26 décembre 2013

Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's Region

SNNPR is and interesting part of Ethiopia with a great concentration of ethnic groups and their many traditions.

The simple way to visit this region is to book a tour from Addis Ababa. Then, you spend the next 5 days jumping in and out of your Land Cruiser to snap pictures of as many different tribes as you can. This sort of human safari didn't really appealed to us. We decided to visit independently and to rely on public transport and market days to meet people.

Arba Minch

First stop: the perfectly located town of Arba Minch near the twin lakes Chamo and Abaya. This place turned out to be beyond our expectations with the comfortable Arba Minch Tourist Hotel overlooking a very appealing garden restaurant. Also, the nearby Paradise Lodge, perched on the edge of a cliff, gave us an incredible sunset view of both lakes and the Nechi Sar National Park below.


A lovely day trip from Arba Minch took us high in the mountains above, where the Dorze people make their homes. They have a unique way of building them by weaving bamboo and by shaping the grass rooves like an elephant face to remember the long gone giants from this region. This group of people also has the particularity to use enset or "false banana tree" for many purposes. Other than using the leaves to construct their rooves, they also use it for food. The fresh pulp, which smells like cucumber, is left in the ground to ferment into a white paste that resembles cheese. This substance is then cooked like a flat bread and served with wild honey and chillies. It really tasted good!

The village has a pottery and cotton weaving cooperatives; but for us, their best initiative is the local guide association. All the proceeds from the tourist visits are used to improve the conditions of the entire community. The result is very good for the visitors, since you don't get harassed for money all the time and people seemed genuinely happy to see you.


After Dorze, we headed down to the Lower Omo Valley, to catch the large market of Jinka. Since we didn't have our own wheels, we had abandoned the idea to visit the Mursi tribe who lives in the nearby Mago National Park. Luckily, we met with a local guide who can speak their language and could organise a visit in the park. It wasn't cheap, but since he had a great relationship with many Mursi villagers, we had the unique opportunity to sit under a tree with the men, listening to their stories and trying their food: a communal calabash of fermented cow milk, shorgum paste and wild cabbage. We spent a bit of time watching their women, with their impressive lip plates and scarification, while they were grinding the shorgum. Things got spoiled and the human zoo started when another car of tourists arrived. They came out of their vehicle shooting photos immediately and handing out excessively high amount of cash, without any interest to visit the village. After that, it was just about the money villagers could make by posing for photos.
Turmi and the Hamer

Our guide for the Mago National Park, being of the Hamer tribe himself, convinced us to make the trip to Turmi, in time to see the weekly market. It turned out to be more about adventurous transportation than cultural encounter! First, we had to sit on the back of motorbikes for a 120km journey on dirt road. Needless to say that we had the required flat tire along the way.

Finally arrived in Turmi, we really had the impression to be at the end of the world. The town was much smaller than anticipated, with very little to do in this sun baked savannah! We saw a few Hamer at the very laid back market, and some were wearing traditional clothes made of goat skin. The ladies had their hair sculpted with clay and the men were sporting complicated buns decorated with beads and feathers. All seemed happy to talk to us or simply watch us curiously. An there I though I was the one doing people watching!

We spent much of our time trying to find a way out of town since there is no public transport. Our only option turned out to be a beer delivery truck with a driver willing to take us for an exorbitant fee. It's illegal to hitch a ride in a Isuzu truck, but the locals do it since the law is only enforced with foreigners. So along the way, to avoid a police check, we had to stop and walk through a village by an alternative road before being picked up again at the other end by our friendly driver. We where hoping that he was not going to abandon us in the middle of nowhere!


Still, we managed to make it to Konso where we wanted to visit a nearby terraced village. To our great pleasure, there was also a great museum and a local guide association offering fairly priced tours. The Konso people turned out to be our favourite group to visit, because of the ingenuity of their village construction, and also for their complex burial ceremonies. They erect "wagas" or totem sculptures in honour of their nobles and heroes. They also practice the mummification of their chief and, for nine years after his death, they simply considered him "sick" while the mummy is displayed. After that period, they bury the remains and erect the wagas on his grave.

We might have missed on many other tribes, but we think we managed to have authentic encounters where we went. It wasn't the easiest bit of traveling either, so we are now quite happy to chill out on the lake town of Awassa, before making east towards Harar and Djibouti beyond.

Dorze homes. 
Dorze woman preparing enset bread.
Mursi teenagers.
Mursi women and child.
Hamer woman.

3 commentaires:

Anonyme a dit...

Ca c'est vraiment le type de photos auxquelles je m'attendais quand vous avez dit que vous alliez visiter l'Afrique. C'est aussi le genre d'aventure typique que je vous voyais faire. Par contre, moi j'aurais probablement fait partie du convoi de touristes à chair humaine parce que je ne voudrais SURTOUT pas me retrouver à des heures et des heures de la civilisation sans moyen de transport!!!!
Les photos sont dignes du national Geographic. Si vous voulez, il y a plein de façon de faire imprimer des livres de photos par Internet maintenant, j'aimerais bien me monter un album de vos photos d'ici la fin de votre voyage. Ca serait beau sur une table à café.
Aujourd'hui, on est chez Lucien et Francine pour le party annuel de la famille Marchand. Tinalia était toute excitée de se réveiller chez "An-Papa".

Pas a dit...

Love that travels guys!

More importantly, LOVE THE BEARD!!!! hahah :-)

Agatha a dit...

Gen I'm amazed at your travels and experiences. Reading your blogs often and find them inspiring. Happy new year to you. Stay safe and have fun! On the work front - we have only half the team left on VCCC and all directors work 2.5 days (but you probably don't want to hear about that!).