My super Easter weekend

Just outside where we stayed the first night

Alright Galen, tell people what you did this weekend. Okay…  What did I do this weekend? Well, I guess I did a lot, more than most. I’ll tell you a little about it, but I’ll let the pictures speak their thousand words apiece.

It began with meeting Mr. Olata (the computer teacher from One Planet) at the Addis Ababa airport, domestic terminal. He was wearing a shiny red tie with white dots, a starched white shirt, black pants, and sunglasses that matched his tie. He looked very professional, I felt like I had CIA bodyguard escorting me. He was to be my guide for the weekend.

Long story short, we waited for a few hours, the plane was late. Eventually we got on the plane and were on our way! Exciting I know right?

It was pretty cool to see Addis from the sky; I flew in at night and am flying out at night so it was a first. The plane flew a relatively low altitude for most of the flight so I was able to soak up much of the scenery sprawled out below. So that was pretty cool… Our first stop was Jimma, where we skidded along a crumbling runway to a stop in the middle of nowhere. The plane was greeted with a few guys in the Ethiopian Air green suits and ties. It always makes me feel like I’m in hardcore Africa when I see someone wearing a suit in ridiculous heat in the middle of nowhere. Everyone wears suits here! Anyway we only stopped for a few minutes to get rid of some people and get some new ones. Then we were screeching back along the runway, taking off is always the best part of flying.

Just before landing in Jimma

We flew over a river that was unmistakably red, never seen a red river before. Then we flew over Lake Abaya, which was very brown, and then we landed on another runway surrounded by some pretty intense jungleish vegetation.

Walking off the plane my immediate reaction was “Sh** I’m in Africa!”

I think the only other time I’ve walked into a wall of heat like that is going into the sauna; intense dry heat.

I got my bag and we headed out of the airport, and got a taxi to the town. The whole area is called Arba Minch, there are two towns very close together, Sinkele and another one, and two lakes, Abaya and Chamo. We stopped at the ‘Tourist Hotel’ to have some fresh avacado mango and papaya juice. Sitting in the shade of trees, it was a very attractive place with two gazelles wandering around and some exotically coloured birds. It was very posh amidst some pretty extreme poverty.

After landing in Arba Minch, this is Olata

Later we walked around a bit and then went to a resort type place where we rented a tent and set it up. There was a stunning view from the resort deck, and our tent was in an orchard type area with trees and long lush green grass. It was beautiful. Later that night we ate somewhere else, and I ended up with another fish thrown in the pan with nothing removed, I wasn’t to impressed.

When we got back to the tent after dark it was so incredibly loud. The bugs and birds and all the other animals were making a racket. Thankfully the mosquitoes didn’t bother us.

The next morning we got up and had breakfast shortly after a magnificent sunrise. Two guys on motorbikes came and picked us up and took us to the guide office. We then got in a minibus that had been rented for us and headed to Chamo.

The sunrise from where we stayed the night

As we went Baboons were constantly crossing the road, and the driver had to honk at them. We stopped and fed them, then the king baboon came along. The driver got out. I was sitting in the passengers seat. At some point this huge male baboon jumped up into the drivers window and looked around for food. I leaned back and snapped a picture of him.

Just before he jumped to the window

Some time later we got out of the minibus and continued on foot, as the roads were too muddy. Eventually we emerged at the lake, and well you can look at the pictures here to see the view that we saw. We loaded up the boat and got ready to go. Oh yeah I got to take pictures with some guy’s gun.

The dock, and the lake, and the boats!

All right, the lake! Here we are. All right I think I’m getting a little to melancholic with my writing here, I’ll take a break and come back.

Never mind, my stomach is to unsettled to be bothered with getting up. So lake Chamo, cool lake. Although smaller than Abaya, it’s a little rockier so less brown and from a distant even looks blue. It is still however brown, just to make sure you can’t see the crocodiles until they eat you.

no comment

We started out across the lake. The boat was metal, big and relatively sturdy. A new looking 25 h two stroke was pushing us along at about 5 knots. I didn’t mention my emotions when I first saw the lake, first time I had seen a body of water in 6 months, some pretty intense emotions went on there. Made me want to become a marine engineer or go to coasty college so I never have to leave the water again.

Then all of a sudden a hippo lurched out of the water with its mouth open and picked one of the guides right out of the boat, whilst swamping it. Then we were surrounded, and they started ripping the boat to pieces, after swallowing Olata and the other guide. I grabbed the rifle, swung the bayonet out and started stabbing the hippos, naturally saving the day. I then tamed a crocodile after wrestling with it and rode it back to shore.

Have you ever seen a hippo? They are HUGE! And their heads and mouths make up way to much of their body! This hippo jumped out of the water with its mouth open and chomped down at the air, crazy! HUGE MOUTH! Second most dangerous animal in the world someone said, next to man.

A pod of hippos

We found some fisherman after getting close to the other side of the lake (a long ways) and obtained some fish from them. They had about 20 or 30 in the bottom of the boat. They hadn’t killed them, so they were all just wheezing dying a slow painful death, quite depressing.

These are the guys we got the fish from

There were these birds that would swoop down flapping their wings for speed then just glide along the surface of the water. It was fascinating to watch. I felt like I was in Jurassic park.

We arrived at a small sandy beach on the other side of the lake that was littered with crocodiles, big and small. Most scurried off when we beached the boat though, including a mother that was laying her eggs in the sand. One guide stayed with the boat and gun to watch it, and the other guide, Olata and I headed up the hill onto the planes. There were some pretty cool birds, butterflies, and insects. The butterflies were crazy colourful. After becoming pretty drenched in sweat under the intense sun and heat, we found some Zebras hanging out.

Some of the Zebras...

