Even in Africa, most long-distance buses give you more than a ¼-inch cushion in your seat if the ride’s over a few hours. But this one stood out as a noteworthy exception. Luckily I was able to score a seat behind the rear door, otherwise my knees would’ve been splayed out to the side, the legroom about four inches short to fit my knees.
This was no mean feat. When our bus arrived, an entire retirement community of goat-stuffed Christians launched at the bus like it was distributing Tickle Me Elmo dolls.
For most of the ride, people were wedged all about me in the 3 x 2 configuration of hard benches. My knee apparently is easily mistaken as a chair I’ve learned. There wasn’t much I could do to dissuade people from wrapping their butt cheeks around my patella and locking on.
Being that the road from Gondar to Shire (a few hours by minibus shy of my goal of Axum) is 12 hours of ziggy zaggy hairpin dirt precipices, there was also a lot of vomiting by those around me into little plastic baggies that fell apart quite easily. There was also a pair of chickens that I think may have been drunk and psychotic, dashing up and down the bus below the seats like middle schoolers.
This photo above was actually snapped when a quarter of the bus had gotten off at a rest stop, when I could get a shot of something other than just the backs of people right in front of me.
Still, it wasn’t awful awful. The heat was bearable and I had no stomach problems of my own. After arriving in Shire (pronounced apparently like mon cheri, not like a village of hobbits), I was able to catch a minibus up to Axum, arriving at dusk, and the driver offering to drop me off anywhere in town. Probably because I was only one of two passengers who remained on the minibus while he repaired a flat tire. Where was I gonna go?
Anyway, I’ve arrived in Axum, capital of a two-thousand-year-old empire known as far as Greece and home to giant stone stelae gravestones and reputed storage facility of the Ark of the Covenant.