Total Distance: 10924 km
Distance covered today: 244 km
Start: Beleka Hotel, Arba Minch, Ethiopia
Finish: Goh Hotel, Jinka, Ethiopia
We had to backtrack some 90km to a town called Konso and drove once again through beautiful farming communities which consist of bananas, corn and mangoes on the flat valley floor between the 2 mountain ranges. Everywhere on the road there are herds of cattle and sheep using the road as easy access to wherever they need to go. However they are somehow well-trained and don't make sudden movements when one passes them. We are driving again on the right side of the road and one must concentrate especially on sharp corners when front traffic cut corners. Just before Konso the road starts to climb to the top of the hill where the town of Konso is situated. For the next 1 hour we were kept spell-bound again by the terraced landscapes. Every mountain is terraced by stones from the top to the bottom and it must have taken the people centuries to build these terraces. From Konso we were driving along on the crest of the mountain range in a western direction until we got to the end of that range and we were once again mesmerized by the sight ahead of us. It is as if a giant created one mountain range after the other and then changed his mind and flattened a large portion right in the middle of these layers. Below the escarpment is Lake Stephanie. Actually there is nearly no water in this lake but remaining is a vast flat low-lying green stretch of land that runs to the horizon in the south towards Kenya. A number of hairpin bends dragged us down to this valley floor and we made a quick stop at a small crossroad village. Here we were advised by a friendly guide taking other Ferenjis (white man) to the Omo Country to rather spend two nights at Jinka and skip Turmi. According to him the landscape in Turmi is what we can see at that point and in Jinki we can visit the famous Mursi Tribe where the women wear huge disks in their under lip. On Thursday there is apparently a market at a town called Key Afar which will be on our way back to Arba Minch, so timing will be perfect for that.
From the valley floor we started to climb non-stop and the Landy was working hard to get us from some 700m to over 1500m in a short distance. We arrived by about 14h00 at Jinka and found a reasonable hotel where we at least have water. We settled for 'Roasted Chicken'. We also ordered mango juice. My goodness, is that good! They offer it with a small green lime and a few drops of lime juice with the mango juice just give it that zing which makes it even more tasty. Could not resist to have another. The food consisted of a type of stirfry rice, which was excellent with some onion, cabbage and other types of veggies cut into it. The chicken, well, we had better. Not sure how one can make tough chicken but if you look at the tough life they have here, one can understand. This morning we drove pass a typical Toyota Hi-Ace 10 seater taxi and all along the edge of the roof was live chicken hanging. There must have been at least 50 or more chicken hanging upside down hooked by their legs onto the roof edging. The SPCA would have a field day here!!! Anyway, the sauce was superb and thanks to the Italian colonialists, we had some beautiful bread with it and afterwards we got bananas and passion fruit. The whole bill set us back R50 for everything - not per person, for both of us. Why bother cooking?!?
We were still a bit tired after the Moyale leg so we crashed for the afternoon until awoken by very (and I mean very) loud music from outside the hotel premises. There is a large open field in front of it and there was a crowd gathering so headed across to see what was happening. It was some kind of dancing competition between some of local tribes. Saw the Mursi as well as the Hamer people. They are both so incredibly photogenic and it is impossible to stare at these wonderfully decorated people. The Hamer especially are closely related to the Masai/Samburu people with lots of necklaces and bead-work. Tall, black as the ace of spades, and skinny they stand out head and shoulders above the rest. Need a few of them in the Springbok line-outs. The crowd was in a good spirit and everybody was very welcoming and no-one would come to bug you as a tourist. The problem is that most people can't speak English and for those who do, it is so broken, they might as well speak Greek. However, they try to welcome you as much as possible.
Coming into town we came across a stream of Land Cruisers, Patrols and other luxury 4x4's ferrying European tourists from Addis Ababa to the Omo Country. We think we are fortunate to witness this region before the floodgates to these fascinating cultures open up in earnest.
