An hour birding around the village produced a variety of species including Orange-bellied Parrot, Black-billed Wood-Hoopoe, Spotted Palm-Thrush, Grey Wren-Warbler, Northern Black Flycatcher, African Grey Flycatcher, Northern White-crowned Shrike, Shelley's Starling, Grey-headed Sparrow, White-headed Buffalo-Weaver & Baglafecht Weaver. Driving slowly to Yavello, several flocks of Stresemann's Bush Crow were found, and the birds were remarkably tame, so could be approached quite close. White-crowned Starlings and Brown-rumped Bunting were also seen on a couple of occasions. Phillips' Dik-Dik were seen regularly on this stretch of road (and regularly thereafter).
After passing Yavello, the road started to deteriorate, but this was irrelevant as I was keeping more of an eye out for birds. However, just before reaching Dila, there was an almighty crash and the vehicle stopped rather suddenly. The U-bolts on the right-hand rear axle had snapped - presumably from the additional strain put on them when the shackle mounting broke on the other side. This was my chance to prove that I really knew how to fix a Landrover - and within seconds there was a crowd of about 20 to watch. So, out with the hi-lift jack, carry it round to the side of the vehicle and - put my foot on the edge of a pothole, and twist the ankle. Brilliant start. After walking around for 10 minutes to try and ensure it didn't swell up too much, I continued. To my own surprise - and I am sure everyone else's - it took me only 20 minutes to replace the U-bolts, using all 3 jacks to position the springs.
Continuing on towards Awasa, we reached it at about 15:00. About 10 km outside Awasa, the brakes failed - the brake-fluid pipe had broken loose when the U-bolts had snapped, and the pipe got caught near the shock-absorber. No big problem, it was just a matter of using the gears to slow down, and the handbrake to stop. The roads in close to Awasa were very potholed, but in the town they were basically OK. What was a surprise was the traffic lights. Not only that the were there, but also that they worked. Probably 90% of all Ethiopian traffic lights worked (and most towns had them). The quirk is that they allow only one road to move at a time - not a bad idea given the general standard of driving.
The hotel we stayed at was the Wabe Shabele #2 Hotel, and was not too impressive, with the "campsite" no better. The facilities were limited to long-drop toilets with 3 walls but no door, and a shower in the open. The food was very basic, but OK, and I got a chance to start sampling the local beer. With about 10 brews available round the country, I was able to conduct a thorough survey over the next few weeks.
There were virtually no water-birds around, and few waterside birds. However, the large trees in the hotel gardens and the neighbouring area were excellent. Thick-billed Raven were common and tame in the hotel grounds, as were Abyssinian Grivet and Guereza, both of which enjoyed playing on the Landrover.
Monday 6th December 1999
The following morning I spent a couple of hours wandering around the environs. During this period Black-winged Lovebird were found just outside the grounds - although its call is not anything like the calls of lovebirds on southern Africa. Other species seen were Nubian Woodpecker, Grey Woodpecker, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Orphean Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, White-breasted White-eye, Northern Puffback Shrike, Splendid Glossy Starling & African Citril.
Leaving Awasa at about 08:00, I was able to reach Shashamene by 09:00, where I found a local garage to fix the brakes. I also used the opportunity to change a large sum of US dollars to Birr, which was supposed to keep me going for a month or so. The brake pipe was fixed after someone brazed the pipe back together again.
Leaving Shashamene with working brakes, we reached Lake Langano about an hour later. On this road, Carmine Bee-eaters were very common along this road. We stayed at the Bekele Mola Hotel on the southern part of the Lake. This was an infinitely more pleasant camp site - and the best I found in Ethiopia. Not only that, it produced some of the best birds of the trip. On reflection, I should have spent more time at Lake Awasa & Lake Langano. However, since it was the first stop on the trip - I assumed things would get better, so continued on.
After relaxing by the lake for a few hours, and having White Wagtail walk along the beach in front of me, with Black-headed Gull and Gull-billed tern flying nearby, I wandered around the hotel gardens. I found that the really good spot was behind the hotel, in the bush near the escarpment. This area produced Banded Barbet in the staff area, White-bellied Go-Away Bird, Blue-naped Mousebird, Whinchat, Mountain Rock-Thrush, Buff-bellied Warbler, Northern Crombec, Grey-headed Batis, Black-capped Social-Weaver and Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu. Olive Baboons were to be found near the cliffs.
An Ethiopian trip: 27/11/1999 to 17/01/2000Giles Mulholland 31 January 2000