The first place we stayed at, on the trip to the lower Omo Valley, was called Dorze Lodge, up in the mountains behind Arba Minch. The area is inhabited by the Dorze people. We’d started out from Addis at 6am and it took most of the day to get to there.
A week before we were due to fly to Addis I had posted on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum for Ethiopia, looking for people to share costs on the Omo trip and provide company. An American couple responded, and they had already been picked up by Simien Image Tour & Travel, the company providing the tour, when the car arrived at Jamie’s house. You always take a bit of a chance with such things – imagine that you’d advertised for people to join your trip and someone like Fat Mac had taken up the offer – you’d spend the entire journey trying to understand a word he was saying, and putting up with all the drooling, shouting, eyeballs going up into their sockets and other peculiar idiosyncrasies he’s picked up over the years – but Eric and Sally who came on the Omo trip were very good company.
It turned out that they had travelled extensively in all sorts of interesting places, and were spending seven weeks in Ethiopia. They had already been to the far north and elsewhere, and I’d spoken to Eric earlier on the phone when he reassured me that they had not seen any trouble resulting from the State of Emergency being declared in Ethiopia. I don’t know what they thought when they saw our enormous bags being loaded into the Toyota 4-wheel drive that was to transport us south. Lindsey and I travel with far too much kit. We’ve gone soft over the years. In comparison, Eric and Sally have got everything down pat. They each take a minimum of katundu in a medium-sized rucksack, plus a daysack, and they had top quality binoculars, the best guidebook for their style of travel (Bradt travel guide), plus a bird book (they were keen birders). My travel bag is enormous, and as usual I was carrying clothes I never used and all sorts of other kit.
For the next week we were to be travel companions. It is always good to travel with birders because they notice things, and Eric also knew quite a bit about flora. However, the first thing Eric wanted, which seemed to be quite important, was ‘rubbing alcohol‘. I’d never heard of this, before. It turned out it was for cleaning lenses.
We were shown round the compound next to lodge where we were to stay the night. The traditional Dorze houses, which can last for more than a lifetime, are made from bamboo and banana leaves and look like giant beehives. They shrink over time as termites eat away at the base, so the older houses are shorter.
We were shown how to prepare kocho, the unleavened bread made from enset/ensete (false banana), which we had later for diner.
Rooms at Dorze Lodge (Mekonen) are constructed in the traditional way.
It’s lovely and very peaceful up in the Guge Mountains. After a night in a Dorze hut, we walked around the local village.
As part of the guided tour (you always end up with a guide, in Ethiopia – they are usually organised through the local guide associations, and we found them to be helpful and friendly) we were given a pottery demonstration and then taken to the weaving cooperative.
The cloths were beautiful, and I bought a bright red, yellow and black one to take home.