Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Back to Bora, Ethiopia Trip -- Day 6

Not a shorter day, but slightly less eventful.  We woke at the cultural village in Dhorze, and for the first time since both Vision and Medical teams were combined, I wasn't the first one out of bed.  I was second, or maybe third.

I later learned that the celebration around the fire had gone on until 4AM and it was quickly obvious that there would be no hurry this morning.

Besides, as soon as our driver arrived and tried to start the van, it was a no-go.  The vehicle emitted blue smoke, but it didn't want to start.

One of our favorite sayings on the trip was "Rasta man never die...but sometimes he gets burned a little."  It was a reference to my prior trip where one of the guys working for Mekonnen had fallen directly into the fire while jumping.  We also learned on the last trip, and reconfirmed this morning that "Rasta man never get up early to make breakfast...."

Breakfast, which was "scheduled" -- a term I recommend using loosely in Ethiopia -- for 7:30AM, actually happened a little before 8:30.  By then, the staff, driver, and our guides were rolling our van out into the roadway, and trying to push start it.  Much to my surprise, this actually worked, although the vehicle continued to belch toxic smoke in quantities great enough to half suffocate all of us.  There was definitely something wrong with the van -- probably related to the water, probably made worse by the damp morning air.  Probably.

We rode down the mountain for the last time, and turned left when we reached the Arba Minch road, heading back toward Addis and the fateful river crossing from 4 days ago.  When we reached the crossing, I could see the water level was a little lower, but far from low.  As the driver slowly drove through the stream, everyone on the van was quietly saying "punch it, punch it."

Despite what seemed like the driver's best effort to again become stuck, the vehicle made it through the water without obvious mishap.

Unfortunately, less than an hour later the van stalled while speeding down the road.
Our Van is Broken Down Along the Side of the Road
We pulled to the side, and the driver went to work on the van.  This vehicle appeared to be cursed.  The air filter was again checked, and some wiring was stripped an reconnected.  Neither fixed the primary problem.  Then the guys removed the fuel pump, and discovered there was a massive amount of water inside.  Fixing that by the side of the road was going to be somewhere close to impossible.
Guides and Driver Try to Diagnose the Problem
Dawit, one of our guides, headed down the road to a small, nearby town while the other Africans worked on the diesel.  In a few minutes there was a growing crowd of people, all looking to see what was going on with the ferengi.

Eventually, we decided to try the thing that had worked earlier in the day -- a push start.  Low and behold, the engine actually caught.  Then, when we stopped to wait for the pushers to pile back inside, it stalled.  After a few more attempts, we decided to push and jump in -- a dangerous proposition.  This actually worked, but Curt ended up getting a nice bruise on his lower leg in the process.

The push-start got us into the nearby village where Dawit was waiting, but when we slowed to literally let him jump inside, the van again stalled.  After that it wouldn't restart.

Our guides arranged a ride to Soto in the back of a Land Rover.  Getting all of us in the back for an hour-long ride was comical, and quite uncomfortable.  Eventually, we reached the lunch stop at Soto just as the Medical team was leaving.

After lunch, we had a new ride -- different van, different driver, and a different internal configuration.  This van had less leg room but an extra row of seats.

I was in heaven -- for the first time since we left the airport, I was actually comfortable in our vehicle.  It was a huge improvement.

We then rode to Longono without further incident.  We had reservations at a high-end eco-lodge (can't remember the resort name, but it started with a "B").  We arrived to in the dark, and at first I couldn't believe there was a resort there at all.  We were led to our cabins (which were great) by flashlight, and I had my first shower in four days, which was fantastic.  Then I walked to the dining room (which was outside) for a delicious meal.
Dinner Menu at the Eco-Resort on Lake Longono
Afterward, we had a beer in the tree-bar, which was just what it sounded like -- a bar built on and around a huge tree.
The Tree Bar at the Resort
I turned in a little later, wondering what the resort would look like in the daylight.

All photos taken by Curt Good.

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