hail to the bus driver

The Good Doctor and I made a last minute trip to Addis over the weekend to say goodbye to a couple of our friends who are leaving Ethiopia.

Travel in this country can be quite, er, interesting. What follows, in homage to The Sports Guy, is a running diary of our trek to the capital via Selam Bus*.

4:50am (10:50 Habesha time): Alarm goes off. I have to get up to go to the bus station. It’s unfortunate that I chose not to go to sleep until 3:30am.

5:01am: I meet the GD in the lobby to catch a bajaj to the Selam Bus station. It’s still dark out. I’m tired.

5:10am: We arrive at the bus station. We’re traveling light so there is no need to put any luggage underneath. This is a good thing.

5:17am: We board the bus. I take the window seat. The GD sits down next to me and discovers that the seat is wet. We can’t identify the liquid, which is worrisome. She decides to move seats and wait to see if the bus is full.

5:34am: The bus is not full. The GD and I each have two seats to ourselves. Excellent. I put in my earbuds, put on a playlist, and settle in for the journey.

Selam Bus is a private company and is similar to a coach bus service in the states. It’s relatively comfortable. The seats recline and they give you bread and water or juice. Not bad.

5:45am: I fall asleep. Sort of.

5:57am: I wake up. It’s starting to get light out. Sleep will be a tough go from here on out.

6:42am: The driver slams on the brakes, lays on the horn, and swerves to avoid hitting… something. I’m far back in the bus and can’t see what it is. My money is on a rogue donkey.

A note on honking: Bus drivers in Ethiopia honk constantly. This is to warn slower vehicles or garis and people walking on the side of the road, or to scare animals that are in the road and won’t get out of the way. This happens about every five seconds or so.

6:59am: An Ethiopian drama starts to play on the bus TV screens. As is the norm, it is really loud. I turn up my music.

7:11am: Matt Costa’s “Cold December” comes up on my iPod. I decide I’m going to buy a guitar after IST.

7:50am: We stop in a town – not sure which one – to pick up three more passengers. Two of them sit in front of me – a young man and woman, perhaps a couple.

7:53am: The woman in front of me is puking. Loudly. People stare. The bus worker guy gives her a plastic bag.

7:59am: She pukes again.

8:54am: The girl in the seat behind me pukes. Seriously.

9:31am: The bus stops for a bathroom break. This means men go find a tree to pee on. Some women do, too. The GD somehow manages to change into a skirt and then heads out to find a tree. When you gotta go, you gotta go.

Heading to the Gorge.

10:14am: We start to navigate the Blue Nile Gorge.

10:46am: The bus worker guy has collected money and then throws it out of the window toward some sort of guard shack near the bottom of the Gorge before we reach the bridge. Not sure what that is all about.

11:46am: We emerge safely on the other side of the Gorge.

11:51am: I fall asleep.

12:01pm: The bus stops for lunch.

12:10pm: After hitting the shint bet, the GD and I grab lunch at the hotel where the bus parked, Hotel Ganet. It’s a fasting day, so we get a bayinet. We discuss the fact that it’s been almost five months since we last made this journey.

12:25pm: We get back on the bus. As usual, a beggar gets on the bus to ask for money before we start moving again. I give her a few coins.

12:28pm: The bus starts moving.

12:28pm: One of the passengers hasn’t made it back to the bus and runs to catch it as it pulls away. Luckily, the bus worker guy sees him.

12:30pm: The Latin script and familiar double vowel constructions of Afan Oromo adorn the signs in town, which tells me that we’re in Oromia. Getting closer to Addis.

12:42pm: It starts raining. Driving in this country is scary enough without wet roads.

12:43pm: The Ethiopian drama resumes. Loudly. I turn up my music again.

1:03pm: I miraculously fall asleep as a Simon and Garfunkel song plays.

2:31pm: I awaken to the sound of S Club 7’s “Never Had a Dream Come True.” And puking. The girl in front of me is at it again.


2:33pm: I notice we’re on the outskirts of Addis. I can see it spread out below us.

2:34pm: The bus slows down and someone throws a plastic bag of vomit out of the window, which explodes as it hits the ground. Gross.

3:06pm: We pull into Meskal Square in the heart of Addis. Since we didn’t have any luggage underneath the bus, we avoid being hassled by the gaggle of loiterers who try to grab your bag and make you pay for “helping” you with your stuff.

3:07pm: We can’t, however, avoid the taxi drivers who vie for our patronage. We pick one, haggle, and make our way to the hotel. Another trip is in the books.

This ride was pretty uneventful and rather fast (nine and a half hours), which is good for us, but maybe not so good for those who read this blog. I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m not.

*Note: We flew back to Bahir Dar. It took 45 minutes. Seriously.


It takes five seconds to cross the Gorge in an airplane. Just sayin'.

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3 Responses to hail to the bus driver

  1. Joe Bronson says:

    Great pictures, Have a Great Thanksgiving.
    On a side note, the Scotty recall is underway, and looks promising. Take care !

  2. Pingback: list-en up | LethiopiaH

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