Pigmy goose, Lesser Jacana and great friends 16/03/10

Early morning boat trip on Lake Awassa one of the many great rift lakes of Ethiopia, nice birding, nice landscapes.

There is lot of people fishing in the reeds, gulls, terns, pelicans and all the normal birdlife of an African big lake is all easily seen.


But there was more then that, two birds were very very special: Pigmy Goose and then a bird that I have tried to see for looong time.. the Lesser Jacana. We were super happy.

Back to the hotel we admired a beautiful Silvery checked hornbill and then left to Addis, we planned for tomorrow a lot of shopping in the small antique shops of the city led by our driver Isaias that revealed himself very valuable most of the trip, and to visit a couple of museums. Lucy the famous fossil of hominid, our oldest direct ancestor is waiting us as the last bit of our adventure.

Ethiopia is great, people is nice and travelling with Micol and Daniele is wonderful as always, they are great friends


Borana and tegamino 16/03/10

We had a bit of a fight with the manager of the hotel, the reason was that he did not deliver even a quarter of the service, the food and the quality we paid for and he told us the evening before.

Still he wanted us to pay full, a complete crook. Disgusting.

Anyway we started from Konso towards Awassa, close to Yabello we met lot of Borana women with their beautiful metal bracelets and elbow rings

. They are more dressed then other tribes and wear many beautiful colours. Open and proud people, they showed us their things and jewels and explained a bit of their traditions with all the difficulties of a huge language barrier. It was a brief but good experience


The long way to Awassa was quite boring, we stopped midway for lunch and that was the highlight, tegamino (based on beans and chillies) and njera, the best food of trip.

Arborè and Konso 15/03/10

A long way back is waiting us, we have to reach Karat Konso but we will use a longer road in order to be able to visit another tribe, the Arborè.

Again we drive mountains up and down, these ridges are probably the reasons why the Omo valley’s tribes remained so isolated and developed so many differences between each other even in an area that is so small. We met some Hamer on the track going in the opposite way, towards Turme, today is market day there.

We drove for sometime in beautiful mountains and gorges to end in the same open plain of 2 day ago, but we entered it form the opposite side. From this point on the drive comes quite boring, flat semicultivated landscape with the mountain ridge on the background.

We reach the Arborè village and immediately we noticed some differences. As soon as we parked the car people started running towards us, kids grabbing and wearing a strange hat made of an half pumpkin shell. They are funny looking, they resemble little aliens. We went out of the car and people became very pushy in asking us to take pictures in order to get money. We talk to the local guide and he speaks with the people to obtain the same deal we had with other tribes. All is sorted so we move to the village. This people is very peculiar, kids with the pumpkin, young boys with the face painted with dots, women with a black veil on the head and plenty of blue beaded necklaces on the chest


Differently for the Dasanech ones these necklaces are long reaching almost the belly. Often a steel decoration made by watch’s wrists is hanging in the middle like a sort of tie


Extremely scenic tribe with beautiful tall and strongly built grass-huts.

The problem is that they are way too aggressive, they pushed us back and forth and even if we had a deal with the village every individuals asked for many, eventually we stopped taking pictures counted how many pics of each we took, paid and left the place. I do not know where the mistake was, if from the local guide or the tribesman but we did not appreciate what happened and even if the village and the Arborè were interesting to see I would probably avoid it the next time


People were physically pushing us to get money, and we had to become a bit aggressive to gain respect and this is not nice. We entered the village with great respect and giving money for the pictures is fine to me, being pushed and shouted for nothing definitely not.

We proceeded and before reaching the junction we met to gentle Tsemay women, we talk to them and enjoyed being with nice people again


Eventually we went for lunch, drove towards Karat Konso buying some incense from kids on the road. In town we briefly visited the market of the Konso tribe, very busy very colourful because of all the cotton fabrics they are selling, women traditionally wear a white and coloured long cotton skirt and men blue striped coloured cotton shorts


After leaving our luggage in the hotel we went to visit a konso village. Very interesting, they build villages on the top of steep hills, the hills are all made into terraces for cultivation, each terrace is hold by a wall of stones and peebles collected from the same land.

They are master in building stone walls and the village is an evidence of this. It is surrounded by tall stone walls and even as you enter walls are everywhere, each family compounds is surrounded by walls, all dry stone walls perfectly built. Inside the compound there is everything the family needs, stable, store and huts.

