Sunday, June 3rd, 2012
Initially, Todd and I woke up around 6:00am to a symphony of birds, insects, monkeys, and warthogs surrounding our bungalow. We laid there, just listening for a while, and then discussed what we would do to occupy our time while we waited for the others in our group to wake up—perhaps we would take an early walk, or I could start writing my journal that would eventually turn into this blog. We opened up the curtains to let the early morning light into our godjo through the spacious windows facing the lake. Then, as if by magic, we were somehow instantly asleep again, waking up around 11:30am to the sound of the jet ski roaring away into the distance without even knowing we fell asleep in the first place! Realizing that everyone else was obviously up and embracing the day, and mentally kicking ourselves for unknowingly wasting the morning, we hurriedly got ready and helped ourselves to a breakfast consisting of snacks from the vast reserve of granola bars, beef jerky, and fruit snacks we had packed in case our hunger didn’t coincide with actual meal availability.
After leaving our bungalow, we soon realized two exceptional things: 1) that this beach resort was far more beautiful and secluded than we had been able to realize in the dark of the evening of our arrival, and 2) that we were alone (except for a few staff members) and had the whole place all to ourselves! A kind staff member who spoke English gave us a note that my Friend had written for us, explaining that they took the jet ski across the lake to another resort, Sabana, and would be back in a few hours. They had just left when we were waking up. Wonderful! We had a few hours to ourselves to explore and enjoy the afternoon with just the two of us.
We started out with a self-guided tour of the resort’s amenities during daylight hours. We were able to see our godjo for the first time in the light, as well as familiarize ourselves with the neighboring godjos our friends were staying in. We also saw the restaurant we had eaten at the previous evening, and what is known as the Tree Bar, which is a two storey lounge area with bar set up into the trees where you can enjoy a beverage with monkeys in the limbs nearby. Perhaps we could indulge in an evening cocktail here later. At one end of the resort, we also discovered the Ethiopian Village, where guests can stay in traditional mud huts instead of bungalows.
Tree Bar, photo courtesy of tripadvisor.co.uk
View of the Ethiopian Village
We continued our adventure by taking our cameras around the resort in search of endemic animals, and we were not disappointed. When reading the Bradt guidebook I picked up at a Barnes & Noble before the trip, I had laughed that there was such a focus on birding throughout the text. I could now clearly see why. There are SO MANY different types of birds that are so vastly different than anything you see in the States in vibrant colors with unique songs. We also saw tons of butterflies and, beyond the fenced perimeter of the resort, the standard cattle, ox, donkeys, goats, and sheep being tended near the lake’s edge by villagers. Hoping to see a warthog in the daytime, we made our way back to the entrance where we had seen one the night before. Instead of finding a warthog, we saw a large baboon making its way across our path. Then we saw another. And another. We were so distracted at trying to take photos of the baboons right in front of us that we missed the huge group of them just to the left of the path until a resort employee ran by and scared them. There were maybe 25 baboons in this family group (apparently called a troop), including a couple tiny babies, one of which ran and jumped on its mother’s back for a ride. We spent quite a bit of time amongst the baboons, snapping photos from as close a distance as we dared to get.
Massage hut on the beach!
View of the lake
Todd getting some photos
Troop of baboons
After our encounter with the baboons, we decided to hit the beach, where we listened to music on Todd’s Jawbone Jambox that he got from his work, and were served a delicious fruit salad and fresh mango juice (my guide book just raved about the fresh fruit juices in Ethiopia…they are really more like pureed liquid fruit and are truly heavenly in any flavor). One thing I noticed was that the sand here really sparkles, as if it was mixed with glitter. As we were relaxing on the beach, we noticed another tourist couple who had quietly joined us, and were now attempting to paddle out into the lake on papyrus reed boats. A variety of other recreational supplies were provided for our use, and I strongly considered taking an inflatable inner tube out onto the brown water, colored thus due to volcanic ash.
Here I am enjoying the lake!
