Salambo discovering Ethiopia
Addis is quite an hectic and polluted city with its old diesel trucks and 1970s cars. Going through the week can be at times stressful and tiresome, with many hours spent driving back and forth or getting stuck in unpredictable traffic jams. So at weekends, we long to get out of the city for a bit of fresh air, peace and silence. The Entoto hills just north of Addis is one of the better known destinations for a day out. That’s where residents of Addis tend to escape to. Going a bit further north, the vastness of the high plateau opens up. This is the place where amateur or confirmed riders go to freely canter in the fields, crossing streams along the way, riding through eucalyptus woods and filling their eyes with the special beauty of this unconfined scenery.
Ethiopia has always had a love affair with horses. Not only horses are an historical means of transport (still used today in the rural highlands), they are a matter of pride for local inhabitants. Their horses are dressed beautifully with fine leather saddles, shiny briddle and colourful embroidered blankets. The Abyssinian horse, well known in expert circles for its polo playing abilities, originated in Ethiopia. In the Ethiopian highlands, horse riding is more than a sport or a hobby, it is a way of life. Furthermore, it was recently found that in the Kundido Mountain, near the Eastern city of Harar, one the last herds of wild horses in the country is still wandering freely.
On our day out, we went to a relatively well known stable run by Yves, a British national, and his Ethiopian family. The stable is located about 45 minutes north of Addis, off the main road leading to Bahir Dar in the Amhara region. The countryside there is made of vast semi-arid open areas interspersed with dense eucalyptus woods, so a great spot for a day out in the wilderness. What struck me though was the lack of scents and fragrance. This was not the first time I noticed it in Ethiopia; I felt the same in the wild Wenchi crater and around Lake Langano. Everytime we go out of the city, I am looking for that distinctive smell that will remind me of Ethiopia, and I can’t find it. I like the specific scent of a place, like the damp earthy smell of a northern forest or the rich flowery fragrance of the Mediterranean countryside. I haven’t come across a specific smell in the Ethiopian countryside and I miss it. Instead, to my great surprise we came across a wild hyena towards the end of the afternoon. She was roaming around the grounds of the stable, probably looking for food for her newly born offsprings. Hyenas usually come out at dusk, so it was even more unexpected.