My Ethiopian Adventure: The Great Rift Valley and Awash National Park


My friend’s parents live in Nazret or Adama, depending on which Ethiopian language you speak.  Nazret is the Amharic name and Adama is Oromo.  After relaxing a couple of days there, we headed toward Awash National Park for a day trip.  What a contrast to the previous part of our journey.  Intense green and cold totally gone.  What we saw here probably fits more with what most Americans picture when they hear the word Ethiopia.

On the way out of town into the country, we passed fields of various crops including this sugar cane field.

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We also saw fields cultivated for sowing teff.  Since I had seen teff fields previously in the green, high mountain country, I came to the conclusion that teff successfully grows in a wide variety of climates and altitudes.

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This is volcano country.  Although most are extinct and have not erupted in hundreds to thousands of years, at least one in sight of the highway has erupted within recent history.

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Throughout the trip we saw small villages of traditional round houses with thatched roofs, most with rock walls around them.  These walls provide protection from predators such as hyenas.  And then suddenly we were there, a place I so wanted to see, the Great Rift Valley, the place where the oldest totally intact hominid skeleton was found, Lucy.

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The Great Rift Valley goes for thousands of miles from farther south in Kenya up through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.  I was very surprised to discover they grow grapes here in Ethiopia and produce wine.  We decided to try it; the merlot was good.  A series of unique lakes lay in the valley.  I would like to go back and visit all of them.  Some are filled with so many chemicals, you cannot drink the water and no fish live there. An example is Metehara Lake.  The fish are delicious, but the water cannot be safely drunk.  The most amazing thing about this lake is that it grows approximately four inches annually.  In the last few years, the road had to be relocated because of it.

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First glimpse of the lake.  Then we had a flat tire which delayed the trip a few hours because not only did Dino and his dad have to change the tire, but we had to stop in the town of Metehara to buy a new spare which entailed bargaining and more bargaining.  Dino’s mom hiked down the road to get rocks to keep the vehicle from rolling.  If I had realized what she was doing, I would have done it myself.  She is in her 70s.

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A little adventure occurred here.  First, while they were working on the tire, a man came along and offered to help.  His truck (this is a major highway between Adama and Djibouti) had broken down nearby.  Then an Afar teenager came along and looked around, saying nothing.  I realized he had a dagger in the back of his clothes when he walked off.  Finally, an Afar man, maybe in his late 40s or 50s came along.  The Afar are a nomadic people who have lived in East Africa for thousands of years.  The men are noted for their ferocity.  Their lifestyle has changed little; instead of spears, they now carry assault rifles slung across a shoulder.  They herd cattle, goats, and camels.  He walked around the vehicle and came up to me.  Neither of us knowing the others’ language, the tiny conversation consisted of gestures.  Dino suddenly told me to get in the car.  At first I ignored him.  A couple of minutes passed; he loudly repeated the order.  I got in the car, wondering why.  When I asked, he told me one never knows what the Afar are going to do and pointed out just how close the man had stood.  I never noticed; I have no personal space.

Tire changed, we drove toward the town close to the lake.

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Crossing thèse lava beds would be difficult.  As we dropped lower, we drove on the new road by the lake.  You can see the old road crossing the middle of the photo below.  It is nearly covered with water.

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We missed the entrance to the park, realized we had gone too far, turned around, and headed back.  The entrance to the lodge is more like what most people think of when they think of Africa.

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This was one of my favorite places:  it was warm, almost hot.  I saw lesser kudus several times, but they seemed so ordinary to the others that no one stopped so I could take a photo. The lodge was delightful and the shiro some of the best I had.  Loved it.  I even asked for the recipe. The resident ostriches, however, looked rather pathetic.

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Here the Awash River is full of crocodiles.  Our first glimpse was through binoculars from the lodge restaurant.

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Dino’s mom posed with me while we waited for lunch.  Then we hiked down to the river and the falls where we saw even more crocodiles.

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The falls are so large that I could take a photo of only a portion of them at the top where the hike down begins.

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The green between the two sections of the falls was totally covered with water a few weeks later when Dino’s brother travelled there with his family.

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I loved walking along the river banks, careful, however, because of the crocodiles.  They may look slow, but they can really move rapidly when they choose to do so.

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Crocodiles like basking in the sun.

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Along the highway, camels graze, boys herd large flocks of goats, and a totally different species of acacia appear.

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If you look at the background of the photo below, you can see long lines of corrals–for camels to export to Yemen and other areas where camels are eaten.  If you live in Amarillo, Texas, and order in advance, you can eat camel at the Somali restaurant on Amarillo Boulevard.

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Unlike most of Ethiopia where we had previously travelled, here we saw fences especially around villages.  They bring the livestock in for protection from not only hyenas but also lions.  Yes, lions live here.  I asked if they ever see them.  I was told, “No, but you sometimes hear them roar at night.”  They also told me that the lions like to go down to the sugar cane factory, but no one knows why.

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When I want an Ethiopia “fix”, I listen a audio/video of Awash Falls.

 

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