A day out of Addis – Bishoftu and the crater lakes

I’ve had a busy week, what with being dressed up as a Tigrayan shepherd, seeing a leopard, and making some good progress on various things that I am working on (I am actually working, it’s just that I’ve decided that it’s best not to go on about that on this blog – suffice to say, major steps have been taken in ensuring that Ethiopia continues its democratising journey and that UK aid is spent effectively. Ahem). So, today I had planned a day out of Addis, to Bishoftu and the Crater Lakes.

Gari - Horse Drawn taxi, Debre Zeit/Bishoftu

Shimeles picked me up at 8.30 for the drive to Bishoftu. Debre Zeit is the Amharic name, but as the place is in Oromia (a different region of Ethiopia, where the Oromo people tend to live – Ethnic Federalism, ask me another time) it makes more sense to use the name of the place in Oromifa – the local language – Bishoftu.

We drove through Addis, along the ring road, and then picked up what still gets called the Debre Zeit road. This road is the road from Addis to all destinations south (Awassa and Kenya) and east (Harar, Djibouti, Somalia). So, it’s a very busy road, full of lorries bringing construction materials and food aid from Djibouti into Ethiopia. There is a railway track from Addis to Djibouti but it doesn’t work, or at least doesn’t work for much of it; reports are mixed, which is putting me off doing a Paul Theroux.

Close to the road there are quite a lot of factories – building materials, metalworks, a garment factory – and, on and off, settlements with lots of shops and cheap hotels. Shimeles commented that one of them – Dukul I think – is a popular hangout for truckers, with ready supplies of raw meat and other questionable pleasures. We didn’t stop there.

It took us about an hour. We turned off the main road at Bishoftu and went first to the Airforce Officers’ Club at Shimeles recommendation for a drink. We then left the car there, having agreed a payment to circumvent the fact that the rules said we couldn’t, and set off on foot. First we had a look at lake Hora. There is a big new resort planned here – owned by the bloke who owns the Sheraton in Addis and much else in Ethiopia – but progress is slow. There were some lads doing their washing, quite a lot of exotic birds (a purple kingfisher type bird, a yellow weaver bird, a pelican, little red birds) and a couple of boats. The lake was pretty and if I have more time sometime I might walk round the rim of the crater.

We then carried on walking north around the lake and rejoined the secondary road. It was good to walk as it meant I got to see more. Lots of donkeys carrying heavy loads, cows scratching themselves, goats being whipped. Small shops. Smaller houses which the word shacks would flatter. The road was not tarmac so it was very dusty and it was getting hot, but we kept going. I was keen to see another lake. We didn’t quite make it to Bishoftu Guda but we did make it to Kuriftu, where there is a posh hotel on the slopes leading down to the lake. We had a quick look round and I pondered whether DFID might agree to put me up there rather than at the Hilton in Addis!

On the way to Kuriftu resort there was a small hut with a big cross on the top of it and a man collecting money for the church. I gave him some money, but then when I asked whether I could take his photo he brandished a cross almost as big as the one on the hut at me and hid behind his parasol. I took that as a no, having not previously been made to feel like a character from the Omen.

We were going to get a horse-drawn taxi (a gari) back to the car, but it was getting very hot so we bundled into a tuk-tuk. Back at the AirForce Club, we paid the agreed fee and then headed back to Addis, stopping first to have a quick look at what I guess was a goat market. I was glad to have Shimeles driving as there were some pretty risky over-taking manoeuvres being undertaken by some of the other drivers!

More photos here

Wobbly films here

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