This will be short despite the massive amount of information that I need and want to convey. I will start by saying that I am back in Addis for a few days now and it's just as cold and rainy as it was before we left for the field, if not more so. The field was hot and sunny most of the time..."tinnish zenab" (a little rain). I did get some color, but not on my legs because I always had to wear long pants when we went out for the day. It's very bushy...not exactly the desert. Very different from Koobi Fora and Lake Turkana, but beautiful and wondrous in its own way. I'm kind of rambling here, so let me back track for a minute...
It was supposed to take us two days to get to our base camp near the Bala River in Southern Ethiopia. The nearest town is called Weyto...it's kind of a truck stop of sorts. It actually took us four days to get to our base camp because of "bezu chiggers" (many problems). (My Amharic is waaaaay better than my Swahili ever was. But I am still very much a newbie.)
We had all kinds of car troubles. Mostly because one of the cars that we drove (the one I was in with the rest of the faranjis...that's foreigners) was new to its owner (Mesfin...our main mechanic guy and all around Mr-fix-it and great guy). The car is actually several years old, but he'd only owned it for about a month. So little did he know that the rack sucked and that the alternator didn't really work...etc. Needless to say we had things fixed on the road. We stayed in the town of Arba Minch for this purpose. And we were fortunate enough to stay at a swanky hotel called the Swaynes. It overlooks Nechisar Nat'l Park and is at around 1500 meters or so. Lower than Addis, but pretty high. Gorgeous place. Our cook, Achamo, is a cook for a tourist company called Greenland and they own this hotel, so we got a discount. Such a great place.
Anyway, we eventually made it down to Weyto and then got on the "road" to our base camp. Ideally this would take an hour to drive, but it is not a road that is driven much and there had been a lot of rain over past year, so the road was filled with problems. We had to stop several times. Oh...just one more bit of info: the other car (also Mesfin's) was hauling a trailer...it had a bunch of water in it and weighed a couple of tons. Needless to say the trailer was the main obstacle on this road. We ended up having to drive in the dark and at one point, around 8:30pm or so, the trailer finally had had enough and tipped over....like totally...on its side. Sadly, I didn't take a picture. I do regret this. Amazingly, most of our water survived. So long story short, we had to camp out right there by the "road", under the stars, and deal with the trailer and stuff in the morning.
Once we got moving again in the morning we found that we were about 15 minutes away from our base camp. Kind of funny. So we got all set up. Erella and I built the shower (a tarp tied to a tree...we had sun showers) and put up the tents while Elizabeth, Mesfin, Rene, and Ambachew (Ministry of Culture and Tourism Rep) went to Jinka, a town about 3 1/2 hours away, to get yet another letter of permission so we could work in the area. The bureaucracy with the letters is insane. We had to get a letter in Addis, then take that to Awasa on the way down, get a letter in Awasa, then take the Awasa letter to Jinka to get another one...or something crazy like that.
Anyway...we did eventually get to work. And I will continue there next time. I need to let Elizabeth have her computer back now.
Oh...it's Monday evening and I leave on Thursday at 3:25am...yikes. I may email again from here. If not, then I will write from France.
Wow...I'll be in France in like 5 days! Crazy.