Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Village Life & Camels outside Harar

Today i left behind the charming bustle of Harar and went into the countryside. We drove for about an hour in a taxi. (I don't think i've mentioned the taxis here and they're great. You have blue tuk tuks and then these gorgeous bright blue and white Peugeots with fins. They look like they are brom the early 1950s, but they have driver's side air bags, so obviously not. I really like the  though.)
Anyway, we drove for about an hour in this vintage looking Peugeot. It was a beautiful day and i watched the scenery go by, past deserty expanses and villages, as well as many herds of goats, sheep, cows, and camels. There were lots of people ourside by the road, selling apples or tending to the livestock. It never fails: everyone we drove by who looked up either shouted, waved, smoled, or stared at me. Mostly the responses were friendly. Often the children will shout "you you you" or "faranji" (foreigner) until you pay attention to them. 

Anyway, we drove through the "valley of marvels" where there are unusual rock formations perched on the top of small hills.
We then drove to Babile (a town) and onwards to a village. We parked and walked through the village, which was great. It was hot and sunny and we could see people's homes and, to some degree, how they live. 

We crossed a field and then began hiking down the rocky slope into the valley below, past cactuses, large flying insects, and then yet more herds of grazing livestock.
The people here, of whom i took few photos, looked and dresed differently than most in Harar. I was sold they were Somali. They spoke Somali and dressed in a slightly more traditional way (actually, for all i know, it is progressive, but it looks traditional). The wore colorful scarves and load of necklaces, and the men wore tartan sarongs.

We walked across the valley past ant hills - really more like towers - some more than 5 feet tall, untill we reached the other side, where we started climbing. The climb wasn't terribly difficult, but it was blazing hot and i, not knowing we were embarking on such an adventure, had left my water in the car. It was all worth it however when we reached the top and found about two dozen camels grazing. 

I was so happy to see them just hanging out, not working, or dressed up for riding or show. I love camels, i have always found them to be sweet and peaceful and i love their kind faces.

We rested there for a while before hiking back. When we got back to the village, i took ff my sweat drenched army coat and cardigan (listen, it was cold when i left the hotel and i didn't know i'd be scrambling over rocks); this attracted a lot of attention from the women who were surprised snd concerned about my tattoos. I covered up as soon as i cooled off. I get enough attention as it is.

Back at the car, we (me, my guide, our driver, snd some random guy we picked up) were stopped by two policemen. The coversation sounded angry, but it was in Amgaric, so i couldn't tell. I did hear the word "Canada" twice, which made me nervous. I noticed that the cops were armed only with sturdy wooden sticks, not guns. Anyway, as it turned out, the driver's cell phone was stolen while we were hiking. This led to a bit of a detour as we drove back to Babile to go to the police station. Now, to me the police station looked like a cafe. It was just a dingy two room building with a porch on which a bunch of guys were drinking coffee.

This suited me just fine. I had several coffees and cigarillos, chatted with a few strangers and just watched life go by. That should be an option thatguides offer in addition to taking tourists to noteworhty places - they should just take them along as they run errands. It's great. You get to see stuff you wouldn't ordinarily. Just regular every day stuff.

We drove back to Harar, apparently not recovering the phone, and i went to a person's house for a typical Ethiopian lunch (50 cents). It's weird in Harar. There are lots of places that call themselves restaurnants, but serve only coffee and beer. There are few legit restaurants, but most of the places where you can enjoy a meal is in the yard of someone's home, ehere they cook and serve fresh food and coffee to locals and travellers lucky enough to be shown the way.

That was it for me today. I'm exhausted and enjoying a cigar and a parade of tiny coffees with a cigar outside at my hotel, watching lighening in the distance.


Betty-Lou said...

I see a book in the future with travel stories.

Alan Forsythe said...

Everything about that last post sounded perfect. Who knew that being taken to a police station could so relaxing and enjoyable.