to attempt to reach Gondar as the roads pass through bandit territory, and we put up for the night at a village about twenty-five miles from the border. I don't think any of us cares much where we stay so long as there is a comfortable bed and some hot water. There are neither in Shedi. The accommodation, though looking quaint enough by candlelight, is rougher than anything we've experienced so far. My room is reached through a small dimly-lit bar which gives onto what smells and feels like a farmyard. In the middle of it are people sitting around a fire, and off to the sides are rooms that look like rough stables. Mine has an earth floor and wattle-and-daub partitions. There is a corrugated iron door and ceiling. The proprietress finds me a chair and a couple of stones to wedge one of the legs of the bed. Cockroaches and beetles scuttle away in the torchlight as I unpack. Electric light would be terrifying here.

This 'hotel', in which only Basil and I are quartered, is nevertheless more luxurious than the rest in that it sports a shower. This consists of a large plastic drum with a supply valve controlled by a piece of wire. The stream of cool water is heavenly. Not so the lavatory next door. I have become used to the squat technique, so I'm not unduly worried to find myself poised above a shallow hole filled with sawdust. It's when the sawdust starts to move that I feel just the slightest bit queasy. What I thought was sawdust is in fact a cauldron of maggots, over which the occasional cockroach stumbles.

Despite this revelation I partake heartily of Fray Bentos corned beef, Garibaldi biscuits and several Ethiopian beers before turning in.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 76
  • Country/sea: Ethiopia
  • Place: Shedi
  • Book page no: 164

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