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Ethiopia, Days Seven and Eight: Bishangari, Lake Langano

This weekend we travelled to Bishangari. This is a nice eco-resort that is next to Lake Langano and surrounded by many villagers. These villagers are poor in terms of material consumption but they otherwise appear to be healthy, and they have plenty of animals. I prefer their style of housing to the tin shanties in the city.

The air is much cleaner out here due to a lack of dirty exhaust traffic, especially once you get past the heavy traffic going to Djibouti. When you drive in the villages, there are a lot of kids that like to say hi. Much of the traffic, even on the main asphalt road, consists of donkey-pulled carts. This could be because it was the weekend, and many families were travelling to the markets in order to trade goods. This heavy traffic, as well as herds of animals crossing the road from time to time means that the driver often has to brake. The main road is in pretty good shape, comparable to any modern two-lane road in North America. The Chinese take care of a lot of construction in this country.

Near Bishangari the area is densely populated with huts and villagers. The area is apparently a Muslim one where the men have three or four wives and upwards of 20 children. Indeed, most of the people we saw were children. The area is mostly agricultural, but densely populated with lots of villagers and lots of livestock. At the same time there are also a lot of wild animals like baboons and wild boars. The area is lush and green; a stark contrast from the worst drought of 60 years a few hundred miles to the south.

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30-Jul-2011 02:28, SONY DSC-S950, 5.1, 5.8mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100

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30-Jul-2011 02:38, SONY DSC-S950, 11.3, 23.2mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 100

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30-Jul-2011 04:25, SONY DSC-S950, 2.5, 5.8mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

We explored the area in Bishangari and we also crossed to the other side of the fence, we saw some large black boars from a distance, we saw baboons, monkeys, birds, goats, and lots of cattle. Lake Langano was a bit reddish/brownish, probably from all of the mud. We met a shephard on the other side, and two cute girls. They kept following us, and whispering, and were a bit shy and didn’t ask for anything. They were amused to see their photograph on the digital camera. We unfortunately didn’t have anything on hand to give them except a water bottle.

We went back later to try to find them with some more stuff, like some clothes, a towel, a bracelet and other things. We didn’t find them but we found 4 other girls instead. They were a bit more expectant but they were still happy to get the goodies. We tried to spot hippos but it started raining and they never showed up.

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30-Jul-2011 05:14, SONY DSC-S950, 5.1, 5.8mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

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30-Jul-2011 05:18, SONY DSC-S950, 5.6, 23.2mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 100

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30-Jul-2011 05:28, SONY DSC-S950, 5.1, 5.8mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100

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30-Jul-2011 06:35, SONY DSC-S950, 5.6, 23.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100

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30-Jul-2011 06:41, SONY DSC-S950, 5.1, 5.8mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100

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30-Jul-2011 07:04, SONY DSC-S950, 5.1, 5.8mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100

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30-Jul-2011 08:39, SONY DSC-S950, 5.6, 23.2mm, 0.01 sec, ISO 160

We eventually went back, had a very expensive meal, and then it got dark. Once it gets dark it gets extremely dark. I woke up in the middle of the night and there was basically no difference between having my eyes open and closed. There were absolutely no sources of electric light in the hut or anywhere for miles around. Only because the curtains were open could I barely make my way to the front doors which were full-length windows.

I used my hands and feet to feel my way forward, since I couldn’t see where anything was except for a very faint light coming from the sky outside. Even outside you could barely see anything; everything looked “noisy” because of how dark it was. It was a moonless overcast night from what I could tell, and only a very faint amount of light was coming from the sky; enough to see where the sky ended and the ground began, but not really more than that.

We had breakfast in the morning and then spotted a bunch of Pumbas. They weren’t the big black ones we saw from a distance the day before, but they were there. We went to get a camera, then came back and had to track them down, and luckily we did. We were able to get a few shots before more tourists arrived and scared them off.

Lots of tourists here are connected with Ethiopia in some way, such as through an Ethiopian wife or an Ethiopian adopted kid. They also seem to be mostly Europeans — I haven’t spotted any other North Americans.

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31-Jul-2011 10:59, Nokia N97 mini, 2.8, 5.2mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

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31-Jul-2011 10:59, Nokia N97 mini, 2.8, 5.2mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

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31-Jul-2011 10:57, Nokia N97 mini, 2.8, 5.2mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

In the morning we didn’t explore the other side but went to the lookout tower instead. We saw two other ferenjis with a guide come out of the forest, and a bit later 20 kids (literally) came storming out. They didn’t chase after them because they had a guide, but they spotted us in the tower and said hi. We said hi back, took a photo, and the kids continued to stay around and looked impatient. These were the most expectant kids of all.

In the forest we heard strange sounds as the wild boars fought with each other, or with the baboons; we weren’t sure. Some of the kids started to throw rocks and sticks at us, so we left, but before leaving I held up a wad of money and asked them if that’s what they wanted. They were excited, but then I then stuck out my tongue, told them they were bad for throwing stuff at us, and left.

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31-Jul-2011 11:50, Nokia N97 mini, 2.8, 5.2mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 107

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31-Jul-2011 11:32, Nokia N97 mini, 2.8, 5.2mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

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31-Jul-2011 11:46, Nokia N97 mini, 2.8, 5.2mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

Shortly after this we left. Driver seemed annoyed at the kids asking us for stuff as they ran to us from the side of the road; unlike when we had come when they simply smiled and said hi, these kids were more of the begging style. The driver said that the kids don’t go to school and instead beg for a few birr, and they get hurt when they run in front of the cars.

I believe there’s a gulf between the villagers and people from the city where those in the city tend to look upon the villagers as more primitive and inferior. The driver never said so himself but it’s apparent in the way people drive around villagers and cattle. Still, he was always careful to brake and avoid hitting anyone or any animals, even if at the same time he drove in a way to show that he expected to have the right of way.

The driver took us to a crater lake where there was a hotel and cafe called Dreamland near Addis Ababa at a town called Debre Zeit; it was a nice scenic area and it was beautiful as the sun was out. I understand why you need a guide to drive here; you would never find these places and we would probably never have found Bishangari otherwise.

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31-Jul-2011 15:02, Nokia N97 mini, 2.8, 5.2mm, 0.03 sec, ISO 115

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31-Jul-2011 14:56, Nokia N97 mini, 2.8, 5.2mm, ISO 100

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31-Jul-2011 14:56, Nokia N97 mini, 2.8, 5.2mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100

Even with a guide the price wasn’t horrible. With Getts tour it was $390 for everything, which was a better price with a better vehicle (Toyota Land Cruiser 4×4) than the tour agencies located at the Hilton and Intercontinental offered. Toyota is a popular brand of vehicle in this country.

We took a different way back into the city and passed by an enormous uncontrolled intersection that I wouldn’t want to cross as a pedestrian.

We finally made it back to the hotel and slept…

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