Before you start reading: I only made a few notes and scribbles during this trip. So it has been taking me a while to recall all memories and also find back and sort good photos. I decided I will already post it as it is, but I am still adding information over time!
One of the reasons of this trip was to be off-the-grid. In previous trips, I have realized that it is so healthy for your mind to be offline for a bit. To live in the moment and not worry about being available by phone, answering Whatsapp messages and updating your social media etc etc. But it can be difficult to put your phone away or turn it off, at least it is for me. Omo Valley is a remote area and in the end it was an extra blessing that my Ethiopian simcard never got activated.
I went on a motorbike trip through the valley, often sleeping in villages, or sleepy towns, most of the time without electricity, let alone Wi-Fi. This might have been one of the most offline trips I did, and it was awesome. I made some small notes on my phone and in a notebook, and based on that I am writing this blog. Photos taken by Firew and myself will give some some impressions. But if you enjoy adventure and being off-the-grid, and not scared of some mud, I can highly recommend traveling in this beautiful part of Ethiopia. Please contact me via my contact form for my guide Firew's contact details.
Arrived in Arba Minch and got picked up by my guide, Firew. Drove to the Tourist hotel for some real good mango juice and of course, an Ethiopian dish. Because rain had started, making the roads bad we would join two Israeli girls (Chen & Daniel) and their guide Solomon by car to a town called Dorze. About an hour from Arba Minch. The drive was uphill and we had some stunning views over the lake. We were welcomed by kids on the road side shaking their hips, their traditional welcome dance. We had a beautiful hike through green fields with cows to a waterfall and it was actually pretty cold. Then we got a little tour through the town and the traditional houses, the houses are made very high so they can survive termites, but get shorter over the years. However the quality is so high that they can last up to a hundred years and they can also be moved in those years since the Dorze are nomadic. We learned about spinning cotton and baking 'Dorze pizza' made from fermented false banana leaves, which we also got to eat with amazing local honey. Another locality we got to try with the local boys was 'holy water' aka arakne, a super strong local liquor that soon had us all in a party mood, especially since it had just been Orthodox Easter people were still celebrating. We went to a local bar and learned some habesha dancing (with the shoulders!) and I was given a rasta hat as a present somewhere along the way. In the very end we heard loud music playing behind the huts we were staying and we decided to have a look. It turned out the neighbors were also still in a festival mood at their house and we joined for a bit and I got to dance with their cute baby boy (see photo). We were back at our huts by 10pm but it already felt like a lifetime, so much to see and do here?
Day 2: BULL JUMPING AT THE HAMAR
We wake up early that morning the weather is really bad. A thick fog hangs over the village and it is very, very cold. We decide to do the long drive south to Omo Valley by bus instead of motorbike. The busride gives us beautiful views over valleys and hills. At the end of afternoon we arrive at a town called Turmi. We grab a quick lunch on one of the roadside stops and get news that we got lucky: there is a bull juming ceremony that day just outside of Turmi and we can go there.
From what I understand the bull jumping ceremony is a coming of age ceremony for boys of the Hamer tribe. In a nutshell: it involves dancing, music and singing, designated boys whipping girls and women that want to prove their courage, and the boy running over the back of cows, alcohol and more singing and dancing. That was my impression, it was very special to be there and witness a tradition that the Hamer have been doing for so long. Even though it sometimes also felt uncomfortable to be present of such a special and somehow intimate moment for the boy and his family, and we are just random tourists, outsiders, coming to have a look.
I copied the following paragraph in blue from a website to give some more background on the tradition:
"The Hammer are a tribal people in the southern Region of Ethiopia. Hamar, an isolated people whose traditional lifestyle has been untouched are largely pastoralists, so their culture places a high value on cattle. According to the Ethiopian Central Statistical Authority the population of Hamars is about 42,000, representing less than 0.1 percent of the population of Ethiopia. The Hamar have “rites of passage” which celebrate transitions from one age grade to the next. The most dramatic and significant ritual is Bull-Jumping ceremony (Ukuli Bula) which represent a life –Changing event for the young man (Ukuli) who passes from boyhood in to adulthood. This rite of passage must be done before a man is permitted to marry. This is a ceremony which determines whether a young Hamar man is ready to make the social jump from immature member of his society to responsibility of marriage and raising a family. Bull Jumping Ceremony is usually held after harvest time, July to first half of September. But nowadays because of big climatic change and confused rain time, it became usual to see the bull jumping eyen up to March. The ceremony lasts the whole day, but the most spectacular part of it begins in the afternoon after four o’clock. [...]"
You can read more about this tradition via this link: http://www.adventureabyssinia.com/festival-cultures/cultural-ceremonies/bull-jumping-ceremony-of-the-hamar-tribe/
Some pics I took:
Day 3: Omorate & Dassenech
After a lovely breakfast with warm fresh flatbread, a bean sauce and scrabled eggs (best describtion I could give, but see picture) oh and delicious fresh honey, we have a last check on the motorbike and then we head to Omorate. After a short part over a rough road, the rest of the trip is over a brand new turmac road. It is sunny and the smoothest ride ever. Every once in a while we stop for a quick chat with the children walking their cattle or a visit to the bush toilet.
After a beautiful drive over some of the greenest land I've ever seen, we arrive in Omorate, almost at the border with Kenya. We meet Firew's cousin who is also a guide. We have a quick shower at a local camping spot and some lovely... injeera. Than we continue the drive accross the bridge over the Omorate village, with the sunset in front. It's so beautiful over here!