We visited the chief's compound, very organised, interesting explanation where given to us about an empty hut. When the chief dies thay mummify him and keep him in that special hut that is already prepared in his compound, it will be said that the chief is sick untill a new chief is chosen. We walked the village in narrow paths bordered by the walls of the compounds every now and then an open square appears, in the middle of this squares there are always tall tree trunks, they are the generation's poles. Every 18 years the new generation has to place a new tree trunk taller then the previous one, you can actually estimate tha age of the village counting the trees. In front of the trees there are monolithic columns, they are rough and squared in section and are there to remember an important victory over enemy tribes.

Lot of characteristics of the village tell that the Konso have been fought a lot, the location on top of the mountain, the walls everywhere protecting the people, the monoliths and thye even have communal huts, elevated from ground that are used by young boys to sleep by night, the youngster role is to socialize and make tribal bonds stronger but they basically act as sentinels in case of enemy attack.

We did not expect such a developed village, it was more what we would have expected from a middle-age small European settlement then from an African tribal village. Stunning stunning place.

Climbing the mountain down we saw all the women climbing up towards home after the market day, all of them walking the steep road with their heavy loads on the back.


Onestep after the other, tired to the bones but always with a broad smile. I was impressed, I am impressed



Dasanech and Hamer 14/03/10

Today we drove towards Omorate to visit a Dasanech village. The road towards the Omo river is surrounded by a thick acacia bushland, very thick, basically it is impossible to see farther then 5 mtrs. Plenty of Dik Diks along the road and even two Gerenuk appeared briefly on the side of the road. In the distance we also saw Red naped bush shrike and Northern carmine bee eater.

Getting closer to the river we met the two first Dasanech girls, they are also bare-chested but they have many necklaces with much bigger beads


They are bringing water and are a bit less friendly then the people we met so far. They are young and again very beautiful but this is something we could say of most of the people we met


We reach the river, 70 mtrs wide stream of muddy water, we cross it on a dugout canoe that it is everything but straight. Anyway we made it through and we walked towards Rate, the Dasanech village. We discussed with the people and we agreed to pay a fee to the village to be able to take pictures without paying individuals.

The village is a dustbowl close to the river, huts covered with skins, elevated stores to keep the food, tens of women of all ages and kids everywhere. Few man are playing bao close by


The old women are all decorated with complicated head pieces made of old Japanese watches metal bits and feathers, one of them is wrapped in a big serval skin


Their faces with all the lines of age are telling stories that we cannot read.

Many women bear decorative scarifications on the arms, they are bare-chested and the quantity of colourful necklaces is unbelievable


Some of them wear a sort of hat made of leather with the edge decorated with all sort of metal parts form soda caps to AK 47 cartridges, we soon learnt that the hat is when wrapped on the head but is used as dancing skirt once unwrapped


After a couple of hours we head back and cross the river again, we met a man with a very very complicated hair decoration made of coloured ochre and ostrich feather, only now we fully understand why they use the borkoto (stool) as a pillow


Back to Turme we enjoy a good meal and wait 4 in the afternoon to visit an Hamer village.

We reach the first and made the same agreement for pics through the local guide with the elders, we enter the village and start taking pictures and observing life. The huts are much more heavily built then the Dasanech ones , the women differently dressed and decorated with the goat skin partially covering the breasts and the iron rings on neck, wrists and ankles


One girls bears the scars of the whip, her brother managed to jump all the bulls and che asked to be whipped to demonstrate her love for him. After few minutes came out the chief of the village, he is drunk, he started shouting to the guide, then he came to greet us in a gentle way and went on again shouting to the guide. We decide to move and so we went to another village. We waited the people to come back from the fields and we spent time with them in the golden light of the late afternoon.

Married women with their heavy iron rings tease each other in a constant muttering.


Young unmarried girls all beads and shells, constantly worry about their beauty and react much stronger and faster to the sharp words of the laughing older women


Women's body is rubbed with red ochre as the hairs, they are gentle and beautiful and I have great respect for this people who proudly brings on a traditional style of life regardless all the lures that tourism brings along


Even if we cannot understand each other in words we did in other ways, we could communicate because they were putting an effort into it and I was impressed.

The village was clean, the people friendly everything made me thinking of a community that stands its ground and is not afraid of the challenge of the future. It is an impression just an impression because we did not scrape more then the surface of the surface of thir life but still, is a nice feeling


Omo Valley 13/03/10

We left Yabello very early, the sun was still sleeping, the air is dark and chilly.

The road towards Karat Konso is a constant up and down, beautiful views and thorny woodlands caressed by the first light

We saw several Magpie starling, a fast White tail swallow crossing the sky chasing insects with incredible speed and many flocks of Vulturine guineafowls


As we keep entering the hills we started seeing Impala Lilies (Adenium obesum), but not the size we use to see in Tanzania, these ones are enormous as big as trees.

All around before the town we see huge terraces on the slopes of the mountains, it is the special skill of the Konsol tribe, they build walls of stone to hold the soil in order to cultivate this steep area.

We arrived in Karat Konso ready for a nice breakfast with Njera, eggs and mitmita, a bit spicy but a very good boost of energy.

We saw many Konso women on the way out of town, they are climbing the steep road each of them bearing the heavy weight of a load of grass

. They have beautiful cotton skirts and a tshirt that is more often ten not wrapped around the neck, they do not want to destroy what is a valuable piece with the friction from the ropes of the grassy backpack


Proceding on this beautiful road we keep climbing mountains up and down and eventually we reached a big open plain, this area is cultivated with cotton and we can see big fluffy mountains of the white fiber.

Back in the mountain again we had our first encounter with people of the Bana tribe. Women as usual bringing heavy loads. Their hairs a red with ochre, their faces beautiful, their smile sweet.

They wear a piece of animal skin all decorated with Cipreas


After the women we met the first man, AK 47 on one shoulder, the borkoto ( the stool that every man brings that is used also as pillow not to ruin the hair decoration) in the other hand, He is very fierce borthering aggressivity but really nothing worrying


It is a strange land were pristine tribes ask money for a picture, some people thinks that this is not right, I think that if things are done gently is completely acceptable.

In the thick of an acacia woodland came out of nowhere two beautiful young girls, they are decorated with beads and bare-chested

. Their eyes are deep and gentle, they wear their tradition with pride and their beads are messages that we may not understand but in their life convoy precise informations, their days are though, they do not have lot of what we reached but they still have lot of what we lost


We are going to the Dimeka market, where Hamer and Bana sell their goods, on the way we see Hamer women, again stunning people, hair plastered with red ochre, leather dress decorated with beads and cipreas, neck rings to declare thair marital status, two iron ring for a married woman, two rings and a conic decoration for the first wife


The market is colourful and interesting but there is too many people for me, kids holding your hand, boys trying to sell you this and that. Still a place I am happy I have seen.

From the market we proceed to Turme where we overnight, the lodge is very nice and comfy and also well run.


Stresemann Bush Crow 12/03/10

Northern Puffback in the courtyard of the hotel, a good start of the day. The road will bring us from Negele Borena to Yabello, the door of the Omo valley.

The first hours are a monotonous open grassland, the habitat of the super endemic Sidamo Lark, one of the birds with the smallest range in Africa, we were not lucky enough to see it, but we enjoyed both Ethiopian swallow and the handsome White crowned starling.

The latter were so use to people herding cattle that I could approach it at close quarters.


The road from tarmac changed into dirt and from open grasslands we entered an acacia woodland.

We travel through a pristine nature dotted with small villages, some with mud houses with a strange roof of growing grass and others with round huts covered with plastic sheets. People is very colourful.

On the road we spotted a good number of Dik Diks, but they are different from what we are used to, they are in fact Guenther’s Dik Dik a different specie.


Birding is quite good, amongst the acacias and commiphoras plenty of life is hidden. Shelley’s starling, Rosy patched bush shrike, Black billed wood hoopoe and Vulturine guineafowls made the drive more exciting then we were expecting, and this were only the ones we did not see before, we saw many other birds and even the special Golden breasted starling again and Pigmy falcon.


Eventually we reached Yabello, a small town, very neat and clean. Our hotel is good and after a shower we head out with a precise target, it is a very localised bird, basically visible only around this town, it is on many bird books covers in Ethiopia, the Stresemann Bush crow.

