Once back up to a reasonable altitude at Bure, I continued back through Gore and Metu to Bedele. From here I continued east to Jima. En route I saw a few Black Saw-wing (race oleaginea) and Matschie's Grivet. Luckily the local government hotel here was very cheap, and provided better food and facilities than many of the more expensive ones I had camped at before. A nice shower was most welcome after Gambela.
Monday 3rd January 2000
By this point it might seem that I was not seeing much in the way of bird-life, but that is not true. On these latter stages, I was still seeing plenty of species, but finding new species was becoming progressively harder, given my considerable luck during the early part of the trip. However, the novelty of the country was obviously reduced, as was the ability to ignore the faranji situation. In many respects it was no worse here than at the beginning, but after a month, it does become quite wearing to be the centre of attention everywhere you go.
Although the maps indicate that there are "roads" between Jima and Sodo, none of the locals had ever heard of them. So it was necessary to follow the tar road to Addis Ababa, turning off to the south just after Welkite. On leaving Jima I was very surprised to find Rouget's Rail crossing the road - with no apparently suitable habitat in sight. On the way one passes through the Gibe gorge, which is supposedly the nearest place to the "normal" birding route to find various western species. I have to say I say no sign of suitable habitat or the species themselves that I had seen in Gambela. I suspect one would need to be very lucky indeed to find them here.
From Welkite, there was another gravel road to Sodo, which was also very rocky indeed. On this road, a small woodland patch provided a single Neumann's Colobus. By the time I had reached Sodo, the front springs were again in very bad condition, with several leaves broken. On reaching Sodo, the new tar road to Arba Minch was virtually complete. There was one short stretch of 2 km near to Arba Minch that was incomplete, and a deep 50 cm wide trench across the road, which if not seen timeously would have done catastrophic damage to the suspension. Obviously there were no warning signs.
On reaching Arba Minch, I turned off to the Nechisar National Park, and camped in the woodland at the river near the entrance gate. This official campsite had no facilities of any sort. The only major life in the area were several (presumed) Lesser Galago's calling in the evening.
Tuesday 4th January 2000
The morning was quite quiet, with few species encountered in the woodland area, although Bushpig and (presumed) Gambian Sun Squirrel were seen. No wanting to risk damaging the springs further, I did not drive anywhere until it was late enough to return to Arba Minch and fix up the springs. However, I slightly misjudges it, and just as I turned into the first garage, there was a sickening thud as a spring completely broke - still, it could have happened in a worse place! After a couple of hours we had welded it up as strongly as was practical, but yet more money was used up doing it. It was just a matter of trying to avoid any more repairs before reaching Kenya.
On returning to the park, I drove past the campsite, and on towards the plains themselves. The road quickly deteriorated, to a level that was almost as bad as any I had encountered. It was definitely a first-gear low-ratio effort. However, by taking it very slowly, I was able to get over the hills and reach the plains themselves, where the road was quite reasonable. On the way, many groups of Rufous Chatterers were passed. On crossing the plains the first time there was little bird-life, other than finding a couple of White-tailed Bush Larks at the northern edge of the plains.
On the southern end of the plains the road enters a hilly bush area, which lead to the hot-springs. There was little bird-life even there - and as usual for any pleasant tourist spot in Ethiopia, several families were living right at the edge of the springs, and allowed no peace.
I continued along the road to swing back onto the plains close to Lake Chamo, but no signs of any bird-life near the lake edge. Returning towards to the bush close to the hot-springs several Secretary Bird and Kori Bustards were seen, as well as several herds of Burchell's Zebra, as well as Thomson's Gazelle, Greater Kudu and Spotted Hyaena . In the late afternoon, bird-life started to appear, and a few Rufous Scrub-Robin were found, as well as Dark Chanting Goshawk, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, a flock of Red-billed Wood-hoopoe, a single Black Wood-hoopoe, White-rumped Babbler and Orange-winged Pytilia.
An Ethiopian trip: 27/11/1999 to 17/01/2000Giles Mulholland 31 January 2000