Friday, 30 August 2013

Ethiopia Expedition "Report"

This picture would have been even more breath-taking
if we had done an about turn with the camera!
So, it's a fortnight since we got back from our month in Ethiopia. This time I only appear to have brought back some flea bites! (That's not a metaphorical reference to my students.)

We spent most of the month under canvas with a few nights in lodges / hotels whilst on the road between destinations. Elli managed to do much more reading than me, getting through about three books. I managed about 150 pages of one slow going 600 pager. She reads much faster than me and it's annoying - in a lovely way.
Our "Beverly Hills" pitch
The locations of those pitches varied from inside an empty classroom in Gondar where we did our project to forest clearings in the Bale Foothills on the acclimatisation trek, to exposed alpine moorland atop the Bale Mountains. Our highest point was about 4200m during one afternoon when, after erecting tents, we climbed up a pyramid shape peak that towered over our campsite.

One of only 500 Ethiopian wolves left in the world.
I felt a little disappointed by the wildlife side of things. There was plenty of it (esp. fleas!!). That said, we couldn't expect it to be another Kenya, nor could we expect lots of animals to be out an about as the weather was pretty cold and cloudy a lot of the time. (We were there during the wet season.) Moreover, we went on foot with our guide looking for crocodiles! I'm relieved to say, we didn't find any. I would have screamed like Ned! Nevertheless, we did see Ethiopian wolves, oryx, monkeys, baboons, a tortoise, and hyenas.

Enforcing a bit of expedition hygiene.
For some in our troop, the concept of washing whilst away was a novel one. At various points we deftly constructed washing lines so that all the smells, if not all the stains, of expedition life could be excoriated from our clothes.

Most boys go on expedition thinking the hardest challenge will be the hike up the mountain, and then realise that the daily grind of doing simple routines well and getting on when you live in each others' pockets is actually the greatest challenge.  

Local guide waits for us lazy foreigners ("ferenge") to catch up. (Not really, he's a shepherd boy)
In total we did about ten days trekking. Our guides were doing Ramadan for a lot of it, never mumbling and even carrying our heavy bags for us! That'll teach me to moan when fasting!

I can only describe the scenery on our trek as stunning. God has blessed every corner of this good earth of his with all different kinds of beauty. Ethiopia was no exception.  That said, I can't be bothered to upload any more photos so google Bale mountains if you want a fix. :-)

For the project phase, we painted 2 murals.  Fortunately, we had some arty boys amongst us and Elli helped to design it. I only allowed myself to paint very simple big bits. I would have wrecked it otherwise.

We also concreted a classroom floor, mixing all the concrete by hand which was hard work for Westerners like us who aren't used to manual labour, but very satisfying. The project was set up by Link Ethiopia Some of their volunteers and staff you can see with us in the photo. They were lovely warm people. It was a great privilege to get to know them.

As it was never colonised by any European power (the Italians came the closest), Ethiopia, (not that I'm an expert) has a unique feel to it. The people we met were at one and the same time warm and engaging, and also industrious and and all in a refreshingly self-effacing way.

It was, as always, a privilege to go on expedition.

Map and itinerary below.

View Larger Map

Our itinerary flew us straight out of the capital (Addis Ababa) to Gondar, (A) where we did our project.
Bahir Dar (B) was a stop over on route to the Bale Mountains where we visited the source of the Blue Nile. 
Dodola (C) was where we began and completed our trek in the Bale foothills. 
Dinsho (D) was where we began and completed our main Bale mountain trek. 
Awash (E) was a national park in which we attempted to spot some wildlife. We had limited success.

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