Saturday, March 15, 2008

Moyale to Yabelo, Ethiopia - My, granny, what green teeth you have...

Adi, our Omo guide. Not often do I hire a guide but in the case of the Omo Valley, but it's necessary to have proper introductions to visit some of the tribes of the area. Otherwise, it's off with our heads.
I desperately wanted out of Moyale. The town itself isn't too bad but the touts give me the heebie jeebies. I had a guy I called Rasta Man (ok, that's a stretch in a place like Ethiopia) follow me around for a long while. He was pretty persistent. He kept sayin' that I didn't trust him. He got that right. The crew from the truck got together for breakfast (real coffee!) complete with our friend Tom. He sneaked across the border under the cover of darkness last night. Brave or dumb? Not sure, myself. Ok, it was dumb. He said he was scared shitless, nearly being caught (or not caught) several times by border patrols. Some kids came by the motel this morning asking for Jeremy. Tom showed up a half hour later. He's a fugitive now. A man on the run. His solution was to travel to Addis to plead for diplomatic leniency and a visa because he entered Ethiopia through Lake Turkana (way out west where there isn't a border post). I'm not sure if his story would jive with the authorities though.

No one at breakfast had a plan going forward... Anna and Jeremy were leaning towards going to Addis. They'll try to expedite their itinerary. The Spanish were leaning towards going to Yabelo and then west to the Omo Valley. Me? My initial plan was to go to Addis immediately and set in motion the request for a Sudanese visa and then come back to Omo. I had second thoughts. 1) the rainy season was coming soon (April). 2) I didn't want to backtrack. Didn't think my body could take the pounding. So, I decided to follow Luis and Antonio to Yabelo. Hopefully, I will team up with them to cut the costs down as well.

Hastily (again), we went to the bank to change money. Afterwards, I watched Anna and Jeremy speed off in their Mercedes. Me and Spanish stayed behind to catch the bus to Yabelo.

The bus ride to Yabelo was better than expected. First, the landscape was really quite striking. Desert scrub on rolling hills and the occasional escarpment. Second, the road was fine. Smoother than a baby's bottom compared to anything in Kenya. Third, the bus was great. Not too crowded. The leg room between seats was meant for short people but I managed. Fourth, most of the passengers were buzzed out by chewing qat - pronounced chat. I saw the stuff first in Kenya. Qat, fresh leaves from a qat tree I guess, gives off a mild stimulant that's suppose to decrease appetite, increase stamina and concentration. Chewing qat is a national obsession amongst men and women alike. The buzzed out guy I sat beside taught me how to pick the best qat leaves off the bunch of stalks he bought at a roadside stand and urged me to try some. I did. No effect. Kind of gross. I felt like a cow chewing it's cud. Anyway, by the end of the trip, the entire floor of the bus was covered with qat byproducts and rejects.

When we rolled into the tiny town of Mega, there was a large group of people at the side of the road. We passed slowly. The focus of people was a yellow mercedes! In the middle, 3 white folks, the usual suspects plus Tom the fugitive! Ha! What the hell... I thought they were gone for good. The bus pulled into a parking compound. It was lunch break. We took off for the car. The town's mercedes mechanic was trying to fix it. Apparently, the tires weren't balanced/aligned correctly resulting in big time grinding/knocking noises that freaked them out. We agreed to meet in Yabelo for brewskies. In fact, that was the last we would see of them. Sad.

We finally got to Yabelo, a 2 street dusty town, just as the sun was setting behind the hills. I had grown tired of talking to semi-conscious qat chewers. As we were fetching our bags from the roof of the bus, we were greeted by a rather articulate young man calling himself Adimasu or Adi. He was a tour guide. Normally, I ignore these types of advances. It's my security program. But the Spanish were hooked in. I wish they hadn't responded. However, I had a good chat with him as he took us around to the few hotels in town. (We checked into a new, rather spartan, but clean pink motel.)

We invited to dinner (pasta and injera) where I grew a little more impressed by him. He showed us pictures of the places he has guided and of his rich white clients. The Spanish were equally impressed. We started talking about our Omo ambitions and later on that night we hired Adi as our Omo guide.

Yabelo is here for all the Google Earth fans out there: N4 53.906 E38 5.351.

Out of Canuckistan, - A travel blog, Mar 16/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

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