Sunday, February 26, 2006

Tuesday 11th October, first day on the river

Evening sun over the Omo
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Two months later (since last diary entry in Beirut) and we are sitting on a beach by the side of the Omo River, the muddy waters whirling about us, hornbills screeching in the woods, joined by a cooing dove and the far-off cries of a fish eagle down teh river. A swallow darts over the water. The hippo who was grunting last night and eyeing us suspiciously has kept quiet this morning.

Geoff, Chris, Nick, Fred and I, the participants on this adventure are sitting in comfortable chairs around the campfire where Gary is frying last night's spaghetti, with pans of scrambled egg and fried ham on teh side. The sun is hiding behind some light cloud cover and a breeze comes up from behind us. A couple of dark ibis shriek and appear from behind a tree and fly across the river. Four dinghies are laid out behind us in the quiet water adjoining the beach.


Now at the end of the afternoon, sitting in the tent with rain pouring down on the black sand, claps and rolls of thunder through the valley and flashes of lightning. The river outside is a raging torrent and we have just come off the best and deepest rapids of the day. We have seen 14 hippos and 5 crocs, vervet monkeys, colobus monkeys swinging through the trees like Tarzan, baboons and a fox-coloured deer, as well as plenty of bee-eaters, hornbills, egrets, waders, stone curlews and, of course, fish eagles. No people.

So here we are finally, on the river, a whole day in the boats, under the hot sun. The Omo River, flowing through the green uninhabited mountains. Muddy water, flowing fast, over rocks, around the valley, through the thick forest. Far away from anywhere. The boats are fully laden with tents, cooking equipment, table, chairs, spade, bottles, water carriers, ropes, dry boxes, ice boxes, safety vests, our rucksacks and so on. Prepared for any eventuality, it seems. It takes a long time to load up and unload, but there are planty of hands. We five participants, the American crew of Gary, Eddie, Roberto and Claude and the African crew of Jonas, Zekarias, Robel and Danny. Seems like a good group altogether and it promises to be a great journey.


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