Turmi to Mago National Park via Jinka

Sue and I woke at 5.30 am, breakfast was at 6 am and we were due to leave by 7 am, however, the power was not expected to be on until 6 am. In pitch blackness, using a small torch we managed to dress and make our way to the restaurant, only to find it empty. Over the next 15 minutes, a few more group members turned up, then one of the waiters. Surprisingly, we were all fed and on the coach for 7 am.

Today it was going to be another long trip, the rain had started during our meal and continued for most of the journey. We sat in the front seats behind the driver and had a grand view of any other road users until we arrived in the town of Jinka. The roads were mostly dirt track and along with the usual bone-jarring vibrations the driver had to contend with pools of water of unknown depth. We travelled at a speed that I considered left little room for error and on a couple of occasions we slid dangerously close to coming off the road into the ditch.



Arriving in Jinka the rain ceased and we enjoyed a large and very tasty lunch in a busy restaurant on the town’s bustling main road before heading off the highway on a 65 km switchback of a ride that took us up and over a mountain range to visit the Mursi Tribe that lives in the Mago National Park. The tribes are renowned for their distinctive body ornamentation; piercings, face painting, and lip plates. En route, we came across many small flocks of guinea fowl with their striking bright blue heads and dozens of tiny Dik Dik who would scatter into the forest and undergrowth as we neared

It’s the Mursi women who are special, they insert discs into their lower lips and adorn themselves with beads and elaborate headdresses. The men too bear the decorative scarring but not to the same extent as the women. The raised scars are the result of self-inflicted, deep, and no doubt very painful cuts.

The tribes are nomadic and build simple round structures with grass heaped onto the roof, little attention seems to be paid for comfort. They do not create separate compounds for families, it is one big community. As usual, we were greeted with enthusiasm and an arrangement of handicrafts arranged in front of their huts that they were hoping to sell. We took our photos of individuals and family groups and wandered between the huts taking yet more shots of their simple way of life.

I found them the strangest of the tribes we have visited, not because of their appearance but because of their aloofness, they were the most tourist savvy and though money was not an attraction for them (they were paid by the guide for us to photograph them) we were pressured to give them items we were wearing. I was pleased to leave.

The journey back to Jinka did not go without incident, we crossed several streams on the way, and on the return, one of them caused a problem when we got stuck. Eventually, with some revving, rocking, and pushing we were on our way again, relieved. On the outskirts of the town we came across the weekly bull market held in a large field down by the river and we stopped to have a look. The field itself had been churned into a mud bath because of the earlier rain and the many animal hooves that had been milling around. Then auctioning was still in progress though we chose to keep our feet mud-free and watch from the entrance. The farmers are illiterate and have no understanding of numbers so the buyer raises his hand and the seller hits it, each punch is 100 birr. When the buyer has reached the amount he is willing to pay he lowers his hand and the deal is either accepted by the seller or not.

Our accommodation for the night was the Eco-Omo Lodge located on the outskirts of Jinka and is a very basic affair of lodges made of tents with a mock thatched roof. They had all the usual amenities but power was intermittent and as in Buska it was off between 10 pm and 6 am.

Our accommodation

After check-in, some of us accompanied by our guide took a walk around the surrounding village. Whenever we appear anywhere, the locals seem fascinated with us and tag along to see what we are getting up to. We visited several homes and one which turned out to be the village pub in the garden of a hut where women made a rather weak and unpalatable-looking beer and sold it in jugs to the men.

We had an excellent evening meal in the Lodge’s restaurant which was made even more interesting by a huge number of termites that were swarming outside, many making their way into the building attracted by the light.
It was in bed before 10 am for all of us.


As already mentioned, we were in bed by the time the power went off, however, at 3 am we were awoken by the sound of a call to prayer, first by one church and then another and another. This was not a call to prayer by the local Mosque for the town’s Muslims, it was by the Christian churches who it seems all have powerful amplifiers and speaker systems! It was deafening, sleep was impossible. Similar to Islam, sing-song verses from the bible boomed over the surrounding countryside and it lasted until 9 am!!! The Muslim call to prayer at 4 am was drowned and could be just heard joining the cacophony of noise. With the noise still reverberating around lodges, Sue and I joined those in the group for breakfast who had given up trying to sleep.

By 9 am we were all packed and back on the coach for a short journey to Jinka Airport. It was a lovely sunny day, just right for a flight back to Addis Ababa. After the obligatory disrobing and thorough scanning of our cases and holdalls, we boarded the plane for a short 20-minute hop to Bahir Dar, where we waited for half an hour to take on more passengers and discard a few, before flying on for another 50 minutes to a rainy Addis Ababa. After collecting our baggage, for once we left the airport without a scan or check of any kind.

A 10-minute drive back to the Triple E Hotel and Spa of our first night in Ethiopia, soon had us checking in and having lunch. Afterward, some at the party joined a city tour but Sue and I chose to chill out around the hotel as we had done the tour on the first day. We did arrange to go on a shopping trip with our guide when he returned from the City Tour which we did.

During the afternoon there was a wedding reception in the hotel and Sue and I sat fascinated in the foyer as the wedding party and guests passed through on their way to the banqueting room. Everyone was dressed in white, including bridesmaids and the same number of best men,  identified by orange and gold patterning. We were told there were 160 guests and we could hear them partying on the top floor of the hotel to music and a tremendous thunderstorm that decided to ‘crash’ the celebration.

That evening we had dinner in the hotel restaurant with the Taiwanese American couple in our group, they were leaving that night and like ourselves had decided not to join some of the others in our group who were dining elsewhere. We wanted an early night in readiness for our flight home tomorrow.




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