We didn't see anything really new in terms of animals but we didn't
expect much else to be honest. Unlike a french car that was seen in
the park that wanted a return of the entrance fee if they did not
get to see lion, giraffe or zebra. The guards in the park were
laughing about this.
We headed back to the campsite, ate breakfast, and played with the
baboons for a bit. Then we headed out while it was raining to a
Mursi village. The Mursi people practice self mutilation and are
famous for large plates that women wear in their lips. Once the
girl is old enough, the bottom lip is cut and then, over time,
progressively larger plates are used to stretch the lip further
and further. We arrived at the village in sunshine but it was clear
that there was going to be hassle.
The village itself was very small and Firew thought it was not a
real village where most people lived. There certainly were not
enough huts for the people present. Another ferenj was already
present taking photos. That suited us fine because that would serve
as a bit of a distraction for us especially if he couldn't speak
I had teased Ali previously that we might see them on their day off
- a day without lip plates. We found out that most of them don't
wear the lip plate continually. The big flapping lip I had predicted
for Ali's annoyance was clearly visible.
The hassle at the village was relentless and the people asking for
photos even did not speak Amharic or chose to pretend that they
didn't understand. Some gentle wristlocks normally did the trick
for the ones that were just too pushy or clingy.
Most of the people seemed to make jewellery from whatever they could
find or had got from tourists. It was a very unusual mix, more so
than the Karo or Dasenech. Like the Hammer people they considered
scars to be beautiful. One girl had open cuts and welts where she
was creating a pattern on her torso. The pink of flesh underneath
was a horrible contrast to the dark brown skin. In order to get the
scars the size they want, they will use something to cause infection.
Many people were busy buying things. Rob had managed to get six lip
plates all the same size as a set of coasters. It can certainly be
used as a talking point but a bit difficult to replace if they get
broken. Terri and I were busy not buying something. A Mursi woman
was trying to sell us a lip plate. The usual trick is to thrust it
toward you and then not accept it when you try to give it back.
The correct response in this situation is to put it at their feet
and I had become well practiced at this and doing my best 'try
that again rubber lips' expression. Of course, if you know it's
coming and you can make it clear enough you hold your hands in such
a way that they can't use them and move your pockets or anything else
out of the way. Terri had made it clear that she didn't want the lip
plate but the woman still tried thrusting it at her. Terri didn't
accept it and the plate fell to the floor. Mass hysterics and
screaming followed and presumably demands for payment. The plate
was chipped but we think it was already chipped anyway. The point
was we weren't paying and this could be fun. After much putting at
the feet she called over to an elder man who came over to us.
Unfortunately for him he did speak some Amharic and could see that
he was going to get nowhere with us. He decided it wasn't worth
the effort and went back to sitting under the tree to let the
woman's dramatics continue. We've seen far too much drama while being
in Ethiopia. I think it will have made all VSOs much more cynical.
We were just about to leave so we got into the cars. I took the door
closest to her and Terri took the door furthest away. Rather than
move, she tried giving the plate to me again. She passed it in through
the window. Teriku, the driver, was laughing, the cars were ready to
go. I got out quickly and put it at her feet again. She then passed
it through the open window again and Teriku just said to leave it
inside. So I did. It stayed on the floor in the back of the car. As
we drove off I treated her to a little bit of cultural exchange
although I am sure she wouldn't understand a V sign. Infact, she was
probably getting the next lip plate out to foist off onto someone
and writing this one off to some bastard ferenjis. Terri still has
the lip plate. I really couldn't see what I would want to use it for
or where I would put it.
The final destination for today was Jinka. After leaving the highlands
of the Mursi tribes the scenery once again became very green. We
had been out of what I would call fertile land for several days now.
We all noticed the change in colours. Large papaya and coffee trees
could be seen in small plantations. The overwhelming colour was
The other noticable thing about Jinka is that it has an airstrip. It
is a grass strip in the middle of town. It is in use twice a week and
is supposed to be quite a sight to see people chasing the animals
off with the approach of an aeroplane.
We headed out of the campsite in the cars to go into Mago national
park for a bit of animal watching. We didn't see many animals in
Mago, although we were really keeping a look out for the lion. We
were all distracted by the constant attention of tsetse flies. I
don't know if these can be found everywhere in Ethiopia but we were
certainly having a tsetse fly massacre in each car. My image of
tsetse fly was of quite a small thing. They're not. They're big and
not too discrete when they bite. They are responsible for sleeping
sickness which only really affects the animals but you still don't
want to get bitten. They're also very tough. You can hit them with
you fist against the door but they seem to survive sometimes. It was
a real dilemma on opening the windows. The more open they were, the
more flies would come in, yet we were still in wet stuff from the
previous night. The car was steaming up and we were missing our
chance to see animals. Animals other than tsetse flies.