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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Tia, Melka Kontre, Tia Stele, Awash River, Butajira Road

Itinerary Day 22: Hawassa-Addis Ababa 
In the morning, drive back to Addis Ababa through Tia and Melka Kontre on the Butajira road. On this route you will visit places including, Melka Kuntre, and Tia Stele Field.   Melka Konture pre-historic site is situated on the south face of the Awash River Gorge opposite Melka Awash. It’s regarded to be one of the most important Stone Age sites in Ethiopia. This site is best known for the numerous Stone-Age artifacts that have been unearthed along the river including a variety of cleavers, hand-axes, and other tools made from basalt and other hard rocks. The site has also proved to be an important source of fossils of extinct mammals. En-route, here you will visit different tribal villages and typical housing styles of the Gurage and the Oromo. Our final stop on this tour is Tiya, where we can see the northernmost example of a peculiar type of engraved, standing stelae which stretch across parts of southern Ethiopia. These stelae are believed to have been erected between the 12th and 14th centuries and are almost certainly grave markers. Recent excavations at Tiya have revealed the remains of young people of both sexes, aged between 18 - 30 and buried in fetal positions. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Stelea field at Tiya today comprises more than 45 stones of up to 2m.
Hawassa to Addis Ababba by way of Lake Ziway
This was the last real tour day of our Ethiopian adventure as we fly out of Addis the following evening.  We drove from Hawassa to Addis Ababa, and instead of winding down, packed a lot into this day. This post will not do it justice. There is just too much ground to cover. We'll focus on the highlights with a few comments and representative pics for each stop.

Rastafarian Village

Sometime in the 1930's, the Rastafarians decided that Emperor Haile Selassie was a god when a drought ended with his visit to Jamaica. Or something. In any case, they've determined that Ethiopia is Zion, many made the pilgrimage to Ethiopia and established the movement here. We decided a drive-by of the Rastafari Museum was adequate given everything else we wanted to do today.

Rift Valley Overlook

I shot this panorama of the rift valley and Lake Ziway from an outlook just off the road.  The rift valley is of volcanic origin. Large veins of black obsidian glass can be seen in the ridges, with chunks and shards of obsidian all over the ground. The glass fascinated me and I picked up a nice 2-3 pound obsidian rock to bring back as a souvenir. Alas it was not to be (see tomorrow's bitter post on Addis Ababa airport security).

 Picture of me holding an obsidian rock I hoped to bring home. 
For reasons that are unclear to me, Sigrid chose to not include the rock in the picture.

Lake Ziway

At the junction of a feeder creek in the middle of a marsh near the shore of Lake Ziway, fisherman bring in their catch each morning.  An extraordinary collection of birds converge for an easy feast as the fisherman clean the catch.  The fishermen attract locals interested in the fish, and the birds bring tourists for the spectacle:

Coffee Ceremony 

The last coffee ceremony of the trip. I'll miss them.  I'll miss the coffee.

Perhaps I will bring back some green coffee beans and import the ceremony to San Francisco.

Tia Stele Field

Not as dramatic or ancient as the stele field we visited in Axum, this UNESCO World Heritage site was still interesting for the quantity of stele found here, the mystery of the markings and the question of who is buried beneath these stones.  Many of the stele are engraved with an icon of the head rest / "pillow" used for sleeping by many in Ethiopia.  Scholars argue about the meaning of this glyph appearing on most of the stones. Sometimes the simplest answer is the right one. Perhaps it was simply the Ethiopian equivalent of "Rest In Peace".

Melka Kunture Archaeological Dig

The Melka Konture archeological site visit was brief, but one of the most interesting stops of the trip.  This is the site of some of the earliest finds of hominid remains showing tool use and permanent settlements. It was first made famous by the work of Richard Leakey in the early seventies. An enthusiastic and informative archaeology student (who's name I regretfully neglected to write down) guided us through the multiple structures displaying artifacts, educational panels, and the dig site itself.

Obsidian tools found at Gombore II

Gombore II

 After fielding our enthusiastic questions about the Gombore II dig site (more than you ever want to know in the PDF linked here), he decided to show us what he called the "new dig". 

New Dig

A Homo Erectus skull was found at this dig just 3 days before. His excitement about that find was infectious. We'll be looking for a paper in Nature regarding that find and will link here if and when we see it.

Back to Addis Ababa and the Farewell Dinner

We have a farewell dinner scheduled for tomorrow night, courtesy of our tour operator Grand Holidays Ethiopia. During the drive we realized that timing is not going to work given that we are flying out that night.  Yohanes scrambles and reschedules the event for tonight.

Alxe, the Land Cruiser, and the Jupiter Hotel in Addis
 We check back into the Jupiter Hotel, bringing the trip full circle.  For some reason the Jupiter looks a lot more upscale at the end of the trip than it did at the beginning. We are happy to be back and after a short rest reconvene for dinner.  We are delighted to meet Yohane's girlfriend Tigist. Sigrid wears the scarf made by her father.  

The dinner was a at night club that featured popular entertainers and musicians performing high energy versions of traditional Ethiopian music and dance.  There seemed to be more locals that tourists.  Ethiopian food was served buffet style and washed down with Ethiopian beer. It was a long day, but a great day, and a great finish to the trip.

Editors 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

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Congratulation-you were really there!