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Published: July 16th 2019
We had some good fortune on the flight from Zanzibar to Addis Ababa. The scheduled four hour flight landed 55 minutes early (did you hear that, Qantas?). Despite the fact that we were seated half way down the aircraft, on landing we were required to catch a bus from the tarmac to Immigration and we just managed to be the last couple to squeeze onto the first bus. Now last on means first out, so we headed the queue at Immigration and given we had already obtained e-Visas, we went through pretty quickly. And lo and behold, guess whose bags were first off the conveyor belt? Add to that that the taxi office jumped us to the head of the taxi queue and we were in fact delivered to our pre-booked airport accommodation long before our plane was actually even due to land.
But that’s about where our luck ran out. I had pre-booked this B&B close to the airport as we had a domestic flight to the Omo Valley town of Arba Minch the following morning, and because it had received
a ‘fabulous’ rating on TripAdvisor. Well I don’t know who had rated it thus because I thought it was a dump. So there I was, on my 44th wedding anniversary, sleeping all alone in our worst accommodation for the whole trip (sniff, sniff!). Somehow I don’t think I’m going to get too much sympathy on the home front!
Our flight next morning to Arba Minch went without incident, and we were met at the airport by our guide for the next 5 days, a young guy called Zinaye. After establishing ourselves at the appropriately named Paradise Lodge, we were ready for our first tribe visit to a group called Dorze (pronounced Dor-zey), stationed high up in a small village called Chencha in the Gughe Mountains, about an hour’s drive from AM. It was a good way to start our Omo Valley visit as we had a local guide with a good grasp of English and who was very keen to share with us his knowledge of the tribe.
Amongst their interesting
cultures are their tall beehive-like houses, built primarily of bamboo. A Dorze hut is made up specifically of hard wood poles, woven bamboo and enset before the addition of the materials to cover the roof. It can stand up to two stories high and last up to 80 years. Inside the main hut, where we were taken, is a fireplace, a seating area, family bedrooms, a guest bed and an area around the side, but within the hut itself, for their animals to escape the winter cold. When termites attack the hut, the Dorze just remove it from its foundations, eliminate the termites, then relocate it, structurally sound but a little shorter than previously.
This particular area was full of fake banana trees (so named as they look exactly like a banana tree but produce no fruit) and they were proudly telling us that every single part of that tree has some application. We watched one of the girls beating the pulp out of one of the leaves. This was then buried underground between some leaves for up to a year
before being resurrected, mounded with water into a batter, then flattened out like a pancake, where it is cooked on an open fire to produce their special local bread called Kotcho. The remains of the beaten leaf provides a fibre material, which combined with cotton grown independently, is used in fine weaving, which we were shown being done by a number of men, not dissimilar to weaving done in many other parts of the world, although their product is likely a finer cotton than most.
Sometimes you get lucky with your timing, and given we were at the Dorze village at the same time as a party of a couple of dozen people from Addis Ababa, all the tribe came out and put on a fantastic performance that I very much doubt would have been put on just for two Australians. All in all, we had the best part of 40 minutes with three generations singing, dancing, chanting and engaging heavily with their fellow Ethiopian visitors, who responded equally enthusiastically. First the combined group performed, led by the middle generation, then
the older ladies turned on their own dancing and singing show, and finally around twenty of the young kids did their thing for the very vocal and appreciative crowd. My powers of description are not very good at describing such a performance, but it was one of the most stirring things I’ve encountered for a long while. Just to round off the day, we were then treated to a snack of Kotcho and their local honey, supplemented by sculling three shot glasses in turn of their locally produced ‘rocket fuel‘ that ensured a good night’s sleep for all participants!
Next stop is a short cruise on the local Lake Chamo to check out some local wildlife before a long drive to Konso to check out the local tribe there.
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