Friday, September 23, 2005

With the Queen of the Desert down to Assab

Eritrea - Maria shrine

Well, it seems like a long time ago now, but we set off for Assab at about 5 am on Tuesday morning in a full bus, the Queen Bus, with very small windows, dark curtains and blackened out windows ... so not the best proposition for taking photos, although we were sitting on the left-hand side - the side of the sea.

Anyway, we first slept as it was dark as we pulled out
and descended into Massawa. At first light we noted that the Holy Mary was with us, a little white statue at the front of the bus, surrounded by garlands of
colourful plastic flowers. So, if we were not quite Priscilla we might have been Mary, Queen of the Desert.

Well, there is lots to tell and internet seems to be as impossible here as in Asmara, so I will just say
that we made numerous stops on the way, to the accompaniment to a really good collection of music tapes, poppy hits from Eritreq and Ethiopia, as we
made our way down the Red Sea coast, sometimes seeing the sea, sometimes just rocks, desert, mountains, hills, extinct volcanoes, small villages, groups of
goats and camels, shepherds, dry river beds, vultures
flying overhead and do on.

The surprise was just how far it was and how we carried on right into the dark of evening, with the
bus getting ever hotter and more humid, sweat bursting out on everyone's faces. So it was that we finally pulled into Idi at 8 pm, 15 hours after we had started. And what a sight. Wooden huts, each with one gas lamp burning and then.... rows and rows of beds laid out on the dusty street. These were to be our lodgings. A bed, a mattress and a pillow. Washing facilities were a large and small bucket of water.
Less than a Euro per bed.

We also managed to find food... enjera... AND warm beer, so we were well contented by the time we returned to our beds at 9 to sleep under a partially cloudy sky, the 3/4 moon, shining through, as two Afar shepherds turned up for the night.

The engines started at 3 am, and within half an hour we were loaded up for the next stint, getting into Assab at about 8.30 am.

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