Crocodile Market

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Africa » Ethiopia » Oromia Region » Awasa
June 13th 2010
Published: June 29th 2010
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We headed south into faranji (white person/foreigner) frenzy zone with inflated prices for foreigners, self-appointed guides and children that scream “YOU,YOU,YOU” and “HIGHLAND! HIGHLAND!” (water bottles) and ask for money. It was enough to send us completely mad.

Our first stop was the lakeside town of Awasa. It was an interesting bus journey. Because the bus was not full when we arrived, rather than just waiting at the station, we drove around the block over and over again for about 45 minutes until it filled up. It was a long hot journey and for the first time we really experienced Ethiopians fear of fresh air in the bus. First we were asked to close the window because a child had been sick (Matt did try to reason that fresh air would be good for her), then the woman in front was so paranoid about it that she constantly adjusted her head scarf because of the breeze, then the next guy used his shirt to cover his ears and face. It was strange that the window was their biggest worry and not the terrible driving and roads.

Awasa's local fish-market made an interesting visit. Loads of small fishing boats lined up along the shore with their catch which was then taken to the market to be skinned and gutted by young children using their teeth. The shore was filled with huge marabou stalks and pelicans lurking around to steal any leftovers.

The next stop was Arba Minch which is nestled between two beautiful lakes. The road was terrible, for some reason we expected it to be sealed. To say it was a road is overstating it a bit. We passed through farmland, impromptu rivers, we even went over the top of a waterfall.

Lake Chamo and the mountains were absolutely beautiful. We hired a boat (and of course the mandatory guide - they add nothing to the experience, it is purely a money making scheme) to visit crocodile market, East Africa's largest display of crocodiles. We were not disappointed. The crocodiles were huge. There was a really huge one, about 6m sitting on the sandbar and the rest were swimming in the water around us. There were plenty of big hippos in the water as well. It was fantastic to see some wildlife and the birds were really impressive.

We went for a walk through Nechisar National Park to Forty Springs, the innumerable little springs that bubble up in the evergreen forest of the park. It was quite late in the day and we were worried that we would not make it out in time before it got dark. The park is gorgeous, with huge trees and vines and we even saw some baboons. The fresh water springs and the pump station (Matt found this very exciting, I was not really listening) provides the water supply for Arba Minch. Some children decided to show us the short-cut up the mountain back to our hotel. These little children were in the park collecting firewood for their family and carried the huge loads on their heads, many of them were without shoes.

From here we also visited the small village of Dorze which is up in the misty mountain peaks. We passed baboons, people washing in the rivers that were weaving their way down the mountain and children ran alongside the bus selling bananas, mangoes and lemons.

We had a tour of a traditional house which resemble large elephants, some over 12m in height. They are built with bamboo and dried false banana leaves (enset). The termites eat the houses from the bottom up which is why they are built so tall. It takes 3 months to build, the outside is replaced every 10 years and it takes 70 years before the termites finally win and the house becomes too small to live in.

Dorze is famous for weaving and we saw a weaving and spinning demonstration. The women use the enet leaves to make an unleavened bread - it is scraped off the inside of the trunk of the enset, then wrapped in dried leaves and buried where it ferments for 3 months before it is then sliced and rolled like dough, flattened and then wrapped in leaves and baked. We ate the bread with an extremely spicy sauce and fresh honey straight from the hive. Afterward while we waited for a bus to pass through town we went to the local bar and tried the local honey wine - a brilliant yellow colour. We waited by the bus stop and watched all the goings on. This seemed to be the place to meet and chat. Heaps of men sat around chatting, another group watched the kids wash the bus and the rest just looked at us. It was a nice introduction to the tribes of the Omo Valley.

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