Itinerary Day 19: Jinka-Arba Minch
Depart Eco Omo Lodge.
Journal - Morning:
I'm up early and sitting on the deck of our “permanent” tent at Eco Omo Lodge. The sun is peeking over the trees on the bank of the Mago River. Sigrid is not yet awake so I am enjoying an early cup of coffee and sorting the sounds drifting over the river: cocks crowing; cows complaining; a whisper of river riffles splashing over rocks; crows claiming turf; the morning call to prayer from a Jinka mosque; chatter from people near the river; dogs barking; a distant car horn; more birds than I'll ever identify.
It is hard to describe just how good this coffee is. In most of our third world travel (Western Africa, Papua New Guinea, Wisconsin), the search for a good cup of coffee is a consistent theme and a continuous quest. The Eco Omo Lodge is owned by an Italian couple so I'm guessing the Ethiopian bean is given an Italian roast and ground for espresso consistency. I normally drink coffee black, but I am enjoying this one with hot milk and a little sugar. It's thick and strong and tastes like chocolate. Really good. The warm fresh-baked banana bread is a perfect accompaniment.
A word on the lodge. Much travel of this nature is determined by the expectations going in. Sigrid's “Tripadviser.com” research set the bar very low for lodging in Jinka. The Eco Omo was a pleasant surprise. Make no mistake – this is not Western style luxury accommodations. You are sleeping in small beds in a musty “permanent” tent with limited electricity. The small attached bathroom offers temperamental to non-existent hot water. As near as I could tell, the only way to get a hot shower was during a two hour window in the evening with Eco Omo staff outside the tent continually adjusting the water pressure to prevent getting scalded or shocked with an icy cold blast or both. Duct tape came in handy to defeat the 30 second water flow regulator on the shower fixture in order to try to adjust the temperature. Still I settled for a slightly cool shower.
That said, the staff was courteous and helpful, the food was good, the atmosphere pastoral and relaxed. The owner even baked a cake for Sigrid's birthday on our arrival. The main dining lodge, bar and deck is nicely constructed with a view of the river and a great spot to enjoy a beer or coffee. You can get limited but functional WIFI at the end of the day. For lunch you can order a hot prosciutto and provolone panini sandwich as good as any you would find in Rome.
Tamara and her husband started this project over seven years ago and the lodge has been open less that three. It's still a work in progress, with big plans to add a coffee plantation and swimming pool. It'll get better every year, but already is a "head and shoulders" better choice than any other option in the immediate Jinka area.
Editiors Note: I intend to pre-load and schedule automated blog posts with the daily itinerary for our Ethiopian adventure. For those interested, this may be an easy way to follow along. Since we will not have internet access for most of the trip, my hope is this will make it easier to add some pics and journal commentary if and when we run across an internet connection. If there are no pics or commentary, you'll just have to wait until we get back. We'll see how it goes. UPDATED