After a morning detour to Arero, further east, to see more birds, a relatively successful venture, we headed north again, leaving the south of Ethiopia behind. Perhaps an illusion poorer, but all the richer for the experience.
Where a week ago we drove along the western edge of the rift valley, we now took the eastern edge, through remarkably wooded country side, not just the thin eucalyptus they grow everywhere as building material, but big trees, pine trees, too. Despite the fairly forbidding mountainous nature of the land here, people seemed much better off, economically. Houses were bigger, and better constructed, clothing seemed of better quality; there was actually a lot of traffic on the road, something we haven’t seen for a while; a much greater variety of vegetables and fruit was on offer, and you know?, there was actually remarkably little cattle, and not many goats, either. People were growing the land, not the animals, and wealth is not counted in heads of cattle, but in how much money you earn. Which is perhaps why so many people seemed to work so hard, here, making a living for themselves. And with success.
Now, there may be a lot of other circumstances that favour this area more than the rest of the country, but I cannot get away from the idea that just grazing cattle and goats is perhaps not the best road to prosperity. It looks to me that, given the right initiative and attitude, there are actually alternatives to the abject poverty we have seen in so many other parts of this country. All the way to Awassa the area screames of success. Awassa itself is a very pleasant town, lake-side, well laid out, obviously more affluent, remarkably clean. Friendly people, genuine, helpful. We had our best meal here, in a real Italian restaurant. They have a fish market, and excellent fish. A supermarket with variety, and real shopping trolleys.
And almost nobody asked for my pen!
next: an intermezzo on food and drinks, or jump straight to Awash