Bahir Dar to Arba Minch


Today was a leisurely start to catch our flight from Bahir Dar to Arba Minch via Addis Ababa. Breakfast was consumed by 8 am and I spent the rest of the time adding to the blog before boarding our mini-bus to the airport by 10.30 am.

The twenty-minute drive to the airport was the beginning of a stressful journey. The security at Ethiopian airports is strict and repetitive, you cannot get anything wrong, and I had an illegal set of binoculars in my case which I had surrounded with a cluster of metal and electrical equipment when packing. Would they hide the offending contraband?

The case and rucksack successfully passed through both sets of scanners and we made it to check-in. Worryingly the operative chose to ticket all our cases onto our guide’s passports and we watched them disappear onto the belt, only moments later for both Sue’s and mine to reappear both Sue’s and mine to reappear again as they circuited the belt again. I watched as they continued to do so on their own for the next fifteen minutes as we yet again had to disrobe and have our belongings scanned before making our way to the plane. On the long walk out to the aircraft I hoped to spot a luggage trolley making its way with our cases, but in vain.

We took off on time and fifty minutes later landed in Addis Ababa. More disrobing and scanning took place before entering the building, we made our way to the belt to await our cases. By some miracle, they appeared! With cases towed behind we raced through transit only to be stopped by an official who insisted we have our cases scanned again. Will this never end I thought? Then randomly he changed his mind and ushered us to the diplomatic check-in to speed up our journey through security. As the cases again disappeared along the belt we made our way to the gate with boarding passes in hand. The flight left on time and we landed in Arba Minch an hour later.

We and our cases offloaded and made our way to the small coach that was to be our transport. We were to visit the Dorze people who live high in the Gughe Mountains. They are known for their tall beehive-like houses made from bamboo and other local materials. The Dorze were once warriors but today are better known for their cotton weaving and brightly coloured clothes.

The road/track up the mountain to their village was steep and ridiculously surfaced for anything but a purpose-built off-road vehicle, yet buses, buses and motorcycles were all weaving and bouncing their tortuous way along its length. As we passed by small clusters of their strange but familiar shaped homes, children would run out into the road and dance with wiggly bottoms for our entertainment. They seemed so glad to see us, we waved and smiled back.

Arriving in the main village, we were met by the head man who led us first into one of the houses to satisfy our curiosity and then to a small compound where three women demonstrated how they made special bread particular to this region using the blind banana tree.

We moved on to pass by a large hut which contained a group of students from Addis Ababa who like ourselves had come to learn about the Dorze. They were colourful (having purchased some of the village clothing) and very noisy. They were engaged in having rowdy shots of a locally made spirit and invited us to join them. This we did. Sitting along a wooden, cloth-covered table we accepted full glasses of the clear liquid. Supposedly made from garlic, honey and herbs, it tasted foul, but after learning the chant and response when imbibing the spirit we sank our glasses, only for them to be topped up again, reluctantly we swallowed those as well. The students next challenged our group to lead a chant, and my fellow tourists chose me. Years of playing rugby had prepared me for this moment, but did it have to be with such a disagreeable drink? For my amusement and much to everybody’s confusion and delight I changed the chant to the more familiar Ogi, Ogi, Ogi. The liquid tasted slightly better for the change of tune.

With time hurrying by we next entered a large hut containing several chanting and dancing colourfully dressed village women. Some of us joined the dancing and others added to the rhythmic clapping. It was brilliant and they seemed so pleased that we got involved.

It was time to leave. Our coach had parked up near racks of woven village wear and we took the opportunity to help the village economy and purchased some of the more colourful items.

The journey down the mountain was just as entertaining, with children still eager to wiggle and dance for us and then dangerously try to outrun the coach as it shuddered and slid by. The view of the mountains and lake as we descended was special, such a contrast to the drab browns and greys of the arid north. The surrounding landscape is a lush green, full of productive crops. I shall have a salad tonight I thought.

We checked into theMora Heights Hotel at 6.30 pm and found that we had a chalet overlooking farmland with the lake in the near distance. After a room change because of an incorrect allocation we quickly changed for the evening meal.

The area is known for malaria, thankfully our bed was netted. However, we did spend some time hunting as many as we could find and squished them, before crawling into bed smelling of mozzy cream.


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