Life in the Omo Valley

Trip Start Sep 03, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
various cheap hotels

Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Saturday, January 14, 2012

One of the main reasons I came to Ethiopia was to see the tribes in the southern Omo Valley. I met two girls from Israel looking for a travel partner to split the expenses of renting a jeep and driver for 7 days. It turned out to be a little over $300 USd but it was well worth it. Awura Tours is the name of the company and Biruk was a great driver and fun to be with. We traveled the first day to Arba Minch which took pretty much all day to get there but it was a beautiful drive. The next day we drove to Jinka where we began to see some of the Mursi tribe. The Mursi villages are about 60 kilometers south of Jinka tucked away in the Omo Valley. They walk for 2 days just to go to town and buy supplies. As you will see in the pictures "supplies" does not involve clothes. They are amazing people with beautiful tribal characteristics such as big lip plates and ear plates made out of clay and head dresses made from leather and wild boar teeth. It was great getting to see their village and lifestyle. I bought a lip plate from one of the ladies and an ear plate. Most of the men were completely naked and covered with paint designs. After seeing the Mursi Tribe we went to the town of Turmi which is populated by the Hamar tribes. The Hamar are very friendly people. The women are mostly dressed with handmade leather outfits. They use a lot of colorful beads to decorate them with and their hair is saturated with wet red clay. I am not real sure what the reason is but it looks pretty cool. The men wear skirts and colorful beads as well. We lucked out and just happened to be there for a "Bull Jumping" wedding ceremony. This was probably one of the craziest things I have ever seen! There was about twenty women being beat with sticks. This was their "gift" to the groom. The women were dancing around and singing when a man showed up with a bundle of whip sticks. They each grabbed one of the sticks and went to one of three groomsmen and were fighting to be whipped! They would push and shove each other begging the groomsman to take their whip from them. When the groomsmen finally picked the craziest woman that wanted it more than the others he would take their whip stick while they stood in front of him face to face, he drew back and POP!!! Whipping them over the shoulder so hard it would wrap around to their back and draw blood! The woman never blinked and eye. He would drop the stick and she would pick it up as fast as she could and the fight was on again! One whipping was not enough, the women wanted to be whipped as many times as possible. This went on for about 20 minutes in the bottom of a dry river bed and then they all took off dancing and singing down the river bed to one of the villages on the bank of the river where the whole process repeated itself. It was unreal! After they beat on each other for a while again they all took off to the top of a hill nearby where they sang and danced around 10 bulls right at sunset. They put 5 or 6 of the bulls in a row side by side. The groom had a long Afro hair style and had to strip down butt naked and run across the top of the bulls four times without falling.. He did it successfully but if he had fallen the bride would not have accepted him as a man for a suitable husband and the wedding would be cancelled. Can you imagine being whipped like that? And in the end the groom was not even man enough to run across the top of 5 bulls? I can't. After he he successfully Bull Jumped they shaved his Afro. It was an amazing experience and I am so glad I got to be a part of it. After the ceremony we started heading back north to Konso. We stayed the night and headed to Hawasha the next day where we checked out a fish market. While we were at the finish market I bargained with a small boat owner to take me out on the lake to see the Hippopotamus. The girls were too scared so I went alone and it was awesome to see those huge animals in the wild. I was only able to see them pop their heads up out of the water and take their deep breaths before submerging again but it was still awesome!
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Nanci Boyd on

Quite a trip, quite an album. Love you.

Doug Wallace on

your journey gets heavier by the day!! the hippo shots were great-got my heart beating crazy thinking about being on that river . VERY COOL

Kim on

My goodness, Trenton. l'm just amazed at the things you've seen and done.
These pictures you've taken and the experiences you're having with these people are better than a National Geographic. What a privilege it is to get to travel along with you on these adventures. I can't wait for the day when I see you again and can hear more details of these things you're showing us.
Love and miss you and can't wait for the next post!

Madison Natarajan on

What incredible experiences!! I love reading your blog and looking at your pictures. So glad I met you. keep posting so i can keep following!

Dr Bernard Leeman on

I met one of the organisers of Awura Tours in Addis Ababa in 2010 and he was a very reliable and interesting person. He was very helpful in warning me away from unscrupulous operators such as ripoff internet cafes. I have been corresponding with him ever since and hopefully we can start a school in Addis, Aksum, Gonder, or Mekele for training tour guides.

Author of "Ark of the Covenant: evidence supporting the Ethiopian traditions" free from

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