From Turmi to Weyto and Konso
Feb 12, 2005
After two days, I decided to leave Turmi. It somehow lacked the charm of Omorate. But, I wasn't sure where to go next.
My options were Jinka at the northern end of the Omo Valley, a 200-mile detour or the direct route out of the Omo Valley. Jinka is a popular tourist destination - as popular as things get this far out in the middle of nowhere. The popularity comes from it being adjacent to the home of the stretch-lipped Mursi women. On the direct route, due East to Konso, there isn't much to see, but I could at least check out one more Omo Valley town with a stop at Weyto.
I left the decision up to fate. There are only the two ways out of town - I would take the next truck, whichever way it was heading.
The first truck to make an appearance, was heading to Konso. My decision was made, except for one small snag. The driver insisted on 100 birr ($8). It was an absurd price -- at least 10 times the price for locals.
Patience is a virtue, especially in Africa. I told him that I would not pay more than 15 birr ($1.75) and went and relaxed in the shade of a tree. I exaggerated stretching out, trying to show that I wasn't in any hurry and didn't need a ride in his truck. It was an easy performance, as it was true. I wasn't in a hurry. Patience paid off. He conceded, and let me on the truck for just a little more than the local price.
The truck ride through the valley was hot and very dusty. The truck bed was full of machinery leaving not much space for passengers. I got a good seat on a corner of a dirty spare tire, but still the ride was bouncy and uncomfortable. Several times recently, I had been sunburned, and wanted to avoid that today, so I completely sacrificed any sense of fashion and wrapped myself in my bright blue sarong to keep away the sun.
The truck stopped in Weyto, in front of a restaurant, just in time for lunch. I said goodbye to my fellow passengers and headed into the restaurant. It looked like a nice place; open air, with comfortable cushions. I ordered lunch. Goat meat with injeera is the only thing that restaurants in the Omo Valley serve, so it's what I'd been eating twice a day, every day. One correction - goat meat is served twice a day, 5 days a week. Wednesday and Friday are fasting days for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and so no meat products are served. You're again given no choice, but this time injeera is served with vegetables. I'll tell you, after goat meat for 6 continuous meals, a plate of vegetables is a wonderful change.
After lunch, I ask for directions to a hotel. The waiter tells me, "this is it". Apparently, this restaurant is the only hotel in town. The waiter tells me that I can sleep on the cushions, where I'd been eating lunch, or I could sleep in one of two tents hidden under a small tree.
Fate fucked up. I should have gone up to Jinka, or at least continued straight on to Konso. It's over a hundred degrees here, and there isn't anything to see or do. The town consists of only a handful of buildings. Surrounding the town are a few fields of struggling crops. Beyond that lies endless empty scrubland. I've been here an hour, and I'm ready to go.
Unfortunately, my truck is long gone, and I don't know when another will arrive. I'd been waiting for about an hour for a ride when 6 trucks full of Taiwanese pull up. The Taiwanese are very impressed that I'm out here by myself, and they're very impressed that I walked through the desert. They all wanted to have their picture taken with me. Some of them rushed around taking pictures of the locals, but I noticed that none of them offered to pay for the photos. The Taiwanese politely offered me a coke, but not a ride, and then they were gone.
I discover that it's market day in Weyto, so I walk over to the market. For sale at the market are mostly animals, beads, and cooking utensils - nothing that I needed. There is also a whole section devoted to the selling and drinking of homebrew maize beer. I decide to skip it as this beer looks even more questionable than the stuff I drank out of a rusty tin can in Omorate.
After another hour of waiting, a truck pulls up in front of the restaurant. For market day, everyone comes into town, and when it closes everyone needs a ride home. Forty Ethiopians piled on top of this truck and I joined them. The last truck was full of machinery and very uncomfortable. This truck, like the UN truck that I rode on in Kenya, was full of bags of beans and maize. Even overloaded with people, it was a lovely ride. I'm given a good seat again. This time in front where I can use the trucks cab as a backrest. It also gave me a vantage point where I could take photos.
The ride just got better and better as we went along. The crowd thinned out, and as we climbed out of the Rift Valley the temperature dropped from100 degrees down to a nice cool 80. As the sun set, we reached the top of a hill and were given a fantastic sunset view looking down upon the Rift Valley.
I can't rave enough about these rides in food trucks. After dark, the crowd really thinned out, and there was tons of room to stretch out. The bags of food are just like beanbag chairs. Lying down across several of them is incredibly indulgent. And, the African night sky is better than any planetarium. These night rides on food trucks are one of the top travel experiences that I've had anywhere. It sure as hell beats flying, and definitely beats zooming around in your own private Landover.
I arrive late in Konso. My dinner is scrambled eggs, as for some strange reason that is all that the restaurant serves late at night. Tomorrow, I continue on my way to Addis Ababa.
The trip from Nairobi to Addis Ababa was interesting enough that I wrote it up as a daily log. If you'd like to read it from the beginning click here: [ Leaving Nairobi ]
Leave a comment! I'm much more inspired to write when I know people are reading.
Hi Adam, Your journal is terrific. Thanks for writing and dont stop. best wishes gladys
Michele Yamazaki - May 19, 2005
Adam, I'm really enjoying your weblog. You really bring the places to life in your writing. Take care.
Jan - May 22, 2005
I hope this email finds you happy and well. You are doing things and seeing places that many of us only dream about. Keep the writing and photos coming - they inspire us all.
Ken Katz - May 22, 2005
Adam, my reaction differs from Jan's. Sometimes, what you're doing inspires not dreams -- but nightmares! Keep the photos and writing coming and stay healthy.
Phil M. - Sept 14, 2005
Thanks for the great travelogue - I am finding ot both entertaining and helpful as I will be in the Omo region later this December.
I too was in Seim Reip in Dec.03-Jan.04 but don't seem to have bumped in to you.
Kai Jauhiainen - Sept 25, 2006
Adam, I am propably traveling to Konso next winter. Any suggestions?
Kai Jauhiainen from Finland