Today we were not travelling onto a new place to sleep so it was nice
to be able to leave things at the hotel. The destinations for today
were Nechisar, a national park, and the region known as Dorzey.
The Arba Minch hotel overlooks lake Abayo. As we sat eating breakfast,
we were treated to some fantastic views.
On the way to the national park we saw a few baboons (zenjiro),
although these were quite timid we were to find some rather
less ashamed ones tomorrow.
The path into the national park was a dirt track, we stopped briefly
at some kind of head-quarters. Outside was a small building containing
skulls and skins of all the animals you hoped to see but in all
reality stood next to no chance. In fact i'm not sure that there are
any cheetahs left so that was a bit optimistic. We had rather
more realistically pinned our hopes on seeing some zebras. Especially
Jackie because she wanted to say that she had seen a zebra crossing.
We continued into the park pausing briefly to have what looked like
lunch and a box of ammunition passed into the lead car. We assume
this was in case we saw a warden.
The cars wound their way slowly on a track that was sometimes dirt,
sometimes gravel, sometimes in vegetation, sometimes on the side
of a mountain. Large dragonflies and small butterflies escorted
us into the park as the morning started to heat up.
Our first sighting tucked into the shadow of a small tree was a pair
of dik-diks. At least that is what Terri told us. Having just been
on a safari recently she was the most qualified in our car (and
correct by the way). Firew was in the lead car and could explain to
people in that car in more detail. Dik-diks can best be described
as grey pygmy deers. They have large black eyes like the aliens in
many of today's science fiction programmes. They are also fast and
it is nigh on impossible to get a photo of the little buggers.
Dik-diks are quite common animals as are guinea foul that would run
together as pack in front of the car before one of the birds sensibly
thought to run at an angle away from the car so they would all
It wasn't long before we saw our first group of zebras in the road ahead
of us. We pulled to a halt. They watched us for a bit and then
headed into the scrub. The Amharic for zebra is yemeda aheeya which
translates as donkey of the plain.
As we approached the plains we could see large numbers of zebra and
we able to get some quite close photos. They didn't seem worried
about our presence but we were trying to be quiet by not shutting
car doors and the like. Also on the plain we could see gazelle and
hartebeast. On the bird front, Corey Bustards were a common sight.
And yes, some zebra sloped across the front of the cars so Jackie
can now legitimately say that she saw a zebra crossing.
We spent about four hours driving around the park. Probably two
hours of which I spent looking for an animal that I could hear
squeaking just outside the left of the car. It wasn't actually
an animal at all - the steering wheel squeaks. It wasn't a noise
you could hear normally but we were all listening extra hard and
Should you be in Ethiopia, the park is worth a visit although Terri
said that in no way could it compare to something like the
Serenghetti. If you do both, then do Nechisar first! The park
has been bought recently by an American. Presumably there will
be some effort to reintroduce animals that have been displaced. The
fact that American had bought the park was going to be very
interesting knowledge in a few days. However, that's another diary
After the park, some of us ate in town, others ate back at the hotel.
Although I have no problem with Ethiopian food there isn't a lot
of variety. I was glad to take the opportunity of eating Ferenji
food. Despite there being little variety at the hotel, what they
had was different to what is on offer in Mekelle.
The afternoon took us on a long climb up into the mountains to the
region of Dorzey. The cars didn't leave second gear for what
felt like 15km. On either side of the gravel road were uncultivated
trees. Beyond these were terraced plantations. Every 200m or so
there would be a young boy or group of young boys. Most of these
would do a little dance in an attempt to get the tourists to pay
money. They shouldn't really have bothered with us because our
"why aren't you at school?" rule still applies. Much of the dancing
involved a peculiar bum wiggle that I am sure we will be showing
other VSOs, time and alcohol permitting. Other young boys would be
break dancing badly. One tried the falling over trick as the car
got close. This was new to me, the children don't do it in Mekelle.
It's just a ploy to make you think that they are ill or something.
It wasn't very effective and he wouldn't make an actor. His confused
face would have made a great picture as the cars charged past him
and we waved at him through the dust tail.
We passed brightly coloured cotton stalls on the way into Dorzey town,
but it was the market in town that was to be our first destination.
This was a large, open market. Although the calls of "you, you, you"
and "ferenj" had stopped, I found it very difficult to move in the
market. For some reasons the kids had latched onto me more than the
others. I walked around the vendors sitting on the ground with an ever
growing group of cling-ons before giving up and returning to where the
cars where. I can't say I enjoyed this market which is a shame because
it looked really interesting. One of the features I missed out on was
the old women smoking tobacco through hookahs of some kind.
The route back took us past the cotton stalls so we stopped off and
the process of bargaining began. One of the vendors seemed much
more switched on to our way of thinking and offered us a sensible
price much to the annoyance of the other vendors who basically
lost all of their business as everybody bought from this one woman.
I hope that she wasn't made to pay in some way later. I wasn't
interested in buying anything - I didn't need a shawl, novelty hat,
or Dorzey dancing jacket. Jackie bought at least one of each in what
would be the start of one woman's mission to buy something of
everything Ethiopian. Children had started to gather around us and
were asking for things like pens and highland (water bottles). They
seemed nice children, weren't too pushy, and we could have fun
We were not the only ferenj or vehicles travelling the steep road
into Dorzey that day. So myself, Teriku (one of the drivers) and
Rob tried our hand at dancing at the side of the road as the cars
went by. Teriku was proving to have a mischievious sense of humour and
didn't take his countrymen too seriously. We didn't get any payment
but our arse wiggling got a few honks from the passing cars and,
of course, lots of laughs from the nearby children.
A little bit further back along the road to Arba Minch, we stopped
off to have a look in a house. Firew stopped and greeted an old man
that he clearly knew. It seemed that he was some kind of elder and
took us to the house of a newly wedded woman. She was extremely shy
but didn't seem to have much choice about our invasion. Our
understanding was that the man, as an elder, was paid and the money
would then go into the community as the village council saw fit.
Of course, you worry about the money just ending up in this man's
pocket but we came to trust Firew's judgement on these matters. As I
said previously, he seemed more ferenj than habesha in many things.
Dorzey houses are large beehive like structures, each one surrounded
by a plantation of some kind. The sides and the tall roof appear
to be made of woven tree bark or leaves. They appeared to be well
made. Firew told us that the top part doesn't get damaged easily but
the bottom is sometimes damaged by termites. When this happens they
cut all around the bottom and just move the complete hut somewhere
The cars wound their way down the mountain in late afternoon, past the
ever hopeful, arse wiggling children. At this time of day people
are returning home. Again we saw a large number of women carrying
awkward and heavy loads strapped to the back. Very few men seemed
to be doing this. Just outside of Arba Minch we saw a car wash in
action. For a car wash, you drive your car (or bus in this case)
into a river and then just throw water at it.
For our evening meal we went back to the fish restaurant and then
walked to the hotel. As often happens, we attracted some young men
who walked closely behind us. It's not threatening just annoying.
We confused firstly by tacking. Terri walks very quickly and to
allow other people to catch up started the tacking trend to make
her walk a bit further. Our second form of turning this kind of thing
around was we started to walk behind them, very close and not
talking. They seemed quite relieved when we stopped doing this and
they went their own way.
Back at the hotel we met up with a VSO who was just finishing
and a volunteer from an Italian organization. The pair were
travelling around Africa as an end of placement treat. They
were due to head down south on a similar course to us and
then into Kenya.