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During this time Deirdre set up her tent, and retreated into it to read a book.  She only emerged when I left for Addis, two days later. I really wonder what people who travel for the sake of travelling get out of it - she never wandered around, or looked at the scenery, or even met people to talk to.  Weird.

The only other people at the campsite - and the only people who I met camping during the whole time I was in Ethiopia - were Rob and a friend, who had driven down from London, heading for South Africa.  We discussed where they had been and the problems, including being harassed in Egypt, and so shipping their vehicle to Mombasa, before driving back north to Addis Ababa.  However, they didn't travel beyond there, and were on their way back to Moyale, and then through Kenya southwards over the next few months.  So I still got no more information on travelling in Ethiopia - I was definitely feeling information deprived.

Tuesday 7th December 1999

This was a truly lazy day.  Started of by returning to the base of the escarpment and found a lot more acacia grassland birds, including Eastern yellow-billed Hornbill, Red-fronted Barbet, African Thrush, Rüppell's Robin-Chat, Olive-tree Warbler, Nightingale, Ashy & Stout Cisticolas, Mouse-coloured Penduline Tit, Village Indigobird, Three-streaked Tchagra, Slate-coloured Boubou, Speckle-fronted Weaver, Purple Grenadier and Ortolan Bunting.  There were quite a number of weavers, and after a lot of effort, found one male which was still in sufficient breeding plumage to identify it as a Rüppell's Weaver.  On returning to the front of the hotel, I decided to have a breakfast there.  I was continually distracted by a chat of some sort flitting around the base of the bougainvillea next to the beach.  Finally it showed itself properly, and I was delighted to realize it was an Irania.

At about 09:00, I drove the 5 km to return to the main road, and drove across to the Abiata - Shala NP.  I took a guide simply because there were no maps, and he might be of some use.  While he didn’t speak any English, he did know which was the passable track, and the areas where tourists were able to travel.

As with almost all NPs in Ethiopia, there were many people living there with their goats and cattle. The internal roads were a bit dusty but otherwise quite driveable.  Lake Shala was a disappointment with no water-birds visible at all, so I continued straight on to Lake Abiata. Again there were no waterfowl (except a few Northern Shovelers), but the waders made up for this.  There were a few "southern African" waders, but also Redshank, Temminck's Stilt, and several Lesser Golden Plover.  At another point on the shoreline were a few Flamingos and pelicans, but also Lesser Black-backed and Greater Black-headed Gulls, and some Fire-crowned Bishop.

In the adjacent acacia bush were a the usual species, as well as Red-winged Bush-Lark, Northern & Isabelline Wheatears, White-winged Black Tit, Woodchat Shrike, Rüppell's Long-tailed Starling and Speke's Weaver.  However, what really stood out was the incredible numbers of Yellow and Grey Wagtails. They were literally in flocks like locusts, probably numbering in the tens or even hundreds of thousands. Although I tried to identify as many sub-species as possible, the individual variations in colours amongst the three sub-species identified was quite remarkable.

By early afternoon, I returned to the campsite, but stopped on the main tarred road to watch an Imperial Eagle scavenging a carcass on the road.  I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing.  Deirdre didn’t emerge from her tent.

Wednesday 8th December 1999

We left the campsite quite early (at around 07:00) to drive north to Lake Ziway in order to get there at a reasonable hour.  Although easy to reach the fishing jetty on the lake, it proved to be another disappointment in terms of waterfowl - although Pygmy Goose and Spur-winged Goose were present - with Yellow-billed Ducks.  Spent some time searching the adjacent wetland areas, but found nothing further of interest.

On continuing north from Ziway, the tar road continued to deteriorate further, but this was partly due to the road construction crews who were working from the north rebuilding the road.  Much of the road-works was centred around the Koka Dam area, with extensive wetlands on either side of the road as it crosses the Awash river.  Regular stops (not easy with all the road-works) failed to produce any new palearctic waterfowl, although a Little Ringed Plover was found right next to the road.  One curiosity on entering a small village was to be met by approximately 300 camels which were being herded into town, by just a few young boys.  Considering the value this must have represented, it seemed surprising that no adults appeared to be supervising.

An Ethiopian trip: 27/11/1999 to 17/01/2000Giles Mulholland 31 January 2000

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