Raphael Kessler

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South East Asia 1999

  1. Vietnam - February 1999
  2. Thailand - April 1999
  3. Malaysia and Singapore - May 1999
  4. Indonesia - June 1999
Africa to home, the long way
- Africa
  1. South Africa
  2. Namibia and Botswana
  3. Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya
  4. Uganda
  5. Ethiopia
  6. Egypt
- Middle East and Balkans
  1. Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey
  2. Balkans
  3. Turkey
  4. Iran
- Asia
  1. Pakistan
  2. China
  3. Tibet
  4. Nepal
  5. India 1
  6. India 2
  7. India 3
  8. Sri Lanka
  9. Bangladesh
  10. Myanmar
  11. Thailand
  12. Cambodia
  13. Laos
  14. China, Macao and Hong Kong
  15. Mongolia
- North America and Caribbean
  Caribbean, USA, Mexico and Canada
- Scandinavia and Eastern Europe
  1. Russia
  2. Sweden
  3. Baltics
  4. Poland and Czech Republic
South America 2002
  1. Brazil
  2. Argentina
  3. Chile and Easter Island
Central America and Mexico 2002
  1. Panama
  2. Costa Rica
  3. Nicaragua
  4. Honduras
  5. El Salvador
  6. Guatemala
  7. Belize
  8. Mexico
South America 2003-4
  1. Trinidad and Tobago
  2. Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana
  3. Venezuela
  4. Colombia
  5. Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands
  6. Peru
  7. Bolivia
  8. Argentina
  9. Uruguay and Paraguay
  10. Bolivia 2
  11. Peru 2
Specific Pacific
  1. California to Fiji+ French Polynesia & Cook Islands
  2. Samoa, Niue and American Samoa
  3. Tonga and New Zealand
  4. Australia 1
  5. Australia 2



So how has Ethiopia been? The answer - interesting, beautiful, fun and generally rather nice. I am now back in Addis Ababa, the capital. Addis is a rather peculiar place in itself, most of it resembles a sprawling rural african village more than it does a country capital. Examples of this being people dragging there goats across the roads at junctions and the donkeys feeding on the central reservations of the dual carriageways. The people here vary from being very nice to a complete pain in the arse. There are beggars all over the place and they can be rather persistent, especially the children who can be bloody annoying. Generally the folk are helpful and pleasant. When I first came to Addis I had a walk around, got thoroughly lost (part of the reason being there are only about three road names in the whole city) but eventually managed to find the national museum, home of Lucy. A 3.5million year old hominid. Rather old by anyone's standards, although they more recently found a 4million year old one. Had a wander round, also with a a couple of yanks (mother and daughter) afterwards we decided to try some of this Ethiopian homebrewed beer at the cafe which was totally repulsive, it was made of coffee. Marvelous, they've designed a beer that gets you drunk and sobers you up at the same time, whilst tasting foul. Later that evening I arranged to meet Janine (the daughter as the mother was flying back to the states) at her hotel as they apparently had some traditional dancing display. When we did meet up later some of the locals had taken pity on her sitting alone so decided to keep her company, all nice fellows, including the ethiopian deputy ambassador to New York. I joined the party and they got more drinks etc. took us to a coffee ceremony, and then onto a number of clubs and bars, where they had more authentic traditional dancing etc. By the end I got back to my hotel in the early hours of the morning, rather drunk.

Next was Lalibela, Lalibela is famous for its rock hewn churches, carved literally out of the bedrock. This makes for rather impressive pieces as some of them are very large, none are particularly small. What is more it means that the roof of the churches is generally at or below ground level. Upon arrival in Lalibela I met a couple of Dutch folk and we decided to go around together. We employed the services of a guide recommended to me by the yanks in Addis and went around the churches that afternoon. Some of them are rather spectacular, especially when one considers they are carved from a single piece of rock. The local folk blame the Italians for a lot of damage done to the churches, who knows what happened. In each of the churches there is a special cross designed just for that church.

