Alan and Jean sharing our cruising news with friends, family.

20 July 2015 | Rabi Island Fiji
29 June 2015 | Suva Fiji
18 December 2013 | Auckland
05 December 2013 | Auckland
27 October 2013 | Vavau Tonga
12 September 2013 | Samoa
24 July 2013 | Moorea, Tahiti
19 July 2013 | Papeete
19 June 2013 | Nuka Hiva
02 June 2013 | Pacific Ocean
29 May 2013 | Pacific Ocean
24 May 2013 | Eastern Pacific Ocean
19 May 2013 | Western Pacific Ocean
16 May 2013 | Western Pacific Ocean
13 May 2013 | Isla Isabella
06 May 2013 | Isla Isabella
08 April 2013 | Shelter Bay marina, Colon.
28 March 2013 | Belize
27 March 2013 | Belize
03 March 2013 | Panamarina, Panama


02 April 2010 | Sudan
Photo, Lids for cookers to Grave markers from recycled material

12th April 2010 Eritrea Eritrea the cleanest country we have been to since Singapore. Unlike Singapore, Eritrea is a very poor country one of the bottom 2 or 3 in the world. A long war with Ethiopia has left the country with some battle scarred buildings and a nation of proud people. They are the recycle experts of the world, from what we saw they may not have any products to export but plenty of experience of recycling to give the world. What a pleasure to see clean streets and country side, no plastic bags , water bottles or paper wrapped around trees or clogging drains or ..well anywhere. Rich nations like Indonesia and Malaysia are drowning in rubbish, with no apparent way of collecting the tons of plastic ruining their waterways, towns and landscapes. We only went to Massawa and Asmara in Eritrea but I think it is the same elsewhere in Eritrea. Everyone goes shopping with their own recycled bag, bags made from rice sacks, cement sacks, salt sacks, grain sacks. The sacks are washed, turned inside out, a piece off the top cut off to make a handle, the top hemmed, handle sewn on and a shopping bag is made. At the market and in shops there are no plastic bags you are expected to bring your own. Fantastic, in Thailand we always tried to take our own bag but they couldn't get it and would still insist on putting things in plastic bags. Sometimes I would tip the items into my bag and give back the plastic bag, mostly they would look at me like I was just another crazy farang.

From Massawa we took a trip up to the capital city, Asmara. The trip,103kms, takes about 4 hours by public bus, but should be only 2 hours if you hire a bus, so 8 of us hired a bus and set off for a 2 night stay in Asmara. Visa stamp in passports($US40each) and travel permit ($US1each) in pockets we headed off to coffee and pastries in Asmara. First we had to show our travel permits at the checkpoint a few miles out of Massawa. The permits had taken about half a day to track down and purchase so we were pleased to see them being used where as no one ever asked for our expensive visa while we were up country. Our bus also took about 4 hours but we didn't mind, the scenery was stunning and the experience of winding our way around switch back corners, 2450 metres in 103 kms, was interesting to say the least. We also persuaded the driver to stop and give a free ride to 4 locals to fill up our 4 spare seats. Soon after Massawa we started to climb into the rocky hills, hills strewn not with pink and blue plastic bags but with black and white goats nibbling on green trees. Goats standing on hind legs reaching for the choicest bits on rocky ledges barely glanced up as the bus slowly wound up the hills. The goat herders, small boys and girls to grown men waved from their rocky perches.

This area of Eritrea has been settled for centuries the steep hills are ringed with low rock walls, presumably, terracing the hills for cultivation. The walls must have taken generations to build. We saw very little cultivation on the dry barren hills maybe during the wet season there is more. The produce we saw in the Massawa and Asmara markets indicate somewhere in Eritrea there is good growing land. We gradually climbed higher, the scenery became interspersed with pockets of green gardens and we started to look down on the few clouds dotted across the bright blue sky. We stopped for coffee at a small market town in the hills. As we ate our tomato egg rolls and supped our strong coffee, little boys and girls appeared selling baskets or fruit. They did not want their photos taken so once they became a nuisance just pointing a camera in their direction got a break from them. I succumbed and bought some delicious pink guava to eat on the bus. The bus kept grinding its way up the last 40kms to Asmara. The road is quite good considering the terrain, the only other traffic was huge lorries transporting goods to and fro the port of Massawa. At times the bus had to stop before a corner so that the oncoming trucks had the whole width of the road to turn the switchback corners. Another checkpoint just short of Asmara, travel permits correct we went off to find the Africa Pension recommended by Guy and Annika from Street Legal .

Africa Pension is a lovely old Italian villa a few minutes walk from town. We needed to find a money changer, we had been told the rate was better in Asmara so only had a few Nafka left. Money changing is a very clandestine affair. In Eritrea there are two money rates, the official rate is 16 Nafka to $US1 the unofficial rate is 32 -35 Nakfa to $US1. Naturally the unofficial rate is favoured but has to be negotiated with care. There are high penalties for both parties if caught. Being a port the money changers were easy to find in Massawa, in fact they found us. In Asmara it was harder than we had been led to believe. We had walked three quarters of Harnett St before a dodgy looking man sitting on a seat turned and said , Welcome to Asmara, where do you come from?" Of course to be polite we answer,

" thank you, we are from New Zealand" "Can I help you" Well now that is an opening if ever we saw one. One money changer found, well at least the runner found. This man kept popping up all over the place, he knew where the tourists were and I swear he could smell when some of us needed to change money. There weren't many tourists, a bunch of yachties and a small tour group and a few individuals wandering Asmara. We also found a man in a market who would change money and after some negotiation Alan and he settled on 36 Nfk, he had started at 20. The bargaining took some time then I spent a little of it at his stall!!

