Thursday, January 23, 2014

To Lake Langano.


Herds of animals heading back to pasture from a lake in Bishoftu, formerly known as Debre Zeyit.

There's an Ethiopian restaurant, near where I live, called Langano. I never knew what the name meant but this afternoon, I stood before the lake that it's named after.

We were slated to leave at 10:30a - it would be a road trip day.  I was still stuffed from the kitfo dinner last night - I really ate way, way, way too much - so I had skipped out on breakfast.  By the time I made it to the lobby, our new guide was already there.  Of course, I greeted him but not by name as I really didn't know what it was.  He had told us that his name means *freedom* and I did Google it last night but God only knows how it's properly pronounced.  Well, not to obsess over it any longer - I've got 10 days to figure out his name.

We also met our drivers.  According to the tour itinerary, every one would be getting a window seat so it wasn't hard to do the math.  Eight of us plus a guide would mean 3 cars - in this case, Toyota Land Cruisers which looked very comfortable.

Street scene in Addis.

Pat had asked if we could ride together and of course, I agreed. I saw Jean get into the front passenger seat. I immediately decided she would be the 3rd person in our car so I made a beeline for that car and got in the back seat; Pat followed. We were set. Our driver was Negatu (sp?).  He seems like a nice guy and my first impression is that he is quite religious with crosses and icons decorating his rear view mirror and dashboard.  English wise, he knows a word or two but I don't think enough to hold a conversation.  I wonder though how much he understands :-)

The cars were numbered 1, 2, and 3.  Our guide was with Sam and Judy in the first car and the three of us were in the last car.   Our road trip today would take us along the main road that leads south to Djibouti.  Like so many cities in developing, the roads in Djibouti are congested with traffic and people walking about everywhere.  We slowly made our way out of town.  I was happy to be leaving Addis and getting back into the countryside.

Slow ride out of Addis.

Passing through a neighborhood on the outskirts of Addis.

After a while, the scenery began to look all the same so we turned our attention to each other.  It was the first time that Jean, Pat and I had been in the same space together for any amount of time.  It was nice to be with the two ladies - we chatted and slowly began to build the bonds of friendship. 

Of course, I asked the ladies if they knew our guide's name and well, not really. *Net* or *Ney* something or other was the best that either could come up with.  Oh well.  For now, he'll just be referred to as *our guide*.

On our drive, we passed by several plant nurseries which was then followed by open farm land.  Being the last car, we had no idea what was happening when the cars 1 and 2 pulled over to the side of the road.  Of course, Negatu followed.  We stayed in the car.  Our guide then came over to tell us that the place we had stopped at was one of the largest strawberry farms in the country.  Who knew that Ethiopia grew strawberries?  A short while later, he returned with a plastic container of very large, ripe strawberries.  They were too good looking to deny so I took one. I have to say, very sweet and good flavor.  Later I found out from our guide that the farm is owned by a European consortium and my guess is that the fruit is exported back to Europe.


About an hour and half or so of driving, we arrived into the resort area of Bishoftu, formerly known as Debre Zeyit.  The area is known for seven volcanic lakes.   We took a short break to walk along the shores of one of the smaller lakes.  It was a chance to see some of the birds that call Ethiopia home.  I noticed our guide had a birding book in hand as he led us on our walk.  I wonder if he's an amateur bird watcher.

Egyptian Geese with their distinctive red eye patch.

My first look at some trees here.  Uh....they're full of thorns!

Boats docked along the lake's shore.

A Muscovy Duck.  This one was definitely very tame as I could stand just barely a foot away.

Buildings, part of a resort lodge, perched on the hillside across the way .

Walking back to the cars.  Papyrus plants fill in the water's edge.

By now, it was lunch time and we had lovely meal albeit tourist at the the Dreamland Hotel Restaurant.  Our table overlooked Bishoftu Crater Lake.  I ordered some fish fillets which I found out means strips of fried fish.  I was still stuffed from last night's dinner - I think my stomach was working overtime to try and break down and digest all that meat protein I ate!  I left quite a bit of food behind which is not typically some thing I do - I felt bad doing that.