We walked around them for a bit, followed them, took pictures. For some reason they were a little on edge, I guess usually you can get very close, but we were pretty close I thought. They are some pretty awesome animals, it’s a striped horse that’s wild! After a bit we headed back to the boat.

Pure beauty

When we got to the boat the guide that had stayed handed Olata a crocodile egg he had taken out of the sand. I was a little sketched out at fist, I guess I thought it was going to hatch into a full grown croc and eat me or something. Anyway, we definitely did NOT bring the egg back, and I definitely didn’t give it to Kyle, and he definitely isn’t going to try to smuggle it home with him.

Olata with the croc egg

We headed back out on the lake. After a while we came to the ‘crocodile market’. As we passed the thousands of birds chilling in the water I could see a croc sleeping amidst them. Then we got close to the beach where there were scores of crocodiles on the beach and in the bushes sleeping. They sleep with their terrifying mouths open, and the really intellectual birds come and pick the meat out of their teeth while they sleep.

some crocs

We scared the crocs awake and they all scurried into the water, scary looking reptiles they are. There were eyes of hippos and crocs looking at us all over from the water. Cool! There was a pod of hippos nearby we went to check out, big animals! Especially when they are out of the water, and crazy looking heads.

After that we headed back to the dock where we had started. There were fishermen along the shore wandering around in the murky zero visibility water, just waiting for something to chomp down on them.

on the boat...

Once back on shore we waited while one of the guides cooked the fish. I was really happy when there was nothing that looked like a fish except white meat when he brought it out. We ate it with our hands, and bread. I’m not going to miss eating with my hands.

We walked to meet the minibus and headed back to get our bags where we had left them at the guide center. We then went to the bus station and caught a minibus up the mountain to Dorze.

Dorze… Dorze is about an hour drive from Arba Minch uphill all the way along rough roads. There was some great views of Arba Minch, Chamo, and Abaya along the way. We passed through Dorze and got off in another village 5 km later. We went into a bar there and met with the head of the lodge, or he just worked there I wasn’t exactly sure. He took me to see the market where they were selling animals, spices, and all kinds of food items. It was the day before Easter, and everybody was preparing their goats for slaughter. I estimate about 50 million animals were slaughtered here on Easter Sunday, as the Orthodox Christians break their fast.

A woman selling various spices

They slaughtered a herd of goats outside out apartments and left all the intestines. I miss the whole consumerist chocolate egg thing!

Where was I, oh yes, the market. After the market we headed back to the bar for a bit. Then at dusk after much debating the same guy took me to see a waterfall. We ran most of the way, across streams, through green fields, and along narrow trails. It was absolutely beautiful. The air was also shockingly cold due to the altitude.

Washing in the waterfall

After a while of walking and running through muddy and wet fields we entered a dark valley. The sun had just set by then. And then, we came to the waterfall! It was a pretty awesome water fall, 32 m high, with brown water spilling over the top, white towards the middle, and brown flooding at the bottom again. I asked him if I could go right under it, “it’s too strong right?” I really hope I wouldn’t have been stupid enough to go under if I was along, because I would have met certain death if I had. Apparently where the water hits the crashes to earth again there is an estimated 8-meter whole. So if I had gone under I would have fallen down 8 meters then been crushed by hundreds of tons of cascading water. A miserable death, apparently several people have died there. Anyway I stripped down and climbed into the pool surrounding it and soaped up and washed. Felt good to wash away the cooled sweat of the previous day.

This is what the hut looked like that I stayed in

After that we ran back through the darkness and climbed into a land cruiser going by. Something like 15 people in a vehicle with seats for 6.

After arriving at the lodge I was shown the huts (one of which I was staying in). They build them extremely tall, ridiculously tall, and to look like elephants. Then every 12 years or so when the termites eat away the bottom, they lift it up and chop it off making it a little shorter, which doesn’t matter since its so tall, and then continue living in it. So the huts last for 80 years or so. The inside is constructed out of bamboo and the outside is covered with false banana leaves. Inside is really cool, it’s big! A family of 6 will stay in there, with a cow or two, bunk beds, fire pit in the middle and all. The smoke goes out through the elephant’s eyes towards the top.

You can see the door is in the trunk, and the eyes at the top... the honeymoon hut is on the left

Beside one of these big huts they have a smaller one, which is the ‘honeymoon hut’. So when people get married they live in that for 3 months while their parents build them the big hut. Fascinating!

I got to see how they make a sort of bread from the false banana, cool! Also go to see their loom where they weave all their beautiful cloths, cool!

Then we ate, and afterwards had a little African dress up party with animal skins and spears and danced away.

uhh, yeah...

Next day was super exciting. Got up at 5:30, had eggs and doro wat for breakfast (chicken with injera). We were supposed to be at the airport by 7:40 so we had hired someone to come from Arba Minch and take us since there would be no public transport that early due to the holy day. The same guy who had driven us to Chamo picked us up, we were at the airport by 8:00. There we found out the plane wasn’t coming till 4 in the afternoon because of the holy day… but we didn’t find that out right way, since everybody had a different time, and none of the managers really knew.

Houses on the way back to Arba Minch

The rest of the day consisted of hanging out… Olata complained, we got lunch paid for… We found out the plane was coming to Arba Minch around 12:00 then flying to a number of other places before coming back to pick people up and flying to Addis… We called numerous people to get a ride on that plane and an aerial tour of Southern Ethiopia for free. Called the pilot, he said it was fine… different people said different times… A result of incredible bureaucracy we got to the airport at 11:30 ish and the plane had departed already… hung out at the airport sweating till we finally made to hop back to Addis just before 4:00.

Well, that concludes my blovel (as Mr. Bennet has allowed me to coin it) for today hope you enjoyed! Chow!

The tourist hotel

Another crocodile, scary looking eh!