IMPORTANT: THE OPTIONAL EXTENSION STARTS BEFORE THE ITINERARY ON JANUARY 17 th AND ENDS ON JANUARY 20 th .
Day 1. - ARRIVAL IN ADDIS ABABA
We will arrive and go directly to the hotel. Tonight, we’ll have a meet and greet with the Lead Photographer, and orient ourselves in our itinerary for the rest of our trip.
Day 2. - ADDIS ABABA/ARBA MINCH
At first light we’ll head south to the Great Rift Valley, a huge furrow in the earth’s crust that stretches across the majority of Ethiopia. It was created by volcanic and river activity both, about 35 million years ago, which formed a fertile corridor with many lovely lakes we will pass as we go through it. Lake Ziway is the first of a chain which comprises three other nearby lakes; the Abiyata, the Shalla, and the Langano. They are picturesque and rarely visited, so of course we’ll have time to set up and photograph them, and the awe-inspiring African landscape, before heading back on our way to our Photo Tour’s ultimate destination. Further South we’ll find Lake Awasa, Abaya, and Chamo, which each have their own unique perspective and vistas.
The road itself is also a photo opportunity; though it has very little car traffic, it is a main thoroughfare for people; merchants with donkey pulled carts, ox drivers, horse riders, and on foot pilgrims heading to whatever their destinations. There are a few thatched roof hut villages along the road which are typically Ethiopian, decorated with lively, African style clay work. The people go about their day to day lives and we’ll have great spontaneous photographic opportunities to capture them at work in the fields, making and selling handicrafts, and heading to their local markets. We’ll arrive at our destination inside the Great Rift Valley, the cradle of man, in time to catch the sunset as the long rays of late evening stretch across the vast African expanse, bathing everything red-orange, then purple, until the sun slips below the horizon and lets the stars come out and shine.
Day 3. - ARBA MINCH/TURMI
We go on to Turmi, the small town is the heart of the Omo Valley territory of the Hamer, learning about their customs, their way of life and their ceremonies, which, if we are lucky, could involve something special such as a bull jumping ceremony.
The Hamer are the largest ethnic group in southern Ethiopia, occupying the eastern part of the Omo River. They are a mix of different ethnic populations coming from the north, east and west of their current territory of residence. Their most distinctive features are their hairstyles, their women’s decorations and body markings, and their men’s decorative body scarring. Female hairstyles are made with ocher, red clay, and animal fat, giving them their characteristic consistency. Male hairstyles incorporate clay caps, bird feathers, and they usually indicate a certain social status: hunters, warriors.
Day 4. - TURMI / KARO / TURMI
We head for the village of Jorcho, on the shores of the Omo River, where the Karo live: After finishing our photo session we return to Turmi.
We timed our visit to arrive on the big market day. The people of all the Hamar villages in the area walk for hours to trade animals, goods that they have made, food they have grown, firewood and even souvenirs for tourists. Down two side alleys are the mills where Hamar women take purchased grains to be ground into flour. The place buzzed with activity.
For today’s photo shoot with the Karo, we head for the village of Korcho, located at a strategic bend of the Omo River. This village is inhabited by about 1,000 people, who are the only sedentary population in the area. After finishing, we return to Turmi and visit a Hamer village again.
The Karo are seasonal farmers, herders and honey collectors. They practice fishing, something that was taboo until recently and is only done by young single men. Their villages are a bit more sophisticated, with huts of good craftsmanship, and barns. Physical beauty is of utmost importance among the Karo. Men, more conceited, decorate their bodies with white and ocher paint made from plants. Women wear their hair in beads, but also, they normally have a nail in their lower lip and are decked out with necklaces and bracelets. Like the Hamer, the youths practice bull jumping, an inevitable rite of passage, stigmatizing those who fail.
Day 5 . – TURMI/JINKA
We leave for Key Afer and then to Jinka
Day 6 . – JINKA /MAGO NATIONAL PARK/JINKA
Early in the morning we’ll head to Mago National Park. This was created to protect the population of elephants and giraffes, which has been, sadly, almost destroyed by poaching. Fortunately for us, the populations are growing back, and we stand a good chance of catching some of these animals in the wild with our cameras.
Next we’ll head on to photograph the Mursi in one of their villages. They are famous, as one normally sees the women, with discs in their lower lips, but a surprising quiet elegance, on the covers of National Geographic. In the Mursi village we’ll have structured photo sessions and plenty of time to sit with the inhabitants, speak to them, and capture them on film.
Apparently coming from eastern Sudan, where they are supposed to have been part of the Durma people, they speak a Nilotic language and form a group of about 4,000 persons.
They have initiation rites where men must fight each other at the Donga (not to death) with long sticks, painting their bodies especially for the occasion. Teenage girls have an incision made in their ear lobes and lower lip, where increasingly bigger clay plates are placed. Their function is actually aesthetic, and only high-caste women can wear them. All men and women shave their heads and so they love razors. Men also practice skin scarring, drawing intricate patterns and stories across their bodies that they will wear forever.
Day 7.- JINKA/KONSO
We head for Konso a world heritage site, and rightly so. A visit to Konso takes us back in time to the Neolithic era, to scenes and ways of life that have almost been forgotten by modern man. Konso is full of stone walled terraces and dirt packed roads trodden by tribes people who are friendly and willing to stop for a chat or a photo.
Day 8.- KONSO/ARBA MINCH
Early in the morning we will leave for the nearby mountains of Chencha (3,000 m). On the road, the vegetation will change over slowly from bamboo like stalks to the ‘false banana’ trees of the jungle. We will visit the Dorze who are famed for their incredible weaving work, but most for their polyphonic music, which utilizes a far different chord and percussion structure than Western music does. We’ll spend time having a photo session with these lively and musical people, shooting amongst the tall thatched huts and their denizens.
After lunch we will continue towards Lake Chamo, where we will board a small ship for a special Photo Expedition; colonies of pelicans, crocodiles, hippos, etc. wade in and out of the Omo river, and the coming and going of the ambatchs (a kind of extremely light vessel, similar to those depicted in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs) will give us a fantastic off the cuff photo opportunities. Towards the evening, we will return to the hotel.
Day 9.- ARBA MINCH, FLIGHT ADDIS ABEBA
We will have the hotel until noon. When it’s time for our flight, we’ll go to the airport and head for Addis Ababa. Upon arrival, we’ll get a reception at the airport and transfer to the hotel; the rest of the afternoon will be free time for last minute visits and purchases. Late in the evening transfer to the airport for international flights.