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Bigfella heads for the 'Heart of Darkness'.....sorta

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  • #46
    Dok & Pari Reply

    You've always been a smart-azz.

    Now it all makes sense.

    "...Depending on who was visiting it may have been followed by a comparison of which 'dieting pills' (read amphetamine) the doctor was currently prescribing for weight loss..."

    Ahhh...better living through modern chemistry-

    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
    "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs

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    • #47
      Originally posted by Double Edge View Post
      One of my bosses was like that, tea or coffee only so long as it was decaffeinated.
      Thats like drinking non alcoholic beer. Whats the point?

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      • #48
        Originally posted by Firestorm View Post
        Heh. This is the case even today in India, for everybody, not just women. If you visit someone's house and refuse both tea and coffee they might even feel offended. Luckily, most Indian household's will have some sort of Sharbat in the fridge....which will be the next thing offered.

        And if you say yes to Tea or Coffee, be prepared to get milk in it. People might ask you how much sugar you want in it, but nobody will ask if you want Milk in it. That is considered as essential an ingredient as the Tea leaves or coffee beans themselves. :)
        Yeah, I'm one of those genetic anomaly Indians who don't like chai. I mostly ask for Sharbat if I'm making a house call. Once I was out hiking at a rural hill station and came upon a chai tapri (stall). Being the idiot I am, I ordered nimbu pani (lemonade) instead of chai. I promptly spent the next few days shitting my guts out with diarrhoea. Non-heated beverages at a remote tapri, never again.

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        • #49
          IDK how is it in India, but here, thanks to the Turks, sharbat is gonna kill you if your grandfather was a diabetic.

          I can't stand that much sweet. Will take blank (that's without milk and sugar) dark tea over sherbat at any given time. But, if there is some sort of descent coffee... I'll take it, even at 11 pm.

          @Gunny,
          As for why no caffeine heated beverages. Some people have problems with it and hot beverages are a must in some places, since people can't drink the water as it is. It has to be boiled first. So why not adding a taste to it. Now, it's in people's genes, as well as a social norm.
          No such thing as a good tax - Churchill

          To make mistakes is human. To blame someone else for your mistake, is strategic.

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          • #50
            Originally posted by Doktor View Post
            IDK how is it in India, but here, thanks to the Turks, sharbat is gonna kill you if your grandfather was a diabetic.

            I can't stand that much sweet. Will take blank (that's without milk and sugar) dark tea over sherbat at any given time. But, if there is some sort of descent coffee... I'll take it, even at 11 pm.
            Sharbat in India is pretty much the same story. However, if the sharbat gives you diabetes, the chai will turn you into a sugar candy pinata. You can't escape sugar in India.

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            • #51
              If I were a different sort of guy I might be offended that this thread isn't more about me. Here is a cool photo from Ethiopia:

              Attached Files
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              Win nervously lose tragically - Reds C C

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              • #52
                B.F. Reply

                "If I were a different sort of guy I might be offended that this thread isn't more about me..."

                You instigate stream-of-consciousness behavior amongst your peers.

                This is a good thing.:)

                In some cultures it is a mark of an elevated intellect to provide such compelling fodder.

                Not here though.
                "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
                "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs

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                • #53
                  OK, back to me now.

                  I'm in Africa, re-tracing the steps of European explorers & would be builders of empire. It is WAY cool. I don't have time for a big report right now, but I thought I'd check in to say that I got here in one piece.

                  This place is AWESOME!!!!! In 2 days have seen the Great Rift valley (from above); boated on the head of the Nile; a bunch of cool monasteries & what would once have been a truly awesome waterfall....before they built a hydro plant upstream. Spent this morning driving from rolling countryside onto a mountainous plateau. Just had a truly delicious Ethiopian buffet lunch in a shady courtyard with ethiopian music playing just across the road from a C16th century castle (I can see the wall from my table). To top it all off, I can't move without seeing a eucalyptus tree - so I feel a wee bit at home. perfect climate, perfect food, great beer, lovely people, very safe.

                  More when I have time.
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                  Win nervously lose tragically - Reds C C

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                  • #54
                    Minne,

                    I'm off to see a fashala (Beta Israel) village tomorrow. Sadly I think it is a bit like one of those ;human zoo' villages in upcountry Thailand, but there is some historical interest.

