Monday 31st March – Friday 11th April 2008
I wasn’t sure that anyone I knew was going to use the opportunity of me being in Ethiopia to visit this wonderful country. Finally, after 18 months, my first visitors arrived – my Mum and Dad! I went to Addis to meet them at Bole International Airport and was just beginning to wonder if I should try and get into the arrivals area to look for them, when they appeared. I am very proud of them for coming to what can be a difficult country and coping so well with it.
After a day to recover from the overnight flight, and a meal at Delicious Dishes, close to Liza’s house where we were staying, we headed south in a hired car with Elias, our driver. Bishangari Lodge, on Lake Langano was our first stop. After meeting Clare and her mum, Sue, for lunch in Ziway, we drove the 20km off the main road to the Lodge. Nothing I had been told about the place had prepared me for the sheer luxury. The shared cabin, powered by solar energy, was expensive but worth every birr. After a brief swim in the shallow lake (with the disturbing experience of one hand in warm water, one in cold) we had a sumptuous meal in the restaurant. The only mild disappointment was the lack of gin and tonic (if anywhere cried out for a G&T, it was this place) while watching a storm from the open sided restaurant.
Wednesday was the journey on The Road to Robe, stopping for lunch at the Bale Mountain Motel in Dodolla. Typically for Robe, on arrival, we had no water, so showers had to wait.
Thursday started with a visit to Galema School to buy some cloth woven by the deaf students there, followed by Sanetti Plateau and Robe Market. I take it almost as a personal insult if visitors to the area don’t see Ethiopian Wolves while they are here. They may be the world’s rarest canid, but it is rare not to see at least one on a trip to Sanetti Plateau. Luckily, we saw five! We also ate Cadbury’s Dairy Milk (courtesy of Uncle David and Auntie Erica) on the top of Tullu Dimtu (4,300 metres). Robe Market was our final stop of the day, to buy weekly vegetables and a basket as a present for Rowena and Richard.
Then, the day Dad had been waiting for! I know that the real reason he wanted to visit was to go to Sof Omar caves … and this was his chance! Elias and I have done this trip several times, when various volunteers have been up here, and have our routine – breakfast at Goro on the way, a picnic lunch under a tree (although the original tree from my first trip with Liza and Rupert has been felled) on the way back. We arrived and had the usual discussion about the guide fees, with me insisting that I am local and bring many visitors to the caves! Finally, we headed off – Dad and Elias doing the full tour, me and mum doing the shorter version (not worth the 50 birr, compared to 100 birr for the long trip!). People have been talking about the fact that the Government are going to install lights in the caves – and it looks like it is really happening. I think it will spoil the natural wonder, unless it is done very sensitively (the work already being done doesn’t give too much hope of this). One of the other improvements (that I do agree with after Steven being plunged into the water on my last trip) is to replace a log across a deep chasm with a bridge. There is also a raft to take visitors across the deep (first) river crossing, rather than wading against the current in waist-deep water. After our short foray, Mum and I sat and watched the antics of children by the river while waiting for the others to return.
In our relentless tourism of the area, Saturday brought a trip to the Bale Mountains National Park Headquarters and a short walk to the top of Dinsho Hill. Yet more endemic animals (Mountain Nyala), and warthogs.
Sunday was a day of travel to Awasa, stopping at my favourite restaurant (Wine Restaurant) in Dodolla on the way – the best tagabino en route from Robe! We arrived in time for a short walk down Piazza, stopping for a juice and shelter from the rain in a sudden downpour, before a Post Rendezvous pizza. The following day involved a boat trip to see hippos (getting a little too close!) then a walk along the lake to the Wabe Shabelle Hotel for gin and tonics (at last!) and lunch. Dad enjoyed waving a stick at Vervet Monkeys that came close, tempted by our chips.
For the rest of their stay, we were in Addis Ababa, again staying at Liza’s house (which was very kind of her and much nicer than being in an hotel), doing touristy things – The National Museum (with a replica of Lucy), the Natural History Museum, Addis Ababa Museum, Meskel Square and a hydro massage (me and Mum only) at the Addisu Filwoha Hotel, which uses the hot springs that are the original reason that Addis was sited here.