Lockdown Reflections 4 – Rift Valley Lakes, Ethiopia

Lockdown Reflections 4 – Rift Valley Lakes, Ethiopia

Hippo in Lake Chamo

Lake Chamo

South of Addis Ababa, running down from Ethiopia’s central plateau is the Rift Valley

Near the city of Arba Minch is Lake Chamo the last of 8 lakes in the Rift Valley running south from Addis Ababa.

From points in Abar Minch you can look over Lake Chamo and Lake Abaya

Abar Minch is a great stepping off point to explore the tribal south of Ethiopia and the Bale mountains.

But a boat ride on Lake Chamo is a must before heading south.

To see the Nile Crocodile nursery

To see the African Pelicans. These birds migrate up into the Danube Delta in Romania for the European summer (see Danube Delta blog under Romania in the menu).

See the fishermen casting for Nile Perch just around the corner from the crocodile nursery

Till the sun starts to set on the beautiful lake.

Lake Awasa

Awassa and its lake are approximately 290 km south of Addis Ababa and a well serviced tourist destination.

At a bit over 1,700 meters above sea level Awasa retains the mild temperatures that are a feature of Ethiopia’s Central Plateau.

The colourful fishing boats and fish market is an attraction of Lake Awasa

As is the wild life in particular the Marabou Stalk, particularly in and around the fish market (see above)

But also:

Sea Eagles

King Fishers large and small,

Jacana and

Colobus monkeys on the lake shoreline.

The area around Awasa is very productive

With abundant fresh fruits

And lots of coffee being grown dried and sorted in the region.

Because Ethiopia is the home of coffee.

The Awasa Valley is also where Lucy the skeletal remains of a 3.2 million year old hominin were found.

The reconstructed skeleton of Lucy is on display in the National Museum of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia is an amazing country. One of a handful of countries never to be colonised by a European power. (Though there has been significant European presence and influence).

Unfortunately political tensions have again arisen which hopefully be resolved.

I leave my lockdown reflections of Ethiopia now.

Next reflections in Africa will be in Kenya and the amazing wildlife there.

For those wanting to find out more about Ethiopia I recommend the above book amazing research text and images.

Lockdown Reflections 3 – Ethiopia’s Tribal South

Lockdown Reflections 3 – Ethiopia’s Tribal South

The Omo River valley is the centre of the tribal area of Ethiopia

The south east of Ethiopia near where the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan meet is home to a group of mainly nomadic tribes

It is largely a very traditional part of Ethiopia with numerous tribes, mainly nomadic, living in the highlands and valleys surrounding the Omo River

If visiting the part of the Ethiopia the South Omo Research Centre Museum, Which is a German/Ethiopian collaboration provides awonderful introduction to the tribes and their cultures in the Region

Outside the museum

Not far from Jinka along one of the dirt roads that connect villages

Roads which the walking paths through the landscape

Is the small market village of K’ey Afer which on market day is abuzz with colour and activity

Selling spices and earthenware

And cattle and sheep

K’ey Afer is n the Hamar tribal area

Each tribe is distinctive in clothing hairstyle and custom. Some tribes are less welcoming to tourists that others.

Like all traditional cultures though there is a challenge to of maintaining custom in the face of western society encroachment

Up in the mountains

Is the land of the Mursi, a warrior tribe and visiting without prior approval is not advised

The Omo River winds its south toward Lake Turkana which is the largest permanent desert lake and largest alkaline lake in the world.

This southern part of Ethiopia is very hot, dry and dusty a significant contrast to the cool moistness of the central plateau.

This is Dassanetch country and these nomadic herders land has traditionally spanned the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan

The simple housing reflective of the nomadic existence of the Dassanetch

There are over a dozen tribes in the South Omo Zone

Others include the Borani, Banna Surmu and others

All culturally and physical distinctive in their own ways.

It is nearly 13 years since visiting this part of Ethiopia and even then the tribal life here was under threat. – Like traditional life in all continents.

