Archive for the Ethiopia Category

Diary of a Drug Smuggler (Shashamane, Ethiopia)

Posted in Ethiopia, Weed with tags , , , on August 27, 2010 by Mackeral Mark

For those of you who don’t know, Shashamane is to Rastafari what Mecca is to Islam. The word “Ras” comes from the Amharic word “head” or “duke”, and the word “Tarfari” being the pre-regal name of Emperor Haile Selassie 1 of Ethiopia, said to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ or Jah. The movement may have started in Jamaica in the 30’s, but it’s spirtual heartland was here. We were on a dreadlock holiday, on a diet of reggae and ganja. The city resembled a dusty wasteland, but it proved a worthwhile stop on our way to Nairobi. “You want fire?” could be hear at every street corner. We indulged, and got more than we bargined for.

The morning we were due to leave, we had prearranged to meet a young boy, eager to make a few bucks. Determined not to get ripped off, I got an Ethiopian we befriended to accompany me to the transaction; his name was Ali. We met the boy on the street, carrying a large black sack. The three of us retreated into a discrete wooden shed adjacent to the bus station.

Ali (whipering in my ear): “How much do you want?”

Me: “Whatever 60 Birr ($4.50) will get me..” I figured it would get me about a handful, enough to do the journey to Kenya.

Ali: “No problem, do you have a bag?”

I produced a plastic shopping bag and handed it over. Ali spoke to the boy in Amharic. The boy opened his sack. The smell of fresh, tantalising bud entered my nostrils. Ali took a handful and smiled.

Ali: “Looks Good, eh?”

Me: “Dehna! (good)”

He shoved it in the plastic bag. Then he went for the sack again, this time with both hands. My eyes lit up. He shoved in our bag and kept going – again, and again, and again. I was speechless. The boy just looked on as if it was worthless. Ali squashed the weed to make extra room. It got to the point where the bag was bursting at the seams. Ali looked up and smiled.

Ali: “That’s about a kilo. Is that enough? ”

Me: “Eh… I think so”. Trembling, I struggled to get the bag in my rucksack.

The Boy: “Tip?”. I took out my pocket change.

Ali: “No, give him 20 birr (about $1.50), it’s plenty.”

Rendered dumb, Ali removed the money from my hand and offered the boy his measly commission. He nodded his head and departed, gleefully scampering down the street. Ali and I left the shed and head towards the bus. Danny was on board, waiting in anticipation.

Danny: “How much did he give you? Was 60 enough?”

Still in shock, I couldn’t find the words. I just opened my backpack and let him see for myself. Danny’s jaw descended; his pupils flooded; it was love at first sight. Once he laid eyes on that bag, I knew they would be inseparable. Subsequently, that meant we were about to smuggle a kilo of marijuana into Kenya…

How to Escape Sudan

Posted in Africa, Bribery & Corruption, Ethiopia, Sudan, The Handcuff Dairies, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2010 by Mackeral Mark


Most people register upon entry.

We didn’t.

Making our way from Cairo to Cape Town, Danny and I refused to pay an inflated premium to entertain the bureaucrats at the border of Wadi Halfa. We insisted we would make arrangements in the capital Khartoum.

We didn’t .

Three days elapsed and the window closed. We remained apathetic. 8 Epic Arabian Nights passed. On the 9th day, we awoke in a merchant’s shed in Gallabat, the border town before Ethiopia.

Painting of Gallabat/Metemba (1940)

A narrow bridge occupied by heavily armed Sudanese soldiers separated us from the next realm of Africa.

Sudanese Soldier

6AM: We attempted to cross, but a quick glance at our passports landed us in trouble.

Inevitability, we found ourselves in the custody of  some rather uncouth army officals.

“You did not regisister! This is unacceptable”

“But we, we thought…” Our excuses fell on deaf hears.

“You must pay $70 each.” He demanded.

“But we don’t have that kind of money and the only ATM is in Khartoum.” I protested.

“We then enjoy Sudan.”

7AM: We were released and told to return with the money. Things looked grim. Khartoum was at least a day’s travel and $70 felt like a fortune on our budget. Fuck that.

“What do we do now?” Danny asked.

“Follow me” I said.

The border bridge hung over a deep trench where a small stream meandered. I followed the stream as far out of sight from the bridge as possible. A small Sudanese kid followed us.

“Hey kid, where’s the nearest town in Ethiopia?” I asked.

The boy picked up a stone and threw it across the stream to the other side. Ethiopia was only a few metres away.

The Border

I scanned the trench; it looked an easy obstacle. But that wasn’t my concern. The bridge was being patrolled by a lone sentry who’s shadow stalked the land in the dusty dawn light. A watchman, armed with a shimmering ambassador of death; an AK-47. His back was turned.  I had a momentary lapse in reason. Seizing the opportunity,  I began descending into the trench.  It was a reckless decision…

“What the fuck are you doing?” Danny whispered.

“Come on, it’ll be grand”

With barely a moment’s hesitation he followed. I wasn’t the only one with looking for an adrenaline rush; Danny was no stranger to danger. Time was of the essence.

We reached the bottom, crossed the stream and started scrambling up the other side, becoming alarmingly visible. If any of the guards saw us, there was a good chance we could be shot in the back.