                    After that I think my guide plans to try to kill me trekking in the Simien mountains. Knew I shouldn't have paid up front!!!

                    Oh, internet speeds here range from merely slow to glacial. There will be no illustrations until I get back. Sorry folks.

                    Now, off to photograph some art deco Italian colonial architecture and find me some local beer (dashen beer rocks!!!).
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                    Win nervously lose tragically - Reds C C

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                    • #55
                      This is basically a group email I sent out to a bunch of friends & family. Hope you enjoy:

                      As I write this I can see the sun rising over the mountains in Gondar. I am over 2200 meters above sea level & it is stunning. Last night I returned to my hotel room with vultures circling above, I woke up early this morning to the muslim call to prayer and a pack of Hyenas definitely not in kansas any more toto!

                      My holiday began in then most spectacular fashion possible. Taking off from Dubai we flew above (but only just) the Burj khalifa. Damn that thing is tall!! Can't wait to get to the top. From Dubai I flew over a 'sea of sand' in the uninhabited back blocks of Saudi Arabia, then over the mountains of Yemen. Sadly the entrance to the Red Sea was clouded over, but entering Ethiopia we flew across the start of the great Rift Valley. WOW!!! Buckled earth, extinct volcanoes, dry river beds and then a dramatic escarpment to the mountainous plateau above. Just stunning! The other remarkable thing is the amount of land here that is cultivated. At times it looks like the rice terraces of Asia every square inch taken up.

                      My Ethiopian experience started with long queues at immigration and the bank. I missed my hotel shuttle & got overcharged by a cabbie welcome to Africa kiddo. The next morning the airport was barely controlled chaos. Still not sure how I made my flight. Again, the journey north to BahirDar was spectacular. I was afraid cloud was going to ruin it, but we got clear skies just in time to see the stunning sight that is the Blue Nile gorge. Just sad that I won't get to see it from ground level. Not quite the Grand Canyon, but plenty big.

                      BahirDar is gorgeous. It sits on the south end of Lake Tana. At 65 by 75kms it is the 3rd largest lake in Africa. I got to spend several hours on it. Ethiopia is a very religious country so there are churches & monasteries everywhere. Ethiopia has a very distinctive brand of Christianity. It is descended from Syrian Coptic Christianity imported around 300AD, but centuries of isolation after the rise of islam saw it evolve its own particular features. The islands & isolated peninsulas of lake Tana contain many monasteries. I got to see several. They are large, round buildings usually made of mud and timber. Inside there is a 'holy of holies' that contains a replica of the Ark of the Covenant. That room is only open to priests, but the external walls are covered with the most beautiful paintings illustrating Bible stories. Following that the boat took us to the head of the Nile. I felt like I was following in the footsteps of some European explorer as we aimed the boat into the Blue Nile. Amazing to think that water will one day pass the Pyramids 7 empty into the mediterranean.

                      From BahirDar to Gonder is stunning. From the relative lowlands near the lake you are suddenly confronted with a huge mountainous plateau. Nestled among those peaks is Gonder, capital of Ethiopia from the 16th to the 19th century. It is home to huge castles and a large ancient church. It is also home to some rather sad looking 1930s italian architecture courtesy of a brief period of italian colonial rule. Had a great time picking through the ruins & hearing all the stories of the Kings 7 Queens of Ethiopia.

                      UPDATE:

                      Since this morning I have gone for a bit of a hike in the majestic Simien Mountains. Much of the great mountainous plateau in Ethiopia seems to have been subject to volcanic activity at some time. The soil & the stones make that clear. That appears to explain the great spectacular valleys & ridges soil eroded by millions of years of rain. It also explains why all the mountains here have a touch of green. Wandering around at 3260 meters above sea level left me a bit breathless at timers, but it was totally worth it. For reasons not clear to me we got both a guide and an armed 'scout'. These guys are old men armed with rifles older than me. Not sure what they are protecting us from. Probably not the baboons, which allowed us to get within a few meters while they picked away at the grass. Got plenty of pics 7 some cool footage of baby baboons. So cute!

