Sunday, August 1, 2010

Hippo Hunt

Dave, Jochen and I went for a walk to Lake Boye about 4 km outside of Jimma. On the way there we saw all sorts of things, feral horses in Eucalyptus forests, locals selling fruit, GIANT spiders, and huge trucks filled with coffee enroute to Addis Ababa.

When we arrived at the lake, which was really more of a swamp/marsh then anything thing else we were greeted by two black crowned cranes (which are the National bird of Uganda, as well as a threatened species) flying overhead. The sound of frogs came from everywhere and the sky was blue with a few puffy clouds floating around.

As we began to walk around the swamp, we noticed lots of fly catchers who had built their dangling nests in the trees surrounding the swamp. Many parts of the swamp are used for agricultural purposes in the dry season, but now are covered with two-three feet of water judging by the stalks of maize.

Coming up the embankment of the hill, we ran into a young boy who had been fishing with a simple line and hook. He had about seven or eight tilapia or maybe a type of perch on a gill-stick. One of them was missing his eye, I hoped (ludicrously) to myself that it was from a close encounter with a hippo.

We came across a few locals, who warned us of the rain. The clouds has started coming in, but we kept walking. We saw a few blue winged geese and heard lots of other birds but couldn't see any. As we approached a tiny bridge, we said "Hello" to three little children eating sugarcane under an umbrella. I took their photo and they giggled like mad, I wonder if it was the first time they had ever had their photo taken?

The rain came lightly at first, then just poured. We had nowhere to go, but we had our rain jackets. We popped them on and kept walking. The ground was slick, and it was hard to stand up. The rain was so hard, it was tough to see in front of you. It reminded me of the Vietnam war scene from Forrest Gump where 'rain seemed to come from straight up'. After about five minutes we decided to head back towards the road. Walking by a small concrete house, a man invited us in. We sat on long wooden benches, and they poured us some hot chai from a blue thermos.

After about ten minutes we continued on our way around the swamp, accompanied by one of the little boys (perhaps about eight) from the house we stopped at. We walked with him for a few minutes, and we spotted the Black Crowned Crane we had seen earlier. So we crept up closer to get a decent photo, but it flew away. I spotted a few small frogs about the size of pennies in the grass, and upon closer investigation the tiniest frogs I have ever seen, which were smaller than a tic-tac.

We continued around through the muck, slipping and sliding on every second or third step. The clouds and the sky were perfect again, and the swamp had swelled. There were no hippos to be seen unfortunately. We walked up another steep embankment between fields of maize, and cassava. We reached the end of the path, ending up in the lawn of a small farm house.

We walked back down the enbankment and through the dyke-system back towards the road. Just as we were coming back we spotted a pied kingfisher flying close to the water before perching on a telephone line. Then just as we were leaving we saw something I had been looking for ever since arriving to Ethiopia. A snake! The snake was luminescent green against the brown water, and was approximately 20 cm in length. Unfortunately it was in the beak of an abyssinian roller and had disappeared before anyone had time to react.

We started the walk back on the road, and stopped a few times to take photos of locals who greeted us congenially. At one point a 'pack' of about a dozen kids came flying around the corner at breakneck speed kicking around a homemade rugby ball. They stopped to ask us our name before running away down the grassy shoulder of the road. Then all of a sudden, one of the kids who had been happily playing through an axe (yes, he had a real axe) at his friends. They must have been about 8 meters away, and he threw it hard. It landed about 30 cm away from one of the kids' leg, it would have definitely left a mark. Dave, Jochen and I were speechless. The kids didn't even realize how dangerous it was, I said to one of them "Ydellum. Dangerous" there's no way they understood me. Then they wanted their photo taken, which I did (still a little shaken up)

Anyway, that was my crazy Saturday. I hope you enjoy the photos.

Ciao,

PM

PS: Still on the lookout for a hippo












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