Rift Valley and Crater Lakes

Trip Start Oct 11, 2012
Trip End Nov 19, 2012

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What I did
Lake Hora
Abiata-Shale National Park
Lake Langano

Flag of Ethiopia  , Oromiya Region,
Monday, October 15, 2012

We breakfasted at the hotel.  Jillie was
a little upset that it took so long to get coffee.  The waiter brought
out a few cups, poured coffee for a few people and then finally got to
us.  After we finished our coffee, a waitress came by to find out if we
had coffee.  People are lovely here but service is a little erratic.

We set out after sorting out the tipping kitty issue and most of us will
be giving Monique 500 birr for the kitty and she will  give out the
tips.   Kibrom gave us a recap of the next day or so and our 4x4
rotation which I didn't quite understand.  I ended up with Kibrom,
Andrew and Martina but Jillie was in another 4x4.  The driver of my 4x4
is Haile as in Haile Selassie.

We made a pee stop after we got out of
the extremely heavy traffic on the main road south.  Then we made a
snack and water stop at another gas station near by.  After awhile we
reached Hora Lake:  the largest of the 7 crater lakes of Debre Zeyit. 
I think we were in the Rift Valley by then.  Kibrom
said you can tell when you are in the Rift Valley by the acacia trees.  It was
great to have Kibrom because of all the information he is able to
impart.  He talked about economics, politics, religion, et al.  At Hora
Lake we took a short walk out to a certain tree and back.  This lake had
been the site of a festival gathering of 3 million people in September, but it
looked untouched really.  We saw some cormorants and hammerkop
birds on the lake as well as some fishing nets - they were more like
flexible boxes - on top of the pier.

From here we went to Lake Ziway.  We walked out on
a dirt road pasta a flooded area under some fig trees with lots of marabou storks. 
There was another flooded section that Kibrom helped me and
others to negotiate.  We saw more birds here - marabou storks, sacred
ibis, egrets and plovers - also hammerkops and a few kingfishers.  There were horses, boats,
children, adults catching and gutting fish - a whole gamut of activity.

I am trying to think
if we made another call before our last - which was a lake outside the Abiata-Shala
National Park.  Our driver Haile immediately spotted an antelope after we
entered the gate.  We drove over quite a few bumpy roads.  Then 
we had an overlook view of the valley and lake. 
Not extraordinary photos, however.  From there we went to the
hot springs area.  We climbed up a hill to the bubbling pools and saw
some ladies washing clothes.  Groups of adults and kids from the Oromo people were there. 
Beverly started playing with a dog and then taking photos of people.  I
took a photo of a little boy and then some older people, including
an old man. 

During the drive, Andrew asked about the effects of the proposed dam on the peoples in the Omo Valley.  Kibrom acknowledged the controversy and said that the government was trying to make the best decision for the people of Ethiopia as a whole.  They were trying to focus on growing the economy with industries.  The dam was linked to growing sugar cane and building refineries for the sugar cane.  This would help employ people in the area.  He also mentioned the prohibition against farmers selling their agricultural land.  This was done to prevent the less educated farmers from being ripped off, selling their land for less than it was worth, and then spending the proceeds within a few years and then having nothing to live off of. 

It is always a difficult issue - saving wild animals and unique cultures.  We want to preserve life and diversity, but the cost is borne most by the local peoples.  Most want a higher standard of living.  I hope the approach in Rwanda is successful - where the local economy is boosted by efforts to preserve the gorillas.  The tourist permits there were at least $500 - a lot of money to spend; I wonder what the average amount we have spent per tourist to take photos of people here in the Omo Valley.  I don't want to have to spend lots of money any more than the next person, but I would be willing to do my fair share to help preserve these unique cultures.

We really struggle with the photographing-people issues. 
This was better, I think - we finally broke through the barrier and
made contact instead of having us snapping photos of people at a distance,
pretending they don't see us doing it and having them stand around and
stare at us while we do it.  I was happy that I got a few pics of some people and that
it didn't seem like an intrusion, but more of an exchange - and an amusement
for the local people.  The little girl had such a beautiful smile!

I was second
to last back to the cars with Beverly bringing up the rear. After that we had
another stop when Andrew wanted to take a photo of the sunset with
cattle in the dust in the foreground, but by the time we stopped, etc.,,
he said he was two minutes too late for the shot. 
Andrew is the official photographer on the tour:  
he is researching for another trip to the south in the fall I believe.  
We all did our best to get a sunset shot.  Mine were pretty lame.

Then we headed to the hotel.  We found our
cabins - with a lot of confusion.  Jillie and I headed down to the
restaurant.  Some people were really disappointed with their meals. 
Mine, of course, was brought in last, but the carrots were excellent.  I
have now finished today's blog and it is around 9:45 pm.  Time for bed -
I have been falling asleep at the keyboard and Jillie is asleep,
dressed, on her bed.

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