14 April 2008

Sheikh el Abu Island

Sheikh el Abu Island

An Eritrea wrap up: The last few days have been full of interesting sites, including friendly locals, native plants and animals, coffee and tea houses, savoring the last of the local beer, and sharing special occasions with our friends.

The town of Massawa is poor, and according to another boat that passed through here five years ago, it has gotten poorer. There are many buildings around town full of bullet holes. With it being so hot during the day, everything is shut down from noon to 4. And at night everyone is outside enjoying the cooler air.

Our friend Alim from S/V My Chance found a few of the last remaining beers. The beer factory is shut down due to no product. The owner of the bar was willing to part with them. But we had to drink them in a secret room behind the bar so nobody else could see. The lengths we go to for a cold beer.

Mike is a local here in Massawa who helps arrange things like this for the 'Yachties', along with the other basic 'Yachtie' essentials such as laundry services and black market money exchange. Through Mike we arranged for a car and driver to take us up to Asmara, the capitol, a three hour drive on surprisingly well maintained roads. Our driver Osman picked us (Sandpiper/Shiraz) up outside the port gate at 9am Friday. During the drive up we passed through a few small villages. They are very nomadic like, with the local men primarily working as goat shepherds, complete with a long robe, a cane, and a beard.

Along with goats we also spotted many camels, donkeys, red-assed baboons, and pink flamingos. Most of the land is desert, dry and barren with few areas of vegetation. I've read several places where it is described as a 'Moonscape'.

The road leading to Asmara climbs a few thousand feet ending high in the clouds to a nice cool temperature of around 50F. At night we all had on socks, long sleeve shirts, and jackets. Quite a contrast to the hot, intense African sun down in Massawa.

Historically there is not much to see in the capitol city. It is good to walk around, get lost down side streets, and experience the many tea and coffee houses. There are a few pastries too, an Italian influence has stuck around for many years. Another great Italian influence that has stuck around is the art of leather work. Tom and I both got a pair of leather shoes hand made in Eritrea for less that USD$40 total. And of course the pizza isn't that bad either. Overall it was a lovely way to spend an evening up in the cool mountains of Eritrea.

While we were gone, our friends from S/V My Chance watched over our (Shiraz/Sandpiper) boats. So we brought back some coffee and pastries to share with them on Sunday morning once back at the anchorage. It was a nice afternoon with Scrabble games and wine on board Sandpiper to celebrate Rene's birthday.

The boys went in this morning (Monday) to check out. We are headed 30 miles to a nearby island for the night.

More later.

Amy and Tom

Oh ya. Our sailmail connection is really hard to come by, and slow. So please excuse us for not writing a bunch of emails.

Tom Note: We checked out of Massawa this morning. After pulling into the shipping terminal so the immigration officials could some aboard to search the boat for stowaways, we were clear to go. We were able to sail 25 miles north to where we are presently anchored, along with S/V My Chance and S/V Shiraz.

Our next anchorage is 150 miles from here. If we had kept going, then we would have arrived at night. So we decided to anchor here for the night and leave tomorrow at first light.

We did get to dingy ashore before sunset so Amy could add to her shell collection. There are thousands of hermit crabs all over the beach here making it hard to even walk without stepping on them. Of course they have claimed all the best shells. But Amy was able to get a few that were not occupied.

Note From Ron: I found a pretty good photo album from a trip to Eritrea in 2007. It will give you a good idea of what Tom and Amy are seeing.

No comments: