At death's door

Trip Start Jul 10, 2006
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Trip End Dec 24, 2006


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Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Monday, October 9, 2006

Now three days into our tour of the south, we are camping at this village that is home to the Hamer people, who still dress very traditionally. Today we visited their small but very colourful weekly market. They charge two birr each per photo (the rule throughout the south), which makes group shots rather expensive.

The first night we camped at Arba Minch with a beautiful panoramic view over the lake. It's clear that most of the eight days will be spend in the vehicle, but at least the conversation is quite stimulating, and there is a lot to talk about.

Yesterday morning we passed a troop of baboons, and on the advice of Antony Zhou held a banana by the open window. In a flash, a baboon swooped up, stuck his arm and head into the car and grabbed the banana.

A little later, boys were doing frog-like squat-jumps (apparently a form of traditional dance) all along the road, then holding out their hands. Very sad to see them degrading themselves in this way, not least because they are staying out of school to do it. Antony says the Spanish tourists give them money. (With Spanish groups he probably blames the New Zealanders and Canadians).

The campsite here is very crowded and water has to be trucked in. It's warm enough that you don't want a hot shower. When each of us was showering, a man climbed up a ladder behind the cubicles and watched us. In my case he offered to do my laundry. Talk about quick service.

This morning we walked a short distance through the bush to visit a village consisting of a few huts of sticks and thatch, where we were served coffee. The Hamer people make it from the husk or peel of the bean, presumably because it's cheaper or more available (because it's not grown here), though it has little taste. Then a walk to the market.

I walked a bit by myself, and when returning to the campsite I met the other three coming back in the company of a woman carrying a young child who was skeletal and appeared to be at death's door. We went to the nearby clinic and located a doctor who examined the child and said it would take 500 birr ($75 CAD) for food and medicine to try to bring the child back to health. We gave him the money, but in a place where people generally appeared to be reasonably well fed, I suspect the child had AIDS and our help was of little avail.
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