That's *our guide*, in the white tee shirt, standing at the head of the table.  It was our first meal with him and you could tell he was a bit worried about is.  He was eagerly translating and explaining dishes to us and making sure our drinks and food came quickly.

Our southward journey continued after lunch.

Had to take this photo of bales of hay.  Yes, those are bales of hale, neatly stacked up in pyramid form.

We were definitely in a wetland area.  Lots of small ponds, streams. and birds everywhere.

I kept my eyes on the world we were passing by.  I was constantly amazed by
what I saw - including this man, walking on the road, holding on to what's
left of fish after you filet them!

We made a quick stop at another lake.  We were quickly surrounded by kids asking for everything under the sun.  I've now nicknamed them the "Ethiopian Swarm".   They persistently follow you and ask you to take their photo.  If you do, you owe them money so my camera focused on everything else but them.

We made a quick to take a look at a small flock of Marabou storks.  Definitely not the most attractive member of the stork family, in my opinion.

A few had brought their herds to drink from the lake.

Pat had brought her binoculars with her.  The boys were curious about it.

One of the adobe buildings near the lake.  I was curious about the decoration on the walls.

It was almost 5p by the time we arrived at our hotel, the Sabana Beach Resort, located right on the shore of Lake Langano.  As our guide was getting us checked in, we were treated to a nice (i.e., cold) welcome drink.  It was very refreshing.  Just as I put my empty cup on the tray, I heard my camera fall to the floor.  I had put it in my pack but forgotten to zip up the compartment.  How stupid!  I turned it on and it powered up so I thought all was okay.

We got our keys and I walked alongside the porter to my bungalow - we each got our own!  Each bungalow had a view of the lake.  There was a small a terrace with two lounge chairs so you could sit and take in the view.

After I tipped the waiter, I picked up my camera to take a photo and when the shuttter went off, it didn't sound right. I looked in the preview and had the shock of my life!  Only the upper part of the image displayed - the lower part was completely blank.  I was stunned.  I immediately thought I had broken the lens so I took it off and shook it.  I didn't hear anything loose.  I then clicked the shutter and heard the same odd sound so I knew that the camera body was what was broken.  In my panicked state, I tried to poke around to see if I could fix things but quickly got resigned to the fact that the camera was gone!  Damn, damn, damn.  I quickly came up with a plan B with was to use my iPad to take photos. It's not what I would have wanted to do but what to do?  I started deleting old photos from my iPad to free up some space.  I took a few shots to see what the images would be like.

My room with a comfy double bed and two guest chairs.

The bungalows.  We each have our own.  Lake Langano is in the background.

My heart sank because they weren't as good as I had hoped they would be but a photo in hand is better than nothing so I resigned myself to the fact that the iPad would do.

I started to calm down....a wee bit and began to think more clearly.  At this point, I believed my camera was already busted so what do I have to  lose by trying to fix it?  So I took my room key and tried to jiggle loose the part of the shutter that I thought was stuck and lo and behold it moved.  I then clicked the shutter and it sound normal so I put the lens back on and took a photo with it and it came out.....perfect!!  I repeated a few more times and all seemed to be okay.

I started to relax and take in my surroundings.  The interior of my bungalow had a rustic *African* feel to it (lots of wooden beams and grasscloth) and there was even a loft area that could accommodate for more people. All toll, I think 3-4 people could comfortably sleep in the room.

I settled into the room - unpacked my stuff for the night.  Then, headed out to explore the grounds before sun set.  That night, we dined in the hotel restaurant.  It was a nice meal and this time, I ordered something light to eat....I was still a bit full from last night's kitfo meal.

The desk and the door leading to the back terrace.

Looking down the aisle of bungalows, towards the Reception bungalow.

The resort's dining hall on the left.  The path leads down to the beach.

Inside the dining hall where we had dinner.

Tomorrow is another long day of driving though we finally get to visit a couple of tribal villages.  I'm very excited as well as relieved that my camera is back in working order!!

Goodnight from Lake Langano!