It is a beautiful bird, not black as we would normally expect from a crow but shining white with a fantastic blue eye rim.

To see it we drive towards a lodge under construction, we saw the first crows even before reaching the lodge, they were busy nesting and they are super wonderful. We observed them for half an hour and then went inside the lodge and enjoyed a couple of beers with Franco, the owner.



Prince Ruspoli Turaco 11/03/10

The road from Goba to Negele Borena is a long long way. We crossed again the plateau and got the last sighting of the Simien wolf, a place and a mammal that will stay in our heart for ever, we descend the escarpment and we cross the Harenna forest. Only today we actually realised how big it is, we drive for hours in a never ending forest of huge trees. There is people around, old man harvesting honey and young girls weaving baskets but the area still look pretty wild.


Out of the forest the landscape is quite wild, harsh and thorny but pristine, we have no time to stop but some birds are so colourful that even from the car you can spot and id them easily like the blue breasted bee eater and like the most beautiful starling I have ever seen, the Golden breasted starling.

We cannot stop because we have to reach the Genale river, the habitat of one of the more localised birds of Ethiopia, the Prince Ruspoli Turaco.

We are crossing a woodland of acacias dotted by the white spot of the giant rooty base of the elephant foot, one of the strangest thing ever. This shrub develops a foot up to 2 meters of diameter completely out of proportion compared to the foliage.


Around 20 km from the river the first turaco crossed our path, it as stunning as unmistakable with its white crown. We are jumping with joy and we got other 2 in the next 5 km, the second one was special, we had time to get out of the car and follow him between bushes and trees, we had a great view of it, but we could not take any picture because there was always something bin between.

The birds is so special and although we were already happy and satisfied we were waiting to see more close to the river. This did not happen, there are no more trees close to the river and we had no time to walk.

Negele Borena’s hotel is a rat’s hole and the restaurant even worst. But nothing can change our mood after the turaco

I just forgot to mention a wonderful Abyssinian ground hornbill


Harenna forest 10/03/10

We are directed to the Harenna forest, but to reach the place we have to climb again the Sanetti plateau and descending the escarpment on the other side.

At least for the morning our aim are not the wolves so we drive a bit faster. The weather is perfect, sun from early morning. As soon as we reach the plateau the first wolves are waiting for us, an entire pack is waiting for us some 100 mtrs from the roads, they are waking up, the adults stretching and the puppies playing hide and seek. It is so cool to see them interacting, they behave very similar to Africa hunting dogs, the same way of begging for food, the same way of running, the only big difference is the colour.

We are again lucky with birds, a Long legged buzzard was soon added to the list.

We pass the same road of yesterday with mountains and pools just before climbing the escarpment down. The road is steep and the view breathtaking, beautiful flowers frame the perfect mountain postcard that is opening in front of us.

From above we see a strange water pool and as soon as we reach that flat bit we decide to walk to the water. The small walking is fun, the bush are so thick that reaching the water is an effort but eventually we arrive, it is a spring, crystal clear with beautiful reflection, and all around Erica and Thyme bushes.


Back on the car we headed towards Katcha a camp site inside the forest of Harenna, it is a strange forest, huge with different ecozones, the upper one made of Erica arborea the lowest of the majestic Podocarpus.

We stop the car in the campsite and we go for a walk, is a weird place, huge bare mountains similar to inselbergs in the back, horses are grazing in the clearing and ficus and bamboos in the intricate forest. In the forest still live a population of lions, we see no evidence, the only wildlife visible is birds, amongst them we spotted a White cheeked turaco and an Abyssinian black headed oriole.


Again in the cruiser we proceed on the main road and we just stop for a piknik in the podocarpus area.

After lu nch we go back towards the escarpment we pass again the upper forest and go for a walk in this narrow belt of it which is totally made of huge trees of Erica arborea, a full forest of tree up to 10-12 mtrs of twisted wood and old mosses. The place look so fairy that you would expect magic creatures to appear anytime.


Up on the plateau we start wolfing again, many sightings of the canids cannot quench our thirst of them yet. We observed one individual hunting three rodents from the same tunnel within 20 minutes, puppies climbing up and down between rocks and lobelias.


With the sun the place is very different, a bit less eerie but the same breathtaking.

On the way back we enjoyed the last sightings, a lone wolf with a herd of Nyalas in the background