Route taken: Arba Minch/Karat-Konso/Omerate/Turmi/Ileret (Kenya)

I’m typing this late from the roof tent at jungle Junction in Nairobi desperate to get back on track with the blog. Having last detailed that we were going to miss southern Ethiopia, our original idea of a loop to cross in Moyale all changed after we met some British cyclists, Rob and Polly who had just arrived after travelling from Kenya up the west side of Lake Turkana. All the information we had received up untill that point was saying don’t even attempt this route on your own.

In true British fashion we completley ignored this advice and after chatting to the cyclists we sussed that the east side of the Lake would be our best bet. We sat down with them and discussed the route and were keen to get going the next day. They came up the west side as they were cycling. The east side would have been harder for them in the rain and the going was rocky and sandy which is why they chose the other side. We knew the risks. If rain was heavy enough to make river crossings impossible, we would have to wait until the water level went down enough to cross safely.

So we took in Konso and gradually got ready to leave later on the 24th. We had a job trying to get diesel. Konso is the last place in southern Ethiopia if you intend to travel south where you can get fuel. Funny that the petrol station wasn’t selling any due to a power cut! We drove in and quickly got approached by some chancers who wanted to offer us some black market diesel instead for an inflated price. I wasn’t havng any of it and then one thing led to another and we persuaded the man running the pump to get the generator going. We would offer him a little extra on top for doing this. It was vital we had both tanks full up before leaving. It would be a week before we might hit a fuel stop again.

We got going. We were aiming for small town called Turmi, a good base to see the Hamer tribe the next day. As we drove into town, we found a really nice campsite where we had the grounds to ourselves. We had some rain in the night.

We heard the next day that there was to be a bull jumping ceremony by one family of the Hamer Tribe. This is quite a rare sight and wasn’t to be missed. It is an initiation ceremony where a young man jumps any number of bulls to become a man. Also, as part of the ceremony women are whipped very hard with thin branches. They show no fear or signs of pain as they stand there taking the lashing. I’ll add  a few more datails of this later.

Before this we had a mission to drive the 75kms offroad to Omerate and back to get our visas stamped out of Ethiopia and the carnet stamped. We had to do this as there was no exit post on the Ethiopian side of the border. Luckliy, Omerate was set up for us to do this. We did the journey in just over an hour each way; last night’s rain made the road worse.

Later that day, after the ceremony and buying some last provisions, we set off to try and get to Ilaret, the first town we would reach on the Kenyan side of the border. Half way back along the Omerate track we made a left turn and said goodbye to Ethiopia. We were heading into the unkown from here. We had a track of the route on our GPS but it was still only a sandy track taking us into the bush. We crossed plenty of dry riverbeds that required some slowing right down to get into and out of. It was quicker going than we expected and after a hour and half we arrived at a checkpoint. This was our last dealing with Ethiopians. They checked our papers and let us go.

Ethiopia has been a  fascinating country to travel in. It has almost everything and on grand scale. If it sorted out its border problems with Eritrea it would easier to get to some great coastline as well.

The police barracks we stayed at in Ileret: http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?ll=4.3123167,36.227617&z=16&t=h&hl=en