Jill's Birthday - Beautiful Landscaps - Big Market

Trip Start Oct 11, 2012
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Trip End Nov 19, 2012


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Where I stayed
Lesiwon Hotel
What I did
Hagere Mariam Market
Ethiopian coffee ceremony
Konso Hills
Borana Plains

Flag of Ethiopia  , Oromiya Region,
Wednesday, October 24, 2012



Breakfast at 7:30 was eggs.  Some people were hoping for porridge, aka oatmeal, but it was all gone.  It is our last day with our chef.   With the return of our 4th car, seating was somewhat back to normal.  Someone was ousted from car 1 to make room for the chef, which we could do since Andrew was no longer with us.  Martina was a bit blue and missing him...and worried about him.

I got to sit in front in car 3 with Jill, Doris & Bev.  I enjoyed the front since we had such beautiful countryside to drive through today.  We headed off in a northerly direction again and Doris asked Kibrom when we would be out of the Rift Valley and the acacias.  He promised to stop and point out the transition area.  There was some confusion after our first tea/toilet stop whether or not we would be stopping at a market today or not.  First I thought I heard Kibrom say we were not, but later we found out we were - he said he had been misunderstood.  He was answering some other question.  So we were going to a market after all....as per the trip notes.  I think I can hear Bev singing next door in her room now.  She does have a lovely voice.  She knows thousands of old songs...show tunes I think.

We had quite a long drive over a tarmac (paved) road in the mountains.  It was curvy but the surface wasn't too bad.  Of course there were the usual obstacles - cattle, goats, people, more donkeys than we had been seeing.  The donkeys drew carts or were just loaded down themselves.  It turned out that we stopped at the market just after our lunch in the same town.  This was our last lunch with the chef.  I didn't get a chance to say good-bye - I am not sure anyone else did.  Or is he still with us here, I wonder? 

In any case, the market at Hagere Mariam was huge.  Kibrom led us off carefully - making us stand in one place until we were all assembled.  Then as we walked down a steep hill overlooking all the stands and vendors, some of us were following Bev and then we lost Bev.  I found Jill across a ditch and joined her.  We walked up the hill to see what was to be seen:  loads of plastic shoes.  Some were being washed in basins.  Next we saw people at old sewing machines sewing - that was near the clothing section.  We weren't that interested in the clothes.  I walked up to check the buildings on the top of the hill - they seemed to be donkey stalls although I didn't see any donkeys in them.  We had been surrounded by a group of men saying "photo" and some other things.  We had no idea what they were talking about and I managed to get out of the circle and then Jill escaped too. 

The sky was threatening to rain and a wind was picking up.  The grain vendors were hurriedly putting grain back in sacks...I think.  Jill was worried about a downpour so she decided to head for the car meeting point.  I had that intention but got diverted by getting into a food section.  I saw some tubers of some sort and there were big leaves scattered on the ground.  Doris said she saw tobacco and something else I didn't see.  What I did see was women cutting up and dicing or mincing huge blocks of some whitish-brown-grey substance.  It looked like a feta cheese or halvah.  When they cut it, it crumbled.  I should have realized it was the substance from the false banana tree - I thought of it later and verified it with Kibrom.

Then, one lady grabbed me and touched my hair, stuck my face into her hair and tried to get off my rings.  She was a bold one.  Lots of the other ladies shook my hand and smiled at me.  After the ladies and the mystery substance, I was being following by a bunch of children so I took a chance and took some photos which I showed them.  Soon they all wanted photos - including some young men.  I took a lot of photos and got a lot of fingers on my camera screen but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  There were some adorable kids.  As I was finishing up - since I saw I had only 5 minutes to reach the cars - a man came up and yelled at one of the older boys and hit him with a branch.  I felt really bad. 

I finished walking down the hill and took a few more photos of general scenes, donkeys and kids - human kids - and maybe a goat kid as well.  I reached the cars which were totally mobbed with people - mostly kids.  Shauneen and Pam were standing in front of my car.  I got in but I think I may have been the first.  Doris said she had been harassed by some man asking for 20 birr so her experience was not so positive.  Jill managed to get in and shut the door.

After the market we drove on farther - made a stop for the transition out of acacia trees and out of the Rift Valley.  The landscape was much more lush and green.  More flowers - more banana trees.

Then we stopped for a walk.  Doris kept asking Kibrom where we were going and why, so he told her we were going for exercise.  We walked up a hill.  I got to take more photos of the interesting hut and house styles - I had become quite obsessed with them by this time.  We were in Tsemay territory now.  We walked quite a while until finally the cars caught up with us.  I was in the vanguard so we had to wait for the others... so what better thing to do than take photos of the children.  Around this point we were being greeted by children yelling "You, You!"  Afterward, as we drove along, there was an almost constant chorus of "you, you."  When everyone got to the cars, we were still missing Bev because she had walked on much farther.  I guess she is very fit from bicycle riding on her postal route every day.  Our driver Worku was quite upset and not sure what to do.  I tried to tell him Bev was ahead of us - he asked some locals & they verified that she was ahead.  We drove a bit before we found her in her element - sitting and having a smoke and chat with the local ladies.

It seemed as if once we got in the cars, there was just a constant stream of humanity - huts, houses, people, animals, trucks, carts, you name it.  Plus pot holes.  The driving was horrendous - dodging the potholes and all the animals.  It seemed they stayed in the road and even darted into the road more than ever before.  We went through gorgeous country lush with banana trees, deep valleys, smoke rising from the huts from cooking meals, and the sides of the road filled with people returning home for the evening - many with big bundles of sticks or grass - others I think with their purchases from the market.  We drove quite awhile before we finally turned into a hotel yard.  Tonight we each get our own room.  I have a big double bed - but since this is a basic hotel - there doesn't appear to be any hot water.  Or mosquito net.  I will quit now since it is almost time for dinner and I need to get out my mosquito repellent.

Today is Jill's birthday.  Kibrom said he had everything under control for a little celebration and he did.  He had us assemble in the dining room before Jill and then led her into the room with the scent of coffee from the coffee ceremony and some sort of grass on the floor.  Plus I think the coffee ceremony lady wafted incense as part of the ceremony.  There was a birthday banner over Jill's chair.  Then Kibrom led Jill up for the traditional Ethiopian birthday blessing.  Something was passed over her head.  Ethiopians only celebrate the first birthday but Kibrom adapted the ceremony for Jill's 72nd.  My flashless photos did not come out very well at all.  That's too bad.
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