Monday, March 7, 2011

Ethiopia: Hippos and Lunch, Part 1, Awassa, Day 8, Monday

Happy birthday, Matt!

When to leave? When to leave? Or just stay? Am torn between the ease of staying in Awassa versus what I "should" be doing on my trip (whatever that is) versus going to Harar (because I want to? or because it's on my list of destinations?).

My Bale Mountains trip was my most important destination goal. With that complete, any sense of needing to tick things off a list, just because they're on a list, is gone. Pretty much.

Ah, well. I don't have to decide this minute. Off to the hippo boat!

I walked down to the lakeside footpath I so much enjoyed yesterday. I'd budgeted a certain amount of birr for this adventure, only to discover the boatmen wanted more than twice that amount! Aiee!

Photo credit: WSCC.org

I wasn't prepared to pay that much, so I took a left on the footpath and enjoyed a beautiful walk down to the Shebelle 2 resort. Young fishermen stood on the rafts made of reeds gathered together into a solid cornucopia form. The cone shape forms the body of the raft, while the curved point, a tucked-in tail, really, sticks up vertically from the raft. The cone-shape body is wide enough to support the standing fisherman, a water bottle, some clothing, and other items. The fisherman uses a long pole to push his raft in the water. When one looks out across the water from a distance, it looks as if the fisherman is standing in the water, as the raft rides low.

These rafts made me think of ancient Egyptian boats among reeds, and put me in mind of an infant Moses  being left in a place very much like this. New rafts were fresh green; older ones were brown.

I ended up at Shebelle 2 resort. Wow. It is adjacent to the posh Lewi Resort, but is a world apart. Giant, golden "shola" trees with trunk and branches almost designed for climbing by children. Muscular gray "worka"
Photo credit: Jacob Eliosoff
trees. Fat palms. Vervet monkeys everywhere, playing, jumping, following, rolling, sitting, flying. I saw one jump into a little pile of leaves, seemingly just for the fun of it. I saw a baby grab a fruit from his mother
just because he could. I saw a family of more sedate, black and white colobus monkeys walking a wide tree branch.

The view of the lake, although similar to that from Lewi Resort next door, was more beautiful, framed as it was by gorgeous mature trees and unencumbered by a rather silly lake fountain in front of the Lewi Resort.

I fell into conversation with H., an Ethiopian who helped me negotiate a more do-able price for a hippo boat.

Photo credit: "Hawassa" at skyscrapercity
These boats are wood, made by hand. The sides are colorful in yellows, greens, and blues. They have a wooden pergola, covered with a multi-color striped fabric. The prow is narrow; the boatmen sit in the rear by the outboard motor. The passengers seats are three to a side, with cushions and life jackets. The boat rides low in the water; the prow rides high. It was exciting looking toward the prow as I sat beneath the  sun-shading "roof." I was still in mind of an ancient Egyptian environment; we passed by fishermen atop their reed rafts. I saw an eagle fisher pass over the water, grasp a fish in its talons, and sweep away.

Photo credit: "Hawassa" at skyscrapercity

Photo credit: "Hawassa" at skyscrapercity
It took awhile to get to the hippos' hangout, and I'll admit I was nervous. Hippos are, I believe, more  dangerous than most African animals, including lions. I was glad we didn't get too close. Saw two mammoth adults, a few hippos of more modest size, along with some young'ns. At one point, we got a little too close (for me) and one hippo looked straight at the boat, then dived under water toward us. Yikes! As we moved away and I looked back in a scaredy-cat way, I saw one of the behemoth-sized hippos generate one of those huge yawns that mean the opposite of sleepiness, and in fact, means "I am royally pissed off!" I was glad we were on our way.


Upon my return to shore, I had lunch of fish (fresh from the lake), potatoes, and carrots. Tasty. Another  difference between this place and the new, posh resort next door is that the staff at Shebelle 2 thoughtfully
provide a stick along with your entree. The stick, of course, is to wave off the vervet monkeys eyeing your food.

After lunch, I resumed my conversation with H. He offered to lend me his camera for my time in Awasa, a generous gesture that I declined, as I didn't want the responsibility of losing someone else's camera.

We talked about the time of the Derg and afterward. My experience thus far in Ethiopia is that men of a certain age (e.g. those who were at least late teens at that time, such as H.) tend to believe that living
conditions were better under the Derg than under Meles Zenawi. Men who are in their 20s and 30s tend to like Meles Zenawi. H. was more circumspect in his opinions.

We had a pretty lively discussion about Al Qaida; the countries surrounding Ethiopia who are in such turmoil; and conflict over water from the Nile River.

To be continued ...

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