All very interesting and Haftamu our guide was very informative. That evening I tried some khat, a leaf one chews and is supposed to be a stimulant, to be honest I was rather disappointed with it and on a cost benefit analysis it really fails, one has to bitter tasting stuff entire bushels of this stuff in your mouth chewing it for ages before one receives any of the benefits. Too much work. The following day Haftamu took the three of us to the marble church, we decided it would be more fun if we trekked there (most go by car) so we got up at 5am and started the walk in the dark, down deep valleys and then up the other side onto a plateau for a while and then the same again. Wilma who had previously not done a trek of this magnitude was shattered before we even reached our destination. On the way back she became rather ill and dehydrated and spent most of the time on a mule as she wasn't able to walk. For the last ascent I was getting on a mule and twisted my left hip (I twisted my right one in Uganda and both ankles in Tanzania) we got back into town at about 7pm. 14 hours and 60kms (30 each way) we were all pretty knackered, Marcel was also dehydrated. However, I met some Israelis Tali and Sagi and we were chatting till late. Sunday morning Haftamu took Marcel and I to see the church service at the largest of the churches St. Georges, where his father is a priest. Ethiopian orthodox mass is nothing like any other I know of, it consists of a number of priests and deacons wailing, banging drums, ringing bells and dancing rhythmically, something rather interesting. Unfortunately it is also at five in the morning, ah well. During the mass there was a couple getting married and one of the deacons was rubbing the most sacred cross of Lalibela all over the congregants, in effect bathing them in it. We walked along to another church where the ceremony had progressed a bit further and the priest was just leading prayers, coming out from behind a curtain to have a scream and then returning back to the holy of holies. I tried that afternoon to trek up to the monastery, only 7kms away but was not up to it, three quarters of the way there I decided to turn back as dehydration and tiredness from the previous day’s trekking seemed to be catching up with me.

Gondar was also once a capital of Ethiopia or Abyssinia as it was, I went to the Falasha village which is crap with no Falashas, despite there still being thousands in the country. However, I met with Tali and Sagi there so arranged to meet for food and drinks later. This we did and then went on to find Caramebulo, an Ethiopian version of bowls on a pool table with little soldiers to knock down and some more complicated rules. It became good fun to learn and embarrass ourselves in front of the locals with. Also in Gondar are some interesting castles dating back to king Fasilades and his successors who each built a new place. There is also a lovely church Debre Birhan Selassie, with lovely murals. From Gondar one can trek into the Simien mountains, I however decided that due to my twisting several joints in previous exercises should leave this for the while, I was hoping to do a trek of several days but it didn't seem practical, I got someone to drive me up to the mountains where I could see the Gelada baboons, endemic to Ethiopia and some lammergeyer (bone breaker vultures) as well as the mountains which are rather beautiful.

Bahar Dar, Bahar Dar is on the shores of Lake Tana with the lake having a number of islands with monasteries on. In Bahar Dar I met up with some folk I had previously seen in Gondar (French, German and a Croat) as well as a yank I just met, so we went off to see the area together. We walked down to the source of the blue Nile, over bridge that the army is guarding for some type of military significance. On the way back over the bridge Alex (the yank) decided to look at some birds with his binoculars and almost had us shot. One of the soldiers totally flipped out cocked his AK-47 and was pointing it at Alex's head whilst screaming, Alex decided to turn the other way which pissed him off even more, I just stepped back with my palms forward. One of the kids nearby told him that the soldier was screaming for him to put the camera down, Alex tried to explain that it was binoculars which antagonised the situation further, another soldier then came along had a look at the binoculars, gave them back to Alex and then told us to go. After which he proceeded to smash the kids around us with a stick for no apparent reason. It's always eventful traveling. Anyway, the following day we went with the others as they had a car and driver so first we went to Tississat the blue Nile falls, although not in full flood it was very nice. Then we went on a boat to a couple of the churches, the first was crap but the second was very nice and included a museum. Although in dire need of restoration it was very interesting and Samuel (French) a theology student was able to assist in the explanations of some of the stuff.

That is about it, from Bahar Dar I have returned to Addis and will be going onto Egypt imminently.



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