In search of some of Africa’s most fragile places and people in the name of Big Beyond

By the way, I’m in search of protected areas (for now I’m looking at national parks) that are challenged in terms of bio-diversity conservation and where associated communities are in need of development. I’m starting in some of the least developed countries of the world, but those that are incredibly beautiful yet enormously fragile; Ethiopia, Malawi and Uganda.

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On the road again…and against the clock with South Omo transport

Meetings were complete and my work was done here for now. I have the partner projects and schools organised and a house to rent. I needed to get back to Jinka where all the federal tourism and wildlife representatives were having a conference because they’d arranged for me to meet them and present all my findings and suggestions. So I was looking for a truck heading that way. There weren’t any buses that day as they are pretty far and few between. I was told there was a truck coming from Omerate by the cops so I waited at the junction. For 5 bloody hours! And then it didn’t come at all. A bit concerned I was going to miss my meeting with all the tourism guys in Jinka. In the end luckily I found a pick up that was leaving at 6am the next morning and going to Key Afar which was in the direction of Jinka.

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Onwards to the very green and easy Malawi!

I flew via Lubumbashi in the Congo which was an interesting experience. The land around there seemed so flat as far as you could see. It was quite a big town/city. Loads of Chinese people got on and off the plane, it turns out it’s a big mining place for something that goes in mobile phones. I was wondering what they were doing flying in and out this random place?! We were the only commercial plane there, the rest were cargo planes delivering boxes of various supplies. The aircon on the plane broke and it was hot and stuffy. I managed to sneak out to stand on the plane stairs for a while because we were hanging around there for about 3 hours. Anyway eventually we headed on to Malawi, landed in Lilongwe, fought with the new crazy taxi prices and happily hitched a lift right to my hotel door in the end.

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Partnership with Hamer women’s group arranged

Got a very packed bus back to Turmi and headed to the police station which would be my home for the next few days. They first suggested I put my tent pretty much in the middle of the road junction. Not so subtle and private! I shifted back a little behind the pile of logs that the police lounge around on most the all day. Headed to meet my first cooperative which was a women’s group set up by a lady called Yashi.

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To the depths of the South Omo

To cut a long and very irritating story short, I eventually found some transport going to a town called Jinka, near Mago National Park in the South Omo. I’d managed to organise a meeting with the tourism person there which was great. I ended up travelling in the front cabin of a big truck delivering cement with a driver who missed a few teeth, had a very bright green fluffy cab interior including gear stick and ceiling, and he spoke absolutely no English along to match my totally failed Amharic! Anyway, we were finally en route.

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Travelling to Arba Minch and Nechisar National Park

Reached Lake Awasa with relative ease where I planned to break up the two day journey, chilled out, had my first Injera (the local dish which is a big silver tray covered with a large rubbery bread/pancake-like thing with spicy veg concoctions in small piles on the top, that you eat with your hands – sounds nasty but nice). The start of a lovely relationship on the food front – in African terms! I’m a big fan of chilli and also like actual flavour in my food so it was a very nice surprise from the familiar beans and rice I know so well.

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Exploring opportunities in Jinka & Mago National Park

I met the Tourism Head and planned my trip to Mago National Park to meet the park scouts. They gave me one of the staff as a translator. Managed to persuade them to let me use the parks vehicle luckily, left the next day, bought the usual limited food from the market and a cooking pot, travelled to Mago and set up camp in the scout camp with my little yellow mobile home tent. Trying not to think about the total lack of air to breathe in my tent (it was 45 degrees that day) and my sweaty state I was pretty comfortable with my new inflatable mattress which was the best investment ever. Farewell inflatable lilo!

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Big Beyond confirms Mago National Park and the Hamar tribe as volunteer destination No.3

The main wildlife in Mago National Park are elephant, kudu, hertebeast, buffalo, leopard, lion and giraffe, although many are now in small and declining numbers. The ecosystem of Mago has been hugely affected and is still under threat from the surrounding communities.

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