Note: This was written while drinking buna the morning after my visit with the Karo. I was in Turmi village in Hamar country.
On the banks of the Omo River less than 100km bit over 3 hours to drive there is a rich forest with a dense canopy where the shade is brilliant and the Karo people still build their village in the open, exposed to the sun. Tesfu and I drive into the forest to park in the shade for a few hours before we go to the village. We are both exhausted from the heat and drive through the termite skycrapers and kudu dust storms. The surreal landscape, I wonder if I was able to capture it. Tesfu pulled out a matress and put it in the shade for me while he went to work on the underside of the front end of the truck. I drifted off for a minute or 2 before I was awakened by an older village man with an AK-47 over one shoulder and a “pillow” in one hand. He extended his free hand and said “selam”. I said “Ama new” and closed my eyes again. People here are very friendly and sometimes, even though there is no way to communicate, they just like to come and say hello and watch you. For a westerner who enjoys their personal space, this can be disconcerting but one must always remember there are 91 million counted people in this small space and I bet in the 10’s on millions uncounted because people are afraid to say how many children they have, but I digress, again.
Tesfu asked if I wanted dabu and honey. I knew he meant “bread” and honey so I said yes. In a minute he was laughing and said “bread”. The word he had used “dabu” is bread in Amharic and he explained that and I said I reckoned and we laughed. The local honey is incredible and is made in grass manure hives. I am not sure the full process but I guess I can live with this mystery. We ate dabu and smiled. He showed me the broken spring in the front end of the truck. There was nothing to say about it, we were on the edge of nowhere.
Around 6pm, midnight Ethiopia time, we headed to the village.
After Dessenach I expected a crazy seen but it was not so bad. Some children came running and slowly some decorated adults came along. I asked the “local” guide if they painted themselves for me. He said nothing. I asked the “local” guide why they paint themselves normally. He said “yes”. As Emany told me, the guide association that was set up by the government does little to nothing. They give only 25% of proceeds to villages and no one seems quite sure what they do with the rest. No point in talking corruption. About 20 people stood in front of me smiling and some said “picture”. Much more relaxed. They laughed as I scanned the crowd. The local “guide” said “which one?” diminishing the experience just a bit more. More painted people appeared and I asked if they did this for me bc I had now been in the village about 10 minutes. He said “take picture, 5 birrr”. I picked my girls and guys and made a few pics before setting off.
In retrospect I know it’s a small community and there were only a handful who came out for photos. On our way out to the trail to Turmi there were many people walking back to the village carrying water, wood, and corn stalks. As the sun set we ran across many herds of cows and their handlers and sheep with their shepeards. We passed a man digging a well in a dry river bed. The Landcruiser sank in the deep dust and Tesfu downshifted to drag us through. It’s a real life here for the Karo and, by the looks of it, day to day.
Post journey: This picture was not paid for. I made her laugh and took the shot without her knowing.