You can see a papyrus reed boat on the shore
Fruit salad and mango juice? Yes, please!
It was a perfect morning in paradise until dark clouds began rolling in, and soon it began to rain. The night before, as we drove to Bishangari, the sky lit up with bolts of lightning and now we heard the distant rumble of thunder. We decided to pack up and head back to our bungalow when we ran into my Friend, who had made her way back from Sabana via car. She told us that during their morning excursion, they flipped the jet ski leaving everyone involved a bit bruised and sore, and also that one of the Henchmen, the Artist, was having horrible allergies at Bishangari and that we would be relocating to Sabana for the next night. Todd and I were sad to leave the resort since we were enjoying ourselves so much, but we were excited to see another lake destination on Langano.
While we were packing, the rain really began to come down. Good thing my brother had given me an early birthday present of a lightweight rain jacket! I put it to good use, filled up my hyper-filtering water bottle (clean water from ANY source!), and loaded our luggage onto the horse cart. The super-helpful staff preemptively brought umbrellas to our bungalows (did I mention the service there is fantastic?) and we checked out and made our way back to the main road. The journey to Sabana was a familiar one, but more exciting this time because, not only was it light outside, but the rain had created these massive puddles 1-2 feet deep in places that the Porsche Cayenne slipped and slid through. After precariously and very slowly navigating the treacherous path, we finally arrived at Sabana.
Upon checking in, we went for a brief snack at the restaurant. Sabana is located on a cliff above the beach, and the restaurant, styled like a circular straw hut, has a spectacular view of the lake. Todd and I shared a cheeseburger and fries and the group broke to get settled into our rooms, agreeing to reconvene for actual dinner in an hour.
Restaurant at Sabana
Sabana is a much more modern resort than Bishangari and caters to tourists of all kinds. I was excited for Western amenities including working electrical outlets (hooray!) so I could FINALLY use a blowdryer on my hair! Being accustomed to drying and straightening my hair every day, it was an interesting personal challenge for me to not have access to heated hair tools for a couple days. Our rooms were in individual bungalows again, and one of the first things we discovered upon entering ours were the enormous black spiders taking up residence on our ceiling…I’m talking 2-3 inches in diameter! Anyone who knows me knows that spidies in my room will not fly, so Todd first attempted to eradicate them. Man, were they fast!! They would jump out of the way so fast he wouldn’t know where they went! Clearly this was out of our area of expertise, so we called in the professionals. Well, ok, we just called the front desk and they sent an employee armed with a fierce can of instant spider death and minimal English skills, but that’s basically the same thing.
Photo of our bungalow by Todd Sipes
After an hour, we made our way back to the restaurant to meet up with the group. This is where we learned about “Africa Time.” Apparently, meeting times are mere suggestions and always grossly underestimated in relationship to the time that people actually show up to any kind of gathering. Punctual Americans that we are, Todd and I were right on time, along with the Driver. An hour and a half later, everyone else showed up, slowly, one by one. The Driver could understand English fairly well, but speaking it was another story entirely, so the conversations that filled this hour+ were unequivocally one-sided.
Once everyone arrived and dinner was finished, we took some bottles of wine down to the cliff’s edge and the Godfather used his influence to get us a bonfire going (apparently if you drop his name just about anywhere, minor miracles are made and countless exceptions are granted). While in our room, I had read about a certain beach cave that was off limits to guests and brought it up as the bonfire was dying. What could be in this forbidden cave? Well, of course, the Godfather used his influence yet again to get us clearance to visit this cave, and so we went on a midnight spelunking excursion. Too bad our dreams of vampire bats and hidden treasure were disappointed with a shallow cave that only extended a few yards back and housed only one single pigeon that we startled from its sleep and in its confusion couldn’t get out and kept slamming into the cave wall. Sad.
After our failed cave mission, we headed back up the cliff to wrap up the night in a blur of bonfire smoke, rich wine, and good company.
Group photo at the bonfire