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Pole to Pole

Day 80: Bahir Dar to Addis Ababa

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleSix times in the last seven days we've been up before dawn, usually to catch the coolest time of day. This morning it is because we have a very long drive ahead if we are to reach Addis Ababa on schedule. The capital is 300 miles away and we are taking a gamble by using a subsidiary road for the first 160 miles to avoid the busy truck route. My Michelin map has the first part of our journey picked out in yellow and white stripes, indicating, elegantly but rather unhelpfully, 'road liable to be impractical in bad weather'. As there is also a rumour that a bridge is down this could be quite an adventure.

We leave at a quarter to seven, apprehension mixing with elation at the prospect of a great step forward. If we can reach Addis by tonight we shall be less than a thousand miles, on long straight roads, from the Equator.

At the first checkpoint, we ask a soldier with boots, but no laces, if he knows anything about the bridge being down. He shakes his head. A mile further on Sayem, our driver, pulls up and there is much argument between him and his colleagues about fuel. As in the USSR and Sudan, petrol is strictly rationed here and cannot be acquired without coupons and permits. Sayem is worried that the garages on our back road will not know anything about our permits. Bearing in mind the misfortunes that have attended our transport from Khartoum he's right to worry, but calculations are made and we all start off again. A few yards later we stop again, this time to interrogate a bus-driver as to the state of the suspect bridge. Smiles all round - the road is passable.

Once clear of settlements we are into a beautiful, Arcadian landscape of green terraced fields, with a silver river winding its way down through the valley towards ragged mountain peaks half hidden in haze.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 80
  • Country/sea: Ethiopia
  • Place: Bahir Dar
  • Book page no: 176

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