The road south from Addis to Kenya runs gently down from the 3000 metre plateau towards the rift valley. As with most of the roads in Ethiopia it is pot-holed, frequently lacking of a centre lane (the presence of which is largely disregarded anyway), part dust, part hole, part gravel and part tarmac. Slip roads and dual carriage ways are pointed out to us as Frank drives. They look like donkey paths. And indeed there are donkeys upon them. There are also horses out here, dragging carriages north, on the climb towards the city. We are going about 40km south today, I wish we were going further, as south is a place I have always wanted to see… Kenya where my mother was born and the rift valley. The cradle of mankind. Where the most hominid fossils have been found. In a former life I studied anthropology and dreamed of being Indiana Jones. Who doesn't?
We reach Bishoftu, one of the large crater lakes south of the city, there are five lakes here. All unique and beautiful in their own way. Once upon a time these were huge mountains who got upset and blew themselves to smithereens. Now the lakes are all that are left, surrounded by high walls of vegetation. Birds perch and fly, I recognise ravens playing in the wind. It's the first time I have seen a raven fly properly. Beautiful.
Jan's lodge where we stay is set high in the crater walls above lake Babogaya, a practically unspoilt view out across the lake is stunning, there is a hotel on the other side of the lake that, when lit up at night, apparently looks like the sinking Concordia. Jan suggests that me and Manda take a canoe out on the lake. I am excited. Manda is apprehensive and excited. We push off from the small jetty at the bottom of the lake and manage to find a good rhythm. Sometimes that rhythm (me at back) involves me having a rest when Manda is not looking. The water is warm and we paddle about halfway round the lake before it inevitably begins to rain. Hundreds of white igrits are nesting by our jetty when we return and fumble our way out of the boat. I pretend that I know how to tie up a boat. I suspect Amanda is not fooled as I confidently say 'Right!' And brush my hands together in a very final sounding way having looped the rope through another rope over and over again. As we walk back up the steep steps to the top of the lodge my mind is calculating the cost of a missing canoe that has been inadequately tied to the bank.
There are tortoises everywhere keeping the grass down although I think the grass grows faster than they can eat it. There is another cat that we have called also Fluffy. A tortoise shell cat. We believe that the cat is attempting to integrate herself into the local population of tortoises. Unfortunately she is currently still fairly easy to distinguish from the actual tortoises, given that she is, in fact, still a cat. Although a very slow moving one as evidenced by her attempt to catch a bird this morning. We spent five minutes watching her prepare to pounce, slowly moving each foot onto a rock in preparation. Then, when the bird flew away, she just looked around nonchalantly as if to say, 'What bird? I was just readjusting my sleeping position.' It reminded me of my own stupid pride.
The power has gone at the lodge (a common occurrence in Ethiopia it seems) and we have a candle lit dinner on the veranda looking over the lake. It is possibly the most peaceful and serene place I have ever visited. I want to bring everyone I know here.
Inside our lovely room we put the mosquito net down and blow out the candles before bed, Tomorrow we will be visiting a school in Bishoftu to meet the kids there, then we will be back to Addis to work at the project. The time is really flying here, it's at once, a mad, beautiful, chaotic, peaceful place.