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January 21, 2008

Adventure to Teru and Barantu

Let’see: Left this morning with the petrology camel trekking crew so I could service Barantu and then Teru on the way back and it turned into a bit of an ordeal [big surprise]. I rode with Belay, Gezehegn, Lorraine, and Charlotte, because Charlotte found a Phil Collins greatest hits tape in Balay’s car and this somehow excited us. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who had ever been excited about the tape, because it sounded like Phil was singing from under the future Afar sea. [In lots and lots of time, the land here will sink enough that water will come in and there will be a sea like the Red Sea. Probably by that time there won’t be any Phil Collins tapes around, though.]

The drive is beautiful—over some cool lava frlows with a pavement of small columns, big volcano in the background, and cinder cones near and far. We made it to Teru fine.

In Teru, the town seemed to [seemed to? I find this funny now. Of course, it absolutely did!] gather outside the administrative building where we’d gone to sort the petrology group’s guards for the trek.

[John. Classic.]

[And the man says, Want to buy this? I always say No thank you, but it's very pretty.]

We eventually loaded two guards in our car and two in Eyaya’s and we headed off to Barantu—and got stuck in the sand. Eyaya made it through but we didn’t, and we tried to get out and Eyaya came back and with sticks and digging and pushing and Eyaya pulling with his car, we got out—and then got stuck again about ten feet along. Belay hasn’t mastered the art of *not* revving the engine once stuck and kept digging himself in again and again and again. Did it again from a different direction. Eyaya’s cargo (John and Abdu and Osman) came along (they’d been left up ahead) with all sorts of brilliant strong ideas about what we needed to do (most of which we’d already been trying)—whew, good thing they came along to save the day—and those didn’t work either. (I have to admit to being smugly happy about this, after they rushed in so, so very knowingly.) Eyaya went back to Teru and came back with a pick-up truck and *then*, after much prep work and people who are probably getting trucks unstuck from the sand all the time, the truck got out. Hooray!

[It's never good when you're clearing sand out of your tailpipe.]

[I handed my camera off to one of our new local friends, and this is what I got.]

[Sometimes, you have to put down the AK-47.]

[And---we're out!]

[I had to sneak this picture, aiming without looking through the viewfinder. The girls were alternating between shy and aggressive, one of them threatening anyone who came near her (the locals; we ferangi weren't harassing the poor girl) with a stick. I'm telling you--these girls are tough.]

We got in and headed off—at high speed, Charlotte and Lorraine with their eyes shut—to Barantu. And made it.

And then proceeded to hang tight while Dr. Gezehegn headed off to meet the officials. Abdu found the guard for our GPS site and he, the guard, and I went up to download it.

[Taking care of the site--now that we're here.]

All was well but he didn’t want us to pay him in public so we went back down to the ‘café’ where we’d been waiting and in a bit Abdu beckoned me back out and we went up to the guard’s home. Which was very exciting, since I’d never been in a traditional hut before. We ducked in—very awkward, because the opening is very low—and squatted inside. Two people were back along the far side and a woman was cooking over a fire, a young child at her side. She fried bread—Ethiopian fast food, said Abdu when I asked if it was traditional—which was offered to us and which we then took out with us to offer around back at the café.

[The cafe.]

When Gezehegn came back, nothing was resolved—the trek was planned for an area along the disputed border of two kabales (precincts) and each wanted representation on the trek. Over 30 men joined around Abdu to crouch in a circle (most were onlookers) and discuss. The final, simple, obvious solution: Four camel drivers from one group, four from the other.

[Not even the main discussion.]


After the matter was resolved—at maybe 3:30—we unloaded the cars, said goodbye and good luck, and headed out. To Teru. I got up on the roof of the administrative building via a sketchy ladder to download the GPS in peace. Well, relative peace. I had to pee pretty bad as soon as I got up there. I figured the roof was constructed for rain, so the run-off probably wouldn’t go directly into the building, right? But the sound might be suspicious… and the smell… Yes, I actually did think these things. And I held it.

[The black towers are vengence towers, there to remind neighboring tribes that they've still got it coming to them. As in, you killed one of ours, we've still gotta getcha back.]

[From my tent at night:] Foxes or jackals calling, a falling, whistling noise, interspersed with high-pitched barking.

Posted by beth at January 21, 2008 1:45 AM

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