12 Aug - 18 Aug 2007 Massawa

Southern Red Sea
State of Eritrea
Taulud Bay
SY "Kamu II" anchoring off, c. three cables west of the conspicuous ruins of the old Governor’s Palace, at 7 m depth, on mud and sand.

Click for an interactive satellite view of our safe and protected but not very secure anchorage:

Clearing into Eritrea at Massawa Harbour for the total of US$ 82.- (no agent necessary; customs: free of charge; quarantine: free of charge; harbour master: free of charge; immigration: US$ 40.- per person for a single-entry 30-day tourist visa, plus US$ 1.- per person for the compulsory pink office file for our application forms).

Meeting laundryman, cafĂ©-house owner and self-appointed yacht agent Weldemicael “Mike” Hobtezion and tapping into his local knowledge.

Laundering for US$ 0.25 per piece at laundryman Weldemicael “Mike” Hobtezion (washed and dried).

Refuelling with 60 litres of diesel fuel for Nfa. 15.85 (officially US$ 1.06) per litre in our own jerry cans after a bureaucratic nightmare: (i) convincing/paying the agent that one really needs to refuel, (ii) finding a taxi and driving with agent to local branch of Ministry of Tourism for official diesel fuel vouchers, (iii) seeing three different Stalinist/Africanist “decision-makers” in the local municipality building and receiving their signatures and rubber stamps, (iv) finding a petrol station in town which has stock of diesel fuel, (v) transporting the jerry cans from petrol station via dinghy to ship - the whole process must have been flowcharted by a German consultant who had neither been to Africa nor had dealt with his “brothers” before.

Touring Massawa (first mentioned in the Royal Chronicle of Negus of Axum Yeshaq, when the Emperor’s deputy, who was stationed there, revolted), a dusty, crumbling port town with the remnants of the Eritrean War of Independence everywhere, which once had been the largest and safest port on the east cost of Africa and the largest deep water port of the Red Sea, where everything - slaves, pearls, giraffes, incense, ostriches and myrrh - had passed through and which had been bombed to dust by Ethiopian forces during Eritrea’s struggle for independence.
Sampling the Yemeni speciality of fresh fish sprinkled with hot pepper baked in a tandoori oven at the outdoor Sallam Restaurant on Massawa Island - all for Nfa. 70,- (officially US$ 5.-) per meal. 

Applying for a travel permit at various institutions (the whole process probably being designed by the local student of the above-mentioned German consultant) and surviving the 115 km and five hour long journey from 44°C hot, humid and furnace-like Massawa at sea level to the 20°C cool and dry Eritrean capital city Asmara at 2,347 m by bus on a road that plummeted through mountains often clad in mist, led around hairpin bends and over old Italian bridges.
Enjoying the cool mountain climate and admiring the architectural legacy of the Italian colonial era of Asmara (the old Opera House, the Casa del Fascio, the Catholic Cathedral, the Great Mosque, the Cinema Impero and Bar Impero); afterwards sipping cappuccinos and nibbling on sweet pastries whilst watching the black passersby in their three-piece business suits on the palm lined Harnet Avenue.

Dining on injera (the famous Ethiopian/Eritrean “pancake”, a layer of grey, spongy bread made from fermented grain) which is bread, cutlery, plates, napkins and tablecloth at the same time and which is cool, moist, and rubbery, less like a crepe than an old damp bathmat and goes extremely well with spicy vegetables (pulped beans, lentils, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes) and fish or seafood.

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