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Ω2

Ethiopia: What a special country!

   Ethiopia is famous for being a unique country with a culture which does not remind either East Africa or North Africa or anything else. It makes a chapter on its own. It is the only African country which was never really colonized, despite some efforts by Italy. It is also a country with a deep Christian Orthodox history. Christianity was brought to most of sub-Saharan Africa in recent centuries by missionaries and colonizers. Ethiopia, however, is believed to be the second country in the world, after Armenia, to adopt Christianity as its state religion!

Orthodox liturgy in Addis Ababa's St. George Cathedral

Orthodox liturgy in Addis Ababa’s St. George Cathedral

   Ethiopia is also known to be a difficult country to travel, especially on your own vehicle. A lot of people are not really friendly and the hassles are too many for most visitors. Kids all over the country throw stones to passing vehicles and the roads are full of animals, people, cyclists and carts. Ethiopia is quite unique on this aspect too… The people and the animals don’t walk on the roadside, as it happens in most of the world. If there are five cows, for instance, they walk next to each other in order to block the road. So even on the “highways”, you have to suddenly stop every few kilometers, as there are thousands of animals on the Ethiopian roads.

The traditional centuries-old way of preparing the authentic Ethiopian coffee... no additives, no preservatives!

The traditional centuries-old way of preparing the authentic Ethiopian coffee… no additives, no preservatives!

   Well, after all, the animal “owners” have a profit out of this. The rule in Ethiopia is that the drivers are always blamed for an accident, no matter if it was their own fault or not. On top of that, the animal “owners” demand a hefty compensation not only for the animal which was killed but also for the animals that would be born by it in the future! So, especially in Ethiopia you have to drive very carefully and slowly.

Tattoos are an ancient tradition in Ethiopia. Mostly Christian women are marked with them in order to show their strong faith.

Tattoos are an ancient tradition in Ethiopia. Mostly Christian women are marked with them in order to show their strong faith.

   Konstantina Chamou, a Greek friend of mine, joined me for three months to travel Ethiopia and Sudan two-up on my humble Baobabis! My motorcycle was looking like a truck once again with the total weight of it, our luggage and both of us exceeding 350 kg (772 lb)! Since it didn’t break even after almost 10,000 km (6,214 miles) in these conditions, it means it was properly made 😉

Konstantina Chamou, a Greek friend of mine, joined me for three months to travel Ethiopia and Sudan two-up on my humble Baobabis!

Konstantina Chamou, a Greek friend of mine, joined me for three months to travel Ethiopia and Sudan two-up on my humble Baobabis!

   The far southwest of Ethiopia, the Omo Valley, is the homeland of ancient tribes which live more or less the same way for centuries… The Hamer, the Mursi, the Karo, the Banna and others, all have their own distinct traditions. Visiting a market where various tribes come together once a week is a very colorful and lively experience!

Hamer villagers come to Turmi during the weekly market to sell their vegetables, grains, tobacco, cotton or wood.

Hamer villagers come to Turmi during the weekly market to sell their vegetables, grains, tobacco, cotton or wood.

   The villages around Konso are inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site due to their unique culture, traditions and architecture. The complicated funeral ceremonies are particularly interesting. Konso people make wooden totems (waga) in memory of their chiefs and their village’s heroes, surrounded by their family members or the enemies and the wild animals they had killed.

Busso is one of the Konso villages. It looks picturesque with its communal house and the totems of their chiefs and their village's heroes.

Busso is one of the Konso villages. It looks picturesque with its communal house and the totems of their chiefs and their village’s heroes.

   Unfortunately, in the village of Gesergio we were ourselves victims of Konso peoples’ brutality. Some teenagers, disappointed that we didn’t give them plenty of money or pens, had blocked the main dirt road of the village holding huge stones on their hands. I knew what was going to happen… Even in my travel guide, happily provided by Travel Bookstore, was written that the same happened to the writer years ago, when his group didn’t hand out “enough” money.

I was riding my motorcycle a whole month with a failed alternator until I got a replacement from Greece!

I was riding my motorcycle a whole month with a failed alternator until I got a replacement from Greece!

