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Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.

Journal Entry:

Monday, November 25, 2013 19:34:48

BLACK SEA, SUDANS, ETHIOPIA 2013: 16 Turmi to Abra Minch, Ethiopia

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Tom picked me up at the campsite and drove me to the Lodge for breakfast before heading for Omorate and the Omo River. There was construction underway on this road as well, paid for by China. This is a dry area of scrub brush and small trees, with scattered towering termite nests looking like the petrified trunks of trees. When we got to the town of Omorate, population 3,400, they had their own immigration office to check passports. This may be due to the close proximity of neighbouring countries - Kenya is only 28 km (17 mi) away, and South Sudan 86 km (53 mi) away. Our local guide was waiting at the immigration office. It is hot here, being only 50 meters above sea level.

This area is populated by the 64,000 member Dimeka Tribe. It was necessary to cross the Omo River by dugout canoe, made from a Fig Tree trunk. My guide and his friend saved me from sliding down the steep mud bank into the deep Omo River by grabbing me as I was going. The bank is better suited to the bare feet of most dugout ferry clients. There is a broken down cable ferry, which likely won't be repaired, as a new bridge is nearing completion to open the way for traffic to and from Kenya.

When seated in the bottom the rounded edges of the canoe came to my chin. Getting up to get out was an interesting operation, but I make it onto the mud with only one leg getting dunked. We were well mud spattered from the long pole the boatmen use to push, or paddle when it is too deep to reach bottom. Mud splatters passengers from the pole at the end of each stroke..

This is the least interesting village to date, where round hut construction contains a lot of non-traditional materials such as corrugated iron, cardboard, or whatever else was readily available. I took a few 5 birr per person photos, and declined the guide's offer to take me to another village for an additional fee. I'd about had it with being pulled, prodded and hustled. In the canoe on the way back the guide asked for my watch, then insisted I buy him a Coke - not very impressive, as his knowledge was also limited. I was happy to get out of there.

Lunch was back at our hotel, where they had a decent, fairly basic, room for me. After lunch, we picked up a guide of the Hamar Tribe, a smaller group of about 8,000 members, before driving some distance down the main road, then onto a track into the bush, stopping near a dried riverbed. We were off to see bull jumping. After some kilometres of trekking my knees were signalling their disapproval, but the guide kept urging me on, saying it is very close. We were coming across more and more tribes people, until we reached an area where the forests reverberated with a sound like thousands of parrots. It turned out to be ankle bells worn by the tribe to celebrate the occasion.

We left the river bed at this point to climb a steep trail, with more assurances that it was close now. It was probably about 5 km to the site, where I found a rock and sat, watching the dancing and festivities from a distance while my knees recovered a little. The guide finally pulled me to my feet and jockeyed me into position in front of an area where about a dozen bulls where being man handled until they were standing close beside each other, each facing the opposite direction to its neighbour.

The dancing and bells rose to a crescendo as brave young men ran to the bulls, leaping onto the first one, then

jumping from one to another until reaching the far side. A slip could result in being impaled on the long, sharp horns. Jumpers were coming from both directions, first from one side then the another, so it was non-stop action.

On the way back to the cars we were surrounded by tribes people leaving, all in high spirits. They will now party, and have ceremonies and competitions, including mock battle where real battle wounds are received, for 8 days, then once true manhood has been proven there will be negotiations for wives. The trek back to the vehicle was a matter of willing one foot to go in front of the other, but I made it. Dinner was at the hotel with less people tonight, after which I then gratefully crashed into bed.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

We were scheduled to visit the village of the Erbore Tribe this morning, however we could see heavy rain in that direction, and Tom didn't think we;d be able to cross a major river before the village, so instead we took the route out we came in on. After lunch at a nice lodge we picked up a delightful local guide, Denote, a 60 year old retired school teacher, and headed off to visit a Konso Tribe village with 9,000 residents.

