Unintentionally, for my 1 year anniversary (in Ethiopia), I spent 2 weekends ago in Awash National Park. Located 3-4 hours south of Addis, I was so relieved to finally enjoy some quality time with good friends, out of the city, and most importantly, away from the damp and gloomy weather of the Capital.
It was great to be in a hot climate again. I think my body nearly had forgotten how spectacular the roasting sun was for my flea bites….and for my sanity. The Ethiopian saying, “13 Months of Sunshine” is true after all, despite the depressing rain of Addis, no one said the saying actually included Addis.
As expected, we saw various endemic bird species and animals roaming in the wild: Antelope, Oryx, Baboon, Wild Boar, Fox, and Hyena etc. The 2m high termite mounds were a common sight and their enormous sizes were just unbelievably massive. Signs of the remnants of a shortened wet season were visible with scattered yellow wild flowers peeking through the dry and dusty earth. In areas where rain was abundant, never-ending fields of tall wild grass swayed effortlessly with the occasional gust of wind. The grass flickered in the sun like gold, and was the perfect backdrop to lush green mountains. The color contrast was spectacular. The beauty of our surroundings was just overwhelmingly breathtaking. Even a talker like me, spent most of my time with my mouth shut to take in every detail possible.
We finished off the day with a visit to the 110m waterfall. The notorious waterfall gushed with such power that our ears were deafened by the strength of the current. With no fences or railings to prevent us from falling into the water, we descended to the rocky cliff edge for a better view, where we were literally centimeters away from slipping into the current. It was incredible. With our close proximity, even for me, a seasonal visitor of Niagara Falls, I was amazed.
As suggested, we spent the other half of our short vacation in search of a natural Hot Spring in the Park. To be honest, I was skeptical of how “amazing” the Springs would be. The last natural spring pool I visited was quite disappointing (Ambo), small in size and more or less converted into a public swimming pool. So this time around, as we drove on unpaved gravel roads and mud pits through the Park for more than 1.5 hours, I secretly doubted what, if anything spectacular laid ahead.
The mandatory Park Rangers, with their AK47s, accompanied us for security reasons. The local Afar People have been known to be quite demanding and unwelcoming with their machetes and guns when threatened. So, when the Rangers suggested for us to park our vehicle while members of the local tribe approached us, believe me when I say I felt a little bit “uneasy”.
In such a dry region, no one would imagine seeing a huge swamp with Palm Trees springing up from the earth. After hiking for about 400m into what seemed like the thick tropical forests of the Amazon, small pools of bubbling water gave us a taste of what laid ahead. Struggling to cross fallen Palm Trees bridging a steaming stream, the amused Afari men would lend a helping hand here and there. Drenched in our own sweat from the 35 degree midday heat, the idea of dipping into this illusive Hot Spring cooled me down. When the Rangers told us we had arrived, I struggled to see what we were looking at. As I slowly brushed away a dangling green palm leaf, I found myself overlooking an emerald and turquoise blue pool of crystal clear water sheltered from the strong sun by the tall Palm Trees. The 10 square meter pool was small in size but to me, seemed like a majestic treasure of nature. This was like an episode out of Gilligan’s Island! Who would’ve thought a 45 degree Hot Spring existed in Ethiopia? Anyhow, the water was great…but super hot! It probably wasn’t the smartest idea to take a long dip in the pool. We were exhausted from the heat already, and now we were diving into a pool hot enough to cook eggs. Stupid Ferenjis aka Foreigners. After a couple of minutes, we climbed out with our heads throbbing, dying of thirst, dizzy and faces as red as lobsters. We were completed exhausted for many hours later.
It was an amazing weekend. Short but straight to the point…getting reacquainted with Ethiopia’s beauty. So often do I feel tired of Ethiopia because of daily annoyances from the big city. It all gets too tiring and before you know it, you’re so drained that you make false generalizations of the entire country – which is completely irrational. By no means is Addis representative of Ethiopia, so it’s always great to get reminded of what Ethiopia has to offer, and perhaps what was the point of staying in this country in the first place.
I’m grateful for the timely reminder, but I think for me, hitting the 1 year mark, has been a difficult time. Perhaps you’re reading this and thinking what the hell is wrong with me, but when a positive person like me gets bogged down by negativity, every day becomes a huge challenge. You can choose to feel like a victim of poor judgment or as an adventurer taking in every experience as a lesson from God.
I choose the latter.