Sunday, November 18, 2012

Back to Bora, Ethiopia Trip -- Day 3

I woke up on day 3 feeling refreshed after an excellent night's sleep.  The resort in Arba Minch has mosquito netting around all the beds, and for some reason, once deployed the nets seem to provide a sense of isolation that just encouraged deep, restful slumber.

Or maybe I was just really, really tired.

After a good breakfast, we were more or less on hold.  The van we'd arrived in last night needed work in order to make it up the mountain road to Chencha -- our jumping off point for the hike to Bora.  Eventually, it was decided that we should walk down to the hotel driveway to the main road (which was quite muddy), and meet up with the van there.  Given the weakened condition of the van, I suppose it was an intelligent precaution, but it as things turned out, that road was the muddiest spot we would walk during the entire trip -- by quite a lot.  I ended up with mud all over my shoes, and my calves and there was no prospect of cleaning up for at least three days.  Well, mud would be the least of my worries.

We hopped in the van and drove to...a gas station.

There, our African counterparts spent the next hour or two trying to figure out how to get the van in better running condition.  The core problem was water in the air filter -- a simple problem to solve in the United States.  Here we would simply pop in a new air filter and head on down the road.  Unfortunately, in Arba Minch, there were air filters, but none of them fit into the housing on our van.  And the compressed air available (our second choice for fixing the water problem) had water vapor in the line (no dessicant), so that didn't work either.

Ultimately, the van's performance improved enough that we thought we could make it to Chencha.  A quick lunch at the Ferengi (read:  white foreigner) hotel, and we were on our way.  The road up was beautiful, but also a tough ride.  I felt every bump and washout in the road, and it seemed like much longer than 90 minutes.  By the time we reached Chencha, I was really happy to be out of that damned van.

On the last trip, we stopped at the Chencha guesthouse, and unloaded baggage, but this time, we drove to the sports field and unloaded from the van there.  Then we started our 6 mile hike to Bora.

I'd done this once before, and so knew how to manage it a bit better.  I paced myself along the way, knowing that once we got to the top of the mountain, we weren't quite done yet.  I had a bag of tootsie rolls with me, which I was passing out to children I met along the way.  That worked pretty well until I got to a school, where there was a huge mob.  I handed the bag off to Dan, our team's leader, and he threw the candies across a field.  It was the only way to prevent being virtually mugged for tootsie rolls.

Note to self:  next time keep the candy under wraps during the hike up.

We reached the summit of the mountain just before sunset, rested a few minutes, and then descended to the "Chief's hut."  I'd been there before -- the Chief's hut was actually a collection of structures where the "chief" of Bora lived.  There were two huts, a barn, a cooking hut, and the entire structure was enclosed in an enset (false banana tree) wall.  I was assigned a spot in the barn, along with the late-night crowd.  If you're reading this and thinking -- hey, Tom doesn't stay up late at night, he's a morning person -- you would be right.  I was the odd man out, and had to flex to make the sleeping arrangements work.  As it turned out, there were pluses and minuses to this.

Dinner was spaghetti, and I basically skipped it.  The combination of the physical challenge of reaching the huts, and the altitude (a little below 10,000 feet) had suppressed my appetite.  After we ate, we listened to incredible singing, mostly by young girls from the village, around a bonfire.  Let me tell you, the girls that led the songs have incredible voices, and the songs are surreal and beautiful.  I will never tire of listening to their chant-like singing.

We made a quick excursion to "the cliff" a steep drop-off into a ravine not far from the Chief's hut, but the trip was cut short by reports (I never saw anything) of hyenas.

I turned in around 11PM, but didn't go to sleep right away.  As the others sleeping in the barn drifted in, I listened to jokes and banter, laughing quietly, and not wanting to miss anything despite my fatigue.  Eventually, I slipped into sleep (as a contingent went back to "the cliff").  My last conscious thoughts were feeling contented and very much "at home."

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