                      Tomorrow is a long drive on one of the worst roads in Ethiopia. Going to be shaken & sore by the end I fear. The payoff is the ancient ruins of Axum & the church that houses the Ark of the Covenant.

                      Oh, the food is great, the beer is great & both are cheap.
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                      Win nervously lose tragically - Reds C C

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                      • #56
                        There are only two reasons for a westerner to wake up in the misty mountain town of Debark. Either you are off for a day or two trekking in the Simien mountains......or something has gone terribly wrong. Unfortunately I had already done my trekking.

                        So, we've all been there. You are sheltering from the blistering sun in a broken down car on a deserted mountainous dirt road in Africa, there is no mobile reception and the only person in the area who speaks english has just disappeared from view to get help. No? Just me stupid enough to do it then.

                        The day had started well in Gonder and when we left the sealed road outside Debark 90 minutes later we were 'making great time'. As we picked our way down a fairly perilous road we even passed one or two other tourists. Then the car broke down for the first time. I wasn't that worried. Even the second time I still had hope. The third time I thought we were in strife & the fourth & final time I knew it was bad. The driver's expression said as much. So we waited, accompanied by a few of the local folk who are always wandering along the roads. A bus stopped & a group of men got out to 'fix the car'. It went from bad to worse. We might have been able to crawl to a village before. Not now. So we waited.

                        Ethiopians are the nicest people. A few of them sat with us. I got to smile at a little kid of about two who stopped chasing a cow to join his dad next to us. And we waited. My mood went from bad to worse. I had about 250ml of warm water & no food. Eventually my resourceful guide Melese managed to enlist the help of a road crew. When they finished for the day they got the car mobile and we piled into their huge dump truck to the next village. There a new gaggle of men worked on the car while the locals looked at me like I was from the moon.

                        It must be said, at no time did I feel any threat. Ethiopians, especially rural folk, just aren't like that. The kids who hitched a ride in the car to the village could have gone through my bags. They didn't. The amount of people prepared to help would shame most nations & they were all so damned friendly.

                        This group of men did the trick, but it seemed best to send the car on ahead. Back into the truck. So there I sat, wedged into the front with 6 other guys & a bunch of Ethiopian football posters (the team was playing a world cup qualifier the next day). We climbed our way back over the mountain, up a bad road barely wide enough for the 4wd I had come down in. You can imagine how chuffed I was at all this. Three days in & the holiday is in freefall.

                        Miracle of miracles we got back to Debark. I booked in to the newest hotel in town so new only 1 of the 4 stories was useable and the power (and hot water) wasn't on. I was dirty, badly sunburned & looking at having to change all my hotels & flights for a week. Eventually I got my shower, some food & beer and calmed down a bit. We had another vehicle by the time I went to bed. What did Winston Churchill say about 'sleeping the sleep of the saved'?

                        Next morning I discovered that while the new Toyota land cruiser had more leg room, it lacked functioning seat belts and power windows (Ethiopia seems to run on Toyotas). Worse, the driver was keen on going fast & it turns out that the bit of road we had already travelled was nowhere near the worst. Despite the heat I was fully covered to avoid the sun and spent 8 hours clinging grimly to a seatbelt that had nowhere to clip into. When we finally hit Axum I was drenched in sweat, exhausted and covered in a fine layer of dust (my gear in the back was covered in a thicker one). Not a great few days.

                        ...don't worry folks, it gets a LOT better from here. ;)
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                        Win nervously lose tragically - Reds C C

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                        • #57
                          This is what happens when you don't drink coffee.

                          Whenever I miss mine, I feel same ;)

                          BTW, glad you are fine.
                          No such thing as a good tax - Churchill

                          To make mistakes is human. To blame someone else for your mistake, is strategic.

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                          • #58
                            Originally posted by Bigfella View Post
                            …...don't worry folks, it gets a LOT better from here. ;)
                            So you assume..... I feel you have yet to embrace the full Ethiopian 'experience'
                            In the realm of spirit, seek clarity; in the material world, seek utility.

