After breaking schedule to give you a little update on my comings and goings and then completely missing Memory Lane Monday last week, I’m back on track with a new post on Ethiopia.
A couple of months ago I wrote about discovering the joy of getting stuck in Southern Ethiopia in one of my favourite posts to this day- and one of the most popular! In this post I am going to regale you with more tails of adventure and hopefully give you a little idea about how you can explore this area of the country independently, without having to book onto a tour. It is hard, but it can be done and it is so rewarding. I’m also going to attack you with beautiful pictures- I hope you are ready!
From Arba Minch, we took a mini bus from the bus terminal to Karat Konso. This small little town isn’t too exciting in itself but it is home to the wondeful Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge. This beautiful place just outside the town is a fully self sustained permaculture in which everything from the toilets to the gardens are eco friendly. They also make a mean, mean salad which is a blessing in this part of the country! We camped in the grounds this time round but on our way back we stayed in one of the traditional huts which was so charming and had lovely beds!
The next day we attempted to make our way to Key Afar, home to one of the more famous, traditional markets, and we succeeded, if for it being a rather long travel day. Konso is one of the last places that you’ll find a public bus going any further south. This means we had to wait a long time for the bus to leave, as they filled it more than too full! But it was an interesting journey sat on the gear box and taking in the wild and arid landscape.
When we reached Key Afar we stumbled into one of the only cheap hotels around and managed to find some half decent food. It is a small rural town so there really isn’t much choice but we hadn’t come to discover the local cuisine! We had come to meet the people of Ethiopia who call this place home.
Luck would have it that two very enterprising young boys decided our little group of 6 young travellers were the perfect people to practice their tour-guide skills on! The boys had found us at our hotel in the centre of town and pointed us in the direction of the local guide when we asked about wanting to explore the area. Being such a small place all you need is word of mouth to get things organised! So off we went, 6 eager explorers, 1 guide and 2 prospective business men in tow.
And we had the most incredible day… Just half an hours walk from the main road we visited three Banna family homes, the three wives of this lucky Banna man:
The Banna men have much more elaborate hairstyles than their wives, who traditionally dread their hair and cover it in red clay, and we were told that the ornament adorning our host meant he had killed a lion… we weren’t quite sure whether this was true, exaggeration or miscommunication!
In the second home we all sat around and drank homemade ‘coffee’ which is basically a very weak tea made from what tasted like tree bark! The people of this region drink it throughout the day and believe that it keeps away hunger and keeps up their energy levels. Although I didn’t feel many benefits, it did feel very ritualistic and homely and when mother and baby began singing and clapping together I think my heart exploded with happiness! It was such a simple moment, but such a special one to see such a private moment filled with affection between a parent and her child.
What was so lovely about the day was how we felt as though we had just dropped in on old friends- we didn’t feel as if either of us was being put on show for the other. And even though we couldn’t even exchange one word, we just sat around exchanging tea and smiles.
Another special connection was had with the third wife, who was dressed in full traditional regalia, and wanted to see what all the fuss was about with our picture taking. I absolutely love these images of Oli showing his pictures and all of them laughing:
After drinking our final cup of horrible tea, we wandered further out into the wilderness and sorghum fields until we came upon a ‘pile’ of very large stones. We all climbed up on top and watched the sun go down… a perfect end to a lovely day!
Next week I will be telling you about the traditional market and later about how we hitchhiked to Turmi and slept under the stars! If you haven’t already, follow along so you never miss a post!