We stayed silent, kept our bodies low and moved in a stealthy manner.

My heart was pounding so heart I thought the noise would give us away.

We made a last dash to take cover in the shrubbery across the border.

In the safety of an African bush, I savoured the moment of relief. We had evaded capture.

Navigating our way through the bushes we eventually stepped out to Metema, the Ethiopian border town!

But alas, our troubles were anything from over…

Metema outpost

7.10 AM: We enter the border office to validate our Ethiopian visas, a small hut with no electricity. The border official, a stoutly gentleman, sporting a large moustache greeted us. He asked us to sit down and took our passports. Investigating the pages, he  looked increasingly puzzled.

“OH! You did not leave Sudan. You must GO BACK. You must GO BACK NOW!

Our faces dropped and our stomachs tightened. I panicked. Not only did we deify the authorities with registration, we also just jumped the border illegally. That meant prison. Prison in one of the most oppressive countries in the world. A country that stones adulterers to death; where Sharia law reigns supreme. Weeks before, the Sudanese authorities had even jailed a women for calling a teddy bear Muhammed. Our lives were over.

The future looks bleak...

“WE CAN’T GO BACK! THEY WILL ARREST US!” I pleaded, explaining how the Sudanese  authorities had stopped us crossing. I broke down and told a tale of woe; a tale of extortion; a tale of two young infidels being exploited by corrupt officials…

We were on trial. Our prison: Sudan. We had made our defence but the odds were against us – we had blatantly broken the law.  We sat in despair awaiting the verdict.

Our judge held a stern deposition.

The tension was soul destroying.

“Ehh.. Sudanese!” He laughed, stamping our passports.



My Sudanese Visa

Addis Ababa City Guide

Posted in City Guides, Ethiopia, Weed with tags , , , , on April 26, 2010 by Mackeral Mark

Merkato Market

Addis in a word: Original.
C.O.H: 4 / 5
Q.O.G: 4 / 5
S.L.T: 4.5 / 5
City guide ratings explained

Costs €$£

Beer: Around  €.60
Bed: €2 for a double room!
Bud: HEAVEN! €10 for as much as you can fit in a plastic bag!!!
Board: €1 for an injera  meal
Budget other: €1.50 is the most you pay for beer and that’s in the classy jazz bars.
Currency Conversion


Think herds of goat beside sky scrappers; cheap beer and great weed; jazz cafés and jaw-dropping women. Coffer was first cultivated in Ethiopia and it was the only country not colonised in the scramble for Africa. The streets turn to rivers when it’s rans. Addis is the SHIT!

The Girls

Malet Yante, Ethiopian

The Amhara are the best looking girls in Africa, never mind Ethiopia. Even the homeless chicks are hot! With olive skin, western facial features and slamming bodies – they can leave you paralysed. You really can’t do these girls justice looking on the net, you just gotta see it to believe it. There are no tourists here so you have your pick. You could find yourself a Goddess if you wanted. Another cool thing about Ethiopian chicks is a lot of them smoke weed and are chilled out! Sometimes language can be a problem and be warned prostitution is endemic and you will often be “Shoring“. Most working girls will pretend they’re ‘hair dressers’ to western men. Good girls DO exist and they are definite keepers. Did I mention how gorgeous the women were? The nightclubs are riddled with hookers. Girls are very approachable everywhere during the day. My advice – if you want the perfect women, find a university student.

Nightlife Recommendations

Addis has loads of cool jazz bars and is A LOT safer than it seems. The local dancing is great – it’s all in the shoulders!

Memo’s Nightclub

Seedy as hell, but who says that’s a bad thing 🙂

The Black Rose

The energetic atmosphere is both comfortable and fashionable, and the bar serves a variety of drinks. The bartenders mix the best Cosmo this side of the Nile. The live jazz jam session in Addis every thursday night.

Getting High (courtesy of

Law enforcement: The police in ethiopia don’t really bother smokers since they know it has no harm but some crooked federal police officers try to scare you a bit to get some bribe money.

Where to buy marijuana: There are plenty of places to score some collie in addis and as long as you ask any rastaman to get something high grade

Marijuana prices: low grade sensimellia 50 gram=5us$,mid grade kompressed sensi 40gram=10us$,high grade primo sensi(CHRONIC,CHOCOLATE,ORANGE KALI) 50gram=20us$

Marijuana brands: Ethiopia has some good herbs but i strongly recommend that you find somebody that has a hookup on some good kompressed ganja

More information: The ganja in addis is of a strong sativa and you can also find some indica. The herb here is the most organic and is grown under the 13 month sunshine that ethiopia is most famous for. One advice before coming here is that you must bring plenty of rolling paper since there is no cigarette paper or blunts.

My Addis Experience

For the first time in my life a women actually stopped me in my tracks.  I completely froze up as she walked passed me one day. She looked like an Ethiopian Rihanna. She turned around, surprised I had stopped and started talking to me… she end up giving me her number! This sweet 17 year old end up being my Addis fb for the week I was there! I had Bob Marley’s “Is this Love?” playing in my head for weeks. As for the weed, I was stoned of my tits on some amazing bud the whole time I was there. We went to Shashemane and got a SHIT LOAD for $4!!! – See below. O Addis.. defo going back.

Our $4 weed!