Paradise

November 21, 2013 - London, United Kingdom

We flew the dust cloud of addis first thing on Monday morning luckily just as the water crises was setting in at the hostel. Hoping for a low profile ride over to Debir Zeit, Mezid calls me to the front of the van.

Ethiopias staple -Injera the fowl grey, cold, floppy, flannel pancake comes with every meal. Teff, the grain responsible for this meal ruiner lines the roads and plains out of Addis. It is custom to eat with your RIGHT hand, struggling to understand the selection of a staple with both an awful taste and texture. A suggestion that perhaps it's chosen for purely practical reasons, the flexibility of the pancake with the air-pocketed grip on the underside, makes it a good vehicle for food delivery.

Whatever the reason for this, my preference is for food to arrive with a neutral or positive taste impact -hands or forks do fine.

The strong presence of Chinese heavy infrastructure was also apparent on the road. Pavements- when present use the same Chinese slabs. Huge closed compounds stretching for kilometres of Chinese lockups make their presence on the landscape.

Mezid calls a street seller to our window mid motorway, already three cars from the hard shoulder this doesn't seem to bother either the seller or any other traffic. He purchases some wilted branches and distributes them. Unsure what to do we rely on the Gill to investigate. Encouraged by Mezid, the small green pods reveal black chickpea like seeds. Following the review: 'like an uncooked bean that needs to be cooked.' Emma takes pity on roadside donkeys, not a bad course of action given Ethiopia has the world's second largest donkey population, with the average donkey lifespan of 45yrs they are only expected 11years here. This typical underfed animal doesn't even move for the bean- a clear sign. I stick to Matt's chocolate.

After the doctors are roped into diagnosing Mezid's dodgy leg and reciting the Truro pantomime, as the lead, struggles with the opener of act 1 scene1. I can feel my foot burning and I pray for arrival.

 

Our lodge has a small, dark entrance from the road, striking you with an eruption of colour and space as you pass into the back garden. Finding the lodge suspended over a stunningly fertile oasis like lake, backed by a typical dry African plain and mountain. Tortoises roam in the garden and bird life from kingfishers and knob billed ducks to kites and eagles soar overhead.

Steep steps take us to our stilted, treetop huts with panoramic views over the lake. Ten minutes separate our arrival and the release of the canoes onto the water. In fear of local Somalians sailing in for our recently deposited cargo we sent our most elite, leaky, paddle boat back to patrol. Tom selflessly sacrificed his swim for binoculars and a beer on the hut veranda, leaving me to capsize the others.

Adding to the romanticism as dusk closes in, hundreds of birds fly in to roost on the shores of the lakes. As they perch I can't resist putting my single pike to bomb into practise. As I alarm the birds they flee the trees and dramatically circle the lake- quite a sight.

 

The next few days are spent sleeping, swimming, cycling and bird guessing.  I am punished for my mischievous behaviour being immobilised for a day (allowing yhe others a true respite) presumably by something I ate. I do manage a trip to the local market. A chaotic affair, with a limited number of products and a huge number of stalls. Summarising the efficiency of our two hours the sum purchases were 2nr pairs of shoes made from tyres, 3bags of chillies, a bag of unroasted (useless) coffee beans, 1 tomato and an obscenely expensive (£5) scarf. Of most interest to me were the binbags sold by packs of small kids, aptly branded with Oxford University and others with Man United -these kids have life understood. Of most interest to the kids was Matt's five dollar Casio watch held together with two safety pins, given the value of phones and wallets we were holding I like them yet more.

A lake was found on our first run, decided this must be circumnavigated, it took four attempts and this cubed number of scratches before it was achieved by three of our party.

 

Understanding that its my role in the group to deliver the bad news or barter hard, however on departing I feel slightly guilty in uniformly applying my brutally skeptical mindset. Although it serves 99% of the time, it appears we may have just met a genuinely nice (or foolish- as he struggles to remember the total of our bill) bloke. A stunning place, amazing food and brilliant people it is a true rare gem.


2 Comments

tim johnston:
November 21, 2013
So what's the actual name of the paradise? Or are you keeping it to yourself?

If you remember sucking on your face-flannel in the bath when you were a kid, you should enjoy injera...
Stella Bandu:
November 22, 2013
Another excellent read
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