Since this time the Omo River has been dammed and resettlement from the more populous parts of Ethiopia into this Zone has accelerated.

All this presents a survival challenge for these traditional tribes , their culture and way of life

Sailing Ships upon the Sea

Sailing Ships upon the Sea

1988 Hobart to Sydney Tall Ship Race

There is a certain romanticism of billowing sails carrying great ships across the sea

Distant shores unexplored

Harnessing the power of the wind

The power to cross vast oceans

The clouds of billowing sails

Masts reaching for the sky.

Ships from all parts of the world

Oman and the exotic east

The new world of the Americas

The old continents of Europe and Africa

These sailing giants covered the globe

As a young man I read and read Joseph Conrad and dreamt of the sea

My mind full of imaginary adventures in distant and exotic ports

The exotic ports of the trade winds in Lord Jim

The loneliness of being at sea and the weight of command in The Secret Sharer

The power of the weather and the sea in Typhoon

To be amongst the tall ships and the sailing tales of the crew

To sail away

Tech Note

These images were captured during the 1988 Hobart to Sydney Tall Ship Race on colour transparencies. I have rephotographed these with my digital camera using an Emora slide copier extension tube attached to the my camera lens.

Lockdown Reflections 2 – The Historic North of Ethiopia

Lockdown Reflections 2 – The Historic North of Ethiopia

Traditional Amhara music on the shores of Lake Tana, Bahir Dar

The capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa sits pretty much in the centre of Ethiopia.

Addis Ababa (New Flower in English) was created as the capital by King Menelik II, the creator of modern Ethiopia, in 1886

North of Addis Ababa to the Eritrean border and to the Danakil Depression is termed the Historical North

It is the area which has most interaction with European culture and hence a region that is significantly Christian with cities that formed as their capitals.

It is also where we find Aksum the centre of the Kingdom of Aksum with a history reaching back to 4 BC

Ethiopian history extends from the Iron Age to Rastafarianism and beyond to much for this blog but worth a exploration.

Aksum

The Stelae of Axum are monuments to past Kings of Aksum the largest and most impressive from the 3rd and 4th century AD.

Some of the simpler Stelae are older

A short drive from Aksum is Yeha

The Lion of Yeha providing an geological marker

The remains of the Temple of Yeha is Ethiopia’s oldest standing structure. Estimated to be built in 700 BC

In the nearby monastery there are relics from Pagan times reflecting times when The Ibex and the sun and moon were sacred

And beautifully illustrated Christian manuscripts

Lalibella

Lalibella is a medieval city famous for its rock hewn churches built around the 12th century by the then King Lalibella.

There are 11 rock hewn churches in Lalibella

The most famous of which is the Church of St George (below)

The churches are also noted for their rock star clergy

Aksum and Lallibella are considered the most holy sites in Ethiopia and both are UNESCO world heritage listed and as such are the highlights of the Historic North of Ethiopia

Gondar is the stepping off city to explore the Simien Mountains and has its own treasures – in churches

and in the Castle

Bahar Dar is rounds out the main stops in the Historic North

With the beautiful Lake Tana which is the source of the Blue Nile

These are reflections of years past travelling in my mind during the Covid -19 lockdown in Melbourne

Reflective travelling in my mind!

LOCKDOWN Melbourne, Australia -finding the place within.

LOCKDOWN Melbourne, Australia -finding the place within.

Jawbone marine reserve, Williamstown

In many ways a severe COVID-19 lockdown is about finding oneself

In ones own environ

Reconnecting and finding peace within

I grew up 5 or 6 km from where I live now

We were A Bunch of Ratbags

Back in the rough industrial suburb of Footscray 

And as a kid I ride my bicycle to the City of Williamstown

To look across at the City of Melbourne and dream.

