Thieving Bastards
Sep. 20th 2004
The morning took us to another Karo village on the search for Terri's husband. We were out of luck again because we were told that he was off somewhere. When we arrived at the village we found many of the men talking in the shade of a large tree, rifles propped up close by. After the last Karo village, I decided to leave the camera in the car with Teriku. I wasn't worried about it being stolen, I was just tired of the hassle. I figured that the camera would attract people.

This village was much more pleasant then the previous one. It was not so common for tourists to come here. Firew arranged some dancing for us. A line of six young men faced a line of six women. The dancing involved jumping and stamping on the ground. The men didn't seem very confident in what they were doing which was later explained to us by Firew. The women were all married but to men who were not there. The dance is performed between married couples so the young men shouldn't really be doing the dance. It wasn't a major problem they, just found it funny.

Unsurprisingly, people got roped in, notably Terri. She had failed to find the man in the photo but she found herself a new husband. Question is will he be able to find his way to the Computer Science Department at Mekelle University? This was the address she provided when asked - he could speak some English. We're expecting not but we would love to see what she does if he did come.

As we left the village I had started to feel much more positive about the Karo people. The children gathered around the cars as we left, urging the drivers to make revving sounds by calling 'ruum, ruum'. The children were all smiles when Teriku and Tadesse obliged.

There was no road at all anymore. Even the track seemed to have disappeared. Sand would be thrown up somehow onto the windscreen. For particularly difficult patches the second car would wait for the lead car to be clear of the problem area before attempting the same route or taking a modified route depending on what had happened previously. We stopped off in the scrub land for a bit of lunch - some rice that Luleet had cooked earlier. This was really the middle of nowhere and people are sitting down eating and having a cup of tea. Yet, we were passed by some cars from other tours so it would appear that, although the track was not obvious to us, it did exist.

A little further down the track we passed two Karo men carrying rifles on their backs. They were driving cattle in the same direction as us and our progress was slowed as a result. The cattle had kicked up clouds of dust. We didn't realize at the time but this is probably what the Karo men wanted. Sitting in the back seats, something prompted me to turn round and check the rear door. Whether it was a noise or a change in the flow of air, I knew something was hapenning. There was one of the Karo men, creeping behind the car, having managed to get the small rear door open. In his hand he had a foot stool. I lunged across the back of the car to grab the handle and close the door. The handle wasn't too strong but it held. I was a bit disappointed not to be taking some Karo fingers as souvenir. You wouldn't find those in a tourist shop.

Tadesse kept driving, it probably wasn't a good idea to stop and we couldn't really do much about anything. The Karo are by their nature thieves. We wondered whose stool/head-rest he had managed to steal. Once we had a chance to check what of our stuff remained it appeared that nothing had been stolen. The stool he was carrying must have been his own. This seems a bit odd if you are raiding and he had done very well to get the door open. They're not easy at the best of times. My opinion of the Karo in general dropped once again.

A few kilometres further, the lead car became stuck in some water. There seems to be no water around but every now and then there are some furrows cut into the ground containing water. The second car drove around the problem and could tow the lead car out. I spent some time looking around for more of the shifty Karo buggers but there was no reason to expect to see more.

We reached our destination, Mago National Park, mid-afternoon. It was another camp session. The campsite had no showers but it did have a small river running directly by the campsite. Before we did anything we took a short walk up some hills to the Mago headquarters where we could get a soft drink or a beer. The temperature was soaring and the drink was gratefully received.

Having returned to the site, we had all got one swimming gear and were into the river. Firew had confirmed that it was safe. What he hadn't told us about were the fish. Every ten seconds or so, a scream could be heard as a little fish decided to nibble on you rather than the river bed. Some of the fish were even treated to a torrent of obscenities from the normally good natured Jackie. This was more amusing for myself and rob because we had moved to the deepest part that had a sandy floor. The fish didn't seem to be present here. Something I thought I would never see in Ethiopia was a crab. Daniel found one by the edge of the river. It looked just like the crabs you would see in the sea.

We returned to set up the tents, unfortunately with the unwanted assistance of what appeared to be a random. He was in fact our guard. All visitors are assigned a guard for protection. Ours was a bit annoying for trying to talk to us too much. I think we were just suffering hassle overload, he probably wasn't as annoying as many of the people we had met so far.

One of the good things about the guard was his radio. Firew and he had been talking about something that had come over the radio earlier. It was something of interest to us so Firew came over to tell us with a big smile on his face. Recently, two cars of ferenji had been kidnapped in Nechisar national park - where we had been a few days earlier. We all knew that they were in no danger unless there was some kind of medical need. In fact, we even talked about what would have happened if we had been kidnapped. We probably would have tried to get the hang of the village life for a few days and take lots of photos and learnt their language. The ferenj had been kidnapped for a specific reason. The American who had bought the park was due to be visiting the park that day. We assume that the people who live in the park wanted to make their displeasure known. We can only assume that he has imposed limits or asked them to move. It's a difficult one because it's a split between preserving the animals and allowing people to carrying on working and living in the ancestral lands. Firew entertained us with some other stories of near misses. By the way, we think that the wrong cars were hijacked.

Around the campsite were monkeys and baboons. Cicadas, or whatever the noisy insect is, were making noise in the trees. After dinner the insects had started to bite deep and frequently so we were pleased when a breeze started to drive them away. The breeze should have warned us of what was to come. This wasn't Tigray and it's not unthinkable that it might rain. The previous two nights we had very minor showers. There was a lot of noise but not much really happening. This time it was different. The heavy rain sent us scurrying for our flysheets. Even though we were under trees, the rain soaked us and everything we had washed in the river previously and put out to dry. We all settled down to a damp night's sleep.

In the morning Firew excitedly asked if we had heard the lion. The guard told us that he had come quite close and could be heard clearly. Of course, none of us had heard him.