Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Road to Konso.


Daily ritual for Konso women - bathing and doing laundry in a nearby river.


We were short one car and one driver today. Car 2 and Danny, the driver, were involved in an accident last night. By all accounts, it was the other driver's fault. Fortunately, no one was injured and our car is okay but apparently, it has been impounded until the owner can provide all the requisite insurance and title information. Danny stayed behind in Arba Minch to take care of whatever needed to be done.

For the rest of us, there was no problem squeezing into two cars though Netsanet seemed worry - I think he thought we would complain but I'm certain all of us are used to riding three to the back seat of an SUV. Masai and Nagatu did a bit of luggage and seat rearranging and we ended up with plenty of space to accommodate all the passengers. Jean, Pat, Carol, Netsanet, and I were all in one car with Masai driving; Netsanet took the jump seat in the rear.

We left Arba Minch this morning at 8:30a for the long drive to Konso.   By now, we had all grown accustomed to the scenery whizzing by us or so we thought.  In fact, there's always something new.

Of course, there were the herds of animals - they are a permanent fixture of the Ethiopian landscape.  I jokingly told Masai that I'm nicknaming them the "Ethiopian Speedbump".  As with speed bumps in the US, no matter what speed you're driving at, you have to slow down once you approach the bump.  That's what the herds do here.

Approaching the Ethiopian Speedbump

We're in mango country.  Occasionally, people will attempt to wave down a car, holding up fruit for sale.  We spotted the mangos and had Masai stop.  When I asked him to ask how much for the fruit, the answer that came back was 10 birr.  I thought that was a bit pricey for a single fruit in this part of the world but at the equivalent of 50 cents, I was still wiling to spring for it.  I handed the money over to Masai as was completely flabbergasted when he told me the 10 birr was for an entire basket of fruit!  Masai threw in an extra birr to pay for the plastic bag.  Later on I counted 15 mangos!  They weren't the best of mangos. Had I been at home, they would all have been juiced but it's obvious here that fruit is hard to come by so I'm taking whatever opportunity I can to buy fruit....even though I'm not much of a mango fan.

My stash of mangos.  If my brother (aka The Fruit Obsessed One) was traveling with me, the entire back trunk would be filled with the fruit!

It was pretty arid landscape we were driving through.  Netsanet pointed out the moringa trees to us.  Moringa oleifera is a multipurpose tree native to this region of Ethiopia.  The leaves, bark, flowers, fruit, and root all have both nutritional and medicinal value. Nutrient wise, moringa is rich in vitamin A, B, C & the minerals iron & potassium. It is a complete protein source containing essential amino acids as well as coenzymes and antioxidants.   Googling moringa, I discovered you can buy it online - mainly to be used as a nutritional supplement.

The stubby looking trees with the bright green leaves are the moringa trees.

Locals though believe in its medicinal value using it to cure everything from anemia to infections to arthritis and joint pains to diarrhea, diabetes and there are even claims it can cure cancer. 

Oil extracted from moringa seeds is used in foods, perfume, and hair care products, and as a machine lubricant.

Wow, quite a useful tree. I was surprised to not see forests of them around.  I would think a village could start up a small cottage industry producing and selling moringa products.

A truck carrying a large load of moringa leaves.

Our ride was a bumpy one - we left the paved road behind well before we arrived into Arba Minch.  The route we're on is the main thoroughfare to Djibouti which Ethiopia not only trades goods with but also pays to use their port.  Ethiopia is a landlocked country.  The road under construction is a continuation of the paved road coming all the way from Addis. 

Every now and again, we would happen upon children dancing or doing a gymnastics move of some sort in hopes of a tip.  These two were doing cartwheels and headstands to try and impress us.

Along the way we happened on a bridge spanning a large river bed that now, because it's rainy season, only has a small stream running through it. From our car windows, we could see women bathing and doing their laundry. Of course, we wanted to take a closer look.

Before we could even get out of the cars, we were mobbed by children and I meant MOBBED - the most aggressive Ethiopian Swarm to date.

They look innocent at first but can very quickly turn into an ugly mob.

The kids were grabbing at me, pulling my hair, pinching my arms. It was not pleasant to the point where I barely got a chance to even focus any attention on the women below the bridge because I was busy removing fingers from my shirt, hair and arms. SO annoying! Netsanet tried his best to control the situation but with eight tourists all going in their own directions, it was an impossible task for him. Poor guy.


In any event, I did manage to capture a few photos of the women as well as a video.  From the style of the skirt they were wearing (it has a large ruffle around the waist), Netsanet could tell they were Konso women. Though a few of them were understandably annoyed at us taking their photos, most just ignored us and went about their business - bathing themselves and young children, doing laundry, or just coming and getting water.


They were enjoying themselves and they most certainly deserve it especially after seeing how hard village women work.

)

Our cars and drivers were waiting for us on the other side of the trip.  Carol and Judy are the best with handling the children.  With her kind face and demeanor, Carol is a natural magnet for them.   We had them to thank for distracting the kids.

Carol walking hand in hand with a few of the children.

Judy's a former school teacher and that side of her comes out whenever she's around the kids.

)
The majority of the Ethiopian swarm eagerly following Judy.

We arrived into Konso shortly before lunch. We checked into our hotel, a lovely place called Kanta Lodge that have views overlooking the valley.  We each had our own bungalow.  We took a few minutes to settle in and freshen up. 

Individual bungalows.

Inside my bungalow.  A very spacious room and nice bathroom.  Very comfortable.

We all met back up at the hotel restaurant for lunch. Netsanet had arranged for a table outside - a lovely terrace overlooking the valley, a huge ficus tree providing shade and bougainvilleas all around to provide color.  The weather was warm but not so warm to be uncomfortable.  It was a nice place for an al fresco lunch. Meal wise though, nothing memorable.

The hotel restaurant. 

The terrace overlooking the valley.  I'm already seated at our table which had been set up under the shade of the ficus tree.

After lunch, our day of sightseeing continued with visits to two Konso villages and New York.  Yes, you read that correctly, New York but not that New York.....another place!