22 March 2010

Asmara in Eritrea

Eritrea means 'land on the Red Sea' and from the port of Massawa it is more than a 3 hour trip with a local minibus over a bitumen road with the higher we get the more hairpin curves and spectacular views! After the third and last 'checkpoint' where our temporary visa are inspected, we run on 2 km height and under dark grey clouds into the capital Asmara at around 5 p.m. Walking through town to our 'pensione' it strikes how clean the streets are. Around this time a lot of people are on their way and we see most of them wear long pants and jackets or jumpers. The difference in temperature with Massawa in the evening is 15-30 degrees and we welcome the 15-30 degrees Celsius after the months of tropical heat.

Eritrea has been a colony of Italy and under the influence of the Italians from ca. 1850 to 1940. Especially in the main street, a wide boulevard with large and tall palm trees on both sides, you imagine yourself in Rome in the 1920-30's. Men in costumes, sometimes with heads, Art Deco buildings, terraces where you can get espresso, capuccino and all kinds of pastry, fashion shops and italian restaurants with pasta, pizza, fish, etc. This is 'little Roma' in Africa with African prices, very cheap! And dark people of course. Daily at 5 p.m. all people come to this boulevard to walk and talk, have a drink and bite, and hear the gossip. Young boys sell chewing gum, cigarettes, toothpicks, tissues and coins with the head of Mussolini ...!

Halfway the main boulevard is a magnificent cathedral, with traditional furnishing, and with a bell tower that we went up by over a hundred steps. At the schoolyard next to the cathedral the young children have their playtime and they wear white aprons with sleeves over their own clothes, in a very old-fashioned catholic and Italian way!

Very modern is a reasonably well organized recycle 'junk yard', a collection place for old iron, old wood, barrels, drums, cans, etc. etc. with around the yard many workshops where people are hammering, sawing, beating, welding. From the oildrums the bottoms are removed and then they make small oilsquirts from it. Also we saw 'new' ovens, soupladdles and heaps of reasonably sorted parts, screws, bolts, rods, you name it. An active recycle market from which we in Europe can follow their example.

On Sundays the steamtrain rides the route that the Italians have laid out and build and that is restored about 10 years ago. It's a great experience with tremendous views over valleys, villages, the railway itself with some 20 tunnels and viaducts along the road. The trip takes from 08.00 till 13.00 hours. During the ride we have to stop several times to load coals and water, while the passengers get Eritrean coffee burned, grinded and brewed in the traditional way.

Slideshow Asmara

16 March 2010

Red Sea

On March 7th in the early morning we sail through the Strait of Bab el Mandeb, the southern access to the Red Sea. There is a brisk SE wind of 20-25 knots (force 6 Beaufort) and soon we surf over the waves that get higher all the time. Our speed increases as the wind is tightening and we feel: this is spectacular sailing! Although we are disappointed that the colour of the Red Sea waters didn't change. Our first anchorage we find behind an island in the Bay of Assab, the former main port of Eritrea. The winds keep blowing and there are too many waves to go ashore and explore the new continent. Next days are with a same wind from same direction and we make good progress with anchorages in between, that are protected against the big swells but we hear the wind howl through the rigging all the time. We follow the interesting coastline of south Eritrea with dark (volcanic?) hills covered with thin layers of almost white sand.

On Friday morning around 11.00 o'clock we see a sort of brownish red curtain along the coast and the wind is getting more hot and more dry. Very slowly the brown-red cloud is approaching and passing, we feel a light tingle on our face, arms and legs. When the fog has disappeared, we find a reddish layer of dust and fine sand on the deck, on the sails and everywhere on Alexandra. All around us fine red dust has been descended on the waves as well and we are sailing in a red glow, in a Red Red Sea.

The port Massawa in Eritrea has suffered a lot from the war with neighbouring Ethiopia that the coastal areas with harbours to the Red Sea claims as part of Ethiopia and not as an independent state. Many (previous interesting) buildings are probably irreparable destroyed.

Slideshow RedSea

3 March 2010

Aden in Yemen

For the last leg in the Gulf of Aden we have a good wind and hardly any traffic. On February 26th we anchor in front of Aden town just in time to hear from the several mosques the call for the Friday prayers. Aden is not really a clean city and that also applies for the harbour where ocean going ships unload containers and refuel with diesel. The south of Yemen has been a colony of England (Aden has its own 'Big Ben'), the north has been occupied by the Turks. Since the independence of the Republic and the going together of north and south Yemen in 1991, both area's don't get on very well. This has resulted in riots in 1994 and that threat is still there.

Large parts of the city are build against the bare volcanic hills. We are happy to have a good guide and driver and we make a tour to the impressive water reservoirs. After a heavy rainfall of five hours they are now filled up for one third. The waterworks have been build probably during the Ottoman era (before 1800). Near the fish market the fleet of fishing boats has just entered and there is a choice of everything. In 'Arab town' it is always busy and crowded. Most of the transport of the merchandise is still done by cart and camel. On several of the public buildings we see a portrait of the president, de flag of Yemen is red-white-black.

Slideshow Aden