Eritrean Episode 2.4.2011 -13.2.2011

We anchored for the second night in Eritrea, again behind a very flat island but although this did not provide much shelter from the wind at least the sea was calm. The island was coral and had a wonderfully primeval atmosphere populated only by birds: herons, gulls, pelicans, flamingos and many other sea birds. (Paul Harris where are you?) We could walk around the island easily. It was a pleasure to walk and swim after being on the boat .We caught up on sleep as usual staying for two nights and left on 7.4.2011 planning to anchor in Howakil bay. However our lead boat Alondra again developed engine trouble and needed to be towed so we decided to go straight to Massawa a port over which the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea was fought.

The results of the war are still very evident there as most of the buildings around the port are bombed ruins including a palace built for Haile Selassie. The best building in town was the mosque. The people are very friendly but the town had hardly any cars so walking around was very easy. There were several bars but one often had to visit a few to find a beer! There was a good restaurant so we enjoyed some nice fish but vegetables seemed scarce.

There was a definite Italian flavor despite the destruction and with the aid of the evening light one could for a moment imagine one was in Italy…but it was only for a moment! We took a trip to the capital city Asmara through very dramatic mountains up to 2400 m. The scenery was very dry and there were amazing terraces covering many of the slopes which must have taken a lot of effort to build but did not seem to e used now .Camels and goats wandered freely and then the mountains suddenly became green so they were replaced by cows and donkeys. The road was good and luckily the bus as well as the road was very steep at times with precipitous drops over the side.

Asmara as the capital of one of the poorest countries was surprisingly sophisticated with a very strong Italian stamp. It is clean and tidy with pavements and no surrounding slum area or apparent shany town. The streets are lined with truly Italian bars and cafes and we stayed in a very quaint Italian style hotel with marble floors ornate lights and Italian paintings. We had lunch there and were presented with a glossy menu describing many Italian dishes so after great deliberation we chose our meal only to be told that we could have only steak or fish! Anyway it was delicious when it came accompanied by Italian bread.

Luckily we had been handed on a 2000 edition of LP for Eritrea so we could navigate the city easily and see all the different styles of architecture which are there. There are some beautiful Italian villas and faded art deco buildings. Pizza was a must for the evening cooked in a proper oven .The people were very friendly and welcoming and gave no hassle and there is very little begging.

The following day we visited the “Tank cemetery” where all the detritus of the war is stored .It is rather a depressing sight to see so much waste with land rovers, tanks, various military vehicles and aero planes all left to rot away.

We arrived safely back in Massawa glad to see Baringo in the same place and the next morning we left heading north west up the Red Sea. Unfortunately the wind is now blowing mainly from the NW so beating is the only way forward .It does veer and back so we just have to make the best we can while we can.
There are many anchorages along the west coast in the bays but there are also many coral reefs which make it difficult. The charts are often inaccurate so great care is needed. So far we have avoided collision.

coral island beach with sailor

Birds on island -any suggestions for correct name?


flamingos- a wonderful African sight

french canine crew member enjoying himself

Eritrean fisherman with easily rigged sail

Bombed palace

Bombed town hall or bank in Massawa

terraces cut into hillside on road to Asmara

wonderful views from the road to Asmara

train line that runs from Massawa to Asmara- not operational but what a great train ride.

Deco architecture in Asmara

Albergo Italiano in Asmara- highly recommended

the extraordinary "tank" war debris site outside Asmara

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