Salambo discovering Ethiopia
When residents of Addis want to escape the city, they usually go to Lake Langano, one of a number of lakes in the so-called middle rift valley. Langano is particularly popular for being the only lake in Ethiopia where people can bathe, as it is free of the Bilharzia parasite. However, swimming in its brownish pink coloured water is surprising at first sight. The climate there is also milder than in Addis, and the temperature more constant throughout the day because of its lower altitude at 1,500 metres.
On our first break, we too went on the three and a half hour journey south to Langano, driving on the main road linking Addis to the Kenyan border. Just as expected the road was extremely busy, full of old trucks overtaking each other with great difficulty all the way to Debre Zeit, a busy agricultural town 50 kms south of Addis, known as the garden of the capital. Once past that town, it became slightly easier to drive, the main danger being the numerous herds of cows, donkeys and goats frequently crossing the road. This was the first time we drove without the help of a driver (we only recently got our European driving licence converted into an Ethiopian one), so it felt like going through a driving test again. What I personally find stressful is to have to pay a lot of attention to everything on the road and be alert all the time. Other drivers, pedestrians and horse carriages (a common feature on country roads) are extremely unpredictable, they stop and start as they feel like, not taking into account the other cars around.
Going to Langano, we drive down towards the lowlands gradually losing altitude. It is so slow that we do not feel the change; we only notice it by the different landscape and vegetation. Suddenly, the tall eucalyptus trees so abundant in Addis and around, are no longer there. Instead, we see acacia trees and cactus plants indicating the change to a dryer climate. I was surprised by how dry the area around the lakes was, especially as the rain season was just over. All we could see was burnt grass and acacia trees giving a bit of shade to the sparse rural dwellings, nothing else. Because of the presence of water, I was expecting lusher, almost sub-tropical vegetation. I really felt I was on a different continent.
To get near the lake, we had to turn off the main road and drive about 2 kms on a dry dirt track, crossing small hamlets and meeting many children along the way looking after their herd or trying to sell small handmade wooden objects such as little houses or cars. At the end of the path, we reached the lodge where we were staying for the weekend. The only way to get near the water is to access it from a lodge, which has its own private beach. The only other access point is where herders go to fetch water and get their cows to drink, so maybe not the best place to swim! Once in the lodge, we were in a protected oasis, free to comfortably admire the scenery and the stunning geography of the place. There, we met at least two families we knew from Addis, so it felt like a small world already just as much as a weekend escape! Just like in Addis, everything happens behind walls and guarded gates, something I still have to get used to. I nevertheless enjoyed discovering another part of Ethiopia.