Denote was a wealth of information and stories. He has rheumatism in his knee, so we made a fine pair hobbling up the steep paths of the hill side village. It was a pleasure to learn that the Konso tribe, population over 300,000, did not permit begging or asking for money in their villages. Those who wish to contribute money, cloths or school supplies are most welcome to do so through the tribal office, from where it is distributed to those in need. They are a hill tribe, famous for their terraced fields

This was a fortified village, and it is still surrounded by high stone walls with no cement to hold the rocks. The original wall is about 4 meters (12 feet) high, but the newer ones are lower. Each expansion of the village is marked by a new wall. The pathways between walled family living compounds are very narrow - my elbows touched each side and it was necessary to walk single file. The town was quiet, as there was a village meeting being held and most kids were in school. There is a special area where school age children stay together.

The tribe used to be animist, however Protestant missionaries converted them to Christianity. Daughters are not sold for marriage, they are free to choose a husband, although a dowry is customarily paid to the parents of the bride in cash. They certainly are friendly, everyone I encountered shook my hand, including tiny tots. The village was very clean, and the absence of flies noticeable. In the main square there is a stone set into the ground that is for swearing in witnesses when there is a trial or dispute to be settled before the village chief and elders. Both hands are placed on the stone, which is flush with the ground, then witnesses swear to tell the truth. Another heavy stone in the square is for determining if a boy is of age to be married. If he can lift the stone above his shoulders he is ready for marriage. I could barely get it off the ground!

It was great to return to the well run Paradise Lodge in Abraminch, where Amin from Caravan Tours had upgraded me to a private rondavel with a view of the two big lakes. It was perfect, the only problem was the internet went down, but I did catch up on some writing in the comfortable room. I was going to go for a swim, but they charge about $4 to use the pool, as I was going to have only a quick dip I decided to work instead.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Today the Ethiopian Orthodox Church faithful start a 20 day fast leading up to their Christmas on January 7..

Internet was back on in the morning, so I got an update and a couple of urgent emails off before we left. It proved to be 10 hours of driving to Jimma through incredibly beautiful countryside, on rough dirt or gravel roads most of the way. When I flew into Abraminch from Jimma and took 25 minutes.

The first couple of hours was on some pavement and some gravel road, with a lot of road construction. For the first hour we drove alongside huge Lake Abaya. We stopped in the town of Sodo where I was able to exchange another of my formerly rejected $100 bills, and we picked up sandwiches for lunch. Sodo is on the main road to Addis Ababa, but we turned off just outside of town to take the little used gravel road to Jimma.

The trip to Jimma was over high dirt mountains, such as are found in Costa Rica, usually on single lane road. Far into the mountains we started passing masses of people walking to market along the steep mountain road many miles before we reached the actual market. The market will have hundreds of people. Many more people were coming from the other direction after we passed the market town. It was amazing to see quite a few people in bare feet marching over sharp stones while carrying heavy loads. The bottom of their feet must be like leather.

We were driving through forests of Cyprus and eucalyptus trees between the neatly laid out farms, which gave hills the appearance of multi-coloured quilts. There were baboons and kudu crossing the road from time to time. In the deep valleys the outside temperature was 30C (86F) degrees, but when we climbed the next range of mountains it would drop to 17C (62F) degrees. Last three hours was through a Muslim area with several rustic mosques.

Jimma has a palm tree boulevard in the centre of a mud and potholed dirt main street. We located the Central Hotel, which was much better than I had expected, as we are definitely off the tourist route. I took a walk along the main street where many people called out greetings, some who spoke a little English asking if they could help me find anything. It is a very friendly and welcoming town! In the shopping area every second store is a mobile phone outlet.

On my way to the restaurant a Chinese fellow said hello. He is the head of a team from China Mobile working with the Ethiopians on their mobile phone system. The restaurant has a big open air seating area, and the rest of the seating has an open wall onto the outdoor section. The food was the best I've had on the trip, and the service was good as well, a big surprise. Being the only white face in the place seemed to make me a bit of a celebrity, the chef even came out to ensure I was enjoying dinner.