I can’t believe that I have already been in Ethiopia for 3 months! I arrived in early July, three bags full of cheese and chocolates (and some other necessities) that are already finished and have settled into Addis Ababa (the capital) for the time being. All that is rather boring though and I would much rather post about an amazing trip that I did driving from Addis Ababa to Awash National Park and Harar, in the Eastern Edge of the country during the Ethiopian New Year Long weekend.
I had been obsessing about going to Harar for some time and the long weekend seemed like a great opportunity. We heard from a friend that the drive itself was beautiful so Ryan and I hired a vehicle and a driver to take us and two teacher friends along. There were some problems- mainly that the driver didn’t want to miss Ethiopian New Year so we all spent some time debating whether we should try to find someone else, to go somewhere else completely or take public transit. In the end, we had one driver take us to Awash on Thursday and my regular driving come back and take us up from Harar to Awash on Friday an then to drive back on Sunday.
I’m not going to lie- it was long and tiring. We had rain on our way up from Awash to Harar and it just seemed like it was taking forever. I’m still glad that I did it though! The landscape changed from Addis’ highland plains to the lowlands plains of Awash and the Afar Region and then back up through hills carved out by maize and millet fields that reminded me acutely of Rwanda.
In terms of time, it takes 4-5 hours from Addis to Awash National Park and another 6-7 hours to Harar. On our way back on Sunday, we did 10 hours in the car with only 2 breaks. It was pretty intense and we were glad to get home. Would I do this again? Probably not on such a short long weekend. But if it’s the only time you have, I would really suggest doing the drive and flying back (or vice versa). I’m a real believer in getting a feel of the land and landscape patterns of a country and just flying into Dire Dawa and driving to Harar (35 mins) just isn’t the same. Also, you know all that jazz about “it’s about the journey not the destination”.
We arrived at Awash Lodge midday and went for a little stroll around. It was a huge temperature difference from Addis and much drier! We had rented a small house and it was great as it had a small balcony overlooking the river and the falls in the distance. We spotted a few crocodiles on the edge of the river almost right away. Unfortunately, I still had a little bit of work to finish so I stayed on the balcony while the others went on a exploratory walk. After some time, I did go to look for them but encountered a large pack of baboons at which point I slowly retreated and went back. I don’t really fancy personal up close baboon encounters on my own!
Awash Lodge is located within the Awash National Park, one of Ethiopia’s many, although this one has been hit particularly hard by immigration of Afar populations and migrants for the local sugar plantation. The landscape was very dry and desert-y with many prickly bushes. There is a large population of homodryous baboons in the area which are often in conflict with the Afar people that live here. An interesting story on human-wildlife interactions that was covered by the BBC.
We just hung out at the lodge and had a lovely supper by the fire. The next day, since the driver wasn’t coming back to pick us up before midday, we went for a walk down the trail following the river bank. We decided to be brave and then came back through the bush following a little bit of an overgrown trail. It was about an hour and a half walk and I thoroughly enjoyed it (although it would have been a good idea to bring some water along). After a quick shower and lunch, our driver was there to pick us up and we were on our way for the second part of our adventure.