Africa: Mishaps, Misadventures, and Mayhem


After several months of what I would consider careful photo management, I not-so-carefully managed to erase two weeks worth of Tanzania pictures. How could you have done something so stupid, Brooke? you might be asking. And I would tell you it was shockingly easy to lose all our pictures of Zanzibar, Pemba, Arusha, and Moshi. The morning we started the safari, I was checking our memory card for empty space. The screen said “1.6 GB of 3.6 GB used. Format OK?” Yes, I thought to myself, 3.6 GB is the correct format; the card is actually 4 GB, but it always shows up as 3.6. So I clicked OK. And then a little bar of death ran across the bottom of the camera screen, and then in less than one second over 1200 pictures were gone. Forever. I had mistakenly formatted the memory card, which of course deleted all the memory. *Sigh* At least it was before the safari.


Ethiopia’s claim to fame is “13 Months of Sunshine.” Their calendar actually does have 13 months, as they count each month as 30 days then tack on an extra “month” of five or six days at the end of the year. (Note: they also keep time differently. 7am for us is called 1 o’clock here, which kind of makes sense to me – the day starts when it’s light outside. But this has caused some confusion, and we have to clarify if everything is Ethiopian time or our time, which they call European time.)

From our experience, 13 Months of Sunshine couldn’t be further from the truth. At last count we’ve been here nine days, and nine days we’ve had rain. Cold rain. Downpour-style, cold rain. We thought it was funny, this little irony, on the first day.  We were having our clothes washed, which were filthy from safari dirt, and only had shorts to wear when we arrived in Addis Ababa. It was pouring and very chilly, but we made the best of it. This slogan got progressively less funny every day, and peaked on cruelty yesterday when we took a day trip to the Simien Mountains and couldn’t hike because of the downpour and fog. As we’re wrapping up our time here it’s getting kind of funny again, and in spite of the rain we’ve gotten to see some great things. Pictures will follow, we promise, when we find a place where the internet will support the uploading of pictures. That is, unless I manage to delete them all again!


Michael has said that arranging transportation has been our biggest headache of this trip, and is most often the place where we’re being taken advantage of. Finally, though, (finally!!) we outsmarted them. As we left Addis Ababa, we had a very early morning flight and had arranged for a taxi the night before. A staff member at the guesthouse (we’ll call him “Ali”), who had asked us about 1,000 questions about our travel plans the night before, knocked on the door a little before 5:30am – European time – to let us know our taxi had arrived. Then he said, “Pay me and I will give it to him.” This sounded a little shady, and we were busily packing at the time, so we made up a convenient excuse that our money wasn’t handy right away; we would pay the driver when we got out there. When we got to the taxi and loaded our bags, Ali was there with the driver and again said “Pay me, 150 birr.” Why would we pay you? The driver is right here, we’ll pay him. Last night we had negotiated this ride for 100 birr (a little over seven dollars). Wait a minute…. Ali is trying to get a commission (and a huge one, at that!) for a ride we had already arranged for ourselves!

What we surmise had happened is this: The night before, we took our cab home and asked him if he could take us to the airport the next morning, at 5:30. We also told him the Ethiopian time, which is 11:30. He either didn’t show, or Ali chased him away, whereby Ali flagged down his buddy (our imposter cab driver) and was counting on us not recognizing the difference. Then Ali didn’t know we’d been planning to pay 100 birr and were shocked that the price had jumped 50% overnight.

I told Michael this wasn’t our driver. He didn’t have the Che Guevera flag that I’d noticed last night. Michael asked him his name, and I tried to get a look at his face. Neither matched what we were expecting; this was definitely not our guy. Ali, meanwhile, is still trying to get us to pay him 150 birr; 100 of which (we presume) he would give the driver for the cost of the ride, 50 of which would go in his pocket for his trouble. No thanks, buddy! We asked the driver to open the trunk so we could get our bags. The driver, realizing we were on to the scam, gave us our bags and drove away. We told Ali we weren’t interested in his arranging a cab for us, we had already arranged one, and if he didn’t show we would find another. He knew he was busted, and said it would be hard to find a cab at this hour. We said we had an aggreement with someone, and we’d wait. We waited for a bit, but time was of the essence – we had a flight to catch! By now our original driver was pretty late and we would have to find our own ride. We bid Ali a not-so-farewell and made our way to the main road to hail a cab, which we found instantly. It was the same driver that Ali had tried to arrange for us. He gladly took us to the airport (although sans seat belts and the door flew open – twice). For how much, you may be wondering? 100 birr, just as we’d planned.

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2 Responses to Africa: Mishaps, Misadventures, and Mayhem

  1. Margaret Polk says:

    Hi, Brooke & Mike! Sorry to hear about the photos—they may be gone, but your memories are still there, right? U will have to describe to us what we missed…in due time. We received your post card & it arrived 2 days ago–thanks so much (it will go in our scrapbook/photo album) We purchased some mums today and planted 2/3 in pots and Gene will plant the rest when the weather cools down (?) He would have liked some plants from across the world but we understand totally 🙂 Take care & keep posting. xoxox, Auntie M

  2. Dan says:

    Deletion of photo’s -i’m sad to say i know how that feels. Though our pictures of sf/oakland probably weren’t quite as unique and cool as the one’s you deleted from Tanzania. I am glad to hear after 4 months of traveling you are outsmarting the best scam artists in the world – your next challenge, if you choose to accept it is to convince someone else to pay for your cabs!!!! That would truly make you world class.

    Have fun in your last week or so and can’t wait to see all of these picture whittled down tot he one’s you truly remember during your awesome experience.

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