Friday, December 21, 2012

Walking to Wenchi Crater Lake

Juniper canoes of Lake Wenchi

Into the mountains west of Addis Ababa, Sam Lewin (the infamous jazz rhythm master/ humanitarian) and I took the earliest cram packed minivan possible to the town of Ambo, famed for its sparkling and holy spring water said to cure medical and spiritual ailments alike. From this small bustling town, we walked up and up and up, covering a few dozen miles through tef (local grain) and livestock fields.  We were heading to the highest point in the region, a place of which I heard a rumor that there were dugout canoes! Walking our feet bloody, we certainly earned our view, as we peeked over the rim of 10,000ft high Crater Lake Wenchi.

Our view coming over the rim

Inhabited by around a thousand Oromo people, known for their farming skills, the environment of the extinct volcano is stunning, fertile and lush. It almost felt tropical, at such a high altitude. One crafty local farmer even shared with me his bounty of beautiful apple! So Sam and I ate the delicious local cuisine including plenty of wild, smoky tasting honey. Not to mention that I was able to admire, and paddle, the dugout canoes, crafted from single mountain juniper trees.

sitting on a mat of cedar leaves, the canoe was fun to paddle

The canoes are a rectangle shape, I'm guessing due to the relatively short stature of the juniper tree. We sat on the lake after a couple good floats and making friends and music with the local kids. We ate a few cattails, which are delicious by the way, and watched the sunset over the rim. At night, we also were lake side, bearing the cold to appreciate more stars that I have ever seen. The lakes of Canada, the mountains of Peru and Colorado, a dhow off the coast of Zanzibar, they all had amazing stars. But we were truly blessed this night with the hum of more light than dark. No thoughts, words, or attempts at poetry can make justice. We were grateful to be there. They are there, out in space, every night and day.

There is a small monastery church on the island in the middle of the lake. It is more than 600 years old and is sanctuary to a bell once owned by an emperor. We watched early morning canoes paddle to the island through the fog. It was quite a moment of peace amidst the chaos of our lives. What a holiday, as those important Christian dates are coming close, should be.

A few good Ethiopian horses carry us out of the Crater

I'm leaving the wonderful place of Ethiopia and headed back to Africa's Great Lakes to the hip and funky city of Kampala, Uganda. What adventures shall I find there?

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