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Incident-filled journey in search of a religious relic

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: July 23, 2012

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Eventful journey to find a religious relic

Comedians and writers Hugh Dennis and David Baddiel have been friends for more than 30 years, having met at university.

Hopefully their friendship will survive the 1,300-mile journey across Ethiopia from the capital Addis Ababa to Aksum – a place of pilgrimage housing the Ark of the Covenant. Hugh isn't convinced that David is the right man for the job.

"Last time we drove together in England he drove into a gate," mutters Hugh. His concern seems well-placed when David starts off by driving on the wrong side of the road. The series, on BBC2, is called World's Most Dangerous Roads for a reason. They will cross mountains – which means sheer cliffs and a nasty drop to the valley floor below – and dice with death on the roads which are crowded with overloaded lorries, overcrowded minibuses and animals.

Night comes quickly here and they find themselves pitching their tent on the first night in complete darkness. David screams because a moth touches him. His head torch points to the night sky and he's worried about what to eat. I don't think he's cut out for the outdoor life.

It's a dramatic journey. They encounter dangerous drivers, overturned heavy plant equipment and baboons with attitude. But the cause of most accidents doesn't appear to be any of these things or the mountainous terrain. It's a local plant, khat, which is an intoxicating stimulant drivers use so that they can keep on working. It doesn't help concentration if you take too much though.

The scenery is spectacular and David and Hugh get a warm welcome from the Ethiopians they meet.

In this deeply religious Christian country they marvel at the church carved out of the rock in a land which is, as David says, "a mix of myth and magic and religion and modernity".

They don't get to see the Ark of the Covenant at the end – nobody does – but it doesn't seem to matter. The warmth of their friendship makes this journey a fascinating one.

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