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Pole to Pole

Day 80: Bahir Dar to Addis Ababa

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleIt's a stick culture here. Everyone we pass seems to have a stick - for rest, for protection, and for herding the sheep, cattle and goats, which are constantly on the move by the roadside. The silhouetted walking figure, stick slung across shoulders, could be the trade mark of pastoral Africa.

In the villages the main street is always full. Men, women, children, donkeys and dogs mill about and our driver blasts his horn and ploughs into the middle of them. South of Mota, where Mussolini's six-year occupation of the country has left behind some chunky and incongruous European-style public buildings, we climb onto a broad and grassy plateau from which distant mountains rise to 12,000 feet. Chocolate-coloured streams drain away some of the billions of tons of rich Ethiopian soil which will eventually end up behind the Aswan dam, clogging the desert waters of Lake Nasser. Up here the wood-and-thatch dwellings are often surrounded by carefully cut and dressed drystone walls, but the villagers are very poor. Clothes are patched up and threadbare. Trousers are worn into strands, boots have holes in them. There is no sign of the pick-up trucks and tractors which could still be seen in the poorest parts of the Sudan. Graham thinks the explanation for this lies in foreign reluctance to invest in Mengistu. Under his communist regime Ethiopia received the lowest per capita amount of development aid of any country in the world. Long-term development aid, as opposed to short-term emergency aid, is what really matters to a country, though often it is strung around with so many conditions and debt repayments that it ceases to be of real help.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 80
  • Country/sea: Ethiopia
  • Place: Bahir Dar
  • Book page no: 176

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