The furthest south we reached was Omorate, on the Omo River. To get there we drove down a good road across a flat plain, and saw the remnants of a cotton scheme that was initiated with North Korean funds, of all things, during the Mengistu era and which faltered to a standstill some time ago. Omorate is in the middle of the Rift not far from the northern tip of Lake Turkana, and if you look west you can see South Sudan, and south east is Kenya. It is more or less the end of the road.
We crossed the Omo River somewhat shakily in dugouts, and then walked a hundred yards to a Daasanach village. The Daasenach number about 48,000 and were pastoralists but now also grow some crops. It seemed quite a poor village, but the people there were very friendly, welcoming and quite a scream. The whole village seemed to come and greet us. They had all sorts of creative and amusing ploys to part the ferenjis from their money.
By the time we got to the Daasenach village I had run out of space for videos on my phone, so Lindsey took the video above. For unknown reasons (I haven’t asked her about it yet) it goes from landscape to portrait, which is a bit confusing but it does give an indication of the bombardment of senses you experience in villages in the Omo valley – new sights, sounds and smells everywhere, wee hands grasping yours, beads and other things for sale offered to you – but it doesn’t give an impression of the heat.
The villagers offered us a group deal for taking unlimited photographs, which we agreed upon, and we then snapped away, as women and children danced in a circle. Then I noticed, in the background, a new group of four ladies with pots perched precariously on their heads. When I raised my camera towards them, they shimmied away behind the huts. The pot ladies were not part of the original deal.
But they were so photogenic that we paid a bit extra to take their photograph.
Then we were distracted as the original ladies started to sing a song about 50 Birr.
This gave the youngsters a chance to reposition themselves for a final photo opportunity, kneeling in the dust as we began to leave the village. Then I noticed that the pot ladies had gathered themselves on a hillock in the background, for a possible silhouette shot. They had also stuck some bushes in their pots.
As we passed them by, they carefully swivelled round for a very final possible photo. By this time my assistant-local-guide had taken my camera and was shooting in all directions. It was all done with much good humour, and lots of laughing.