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Pole to Pole

Day 84: Addis Ababa to Lake Awasa

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleAt Bulbula, cattle are being driven down to drink at a palm-fringed pool fed by a narrow river and here we encounter our first baobab tree. These ancient growths are sometimes referred to as 'upside-down trees' and with their wide, stumpy trunks and scrawny branches they do indeed look as if they have been thrust into the earth the wrong way up.

By lunchtime we've covered 150 miles with ease and have reached the noisy, vigorous road-junction town of Shashamene. Kites and eagles circle above a busy main street with video stores, garages, stationery shops and public table tennis by the side of the road. Little children chew sugar cane, while their older brothers and sisters sell corn on the cob off charcoal fires. A huge parked Mercedes truck offers shade to a sheep suckling its young, a sleeping dog and, under the back axle, a cow, possibly hiding away from the legendary Ethiopian butchers' shops in which you can order a slice of raw flesh off the carcass and eat it then and there. We look into one. A huddle of men in the back of the shop are chewing away surrounded by walls of meat. Roger is very keen for me to join them but they are, thank God, not the least bit interested in appearing on television. We encounter similar resistance from the voluble and entertaining spokesman of a Rastafarian community in the town. Maybe it's because he's from Peckham in South London, but Tony, who talks to us outside a neat and well-kept collection of plain wooden huts with washing spread out on the grass to dry, is paranoid about the media. He's also fascinated by the media. His heroes are John Arlott, the cricket commentator, and Max Robertson. He is canny enough to know that people are curious about a Jamaican who supports Manchester United and claims to be a member of one of the lost tribes of Judah. He is also convinced that for some reason we will misrepresent him.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 84
  • Country/sea: Ethiopia
  • Place: Addis Ababa
  • Book page no: 188

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