A sign announces “Welcome to Turmi”, and that is just as well, otherwise one might even pass through the town without noticing. Turmi is some 2.5 hours drive from Key Afar – remember, where we visited the market? – and in those 2.5 hours very little changes outside. We are in bush and savannah landscape, a bit like the Mago Park, with plenty of trees, but mostly not very high, and interspersed with shrubs. What is most noticeable, is the total lack of traffic – despite that, major work is ongoing to upgrade the road -, and the total lack of people. So here and there some cattle is still scurrying around, some goats, too, but compared to the rest of the country, there is really very little here.
Turmi is Hamar-country, perhaps the most amiable tribe in the South Omo Valley. These are the fierce looking men who cannot help but smile at you, undermining the whole reason for looking fierce. Our tour operator had planned a visit to a Hamar village, far away from the beaten track, necessitating a strenuous walk in the heat, but promising a friendly, un-spoilt village at the end. Something went wrong. The guide perhaps had only understood that I wanted to walk, so I walked, for some 20 minutes, and there was the village. Turmi-West, a suburb of Turmi itself; the main road was actually two minutes away, on the other side of the village – we could have gone by car. When taking photos, I had to take care not to include the corrugated iron from the main town.
The village itself is nice enough, round huts, storage platforms, the usual stuff of a South Omo village. People in the village were friendly enough, too, and even up to the occasional conversation, which however, like so often here, invariably ended with the question “photo?, two birr!”.
The first family I came across was building their new house, and asked me if I would help. Silly me understood they wanted me to help digging the holes for the support poles. No, what they meant was whether I could give them money, so they could buy coffee, or anything. Of course! That is the first thing you ask your visitors! Other conversations were not noticeably different, and were hampered by the fact that the guide did answer my questions even before translating them to the people I was supposed to interact with.
In the end I think I enjoyed the 20 minute walk the most.
next: the Dasanech in Omorate