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Published: November 5th 2007
It was a real “I’m in Africa!” moment - seeing hippos on Lake Awasa again. Hannah and I had travelled down to Awasa on Friday, with the thought of pizza sustaining us on the bus journey to Shashemene. We met up with Anita (from Adama), Nick and Paul (from Awasa).
On Saturday we did those chores that cannot be done in Robe (getting photos printed, keys copied and buying essential items such as chocolate, nice wine and cheese triangles), had lunch (chips!) at the Wabe Shabelle Hotel overlooking the lake and then hired a boat to go and see the hippos. Wonderful! At one point the boatman took us scarily close to them, bearing in mind that hippos allegedly kill more people in Africa than lions or crocodiles! It is so amazing to see such animals in the wild and reminds me how lucky I am to be living in Ethiopia.
The journey back to Robe on Sunday was not quite as easy! We left Paul’s house at 4.45 am to get a line taxi to Shashemene - which as usual then spent 30 minutes driving around Awasa picking up passengers. At Shashemene bus station there is usually no
problem getting a bus - it is one of the few times that I am happy to be treated differently as a Farenji. However, this time, both the buses to Robe were full. There were a few other people heading that way, so Hannah and I followed an older, very helpful, man who decided that the only option was to travel to Adaba (half way between Shashemene and Robe, where all the buses have a stop) and pick up one of the buses from Addis Ababa. We had to wait for the bus to fill before it would leave, but not too long. We eventually left Shashemene at just after 7am. It was a surprisingly comfortable bus, with seats with headrests!
In Adaba, we had some difficulty finding a bus - and our helpful friend had to help another person to the clinic. Eventually a man, who it transpires works at Mada Walabu University in Robe, persuaded the ticket seller that Hannah and I really wouldn’t mind sitting on a wooden stool in the aisle, as there were no seats left. The ticket man didn’t want to sell us a ticket as he assumed Farenjis would want a seat.
As it happened, as soon as we got on the bus, two young men gave up their seats for us. The bus was crowded - every seat taken, plus people sitting on stools and even standing (not something that is often seen as it is against the law). As usual, the windows remained firmly shut. Many Ethiopians believe that it is “dangerous” to open the windows. Admittedly, the choice is between suffocating from dust inhalation or from the heat, but it was so hot on the bus that, despite the heat outside, there was condensation on the windows. It amazes me that, in such heat, some passengers still wear coats. One man on a stool in front of me was wearing a coat and a woolly hat the whole way. A woman was wearing a woollen jumper and a blanket. The guy who gave up his seat for me, sat on a stool to my side, wearing a waterproof jacket - the heat radiated from him where he leaned against my leg.
The Chinese are making progress with the road, although there does not seem to have been an environmental impact assessment, judging from what they are doing! As
the road climbs over the mountain ridge, they are cutting a huge swathe of the hillside out, and depositing the waste over the side. I don’t know anything about road building, but they do seem to be making more of a mess than necessary. Just before we arrived, there had been a landslide. We had to wait for the road to be cleared before we could continue on the worst journey I have had in Ethiopia to date.
It takes an hour from Dinsho, where even more people got on the bus. I always dislike that part of the trip anyway, as I feel like I am almost home, but it is still quite a way. This time was even worse due to the extreme heat and a man, standing in the aisle, who leant against my shoulder. The road is also worse on this stretch! To cap it all, on arriving in Robe, the bus stopped at the petrol station to fill up. However, I think the driver must have been as eager to get home as I was as, despite the slightly desperate cries of “Waraj” (stop), he only stopped once in the town before getting to
the bus station opposite the College.
Usually, I arrive home from Awasa/Shashemene at around 2pm. It was 5.30 by the time I walked in the door.
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