Selamta Magazine‘s editor and author Aida Edemariam takes a family road trip from Addis Ababa to Hawassa, discovering nature, wildlife and history along the way.
Watermelons! Watermelons! Watermelons!” We are on the road to Bishoftu, just before Christmas, which is also, it seems, watermelon season: great mountains of striped green globes are piled onto straw mats every few kilometres along the road. Finally, we have to stop and get a few, and they roll around the floor of the car, cool despite the increasing heat.
There are all sorts of trips one can take when visiting Ethiopia, and more appear all the time – community treks in the Simien mountains; foodie’s tours of Addis; the historic route, of course (Axum, Lalibela, Gondar), to which there are myriad guides and tours – but if one is travelling with small children, especially children unfamiliar with Ethiopia, some of these experiences will go down better than others.
And this one, a guided tour of Rift Valley lakes, arranged by Ethiopian Holidays (the Rift itself, as our knowledgeable guide, Alene Mirayo, points out, begins much further north, at the Red Sea, and continues down into Kenya), is ticking lots of boxes. There’s all the fruit and vegetables – watermelons, of course, but also papaya, mango, bananas, sugar cane, fresh chickpeas to pick and pod — I had remembered how tasty these were, from my own childhood, so when Alene jumps out to ask a farmer if he has any, they’re picked straight out of the ground and handed over. Then there are the animals: zebu and sheep being driven to market, ragged lines of camels picking their way through the fields, patient donkeys, clattering, bouncing horse-drawn garris. And chickens, lots of chickens — piled in coops, hand-carried by small boys to market, or tied to the roofs of cars. Just outside Bishoftu, our calm driver, Mulugeta Demissie, stops at one of the many nurseries that front onto the main road. They’re packed with a vast variety of plants – everything from small succulents and lush flowering ground-cover to fan palms, bottle-brush, neem and flame trees. We buy a coffee tree, as a gift. (At Modjo, a small town not far away, there is an attraction for families). In the fields, more oxen are threshing the recent harvest, and crops of garlic, onions, kale, are dark green against the dry-season dust. We’ll leave the volcanic crater lakes of Bishoftu for another trip, another day.
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