by Laurence and Belinda

It is over a week now since we were in Addis Ababa, enjoying a delightful few hours. We were very grateful for Eskinder’s suggestion to leave a bag at the Global whilst we went up to Lalibela.

The comfort of the hotel rather than the austerity of the airport made our final day a lot more pleasant, but this was nothing compared with your generosity in inviting us for both coffee and a meal!

This was a really lovely and unexpected pleasure with which to end a wonderful trip. Thank you Eskinder again for this and all your arrangements on our behalf!

Inevitably our itinerary involved a lot of driving. We expected that, but I hadn’t reckoned with the many bad sections of road. That was where Ayele’s and Alex’s knowledge was so helpful, making sure our timings and distances
for any one day were realistic.

My thought was originally to have at least one site of interest in the day where we could get out and have a break from the driving. In the event each day was packed with interest, even if on some days that meant mostly the scenery and human activity we were driving through, but many days had two centres of interest, which was ideal.

Admittedly we were lucky in that there was a bull-jumping ceremony while we were in Turmi, but we were all pleasantly surprised by how good the Jinka museum was, definitely not to be omitted from any tour of the South.

As we indicated, the only day which ideally should have been broken up a bit more was the drive from Turmi to Yabello. I see now that another tour talks about a visit to an Arbore village during that journey, or perhaps a stop at a Borena village could be incorporated another time.

As for the visits to the tribal villages that we saw, our local guides did not seem to be trained guides, but they all had a rapport with the local people and most were anxious that we should get the best experience from
our visit.

We felt most comfortable in situations where we were able to view the people at their daily activities, as in the Konso and Ari villages.

Although we did see a few women in the Mursi, Karo, Hamer and Dasenech villages at work with basket-weaving or goatskin preparation, it would have been nicer to see more of them going about their normal daily activities rather than so many of them pressing to have themselves photographed.

But on the other hand it’s quite true that we would have been disappointed, had they not been fully painted and decorated in their particular style for photographs! The men were of course largely absent with the cattle.

Even in the markets where there was plenty of human activity it was a bit daunting to speak to individuals, even if our guide was present to interpret. All in all, there was a limited extent to which we could have a meaningful engagement with these people, which in retrospect was a pity, though understandable in this unusual situation.

During the trip Ayele and Alex were very tolerant of our sporadic desire to stop en route for photographs. The Landcruiser was comfortable, and the hotels, restaurants and food were very good indeed.

We all thoroughly enjoyed the Aregash Lodge, and could see why some tours made that their last hotel stop, to end the tour on a high. But all the hotels had their good points.

I suppose Buska Lodge and Paradise Lodge stood out too. Of the towns we stopped at, it might have been nice to have strolled for a few minutes through them, or even to have tried a meal or, in Yerga Chefie, for example, to have drunk coffee at a central place visited by locals in order just to see normal life.

As it was, the places we stopped at to eat tended to be very safe establishments built to “Western” standards, and I can understand that Ayele did not want to take any risks with our health.

I hope tourism to the South will not decline. It is quite possible that with more exposure to modern life, the tribes will not lead such alien lives in future.

But while there is money to be made from tourism, I would imagine that all the different tribes will ensure that there remains something for the tourists to marvel at, even if it is largely “staged” for them in the future.

Eskinder gave us a splendid, adventurous holiday, with wonderful memories enough for a lifetime. Thank you, and good luck with your business, and much joy with your family and house and garden.

Laurence and Belinda

Eskinder Hailu - Manager, Highway Tours

Eskinder Hailu
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