Ethiopia (January 2017): Across northeastern Oromia, from Sheikh Hussein to Harar
2. Days 4 to 6: Adedenico (WP 4) to Bilika (WP 24)

 

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Maps:

 

- Between Sheikh Hussein and Harar.

- Between Adedenico and Bilika.

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Click here (.kmz file) to access the waypoints and the paths in Google Earth.

 

 

January 14: Adedenico (WP 4) to WP 12 (elevation: 1600m)

 

In the morning we followed the Wadi Shebelle downstream on its right bank. We passed by several Waradoube villages. Mid-day we forded the Wadi Shebelle (WP 7) and after lunch we climbed onto the plateau on the northern side of the Wadi Shebelle. We set our camp near a small pond (WP 12).

 

Photos taken near our WP 4 camp in the early morning.

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Mahmood (left) and Gebru (right) eating breakfast.

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Leaving our camp along the Wadi Shebelle toward the northeast (downstream).

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One of the bends of the Wadi Shebelle.

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Successive Waradoube villages along the river.

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Some Waradoube people encountered along the way.

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More views along the Wadi Shebelle.

 

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We eventually reached this village, where we forded the Wadi Shebelle.

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Fording the Wadi Shebelle (WP 7). The village chief (a strong man in his 40s) nicely helped me cross the river, while another man (with the white T-shirt in the two photos below) carried my backpack.

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Gebru reaching the left bank of the river.

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Immediately after crossing the river we stopped to eat lunch and drink tea, surrounded by most of the people from the village. Then we started our ascent to the plateau above the river. At that stage I did not realize that later I would deeply regret not having spent more time among the friendly Waradoube people. In retrospect, I think we should have continued following the Wadi Shebelle much further before heading toward the northeast in the direction of Harar. But I had no detailed map and I did not know what to expect in any direction. I had only my GPS to get a sense of direction.

 

Successive views during the ascent over:

- The Wadi Shebelle.

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- A side-canyon on the east of the ascent path.

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- The same side-canyon (looking toward the north).

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- The Wadi Shebelle again.

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- A tributary that flows into the Wadi Shebelle a short distance above the place (WP 7) where we had crossed the river.

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On the plateau large limestone slabs form a natural, but unusual avenue.

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Later the slabs become more rounded, with deeper trenches between them.

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View toward the south with the canyon of the Wadi Shebelle (and side canyons) visible in the background. The limestone slab ″avenue″ is also visible on the right of the photo.

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The trail below our camp.

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We set our camp (WP 12) near this pond, which was the only available water in the area.

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Aloe pirottae at our campsite.

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January 15: WP 12 to WP 19 (elevation: 1580m)

 

This day was much less exciting than the previous two. We stayed on the plateau, with only small ups and downs, and the scenery was rather monotonous. At the end of the day we set our camp (WP 19) near a small traditional Oromo village.

 

Our WP 12 camp was just below a small pass. Crossing this pass led us into a wide green valley. Obviously this side of the pass receives more water than its southern side.

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The main culture in the valley seemed to be chat. These are small chat plantations.

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Along the trail.

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Typical beehives hanged in a tree.

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Raptors.

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Looking back toward the south. The low point in the middle of the background is the pass above our WP 12 camp that we had crossed a couple of hours earlier.

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From there (roughly WP 14) the terrain got increasingly dryer.

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View toward the north from WP 15, not a very exciting one.

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Farms between WP‛s 15 and 18.

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Cactus pads are rich in nutrients and minerals. Camels like them.

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Oromo farmer trying to make sense of my presence.

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Termite mounds.

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Landscapes between WP‛s 15 and 18.

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The small village near which we set of camp (WP 19). The second photo below was taken on the following morning.

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Views around the village.

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Some people from the village. They were neither friendly, nor hostile. The faces express both curiosity and fear, wondering who I was and what I was doing here.

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Numan talking to a group of people. I guess he was explaining what we were trying to do: going from Sheikh Hussein to Harar mostly on foot. I am not sure that they understood or that he convinced them.

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January 16: WP 19 to Bilika (WP 24, elevation: 1800m)

 

The muleteer and the militia man left us and returned to Sheikh Hussein as expected. So, we bought a donkey (for 3,250 Ethiopian Birrs, approximately US$145) and we (Gebru, Numan, Mahmood, and me) continued our journey with this donkey. Our goal was to reach a village called Furdo some 20km to the northeast. But things turned out differently and we ended up sleeping in the police station of Bilika.

 

Buying the donkey took us some time and we left the village toward the east rather late, around 10am.

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The landscape remained flat, except for some small hills to the south and some distant canyons to the north.

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Gebru and Numan buying locally made ropes for our donkey from a woman encountered on the trail.

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Mid-day we reached a tiny village (WP 23) where we stopped for lunch. This is where a group of seven armed policemen and militia men from the village of Bilika (WP 24, 7km away) arrived on foot. They were aggressive and declared that my presence here was illegal (that was Numan‛s translation). I believe that they had been informed by people from the village where we spent the previous night. The situation was quite volatile, with no one seeming to know what to do and one policeman and one militia man shouting at us. While Numan was showing our permits and trying to explain what we were doing on a map (photos below), Gebru was able to call Solomon in Addis Ababa (fortunately, there was a transmission tower in Bilika providing cell phone coverage). Much later, Solomon told us that he had informed some high-ranking people of our problems and that the order to let us go will eventually reach the policemen, but it could take time. The policemen and the militia men spent the entire afternoon chewing chat and nothing happened.

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In the evening I decided to set up my tent and sleep, since I thought that we would all spend the night here. However, around 9pm, two additional policemen came and asked me to undo my tent and re-pack my stuff. The entire group (policemen, militia men, Gebru, Numan, Mahmood, me, and my donkey) hiked in the dark to a stony road where the police chief of Bilika was waiting with an open truck and more armed policemen. They had decided to take us to their station in Bilika. There was no space on the truck for the donkey, so Numan paid a local man to bring it to Bilika. Around 10:30pm the truck stopped to let the police chief take a phone call. The commander of the zone was calling to telling him that I was not illegal and that he should let me continue my journey. Thanks Solomon! Since we were in the middle of nowhere with no water, the truck drove us to Bilika. There, we set our tents in the police coumpound (WP 24). On the next morning we left Bilika early without seeing any policeman.

 

Thanks to Solomon, the commanders of the two zones that our trek was traversing were now informed of our presence, and we had their phone numbers. Having these numbers will be useful again on at least two occasions.

 

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Links to the various sections of the trip:

 

 

1. Days 1 to 3

2. Days 4 to 6

3. Days 7 to 9

4. Days 10 to 13

5. Harar

6. Addis Ababa and around

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Return to main Ethiopia January 2017 webpage