5 January 2010
Staying at Goh Hotel, Jinka, Ethiopia
The guide we met yesterday was kind enough to allow us to tag along with his passengers to the Omo Valley and we left at 7am. We stayed for the first 20km in similar area than Jinka and suddenly we stood like yesterday once again on the edge of a massive escarpment. The mountain ranges were stretching into the flat basin below like giant octopus tentacles into a flat saucer. We dropped within minutes from over 1400m to 450m on yet another spectacular pass. In South Africa people pay lots of money to do these 4x4 trails and we do them day in and day out - free. When we reached the bottom, it was more what we expected of Omo Country. It was dead flat and more typical desert bush yet still thick. We drove pass numerous kids and adults posing next to the road for photos but our guide Kassaye drove right pass and we parked behind their vehicle in one of the villages deeper into Omo Country. It is inside a park called Mago National Park and although we saw 3 kudu and 1 other antelope, we don't think anyone comes here anymore for the wildlife.
As we pulled up at the village we were surrounded, no maybe I should say, drowned under a human tsunami as the locals were trying to get their pictures taken. On the one hand we wanted to see these extraordinary people living an age-old tradition but on the other, this was not far removed from a zoo with the only difference we are watching people. People would come to ask to take a picture of him/her and his/her friends. The price - 2 birr per photo. About R1. And make no mistake, it was like going into a massive costume party where people dressed in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways. Some of the ladies had cow horns on their heads with warthog tusks hanging down beside their ears while others had these massive plates inside their bottom (sometimes top lip). Since a young age girls pierce their lip and put into the hole a stick and start to stretch it by putting in bigger and bigger sticks until it is big enough for a mud disk with edges on the side to keep the lip from staying around the disk. They have to knock out their front teeth as well to make space for this saucer. One can hear they have to talk nasally as the disks are restraining their speech. Many are bare-breasted and often the men are walking the way they are born with white paint decorated their naked bodies. They live not any different than stone-age people where they still grind their corn with stones and sticks are their weapons although nowadays many of them carry AK47 automatic rifles which they use to steal another tribe's cattle. These battles still occur but due to government intervention, they had to stop that tradition before they could open their doors to tourists. Their huts are the most basic grass structures and look like a haystacks. Their food looks to be the most basic of basic. We do think that the current system is heading for disaster though because jealousy between people because some people obviously are more photogenic than others and thus will get more money. We think that one should only pay once the elders of the tribe and then while the people are coming and going with their daily chores, allowed to take pictures as many as one wishes. At the moment, I don't think they do much else than fight to get their pictures taken while not getting on with their daily lives.
We headed back to Jinka after the village visit and went straight for another fresh juice - this time pineapple for myself and avocado for Arina. Both superb! The one thing that is really a problem in this part is dust. There is very little wind and one can cut the air like a giant dust cake. Every breath we take is filled with dust and as people drive pass on the dirt roads it just gets worse.
Arina went after lunch for a stroll to the market to look at the cloth they are selling while I went for a snooze. She was accompanied by a smart little boy called Teddy whom I met yesterday. His English for a 10 year old is just passable and he is a bit shy yet interested in our lifestyle. At one point he was trying to get her attention but she was too busy shopping (what can I say J ) and by the time he could explain to her what happened, she realised she was pick-pocketed of some 150Birr (R70). They wanted to call the police but what is the point. It was a cheap lesson to be vigilant although not distrusting every person because by far the biggest majority of people leave you alone and when they talk to you, it is just to make conversation and practice their English.
6 January 2011
Total Distance: 11 200 km
Distance covered today: 295 km
Start: Beleka Hotel, Arba Minch, Ethiopia
Finish: Goh Hotel, Jinka, Ethiopia
We had a relaxed start this morning as we knew that the market at Key Afar would only start at about 11am. We got there and met a few other tourists we have been bumping into the last few days and waited in a shady area and drank cooldrink. Afterwards we wandered to the market which is really basically for the locals although there are tourist trinkets as well. It is mainly a vegetable market but they also sell things like chicken and things the local people need. We saw a lot of the Hamer people and they are really majestic and proud people. The women's hair is braided while the men where feathers on their shaven heads. The men often walk with their little wooden neck rest which they use to sit on and to sleep on while the women are beautifully decorated with strings of small shells stitched to leather thongs. It is a friendly market where the people socialise more than buy things.
We headed back with the same dramatic mountain ranges to Arba Minch and tomorrow we are heading to Addis Ababa which by the way means 'New Flower'.
Once again we really appreciate all the messages on the blog and glad everyone can 'join' us on a trip of a life-time. We always look forward hearing from everyone. It is as Arina says: like being on the Argus cycle marathon and being cheering on by people as one goes up Suikerbossie. It gives us that extra oumpf!