The procedure with the runner was like something out of a cold war spy novel. The runner walking down the street stops to pass the time of day with the tourists, an amount to be changed is mentioned, rate agreed,a small incidental conversation is had then he says good bye and wanders off. At a discreet distance from his foreigners he quickens pace and disappears down a side road. No meeting place is arranged, we walk slowly maybe stop for a beer and he finds us. The money person walks down a side road or into a door way with him and money is counted and exchanged. Nafka in hand and correct before the US$ are handed over. The occasional "discussion" is held when the Nafka are a little short. But all in all everyone is happy except maybe the husbands standing around basket markets while hard won Nafka are spent. They don't seem to mind spending Nafka on Eritrean beer in side walk Italian style cafes.

Cold Eritrean beer is very nice, the price of 17Nfk makes it even more palatable. The same thing cant be said for their wine. The Italian colonial period gave Eritrea great coffee, nice café culture, delicious pastries but they didn't leave their wine making secrets behind. The red was very rough so we didn't try the white. Asmara is a very nice place, Italian food, coffees and pastries. Beautiful Villas , it doesn't have the bombed look of Massawa, apparently the Ethiopians occupied Asmara right till near the last stages of the Eritrean battle for Independence so it was not bombed. The Italians left in about 1942 when the British defeated them in North Africa, leaving behind a lasting legacy of all things Italian.

Our two days in Asmara were very full, wandering back streets, admiring Italian villa architecture, bargaining for baskets, finding cheese shops, overdosing of pastries and coffee(8nfk), a cup of tea was very welcome when we got back to Tuatara. One of the highlights was spending time at the Mendebar market, the part where they make all sorts of things from recycled stuff. Corrugated iron flattened to make charcoal burners, used plywood turned into beautiful boxes for storing coffee pots and beans. Suitcases made from flattened tin. Even combs, not that I would want to use it. Wheels, irons, pipes, drums, sacks anything there ready to be turned into something useful. A multitude of noises assaulted the ears. Many young boys learning and working, probably should have been in school , but they were gainfully employed and looked happy enough. At one end of the area woman were sorting through dried chillies and repacking them, just walking past the chilli dust made us choke and splutter, I would hate to work in it all day even with a face covering.

Walking down Harnett St Asmara looked an affluent modern city but one street back, donkey carts carried sacks of grain to the open air grain market, ladies with gold nose rings sat on the pavement selling vegetables. Old ladies sat on street corners, hand out for money. I am a sucker for old ladies so my pocket full of 1 Nfk notes went fairly quickly each day. There were quite a few beggars in Asmara a lot more than in Massawa, in fact I don't recall seeing one in Massawa. Considering the Italian influence a surprising number of people speak English. We asked a woman in the street for directions. I asked if she spoke English, a very proud "of course" was her reply. She took us to where we wanted to go and we had an interesting chat along the way.

In Eritrea there are 9 different ethnic groups each one depicted on different denomination of money . The ladies of each group seem to have a different way of dressing. The Friday market at Massawa is the big one of the week, its day for all the country people. Luckily we were there on a Friday. A riot of colour greeted us around every stall, the ladies were out in their brightest and best robes. Greens, purples, pinks, blues some edged and sprinkled with glitter. Many with gold and silver nose rings or large studs. Others in black velvet robes with beading decorating their face veils and dresses. Most of the woman had uncovered faces although I could see the benefit of face veils in the dusty atmosphere. After the black of Yemen this was a pleasure for our eyes. Unfortunately the ladies don't want to be photographed, I managed to get one to agree after I bought a basket from her then paid a little extra for the photo. The men make a nice contrast in their white (off white with dust) robes and white turbans.

The ladies in Asmara dressed a little differently they wore white muslin shawls over colourful dresses. The shawls are edged with embroidery, the ones they wear to church often have crosses embroided around the edge. The population is about 50/50 Christian/Muslim. A huge catholic church dominated the main street of Asmara. It was Palm Sunday when we were in Asmara a big day for Christians there. Everyone dressed up for church, ladies in white dresses and shawls with gold and red embroidery, little girls dressed the same but with bright glittery shoes. After church they all seemed to head to the cake shop to buy cakes to take home. The ice cream shop on the way back to the Africa Pension was full with families enjoying a Sunday treat. We of course couldn't forego a Sunday ice cream either.

Eritrea is an interesting place , lovely people, interesting places to visit. I would recommend it as a country to visit if you want something different but don't want the full dusty dirty African experience. The country could do with the tourist dollars as well.
Vessel Name: Tuatara
Vessel Make/Model: Alan Wright 51
Hailing Port: Opua NZ
Crew: Alan and Jean Ward

Sailing in the Pacific

Who: Alan and Jean Ward
Port: Opua NZ