We take a what feels like a sudden and random left turn, just into the dirt and follow Firew's cousin who is on a motorbike in front of us. It's completely dark by now and all of a sudden we arrive at a village where we get a warm welcome.
Day 4: Turmi Market
Early in the morning we head back to Turmi. In time to see the weekly market. People from all over the area come to Turmi to sell their goods: cows, goats, beads, clothes, coal etc.
After the market we get back onto the motorbike. We take a long drive to Jinka.
Day 5: Jinka
I stay in a cute hotel. The weather in Jinka is shit. It has started raining and didn't stop. I am very tired of the journeys and decide to go to bed early.
Day 6: Mursi & almost missed my flight
Firew really wanted me to see the Mursi tribe before I head back. It's my last day in Omo Valley, my flight back to Addis is at the end of the afternoon. The weather hasn't cleared up yet, we dress up as warm and rainproof as possible and grab a quick breakfast in Jinka before we start our journey.
We are heading to the Mursi tribe in Margo national park. Its a beautiful park with dirt roads. With the amount of rain that has been falling, it has become one big mud pool. It keeps raining, we start to get wet and very cold. We barely meet anyone on the way, definitely not tourists. Just some busses with workers from one of the factories in the park, and an occasional car struggling in the mud with Chinese men. I mean, where do you not find these guys? We also struggle with the mud. Every now and then we have to get off and walk and push the motorbike through the mud. I'm not gonna lie, I am a tiny bit worried about two things: what if the motorbike breaks down? There isn't great cellphone reception here, but there are lions in the park. And snakes, I saw two on the way. Second: we take almost twice as long over the drive down as usual, all because of the flooded roads and mud. My flight is going this afternoon, and I really have my fingers crossed we will make it back in time. If I miss that flight out of Jinka, I also miss my flight to Cape Town the next morning. Whenever the road is clearer, we try to speed up.
Flat tire but at least we are almost there. Trying to find another bike to get back to Jinka in time to catch my flight to Addis.
I made it to Addis after hours of delay! Even tried to postpone my flight to SA to enjoy the city for a bit longer but it wasn't possible. So then ticking the last item of my Ethiopia Bucketlist: eating Shekle tibs! Yummm at Elsa's cafe in Addis. With some lovely habesha coffee on the side of course!
Addis to Cape Town: a short introduction
In the beginning of this year I decided that I really wanted to graduate my Master's that I had put on hold two years ago to work and live in Nairobi. This meant that I needed to take time to lock myself up in the library and write my thesis, and I figured that I would go back to the Netherlands for the summer to do that, so I could also attend the wedding of one of my closest uni friends, spend some proper time with my family etc. So I talked to my managers and decided I would not renew my contract after April. And if you know me, I have become a pro at time management and decided I had some room in April to make a trip. So where should I go? I wanted to try and see two countries, since I had on my bucketlist to visit at least three new countries in 2018.
I started looking for flights, and one place that had been on my mind for ages was Ethiopia. First things first, I love Ethiopian food. I can eat shiroo and some shekle tibs at any time of day! But besides that, Ethiopia's capital Addis Abeba is not far from Nairobi plus Ethiopian Airlines has some affordable tickets, especially with two destinations combined. I was doubting between Ethiopia & Oman, when another destination came up: Cape Town, South Africa. Eventually the universe (or maybe Ethiopian Airlines) decided for me when the tickets for Oman got more expensive a few days later and I decided on Cape Town. For some reason South-Africa had never been very high on my list, I think a combination of having been on safari's already, it seems very touristic and maybe even some uncomfortable feeling of South-Africa's past that played a role. But anyway, as soon as I mentioned to some people I was going to Cape Town everyone told me I was gonna have a great time. But you can read about that in another blog that you can find here.
But let's start where I began the trip: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Addis Ababa 101 (AIRBNB)
Addis is just a short flight away from Nairobi. I had booked an Airbnb close to the airport in advance and got a contact for a taxi driver, that came to pick me up that afternoon. Eden the Airbnb host is awesome, and so is the house + room. They have a nice appartment with a view over the city. The room is very big, the bed is comfortable and has it's own bathroom. In addition, there were little details that really made the stay even better: shampoo, bottles of drinking water, towels etc.
Unfortunately I couldn't get my phone 'activated' according to the Ethiopian Telecom dude it's because my dear Oppo [Chinese brand phone I got in Kenya] is a fake... Anyway we had Orthodox Easter (that they had celebrated the day before) leftovers for lunch: home-made dorowot & injera, YESSS it was so good, you could taste the love that was put in to it. After lunch chilled at the house for a bit. Then Eden and I went for sundowners at Effous, a pizza place turned hostel & rooftop bar with an almost 360 view over the city. I tried out the local beers and then we headed to Vendika, which is the place to be on a Monday as I was told. There was a live Jazz jam session which was really really good. The place was packed with a crowd of creatives, musicians, youngsters and expats and we enjoyed the live music with some honey wine, such a good time! (And so lucky to have a cool host like that!) Before we left Vendika had some late night tibs, but we couldn't make it too late because the next day I was taking an internal flight to the South of Ethiopia (see next blog!).
Injera count on day 1: #2
Link to Eden and Shawn's Airbnb close to the airport in Addis: https://www.airbnb.nl/rooms/23889404
A d v e n t u r e s o f
a D u t c h g i r l
i n E a s t - A f r i c a.