Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Omo Valley, Ethiopia

From Nairobi the plan was to take the less traveled route to Lake Tukana route into the Omo Valley of Ethiopia to visit some of the most primitive and unique tribes on the face of the planet but the biggest problem of this route is that I would require support for fuel and simply another vehicle for safety not so much from bandits but more for the remoteness of this region, little to no water and 1000 k’s. So resting up and servicing the mothership in Nairobi gave a chance for my needed support to arrive as I waited at the camp site, it grew in the form of Spanish couple Anna and Antonio and also a Dutch couple Ilja and Ilvy.

The Dutch and Spanish, Northern Kenya.

Well stocked up with food, water and fuel we skirted mount Kenya and headed north, watching the country side became more barren and scattered with thorney accia trees, it was a far cry from the nice well stocked supermarkets from Nairobi. With civilization far behind us we entered the tribal area of Samburu people wearing beautiful bright beads around their necks and wrists. The bush tracks were rough and rockyand the going slow but it gave good oppurtunities to enjoy the scenery of the Rift Valley.

Samburu man.

Looks like I am in central Australia!
I rounded one corner and there standing in the road were about half a dozen boys with machine guns, now if they were soildiers it may have made sense but when I say boys I mean boys, as I found out later on one of them was only 12! I stopped a little hesitant dismounted and held out a hand to shake, they reciprocated and I broke the ice by offering one lad to put my helmet on as he was very interested in it, they told me they were warriors, I believed them no arguments about that but the reason for the machine guns was to fight against cattle rustlers from other tribes.

Check out Darth Vadar on the left!

The young lad on my bike is only 12, what were you doing at 12??

The beads worn by the Samburu tribes.
The further north we traveled the more barren it became and the more amazing the people became, living in a world that only they can survive, no water, little food, harsh harsh conditions, they only asked for water and nothing else, I had a slow leak in my tire so stopped in the middle of nothing to quickly pump it up and before long they just start to appear, tribal people from nowhere, how they survive out there is beyond me, its just so so hot!

This is what they live in.
Now imagine the footage of the mars probe well that is the closest way to try and describe the landscape around lake Tukana, a sea of volcanic rock surrounds an inland ocean, Tukana is salt water but what life that does exist has evolved enough to drink the water, donkeys, camels and people. The further north along the Lake we headed the tribes changed by ways of dressing and ornaments worn over the body or patterns shaved into their hair, mo hawks popular with the young boys and of course the common trate by all AK47’s!
We managed to exit Kenya in time to escape the chaotic post election rioting and killings but some how that corner of Kenya is another world and a far cry from modern day Kenya in Nairobi and it will be nice if it stays that way, unspoilt forever! Been so remote saw no border post between Kenya and Ethiopia just a few more interested tribal people in a small village where the border was ment to be.
Hammer girls.
With a new country bought new cultures, new tribes and new food in particular a local dish called engira, spicey meat or veg served ontop of a huge bread like pancake which also bought with it earth shattering flatulence, boy was it nice but such an unsociable dish really! The Omo valley, a place I had seen on TV once and dreamed of and never thought I would ever be there aboard my motorbike in search of these amazing tribes. We timed it as to coinside with the different markets held by different tribes, first were the Hammer people, with animal fat and red Oche rubbed in there hair and on their bodies.

The welts and blood from the whipping.

They rub a white milk solution in it to numb the pain.
We managed to witness a cow jumping ceremony were the males go from boys to men by jumping about 6 cows lined up side by side. But first the females in the boys life, sisters, cousins and alike work them selves into a trance like state blowing horns and whistles and beg other men to whip them and show much joy once whipped, their backs open up with huge welts and gashes pouring with blood! Then the boy takes the leap over the cows. All a bit strange really but that’s what they do. We had Xmas in this area, celebrated with a coke and pasta, last years was in Mali and the next I hope will be at home in Australia.

Hammer lady.

Young boy making his run over the cows, he did it 6 times!

Then the Mursi people were the other amazing tribe we encountered, the women wear the plates through their lips and in there ears whilst the men wear nothing at all and I can tell you if I was one of these guys I would wear nothing either, my god!! Oh of course an AK slung across their back.
Young Hammer girl.

Mursi girl, the most interesting of them all, with the plate lips!
I managed to run out of fuel for the first time in 60 000 k's, usually I would ride out in front of the 2 slower 4WD's and wait at the next intersection to make sure we all headed the same direction, the Dutchies passed and waved then I waited and waited for the Spanish but nothing, eventually I turned around and rode back to see if they were OK, I rode 20 k's back to whereI last saw them and nothing, by this stage I was worried I had not enough fuel but what could I do, I turned and headed to where we were going, I rode and rode and still never saw them, going onto the fuel reserve I calculated I did not have enough fuel to make it to the next town so all I could do was keep going and wait for the bike to chugg§ I got close but with 1à k's to town the bike gave a ghugg and two more marked the end of all my fuel, even after tipping what fuel I had in my stove in did not help. Knowing atleast the Dutch were infront of me I started to push, I pushed for an hour in the blistering heat wondering why they had yet to come look for me, no one would stop to see if I was OK, my only option was to stay with the bike, push it and wait. Eventually they came in search of me, both 4WD's, the Spanish said they did not see me at the intersection, nor did I see them, a truck must have passed at the exact moment they rounded the intersection. They all haad been in the next Town having coffee and breakfast dicussing where I was, saying he will be fine, he'll be here soon!! Mean while I was pushing 250 kg's of metal down the road! Atleast they guessed and bought 5 litres of fuel for me. Thanks guys.
After a little over 2 weeks we rolled into Addis Ababa on New Years Eve and all celebrated conquering the challenging route and a new year, for us anyway as Ethiopia has its own time and Calender, its only the year 2000 in Ethiopia!
This route and experieince would have to be one of the highlights of Africa for me, there are so many and are all really unique in their own way. After having a tough time of it from Malawi to Kenya, with getting sick and been robbed it was great to travel this part to get my spirits back up and look forward to the next part, leaving Africa and entering Asia, a new beginning and nex adventures.