Two Horse Town

Day 47, rest day, Yabello

Yabello is pretty much a two horse town along a strip of tarmac that stretches for 6 or 7 kilometres. The Yabello motel is at a T junction at the end of the tarmac. Turn right onto the dirt and you head towards the Kenyan border. We wandered up and down the strip looking to change money, to buy peanuts and cold drinks and to look for restaurants other than the one at the Yabello motel. Got some peanuts and a snickers bar (like coke you seem to be able to get them everywhere), changed some money and found but didn’t eat in any of the local restaurants. The bank was a crazy chaotic place. Lots of guards with big guns of course. And lots of people who just seemed to be hanging out like in an old fashioned barber shop – sitting on chairs in the shade. They could have been waiting for service. Or maybe not. They had one of those money counting machines behind the counter. You put the paper money in the top. It shuffl3s and counts them, gives you a number and returns them in a neat pile out the bottom. Not here. The guy behind the counter put a stack of money into the machine while we were waiting to get our money changed. If you have ever been to Africa you will know that some of the paper money is older than Methusela. It is worn almost beyond reading. It is dirty. It is often stapled or taped together. (The irony is that they won’t accept any but the crispest, newest $US bills in exchange.) So when the clerk loaded the machine with this stack of old bills and asked it to count them, the machine did what any self-respecting machine would do. It spit them out. All over the bank. A tornado of Ethiopian Burr flew everywhere. Maybe that’s why all those people were sitting patiently on chairs in the shade.

As with most rest days, it was a day to do chores. Get the laundry done. Clean the bike. And so on. It was almost five by the time I had been into town, come back and done all the chores. When bedtime is seven, that doesn’t leave much time in the day. And after waiting an hour and a half for yet another plate of spaghetti and meat sauce there was even less time.

We only had two more days in Ethiopia. Most people were glad of this. While it is a fascinating and I many ways a beautiful country, the kids had spoiled it for many. Off our bikes they were not that different than kids in most other African countries – curious, wanting to talk to you and often to touch you. But basically friendly. On our bikes they are a menace – aggressive and casually and unthinkingly violent. But we have been told that as we approach Kenya, they become less of an issue. We hope so.

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