For those of you who haven’t been fortunate enough to meet my Dad yet, you’ve been seriously missing out – he’s a treat. He’s also my traveling companion for the next month!
Latin name: Daddius Maximus
Description: Stands six feet tall with grey hair, funny glasses and a lean build.
Habitat: Native to Alberta, inhabits coastal Vancouver Island and migrates to Mexico for winter.
Characteristics: Somewhat reclusive with bursts of social engagement. Naturally curious and seeks to learn about his surroundings. Grumpy about many things including, but not limited to, unintelligent comments on Facebook, litterbugs and people in foreign countries who quote you a price and then double the number when it comes to paying.
I credit Dad with instilling a deep sense of wanderlust in me. From a young age, my parents took the kids on off-the-beaten-path trips to places like Central America where we would stay for a month and get to know local folks, culture and the natural environment. Looking back I remember desperately wanting to take ‘normal family trips’ to Disneyland and other kid-themed Western hotspots, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve grown to be super thankful to my parents for their a-typical vacation choices.
Having open-minded, liberal parents is the best. I had my first dim sum experience at three weeks old and not long after was on my parents’ backs protesting environmental and women’s rights issues. Although I only have photos to remember the early stuff by, I know that this upbringing shaped me in ways I’m proud of.
Shit my Dad does
Alright, enough of the sappy stuff. It’s only been five days on the road with Dad, but he brought his traveling A game. Armed with nothing more than* a wee green backpack, kindle, bad-ass-worn-hikingboots and a glamorous head scarf, he has been (unofficially) crowned King of the Road.
But don’t let the title fool you.
Perhaps it’s the last few weeks transitioning out of my job that have softened my Type-A-ness, or maybe it’s my laid-back approach to traveling (more on that in a future post), but whatever it is, I can tell you that Dad has spent an impressive amount of time providing some exceptional Shit my Dad does stories. For example:
- Dad and I venture out of the hostel on our first walk around Addis. He’s scoping out local birds mounted on top of trash heaps and dilapidated clay structures when out of the blue this kid reaches between my legs from behind and grabs my lady bits. Hard. I flip my shit, grab his arm and let out a loud ‘no’. Dad is oblivious to the entire thing. “Look at the little warbler,” he says.
- Although English is loosely spoken in Ethiopia, the national language Amharic is most common. Thankfully my interpreter, Dad, is along to help bridge our language gap. Armed with broken spanish, ‘Señor’ for every person, ‘gracias’ while giving thanks, and ‘si’ in response to most questions, we’ve been confusing the hell of out nearly every Ethiopian we’ve conversed with since we got here.
- Dad’s a fantastic writer and is working on his next book (a Canadian’s Spanish language guide to Ethiopia), so he brought a *laptop along for editing purposes. For background, he had one stolen in Barcelona a few years back and chased the thief down. I’d love to avoid repeating that experience. Within a few days of arriving at Addis, his computer died. I caught Dad sneaking out of our room late at night with something under his arm. He explained that he was going to ‘dispose of the laptop’ in the alleyway. Not sketchy at all.
- Paranoia set in the night before our departure for southern Ethiopia. We set alarms for 4:30 a.m. and then went to sleep. I woke up a few hours later to blinding lights and Dad sitting on his bed, hikingboots and backpack on.
Me: “Dad – WTF are you doing?”
Dad: “It’s time to catch the bus.”
Me: “It’s 11:30.”
Everyone goes back to bed. I wake up at 4:30 a.m. and find Dad sitting on his bed in exactly the same position I left him.
Me: “Dad – WTF are you doing?”
Dad: “It’s time to catch the bus.”
Me: “We have half an hour.”
Dad starts pacing around, clearly worried. I get packed, can’t find my fleece and glance over to see Dad struggling to put putting my fleece on over his fleece.
Me: “Dad, that’s my fleece.”
Me: “Why don’t you wait outside for the taxi, you’re stressing me out.”
I suspect you can stay tuned for future Shit my Dad does blog posts.
Addis and the journey south
After an uneventful overnight flight from Toronto, we landed in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Situated in the middle of the 10th largest country in Africa, Addis (as the locals call it) is a standard big African city with a population of nearly 2 million. It’s known internationally as the political capital of the continent and has the infrastructure to back it up including the African United Nations Headquarters and every embassy you can imagine.
The air is thick with smoke, spices and smog, and the streets are lined with a melding pot of people. Ethiopians are very welcoming and aside from the usual begging and ‘let’s be BFF’ stuff, Addis is a pleasant place.
We were excited to check out the National Museum of Ethiopia, in particular the paleontology exhibit. Despite being housed in a decrepit building with next to no curation, the collection was outstanding. Ethiopia, as you likely know, is home to the northern beginning of the Great Rift Valley that runs through Kenya down through Tanzania. Some of the most important fossilized hominid remains have been discovered in this area and many are housed in the National Museum.
Although we didn’t see Lucy (a 3.4 million year old babe of an Australopithecus who resides in the bowels of the museum), or her older pal Ardi (an Ardipithecus of the 4.4 million year old vintage) in the flesh, we did get up close and personal with replicas. They were so tiny!
Addis was the perfect launching-off point for our Ethiopian cuisine tour. We tried a number of local indulgences including Fasting FirFir (made with tef and spicy red sauce) and of course St. George’s beer. The flavor in the food was out of this world, with rich spices and loads of garlic and peppers. All dishes are designed for sharing and we quickly got comfortable eating with our hands.
After a couple of days cruising around Addis, we wanted to get more rural and booked a bus ticket to Dinsho, a village that boarders Bale National Park. It was a 9-hour ride (that left an hour late, because, Africa) that traversed remarkably well-paved roads with gorgeous scenery including traditional African savannah. The roads were dotted with villages bustling with horse-drawn buggies, herds of goats and working donkeys.
Key bus ride takeaways:
- If you want to open a bus window, be prepared for a humungous rigmarole behind you. Windows are a no-no in Ethiopia (which makes B.O. a yes-yes. Gross).
- Lots of entrepreneurs around! Folks hop on and off the bus to sell bread, Coca-Cola, gum and other local snacks.
- If you’re still hungry, picking your nose, rolling your discovery around, and eating it is totally socially cool. Also gross.
- Skinny people act bigger to get more seat space. The 90lb guy beside Dad took up most of Dad’s spot too, so in turn I had only one cheek on a seat the entire ride.
- If you weave through a crowded village road (cattle, horses, humans etc.) and clearly run something over, do not stop. In fact, pick up your speed. Whatever it was, RIP.
Our bus cruised through the Bale Mountain range which is a mix of Africa Alpine, dense juniper forests, and gorgeous grassy clearings bursting with wild flowers like the stunning red-hot poker. As we crossed the line into the national park, it was like the animal population metamorphosed in front of our eyes. Goats, donkeys, dogs and horses transformed instantly into warthogs (zomg – favorite animal of all time) and baboons. Dad and I simply couldn’t believe our eyes. More on this in a future post.
We arrived at the Dinsho Lodge in time for dinner, four St. George brews and hitting the hay early. One last Shit my Dad does honorable mention. I woke up to a sudden burst of light and an open palm inching toward my forehead. The story goes that I had some big sleep-related breathing going on and Dad had convinced himself that I was knocking on death’s door with a fatal ailment that required an Official Dad Fever Test.
The adventures (and misadventures) continue!
BRB just doing stuff for a bit k?