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Walk along the old piers looking at the boats and dreaming of adventures in distant lands

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Now this area is my home and Im back from adventures in distant lands

And am again cycling by the waterside, sometimes dreaming and often appreciating the beauty of the place

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The mighty ships coming up the Yarra River to port the ever present reminder of modern industry

So different  to the time when the ball on the Time Ball Tower was raised and lowered so the waiting ships could set their chronometers.

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Riding along the trail over the weeks of the restrictions I see and experience the moods of the slowly changing hours, weeks and months

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Lost in the winter fogs

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Feeling stranded like the boat at low tide

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Rejoicing in the joy of a clear winters day the bear cloudless sky reflected in the still waters of the creek estuaries

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Clear but cold with the beach all but empty apart from some hardy souls walking on the sand or buying a hot coffee.

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Sometimes having to ride home hard in the cold chill of a waning day

The trail I ride is about 15km its like a meditation as my legs move to the rhythm of the trail.

The same trail but everyday different.

Lost in the place and its beauty.

Travel Vaccines and reflections of Africa – The Simien and Bale Mountains, Ethiopia

Travel Vaccines and reflections of Africa – The Simien and Bale Mountains, Ethiopia

 

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If you have travelled to Africa it is most likely you would have been required to have a yellow fever vaccination – still required in many countries

I got my Yellow Card, proof of vaccination 20 years ago on my first trip to the African Continent.

Being in the Melbourne, Australia COVID 19 lockdown it is a good chance to reflect on the need for vaccination and travel and the relationship between the two.

The Simien Mountains

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The Simien Mountains are a World Heritage alpine area in the North of Ethiopia

Its also called the water tower of East Africa providing the source for the Blue Nile

The Blue Nile provides 80% of the water that reaches Egypt, flowing through Sudan where it meets with the White Nile to form the Nile River

 

With peaks up to 4,550 metres within the vast sprawling alpine range

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A range of deep gorges, rugged peaks and waterfalls plummeting thousands of metres

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The Simiens have unique flora and fauna

Such as the Giant Lobelia

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The endemic Gelada (or bleeding heart baboon) and Olive baboons

And if you look closely a Walia Ibex

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It was a three night trek through the Simiens

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Camping in the Alps

Amazing sunsets and the high plateau

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And watching the moon rise over the cliff tops from the gorges

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The Bale Mountains

The Simien Mountains are in the North East of Ethiopia and the Bale Mountains in the South East

Almost bookends at each end of the Ethiopian Central Highlands

The Simiens in the Amhara Region and the Bale in the Oromia Region

The Bale Mountains are drier less dramatic that the northern bookend

These mountains are the catchment for the Jubba River system

Which flows across Ethiopia and Somalia to the Indian Ocean

The Bale Mountains are more easily accessed than the Simiens

Far better for catching sightings of the Ethiopian Wolf

And the amazing bird life

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Also In the Bale Provence toward the Somalian Border is are the Sof Omar Caves

Its well over a decade since I travelled in these mountains with my family.

And yes a vaccine for Yellow Fever was compulsory

Maybe compulsory vaccinations will be more widespread for travellers in the future given COVID-19

Not Travelling in the time of Coronavirus- Melbourne lock down clips my wings

Not Travelling in the time of Coronavirus- Melbourne lock down clips my wings

The second Melbourne, Australia lock down has just been implemented

After being in and out of lock downs in Spain and England and quarantine in a Melbourne Hotel, this second lockdown in Melbourne has finally anchored me.

 

Famous landmarks of the usually bustling city cast with an almost ghostly quietness

Even the usually bustling Victoria Market with its colourful displays of produce, like the life has been sucked out of its ancient stalls and sheds

 

No queuing four deep at my favourite stall

Chance meeting with someone I hadn’t seen for a while

Little is left to chance in the time of coronavirus

At the eastern end of the city

The Monuments, the Shrine of Remembrance  and the Old Observatory along with Gardens and the floral clock stand alone

 

In the lanes and alleyways of the inner city

Usually vibrant

The graffiti almost mocks the quiet desolation

 

The next 6 weeks (the length of this lockdown) will be a time and thought of what has been and what will be.

