Saturday, June 6, 2009

Hyenas and being a boulevardier in Addis

Another week in Addis. Monday we went to the National Museum in the grounds of the university. It’s housed in Haile Selassie’s former palace, state-banqueting rooms now libraries and reception rooms the offices of administrators. Second floor is given over to the museum and the emperor’s bathroom – very 1950 chic pale blue ensuite - and bedroom are intact.

The exhibit itself leads through the stages of life showing artifacts associated with birth, childhood and so on. One area is devoted to the influences of Islam and another to Coptic Christianity. Annotation is spotty and in some areas things are definitely lost in translation. All in all I’d recommend a visit. A very practical caution however – no toilets! And despite poking my head in several office doors and asking, the answer was a resounding “no”.

One 6th degree of separation moment on Tuesday – I was sitting in the outside area of the German Bakery and Café when a woman came over to say, “I think we’ve met before”. We had passed on the trail during a hike the preceding Saturday.

Have also navigated the twisting goat-skull littered lanes and alleys of the neighborhood and can now get to the favored Starbuck type coffee shop and find a comfy chair from which to observe the world. Never thought I’d be a boulevardier in Ethiopia. I watch the suicidal blue taxes cramming in far more passengers than you think possible; fruit and vegetable vendors; knock-off video vendors; beggars in rags and impeccably dressed Ethiopians – the Europeans tend to be far more casual. All this entertainment plus a warm croissants and two double espressos for under $3.

Thursday a friend offered me a ride out of Addis and north into the Entoto Mountains in search of Spotted Hyena. We raced through town passing the US Embassy that, in comparison to other embassies, is an absolute fortress. Apparently all US embassies worldwide are being rebuilt in this same style – model comes in gigantic, enormous and huge. Hard pressed to tell which is the Addis version. By comparison the British embassy compound is an oasis of green complete with clusters of thatched cottages and a thatched pub, The Addis Arms.

We climbed out of town passing a sad parade of women bent double under the weight of eucalyptus branches. I’ve been told that this pitiless job is reserved for impoverished widows. Along the road forests of a quick growing eucalyptus have been planted to provide a ready source of firewood. Tied bundles of the boughs lean against trees waiting their human donkey to transport them down into Addis. Tempting as it was, I did not take photos, it just seemed to me to be too crass.

We passed the octagonal shaped Coptic Church of Maryan, site of the coronation of Menelik, the Emperor famed for leading his troops into battle against the Italians in 1895 and defeating them – the only African army to route an invading European force. Ethiopia has never been colonized. I wanted to go in but the throngs of faithful outside made it impossible to get through and we passed.

Once out of the eucalyptus line we were in high pine tree and shrub country – leopard country too though we did not see any. Also reported to be troops of baboons in the area and those too kept them hidden. We did see Dik Dik, very small deer and Spotted Hyenas. The hyena spotting took some doing. Had to grope down a downward sloping hill to a cliff edge, nothing to hold onto and then lean foreword to see over and under the precipice. We could smell the hyenas and then one appeared and gazed up at us. Saw “bits” of two other. Perched on that cliff edge I had the sudden feeling that I was participating in a Far Side cartoon set up. One hyena engaging my attention and the rest of the troop moving silently up the cliff side to get us from behind! “Right boys, you smile for the camera and the rest of us will creep up on her”! Fortunately, they didn’t.

Heading out for Rwanda tomorrow.


If you are enjoying reading this blog and our web site, please help us continue by supporting our advertisers and affiliates by clicking through on their ads.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let's talk....Give us your comments

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.