Travel Journal

Jinka – Jinka bells, Jinka bells, Jinka all the way

(Thursday 13 January 2011) by Mike and Julie's sort of round the world trip
Day 142-4 – 12/24-26/10
We got to the bus station early the next morning but not early enough as the direct bus to Jinka had already left. We got in a bus which made several stops to load honey in burlap bags on the roof and headed down the unpaved road to Konso. A bit down the road we noticed streaks of honey running down the windows on the side of the van. We pulled over and the driver tried to patch up a leaking bag sending a river of honey down the side of the car. The passengers were delighted and scooped the honey off the dusty car with their even dustier hands licking them clean. It reminded me of the opening of “A Tale of Two Cities” where the wine cask breaks on the cobblestone street and the peasants start drinking the wine from the muddy ground.
At Konso, we were in trouble as the only bus headed to Jinka was the one we missed that morning. We tried to arrange alternate transportation but were at the mercy of the locals negotiating with truck drivers. I scoffed at their offers of 600 birr for a ride half way and told them we would take a room for the night and get the bus the next morning. We finally settled at 150 birr with the driver giving 50 of that to the negotiators since he could not speak English. Goes to show you the power of language. We had become acquainted with chat in the capitol as we were often offered it but politely declined. It is like the coca leaves in its effects. Suppresses the appetite, stimulates the body so you stay awake, and general leaves one with a sense of well being. Our driver went through about half a kilo of this on our trip. He would sing and laugh as he went down the road stopping to get passengers to jump in the back or to jump off when they beat on the truck cab where we were watching the road nervously. About half way through the trip, I watched as the driver headed toward a rock the size of softball and before I could shout out a warning, he ran over it blowing out a tire. This dampened his merriment and after putting on the spare we headed out again. The driver who delighted at honking the horn at any object existing or imaginary in the road decided to honk at several large vultures enjoying a carrion snack by the side of the road. The problem was he did it just before reaching them and while driving close to the edge. The birds took flight and since their flight was blocked by trees they slowly flew up directly in the path of the truck and the driver just slowed down slightly instead of trying to stop and one twenty pound bird smacked into the windshield cracking it before managing to fly away. The driver’s attitude now completely soured and you could tell he was wondering how to explain all the damage to the truck to his boss and we had silence for the rest of the trip.
We made it to Weyto before catching another minibus to Jinka at an inflated price because it was late and we were foreigners. Here are three pictures of the three vehicles we took that day. Yes, they all got flat tires. Yes, the roads are that bad.
We pulled into the bus station at Jinka and a Westerner greeted us as we climbed off asking if we wanted to share costs on visiting a nearby village. That was our plan exactly so we were off to a good start. Her name was Tulin and she was from Turkey with Ganga a guide she had hired in Arba Minch to accompany her. We planned to meet the following day as we wanted to do the tour on Sunday. We checked out a few hotels before settling on a rather unremarkable one. It was getting dark but I went out to check out where the bank was and it’s opening time. I collected about five kids on the way who pleaded for me to buy an exercise book for them. It was Christmas Eve so naturally I said no . . . several times to get my point across. The guard at the bank said it would be open tomorrow, Saturday – Christmas Day and I could access the ATM then. Ethiopians celebrate Christmas on a different day than we do. In fact their calendar has 12 months of thirty days each and then an extra month of just five days. I still haven’t figured out exactly how that works.
The next day I was at the bank shortly after opening time and when I asked about the ATM I got blank stares. After conversing with his superior, a clerk informed me there was no ATM at the bank or in fact in the entire town as there was only one bank in the town. Time to dip into my cash reserves as I converted some USD to birr. We had discovered the hotel didn’t have hot water so Julie had checked out some additional places while I was at the bank so we transferred our flag to another locale.
We just took it easy around town on Christmas, visiting the local market where Julie adopted a kid and then visited the small museum which was quite a hike out of town. It gave an overview of the different tribes located in the Omo Valley and some interesting dialog posted with the females of the different tribes. I also checked the internet but the connection was so slow and expensive I just sent out a Christmas greeting and gave up. We ran across Tulin and agreed to go to the Mursi Village in the Mogo National Park the next day. Ganga had done a good deal negotiating the jeep rental to 100 USD which was better than I which could only get it down from 150 to 130. The gentleman who rented us the jeep suggested we get to the village before nine or else all the tribe will be drunk. I was doubtful of this but remembered some tribe members buying home grown alcohol in plastic jugs at the market so thought it best to heed this advice.
We left about seven the next morning in a jeep and drove over the nearby mountain range to the park entrance, paid the fee to enter and then continued after picking up a scout (really just an armed soldier as there is only one road and no need to “scout”;-) on pass several small villages till we reached a larger, more popular one where we paid a village fee to the chief. If we had stopped at the smaller villages, we would have to pay the village fee there as well. The women were happy to see us and began shouting “halo, halo” meaning photo. The standard rate is 3 birr per person per photo. The shout s reminded me of the children all through Ethiopia that shout “You, you, you” at westerners as the only English they know which makes me cringe. Julie did, however, take a couple of photos as did Tulin which she kindly shared with us while I was more interested in the village itself.
We spent some time there but didn’t really talk to the villagers as none of us spoke their language except the guide and he was there just to make sure things didn’t get out of hand. It was interesting to visit but I was turned off by the greed of the villagers and the whole package of making persons pay for every little thing. We were also suppose to pay for a guide for the trip but Ganga acted as one. Later I heard the guide guild confronted him and demanded 150 birr, their usual fee for visiting the park, but since he himself had no money, they dropped the matter.
We arranged a bus back to Konso for the next morning from which we would try to make it as far as we could towards the border to Kenya and Tulin would join us for the trip. While eating lunch, one of my crowns fell out so I jammed it back in which held if I was careful with eating. There was no way I’d take care of this here in Ethiopia. I think the best bet would be eating cautiously and hoping it stays in until we reached a big town in Kenya.

  • Significant Omen by The Elder

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