Something different to share over the coming weeks.

The Mighty Breva meets the Mighty Murray in North East Victoria

The Mighty Breva meets the Mighty Murray in North East Victoria

I had approached the Upper Murray from the long way around

Starting from Yarram in South Gippsland

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A small town famous for its street murals.

Its winter and the high roads over Mt Hotham and Falls Creek are closed so it was the low road

Bruthen to eskdale

A pearler of a ride from Bruthen north to the little Village of Eskdale 223 km of curves and into the Upper Murray Region.

Has to be the greatest unrecognised rides in the world.

It was damp cold and at a pass through the Alpine National Park it was 1c and my mind turned to thoughts of black ice on the road.

A cabin waited for me at the Eskdale Caravan Park

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Welcome refuge after a long wet ride

A good night sleep and onto my next destination

The Great River Road starts at the bridge that connects Victoria and NSW at Hume Weir and follows the winding course of the Murray upstream to Khancoban at the base of the Kosciusko National Park.

The Road is around 180km of scenic windy road along the Murray River.

The views of the Murray are special especially if you take a bit of time and pull off into some of the river side reserves and camp grounds.

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The weather was cold but clear and not too bad for riding if you have the right gear.

But the joy of winter camping is campfires

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As the Great River Road is developed as a tourist road the is are well layed out scenic  stops with interpretation on the river and pieces of sculpture

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The camp facilities along the road are great quality. Especially at  Walwa where you can camp with great facilities and a campfire right on the banks of the river.

The road finishes at Lake Khancoban in NSW

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The scars of the recent bushfires are there, both on the landscape and in the stories of the locals

But the land and the people are resilient and signs of renewal abound

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And of course there is something  very special about a winter sunset inland

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Maldon in the Central Goldfields of Victoria, Australia

Maldon in the Central Goldfields of Victoria, Australia

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In many ways Maldon is the little town that stood still

Built in the 1860’s during the height of the Victorian Gold Rush

It remains largely unchanged

 

There is a lovely 2 hour ride to Maldon through the Central Highlands of Victoria

Past the farming and old logging towns of Greendale and Trentham

To the Spa centres of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs

The Hepburn – Newstead road is a little ripper

From Newstead perched on the Loddon River its a gentle curves and sweepers through scrubby bush to Maldon

And its Gold mining history of diggings and old gold processing building ruins

 

And like all good old country towns there is the little quirk

The little Triumph motorcycle shop.

Looking as old as the town and the Triumph Motorcycle itself

Not surprising as Maldon host the a major highlight of the annual All British Motorcycle rally

The ride from the Newstead Racecourse camp ground to Maldon

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One of my most memorable visits to Maldon was to see a round of the 2013 World Motorcycle Trials World Championships

Held on a specially designed course on the side of Mount Tarrengower

Which provides a beautiful view over Maldon

What a beautiful ride on a crisp winters day!

Travelling in the Time of Coronavirus-Quarantined week 2

Travelling in the Time of Coronavirus-Quarantined week 2

The Mighty Breva remain under the cover, apart from the occaisional shopping trip.

Week 2 of quarantine and its a time of discoveries and little pleasures.

It’s a time self contemplation.

A discovery:

A beautiful beer with a quirky connection.

To quote: This premium strength beer from Rother Valley Brewing Company commemorates the notorious gang of smugglers know as The Blues, who defied the Revenue through out Kent and Sussex for over 50years until their capture and transportation to Australia.

My great grandfather was a rustler not a smuggler and was transported to Australia during the Irish famine.

It’s seems an appropriate drink to have with a healthy home cooked meal

The little pleasures:

The small hardy plants of the salt marsh slowly bursting into life and the days ever so slowly grow longer and warmer.

A bit of self discovery:

Quarantine is a little bit like the kestral hovering, seemingly suspended in space and time. But there is a focus and a purpose.