September cycling in some Balkan countries – First stage : Dubrovnik

Strava helpfully tells me I cycled over hill and dale and covered 1500 kilometres horizontally, and 16 kilometres vertically during the month September. I started in Dubrovnik, and headed over the first mountains and the border into Republika Srpska, and the town of Trebinje – with its leafy and genteel cafe-rich centre. And I ended at Thessaloniki, after traversing the hot, flat plains between Edessa and the port city in Northern Greece.

But first, Dubrovnik. I won’t dwell on the milling crowds, or the old city, or The Game Of Thrones, or the cruise ship terminal that the nearby port of Gruz is. I had visited Montenegro on my bike in 2017, and relished the high mountains, the Dinaric Alps, with its karst formations, and wanted to travel deeper into the republics of the former Yugoslavia, to try and begin to comprehend the incomprehensible ( to me ) connections between them.

Visiting the old city of Dubrovnik, trying to avoid the crowds, and the heat, I headed up one of the impossibly steep and narrow alleys, where diners seek shade at a narrow intimate table for two, and take refuge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Worth one’s salt…..

There are so many expressions using the word ‘ salt ‘ . And there are so many ways we harvest the stuff; mining rock-salt and evaporating sea-water, as examples.

But the salt-workers in the Afar region of Ethiopia, in the Danakil Depression,  work pretty hard to win their salary….( see what I did there? )

And I’m not sure whether the camels or the burros work harder than each other either. 

Danakil ¢

The salt-pan breakers come along with a kind of axe,  and break up the salt crust left from the evaporation of the shallow layer of water that briefly and seasonally exists over the flat, flat surface. 

Danakil 10

Then they use 4 long wooden poles, in pairs, to lever up the randomly shaped pieces of salt crust and leave them as dug. ( In the picture here, there are three workers….and a fair bit of laughter…)

Danakil 9

Then another guy shapes the random pieces into blocks – maybe 10 by 50 by 40 cm, and weighing about 5 kg.

Danakil 1

Then another worker comes and stacks the blocks into packs of  blocks and ties them up with rope. 

Danakil 2

Danakil 3

You can see the burros and the camels waiting in the glaring 35 degree sun-blasted plains, just dying to get the stacks of salt loaded onto them….the camels carry about 130 kg ( about 25 blocks ) and the burros about 6 blocks each.

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And then the drovers and animals set off, travelling at night, and walk for days….up to 14 days in fact, to get to Mek’ele. A 5kg block doesn’t earn that much….about 2 US$, delivered.

Apart from the fact that the workers wear ‘ jellies ‘ ( plastic sandals ), dark glasses and gloves, and of course use mobile phones, I can’t see that a lot has changed here for centuries…..its always been hard work, in any case. 

Dallol, Danakil Depression, Ethiopia

Temperatures approach the high 30’s and into the ’40s with regularity, but didn’t quite get there while I visited. Suffice to say, I was pleased it didn’t reach its record; over 50 degrees, in this intriguing landscape – 120m below sea-level. Its good to visit in December…average high temperature…36.7 degrees.

Colours from sulphur, copper, potassium, and chlorine; heated, dissolved and refined, result in not only the dramatically encrusted landscape, but their vaporising also takes your breath away……dip your hands in a blood-temperature oily ‘ potash lake ‘…..there’s a lot going on here….

 

Dallol 8

 

Dallol 7

 

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Dallol 5

 

Dallol 4

 

Dallol 3

 

Dallol 2

 

Dallol 1

 

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Addis Ababa Mercato

The ‘ New Market  ‘ – መርካቶ –  is supposedly the biggest open-air market in Africa….its Wikipedia entry says it ” covers several square miles, employs 13,000 people in 7,100 business units! ” Quite how such precise quantification can be arrived at…is amazing….because it goes on seemingly for miles in every direction!

In any case; it is huge, extensive, labyrinthine, seemingly (but actually not) chaotic…but above everything, absolutely my favourite place in Addis! The world is a market-place, where anything and everything is traded and processed….moved, and of course, valued.

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Roof view – Mercato, Addis Ababa

Mercato 2

Roofscape – Mercato, Addis Ababa

Mercato 1

Streetscene – Mercato, Addis Ababa

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Streetscene – Mercato, Addis Ababa

Mercato

Streetscene – Mercato, Addis Ababa

bearings as wheels

bearings as wheels

Street scene – Mercato, Addis Ababa

Coffee in Addis

I’ve been drinking coffee and retracing a few steps from my childhood days. I remember the Black Lion Of Judah, which had only been erected four years before I first arrived in Ethiopia.

Trying to post pictures via Instagram seems slugggggish….not to say, impossibly slow Maybe there’s been some tinkering by the techies?

Abyss ( inia ) revisited…

No other country has a name which so accurately evokes its topography! Most people know it as Ethiopia, of course. The spectacular tortuous road from Addis Ababa down to the coast through Asmara, the Simien Mountains, and the Danakil Depression, are just a few features of the Great Rift which so shape this country.

In 1959, my family flew to Addis Ababa, and we lived there for four years. Although I was only young, I do remember a lot of my life there very vividly. My sister was born there, we travelled overland to what was then called Tanganyika, to Khartoum, to Assab; via places with wonderful names: Axum, Wajir, Gondar, Lalibela, Dire Dawa, Massawa…..

I lived through the first and unsuccessful attempt to unseat Emperor Haile Selassie in 1960.

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My mother – five months pregnant with my sister,  at the time, wrote later about the episode in her memoir:

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….and her poem…..

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Our Man in Addis….

My father had an important title – Overseas Representative For Dunlop Tyres, for East Africa and The Hadramawt, and was based at the offices of the Arabian Trading Company. He made frequent overland trips to see potential clients, and these often turned into long family trips, in the company’s long wheel based Landrover, with nights spent in truck-stops, oases, and under canvas in the open air. 

Wajir – over the border and just into Kenya.

Wajir

Back in Addis….

On Sunday, the 11th December, I shall set foot again on the ground in Addis Ababa – 58 years later. It will be interesting to catch up….and I’m looking forward to eating injera and wat in a downtown Addis restaurant!