This fairly rainy July weekend I wanted to “relive” our outdoor adventures in beautiful Ethiopia: the Rift Valley lakes, rivers, mountains and hot springs. You are welcome to join me on this virtual journey!
When we lived in Addis Ababa, we used to get out of the city for weekend explorations of the natural beauty of the country at least once every month. The north of the country being an unsecure area at the time (1990s), we usually headed south from the capital to destinations like Lake Langano, Awash National Park or Wondo Genet, a resort town famous for its hot baths.
On our way to Lake Langano in the south, we would often stop for some hiking, bird watching and snacks at lake Koka which is the first large lake south of Addis, near the town of Nazret, or at lake Ziway a little bit further south.
These two lakes offered some hiking trails, beautiful views of the surrounding terrain and quite a variety of birds. However, these two lakes were not considered safe to swim in due to bilharzia risk, so we did not camp there overnight.
A bit further south, about 200km from Addis, is Lake Langano, which is the third large lake in the Ethiopian Rift Valley. It’s a volcanic lake with brown, very alkaline water, which is safe to swim in. After our first visit, this lake quickly became our favorite “beach” destination in landlocked Ethiopia.
At the time there was only one old, very modest lodge at the lake, but if you brought all the necessities, it offered safe accommodations for the weekend. We loved to come there quite often just to swim (check out the early 90s swim trunk fashion!), sunbathe and relax with friends. Although there was a small cafeteria at the lodge, we used to catch much of our fresh food from the lake with nets that the guys would take into the deep water by swimming. The catfish we caught was so delicious when cooked in foil packages on the open fire! Sometimes we would be invited to boating trips on this large lake by friendly local fishermen.
These were wonderful, simple outdoor weekends in the nature – days in and around the water and evenings around the campfire under the starry skies. Today this area has become more of a resort, offering a choice of lodging options, restaurants and even some water sports.
Other times, we would turn eastward at the town of Nazret and head to the Awash National Park. This area has a lot of wildlife and sometimes, unfortunately, there would be a road kill. The highway was swiftly tidied up, however, by the large and effective cleaning crews of vultures.
We loved the rugged and wild mountains surrounding the Awash River Valley. At the time, there was no lodge in the National Park. We would stay in an old, very “tired” RV parked close to a small eatery, where we could get breakfast and dinner, or just camp in the open around the fire.
Every morning we would drive down to the river and try to spot some wildlife on the way.
There was a large variety of antelopes, apes, African wild dogs, hyenas and hundreds of species of birds in the national park. Since the park was very large with only a few trails, the animals were fairly hard to spot. Trying to find them became a new adventure every day.
Once we witnessed a long chase by a pack of African Wild Dogs, you can read about that here. One evening we also had a close encounter with a huge hyena. She came to our camp and suddenly stood face to face with our son who was about the same hight at the time. Luckily, his dad was quick to scare the “beast” away.
The Awash River also has a few waterfalls and it became a tradition for us to view them both up-stream and down stream on every visit. There is something very relaxing in watching and listening to the water rushing down….
At the end of the day, it was wonderful to dive into the large hot spring, situated in an oasis on the north side of the park, and wash out the dust!
Our third favorite excursion was to the resort town of Wondo Genet situated further south from Lake Langano. My employer had a forestry project in the area and there was a small house employees could use over the weekend for a nominal “cleaning fee”.
The whole area was beautiful and very relaxing. There was a lush forest where we could hike in, but the highlight was definitely the hot springs and the baths where the warm water flowing in the river was caught in natural cliff showers and a deep pool – a hot tub provided by nature!
I think I will stay at these hot springs for a while…hope you too enjoyed this virtual outing. Have a wonderful weekend.