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Beer and Biryani :: The Travelling Adventures of Matt & Donna  
Hamer Children crossing a dried up river bed, Omo Valley - Ethiopia
OCTOBER 28, 2007

Still Truckin'

Our adventures in South Omo were rapidly drawing to a close. We had experienced the incredible Jumping of the Bulls ceremony, seen the freak show that is the Mursi, and by travelling on Isuzu Trucks had managed to really get close to the African way of life in this part of the world. Yet travelling in this manner is tiring. Early starts, long days and hundred and hundreds of dusty kilometres spent sheltering from the elements under whatever cover you can get had their price. With a little reluctance we made the decision to forgo a trip out to the Omo River instead opting to cut back to Konso, then hightail it north to Addis for some rest and recuperation.

It is amazing what you can tee up over a few cups of tea in a local restaurant. Before hitting the sack after witnessing the jumping of the bulls, we had tee' d up a lift back to Konso the following morning. At 7am on the dot we were up and walking through the town back towards the tourist hotel. On arrival we had some gritty negotiating with the driver to secure a seat, before our bags were loaded onto the roof and we were off - this time in a little comfort of the back of a short wheel base land cruiser.

From Turmi to Weito was much much faster than by Isuzu, the only incident was 20km's before reaching Weito the driver heard a noise in the rear of the vehicle. Closer inspection revealed a slipped leaf in the rear suspension - African mechanic classes took over and with my knife we cut loose some rope - a rock was employed to knock the offending leaf back into position and a few decent granny knots later we were back on the road.

At Weito, Yutaka negotiated with the driver to take him all the way through to Arba Minch, we decided to stick with the original plan of resting for the night at Konso before moving on. Sitting around the restaurant at Weito felt almost like dejeavu, however this time at least it was a temporary stop and before the sun had crossed the yard arm we were in Konso.

After all the normal good byes we checked back into the St Mary Hotel, and after a cold drink settled into the room for some much needed sleep. This however was broken by the manager knocking on our bedroom door - totally embarrassed that he had given us someone else's room (their belongings were in the closet). Relocated we spent the afternoon relaxing and looking around town - we started the search for some authentic Ethiopian souvenirs to no avail.

The next morning our luck held out. Unable to sleep in I awoke and decided to repack my pack which over the last two weeks has sprawled and grown in size to become very top heavy. I had just finished laying everything out on the floor when a waiter Donna had spoken to the previous evening knocked on the door advising there was a car (Isuzu truck) leaving for Arba Minch that we could travel on. A few minutes later we discovered the truck was leaving, NOW. A mad scramble followed and ten minutes later found us sitting in the cabin of truck motoring down the road to Arba Minch

About ten minutes out of town (and past the traffic police) we slowed for a river crossing, however instead of crossing we turned left and drove a few hundred metres up the river, around a bend, then turned and backed into a sand bank. From nowhere about ten guys with shovels appeared and for about 15 minutes proceeded to fill the back of the truck with river sand. When it was about half full they covered it with a tarp and off we went.

About an hour out of Arba Minch Donna noticed that one of the female passengers was leaning on our bags, however she was looking not well at all. Over the next few minutes we deduced she was having a baby – on our bags...

The driver finally caught onto what was happening and stopped stopping every few minutes to pick additional people up. Speeding into town she was getting closer and closer, her contractions were now every few minutes. At the edge of Arba Minch we had a frustrating ten minute stop while the traffic police checked the drivers papers, then we unloaded the rest of the passengers and sped through the top half of town, down the 4km road to the old town and into the hospital where she managed to roll out the back onto a waiting stretcher.

Back in the truck our days travels were only just beginning. We drove a few hundred metres to the main truck stop where we were unloaded and, after being rounded up by a herd of touts – tried to organize an onward lift to Addis – we ended up talking to one lad who raced off to see what he could find. While he was searching for us we headed into the nearest restaurant for some breakfast/lunch.

After eating we decided that we did not want to stop here (being only about 11am) and would settle for a truck to either Sheshemane or Addis, as long as we were moving. After standing around looking lost for a few minutes we walked into the bus rank only to find that there were no direct busses to either town – all busses in Ethiopia leave at about 6 in the morning. We were seen to be lost by a local boy (from Addis) who advised us the only way onwards was with a truck – he offered to find one for us and after walking with us back through town, sat us in the shade while he went to work.

Five minutes later he returned happy to have found a truck heading direct to Addis without stops (sure). We met the driver and after a little haggling could not get the price down enough. We did the old walk away, and after only a few metres they called us back agreeing to our price. Like most of our truck journey we were forced to walk out of town past the traffic police, then board with our gear in the back.

No trip in Africa is as simple as it originally seems. An hour out of Arba Minch the driver pulled the truck up beside a river and being a Sunday (washing day) disembarked spent half an hour washing in the river. We managed to strike up a conversation with one of the other passengers who had excellent English who from there on joined us in the cabin of the truck. This was great for conversation but not so comfortable - three is good, four is a squeeze.

About an hour and half  into the trip we stopped at a traffic police check point and after a few minutes we climbed out for another half hour wait. Apparently the drivers documentation was a little short of all the required details, and so we had to wait for it to be resolved. Eventually after some negotiation a "tax" was paid to make up the difference in paper work and we were allowed to continue.

It was slow going from there on in, with the road being very shit. Along the way they bought some Chat leaves to chew – I was forced out of courtesy to join them. All the truck drivers chew chat to stay awake for the long hauls they do. Interestingly this chat was mixed in the mouth with sugar and peanuts which oddly enough make it taste pretty good (at least better than when it is plain).

Hour after hour we motored onwards. From Sheshemane the road was a proper sealed road. Every now and then the driver would turn off the lights of the truck – supposedly because there were bandits in the area (he has been held up ten times in the past). After hours and hours of bum numbing driving – and too many police check points to count – we drove into Addis. The driver just wanted to drop us off anywhere – instead of the agreed place (bus terminal) – after talking to the friend we managed to get him to talk the driver into getting us closer at least to our planned hotel for the night.

Finally at around 3:30am we were dropped off on a dark corner in the middle of Addis, a taxi had agreed to run us through town to the Baro hotel for the night, with out bags on the roof of the old Datsun 120y we were bouncing through town. At the Baro a knock on the gate lead to a sleepy security guard telling us the hotel was full and then shutting the gate in our faces. Across the road we tried the Wutma where the security guard said the same – even though another traveler was leaving and I had offered to take his room – which was obviously now free – no luck.

Back in the cab the driver took us around the corner to the Taitu Hotel – the oldest hotel in Addis which has hundred of rooms varying in price for cheap to expensive. We were lucky to find they still had some free rooms – however they only had the most expensive rooms available. At 4 in the morning we were not in the mood for shopping around or bargaining so we took the room, at 187 Birr it was expensive for four hours sleep.

Konso to Addis in one day – a brilliant trip that was tiring, fun, interesting and capped off by being forced out of politeness to eat chat for about eight hours solid and feeling no effect.

Click here to see the Travel by Isuzu Photo Gallery (21 photos)

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