Before leaving Ethiopia for my Female Condom expert meetings in South Africa, I had the opportunity to take a trip south to the Omo Valley with my team. We flew from Addis Ababa into Arba Minch (which is Amharic for 40 Springs) and stayed at the beautifully rustic Paradise Lodge, which boasts an incredible view of The Bridge of God – this is the land bridge that divides Lake Abaya and Lake Chamo, the home of Nechisar National Park.
After spending a day relaxing at Paradise Lodge, we left before sunrise the following morning for a long drive into the Omo Valley. This was an incredible trip and my first this far south in the Ethiopian countryside. During the drive, small children dance for the cars that pass along the road – in exchange for the entertainment they ask only for a small gift of any empty plastic bottles, which is a valued form of currency. Empty water bottles, given primarily by travelers in this region, are sold during market days so that locals can transport water from the source back to their villages.
During the drive south, we often found our vehicle surrounded by herds of animals walking slowly between villages. As I love animals, this was a particular treat for me!
We stopped for food in Konso, a small town at the entrance to the Omo Valley. During meals, Ethiopians will give a “gorsha” to show friendship and love. A gorsha is when one person feeds another person with their hand, and I have heard various meanings associated with the number of gorshas given: it is generally signified that one gorsha is for friends, two gorshas are for family and three gorshas are for lovers. Haile, our guide in Southern Ethiopia, told me that gorshas given to women are traditionally 1/3 the size of those given to men… He had obviously never seen me eat before.
While in Jinka, Haile invited us to his family’s house for a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony…
Up next: photos from Market Day in Jinka and our morning with the crocodiles and hippos!