                            Leibniz

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                            • #59
                              Originally posted by Parihaka View Post
                              So you assume.....
                              I actually wrote the email 3 days afterward, so I had a fair idea how it was going to turn out. ;)

                              Because it was a group email with my mum as a recipient I couldn't end on a down note - she'd worry for days.


                              I feel you have yet to embrace the full Ethiopian 'experience'
                              Lets see, I'm sitting by a dusty roadside in the baking sun on a piece of ground covered in dried cow shit, with no food & barely any water, completely reliant on the kindness of strangers to bail me out. Sounds like I got quite enough of the 'experience' thank you very much.
                              Last edited by Bigfella; 20 Nov 13,, 19:13.
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                              Win nervously lose tragically - Reds C C

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                              • #60
                                So, when I last left you it was at the end of a difficult few days & I had just rolled into Axum in the northern Tigray province. Here is where things begin to improve.

                                We made good time so meles suggested we attempt to cover the things to see in Axum. There was a chance we might even get back on our timetable and avoid some unpleasant messing about. So, in the space of one afternoon I got to see the birthplace of Ethiopian civilization, the birthplace of Ethiopian Christianity, the palace of the Queen of Sheba and the building housing the Ark of the Covenant....allegedly.

                                Axum has a central place in the story of Ethiopia. It is seen as the place where peoples from the Red Sea/Arabia and Africa first created an Ethiopian civilization. According to legend it was home to the Queen of Sheba, who went to Jerusalem, had an affair with King Solomon and brought back his child – who became King Menelik. The next 236 kings & Emperors of Ethiopia right down to Haile Selassie claimed to be descended from Solomon. On the edge of town I saw the ruins of a building claimed to be the palace of the Queen of Sheba. Unlikely, but probably pre-Christian. Across the road in a farmer's field was a collection of stellae – standing stones – from a later period. Axum was the center of the Axumite civilization that ruled parts of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Yemen from the 1st to 7th centuries. What remains now are some impressive tombs & foundations and some even more impressive stellae. The most remarkable of these stands 23m high & was carved out of a single block of granite. The stellae have carvings of various sorts on them dedicated to pre-Christian gods except the last, which appears to indicate a conversion to Christianity.

                                It seems appropriate, therefore, that across the road, behind the huge, beautiful and modern Cathedral of Tsion Maryam (St Mary of Zion), are the ruins of the very first Ethiopian Coptic church – established in the 3rd century AD. Behind it is a huge stone church unmistakably the work of King Fasilades – builder of the castles of Gondar. Next to both is a small building said to house the Ark of the Covenant (so much for Indiana Jones, it was here all the time!). There is one monk dedicated to tending it, and when he dies another takes his place. I finished off with a magical stroll through the giant hemi-spherical Tsion Maryam accompanied by the priest & the deacon, who explained all the wonderful paintings & showed me the ancient holy books. Ethiopia is just full of centuries old parchment (goat skin) holy books. Many are written in Geez, an ancient language that is to Amhara, Tigrinia & Eritrean what latin is to some European languages & was to the Catholic Church.

                                Fortunately Axum is not a big place so all of this didn't take too long. As we came to the end of the tour my guides and driver were glancing at their watches. The sun was going down and streets that had been full of people in Ethiopian colors had become eerily deserted. The town had come to a stop. So had most of the nation. Ethiopia was playing Nigeria in a World Cup qualifier with the winner to go to Brazil in 2014. Along the main street of Axum huge groups of people were clustered around TV sets. Even the drivers of the little 3-wheeled bajajs had stopped work. My escort scooted as soon as they could & I walked into a hotel lobby/bar overflowing with people. It was great fun. People hung on every pass & every shot at goal. It was a wonderful atmosphere. I ducked upstairs for a quick shower and then out into the street to finish watching the game in the warmth of the evening. At one point a member of the local militia wandered in to watch – AK47 slung over his back. Unfortunately Ethiopia lost 2-0, but people were proud of how well they played. As I at down for an overdue meal Melese & my driver emerged from another part of the restaurant where they had been watching the game. Somehow it all made sense.

                                In a few short hours I had gone from hot, sweaty, tense & stressed to cheerful & completely relaxed.....and there were even more remarkable sights to come.
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                                Win nervously lose tragically - Reds C C

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