   While I was approaching slowly and very carefully, I saw the young villagers trying to smash our heads and the motorcycle. Of course, we were wearing helmets. Happily, when they made some space, I immediately accelerated hard enough to escape! On the mirrors I could see plenty of stones flying towards us. One of them hit the motorbike but happily none of them hit us.

Gorgeous Ethiopian mountains!

Gorgeous Ethiopian mountains!

   I was looking forward to getting on the mountains which make most of Ethiopia. First it was the thick, moist forests around Dorze that we visited. The huts there are made traditionally by hardwood poles, woven bamboo and false-banana leaves. They look like a huge beehive. The climate there is quite cold, so domestic animals sleep inside the huts playing the role of central heating!

Huts around Dorze are made traditionally by hardwood poles, woven bamboo and false-banana leaves.

Huts around Dorze are made traditionally by hardwood poles, woven bamboo and false-banana leaves.

   The rain kept us there a bit longer. It was supposed to be dry season but El Niño brought a lot of rain in East Africa this year. As if this was not enough, the extreme raining was followed by an extreme drought due to La Niña. That’s a disaster for people who depend on the land to feed their family. In Ethiopia alone about 15 million people are threatened with famine! That’s worse than the famine of 1983 to 1985. The government tries to keep voices low and pretend everything is under control but that makes the disaster even worse because it is not known out of the affected areas. Due to this suppression, I haven’t personally met people who help on the field. However, if you google, you can find many humanitarian organizations which accept donations for that reason, like Concern.

Ethiopian cuisine is unique! It's based on injera, a flatbread made out of teff, which can be accompanied by meat (sometimes raw!), lentils, chickpeas, potatoes, vegetables or salad.

Ethiopian cuisine is unique! It’s based on injera, a flatbread made out of teff, which can be accompanied by meat (sometimes raw!), lentils, chickpeas, potatoes, vegetables or salad.

   My favourite place in Southern Ethiopia was Bale Mountains National Park! That’s where we enjoyed some horse riding on the grasslands of the high plateaus which are full of wildlife: mountain nyalas, reedbucks, warthogs and plenty of baboons. I had missed horse riding…

Wildlife watching on a horse! These are mountain nyalas.

Wildlife watching on a horse! These are mountain nyalas.

   We also enjoyed a great ride on my iron horse. We crossed the thick Harenna Forest, a unique cloud forest which develops under the usual cloudy weather of this region. The most amazing thing was that we got two-up on my motorbike to one of the highest peaks of Ethiopia, Tullu Deemtu, at 4,377 m (14,360 ft). It was quite cold up there and we had to wear all of our clothes. Thanks REV’IT! for the amazing clothing that kept us warm even on such an altitude!

Bale Mountains became my favourite place in Southern Ethiopia!

Bale Mountains became my favourite place in Southern Ethiopia!

   We made a detour (just 1,500 km, 932 miles) to visit Eastern Ethiopia. The old, Islamic town of Harar is picturesque and atmospheric. Being close to the Red Sea and modern-day Somaliland and Djibouti, it was an important hub on the caravan route for centuries. A weird tradition is taking place there… Every night people feed wild hyenas by hand! That started in order to prevent them from attacking the livestock. During the annual Ashura festival, the fortune of next year is being predicted. If hyenas don’t eat, it is going to be a terrible year.

The old, Islamic town of Harar, being close to the Red Sea, was an important hub on the caravan route for centuries.

The old, Islamic town of Harar, being close to the Red Sea, was an important hub on the caravan route for centuries.

   It was the first time I approached hyenas so close! First I fed them by hand. Then I put a short stick on my mouth with a piece of meat on it. I kneeled down and a hyena approached my mouth… It didn’t want to kiss me! It just got the meat quickly. Wow, that seemed insane! I could see the eyes of many hyenas in the darkness but they were not aggressive.

Due to a weird tradition in Harar, people feed wild hyenas from mouth to mouth! I tried that too ;-)

Due to a weird tradition in Harar, people feed wild hyenas from mouth to mouth! I tried that too 😉

You can check out the map with more photos and reports at: Live Trip Traveller

  

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