I have had the most incredible weekend! A few of my Peace Corps friends and I decided to make a trip to a local crater lake. It is called, “Ara Shatan,” which translates to Devil’s Lake. We began our journey by hailing a bajaj, a small three wheeled vehicle that operates as a taxi. They have room for one driver up front and three passengers (depending on size) in the back. We worked our best Amharic magic to negotiate a price for our desired destination before we hopped in. The ride was about 15 minutes, they don’t go super fast but are very handy since they can navigate through some tight areas and some fairly rough terrain.
Since we were unsure of the actual location of the lake and our driver seemed to be unsure as well, we had to rely on locals to direct us. We began driving on a side dirt road that got rougher and rougher and eventually had piles of new rock to spread for the road. He began to drive over the hill but got stuck. We decided he had gotten us close enough so we got out and handed him our agreed upon amount for the trip. He seemed unhappy with what we handed him and he motioned that each of us should pay that amount. We argued as best we could but couldn’t seem to make him happy so we each paid the same amount. That didn’t work either, he didn’t appear to be happy with our math. We eventually said enough (becca) and left him slightly disgruntled.
As we walked up the hillside we quickly became amazed by the scenery and view. We reached the top of the hill and just over the horizon we discovered the crater lake. It holds some of the bluest water you can imagine. From the looks of the landscape surrounding the lake, it is one undisturbed by animal or human. We stood for quite a while in awe and amazement. We discussed the possibly of someone ever making it all the way down to the water and how they would get back up. It seemed pretty impossible, although I’m sure someone has made an attempt. We began to walk around the lake along the top ridge.
We had heard stories from seasoned volunteers of a man who lived in a cave somewhere near the crater lake. As we walked along the path around the lake, we were met by several children (children always follow us), so we asked them if they could tell us where the cave was. They pointed and began escorting us. Along our short walk we met many Peace Corps Trainees who had just come from the cave. They informed us of the old blind man who lived in the cave with his two wives and twenty children. They also said that he was charging money for people to come and sit with him, they had each paid about one birr (20 birr= 1 USD). The girls in the group quickly told us that they had all been groped by him. He is “blind” but can quickly find a female’s chest. They reassured of us of our direction, so we continued on.
Up another steep hill and once we reached the top, we saw the path to the cave. We ventured down slowly unsure of what we would find. We met many of his children along the way, they were asking us for money and even water. We are slowly getting used to children calling us ‘forenji’ (foreigner/white person), ‘money money money,’ and I have been called ‘china’ once. We continued down until we reached the cave and saw the blind man sitting, enjoying the attention. His wives and children went on with their routine. We kept our distance, not wanting to get felt up by the blind man. While watching the blind man and his family, another forenji ventured down to the cave as well. We noticed he had a camera and notebook, taking notes. We asked what braught him there. It turned out that he was Philip Briggs, the author of Ethiopia, 5th (Bradt Travel Guide Ethiopia and MANY other travel guides) and was there working to update the travel guide for a new addition! It was great getting to speak with him and swapping helpful information about the area.
We soon returned to the open air above while conversing with our new friend.
The day was filled with beauty, excitement, and the unknown. We were unsure of exactly how to get to our destination, knew very little language to communicate, but we slowly found our way and met incredible people along the way.