A trip to Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, is essential. Do it if you have the chance because it is a wonderful city perched in the mountains above the clouds.
Before I continue any further I can’t help but post up one of my fave pictures taken in Asmara. I call it ‘Telephone Lady’:
For us, coming from Massawa, we took a four hour bus journey up through the mountains, stopping off half way for sweet tea. The journey was more impressive than the capital itself!
Pictures speak a thousand words and so here they are. There are so many I have tried to divide them up into sections spread over a couple of pages, so the pics of Asmara will be published in a few hours. They are a better set than these pics as the journey up was plagued by dark cloud, which is not great for photography. Still, these images should paint a nice story of the journey up that mountain road.
We began by leaving Massawa and immediately hit the hills, quickly shifting from dry to verdant. For whatever reasons there was much cloud cover and it was rather misty and grey. We passed many townships, some farming, some industrial.
A treat for us (and the bus driver) was stopping off half way up the mountains for a tea and wee break in a wonderful market village. Check this dude out, I love the way he can drape a dirty bit of pink cloth around his shoulder and carry it off with some style.
We attempted to distribute pens and cigarettes to the locals but it got a bit manic and one man was beaten away by the bus driver to prevent him from clambering over Astrid of ‘Storm Dodger’!
As usual the children were amused by my camera and quite keen to have their photograph taken, even if it meant grabbing the nearest goat to get my attention!
Bicycles feature a lot in Eritrea, for obvious reasons.
And if you don’t have a bike, then there’s always your artiodactyls to choose from…
The less said about the state of the toilets at these tea-drinking establishments the better so we jumped back on the bus and I’ll now tell you exactly how cool Ian of ‘Rhumb Do’ is. As we approached the upper parts of the mountains we were suddenly surrounded by about 20 baboons!
We pleaded with the driver to slow down so the gawping tourists could poke their cameras out of the window to get some shots.
Tony, ever the naturalist, decided the monkeys might be hungry so he threw out some bread. He wasn’t wrong because another 10 baboons appeared and before we knew it the largest of the group bounced up to the open window right by Ian. He curiously poked his head in to the bus and, despite 20 hysterical yotties screaming and jumping up and down, he nonchalantly scanned the bus for food.
Ian sat rigid, unmoving. His unblinking face was just inches away from our furry cousin and thought it best not to move. There’s a possible theory Ian was actually sh!tting bricks but we’ll just say his naval training had taught him to remain motionless when in danger.
At this point the bus driver appeared with his stick again and beat the baboon back out the window. No animals were harmed during this adventure.
Another curiosity was the appearance of terracing in the steep hills. They looked ancient and only patches of them were still being tended. How did these terraces get there, why was there so many and exactly how old are they? Can anyone help?
We break through the clouds and believe we’ve made it. We hadn’t as it was another small town and we stopped to view the shambles of the houses the locals were dwelling in.
Finally we got to the very highest mountain and the road leveled off.
We were in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea.