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Pole to Pole

Day 84: Addis Ababa to Lake Awasa

Michael Palin - Pole to Pole'You people! . . . What can you ever know or understand about what we do here!'

Understanding only comes from knowing, but Tony is adamant: 'Come back in three years when we have got it together'.

Janet, also from Peckham, smiles helpfully, says she can't change his mind, but she does recognize me from Monty Python. I feel our stay at Shashamene has been in the very best Python tradition.

Having failed with raw meat and Rastas we fetch up for the night at a lakeside hotel in Awasa. It's rather like checking into a zoo. A monkey sits at reception chewing the rubber off a pencil. In the grounds a pair of black-and-white casqued hornbills crash about in a cover of lush and exotic trees.

A tunnel of hibiscus bushes leads to a pair of old iron gates that give onto Lake Awasa itself. The water is fringed by a reed-bed in which Nick points out to me at least four varieties of kingfisher, an African jacana, or lilytrotter - an Audrey Hepburn of the avian world - and a tall, red-necked Goliath heron who appears to be monarch of all he surveys until with a rush of black and white and a brief cry of protest he is seen off by an African fish eagle.

The hotel bar fills up at dusk with locals and the ubiquitous aid workers or 'aidies' as they're known here. Unfortunately the beer runs out and not many people are left when at ten o'clock there is an English-language news programme on the television, preceded, inexplicably, by a short film on ankle injuries.

Our dinner conversation is becoming increasingly dominated by bowel talk. Since the crossing into Ethiopia all of us have been afflicted in some way. Is it the beer? Or the hotel salad? Nick can cap all our stories with his experience of giardia lamblia, which sounds like the ultimate in these sort of problems. I look it up in Dawood before I go to sleep and wish I hadn't.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

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

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