Ghinda - Massawa - Dahlak Islands - June 6th 2001
I get up very early because today we make the
the Dahlak Islands. It is an all-in trip organized by Eri-tours. We are expected
to gather at the Eri-tours office at 6:30 bus because of some problems with the
bus we leave to Ghinda at 8:00 after a lot of cappuccinos in Bar Torino. The
Road from Asmara to Ghinda is good but with a lot of narrow curves with no
protective barriers. The many curves reduce the speed of the bus to 10 - 20
miles per hour. But the views are magnificent. At Nefasit we pass the Bizen Monastery,
where monks live in strict isolation on the top of a mountain.
The reconstruction of the railway is as
far as Embatkala but only the line Ghinda - Massawa is operational. We get in the train at
Ghinda at 10 o'clock where we have a lunch. It is a 1954 German diesel
locomotive with two antique passenger cars for the tourists and dining car in
between. The fourth and last (less luxurious) car is reserved for the locals
using the train. I make sure to have a good seat next to the brakes man, so I can
make some video of both the train itself (in the curves) and the landscape we
are passing through.
At the first stop I ask the driver if I can make
part of the trip in his cabin. "Why don't you sit in front of the
train?" he asks. I sit next to one of the railway men who has to scare the
donkeys of the track, just behind the bull bars on one of the headlights of the
train. But they do not bring any drinks to this part of the train and the
temperature is more than 30 degrees Celsius, so I chose a bit more comfortable
seat at the next stop. The ride with the train is spectacular, passing
impressive landscapes, tunnels, railway viaducts, small villages and railway stations.
Hostesses serve Eritrean coffee, lunch and soft drinks.
Entering Massawa, the railway is blocked by a
truck. Since the train only passes a few times a week, not everyone is expecting
the train, so it is sounding its horn every 15 seconds to allow people to move
their stuff from the track.
In Massawa two small buses are waiting to take
us to restaurant Eritrea for dinner and at 14:00 we have a sight seeing through
Massawa to see the port area and old town and the salt ponds. Than we
drive to the naval base in Massawa where a vessel of the Eritrean Coast Guard is
waiting to bring us to Dahlak Kebir in 90 minutes. Accommodation at the Lul
Resort Hotel is below expectations. The rooms are shattered around the main
building and most of them do not have showers or toilets. Just four beds and a
table. Since most of us are on our own or with the two of us, we have to form
groups of four persons to share rooms. Temperatures are more than 40 degrees C, so after checking in there is a
queue in front of the Coca Cola refrigerator.
Most of the visitors choose to swim in the Red
Sea. When it is getting dark at 18:00 we have dinner and there is music and
dance. We discus the Quality of Eritrean Tourism and the possibilities to
improve it. At 22:00 we start the air-conditioning and go to sleep, knowing we
have to get up very early next day.
The train at Ghinda railway station with old Italian railcar on the background.
Eritrean coffee being served in the passenger car of the train.
The train passing one of the many railway
viaducts on its way to Massawa.
View on the track, sitting
behind the bull bars of the train.
Entering the old districts of Massawa, passing Gibi or Governor's Palace.
Restaurant Eritrea in Massawa.
Diner in restaurant Eritrea - Massawa.
Crossing the Red Sea with one of the vessels of the Eritrean Coast Guard.
The Lul Resort Hotel - Dahlak Islands.
Our transport from Massawa to the Dahlak Islands.