Walking Diary – Ethiopia

by niadavies

Turmi, Omo. September 24th 2009

While out in the dust-light, there is flesh in thorns. The prancing feet of gazelles. The dry riverbeds are walkways. Vulture feathers, hoopoe hornbills spring up through the acacia bushes.

Round dwellings of stacked wood, the skin of goat, eight cow-lives. Go-away birds with feathered horns. The skin of women and men making heat in the evening. Skin is splashed to wash off dust.

We burn river driftwood, cross flooded waterways and ant-trails like the Hamer people, red-daubed walkers, returning from the bull jumping ceremony.  Skull of Ox. Scars of devotion on the women’s backs. Lust is catered for here, unlike on the other side of the Omo river. Sandy-footed villages. Mile for mile, women walk different lives in their different clans. Digging for water in the river bed. Men wear feathers in their crowns if they have earned the honour to marry in a bull-jump.

The axe, the machete for splitting wood, a Kalashnikov for your ninth birthday. Beaded arms, necks, wrists, bell-feet. Dusty-eyed travellers are we. Dry wood makes good fires. Termite mounds rise like stelae poking through thorns.

Ants crawl over ankle, brown toe-nails. I am five days from Addis, five fathoms of land-locked lake living. Night is doused with the milky way and distant lightning flashing in a corner of the wide sky. Otherwise fire and headlights are the only light. Sweat and dust makes mud between my limbs.

© Nia Davies, 2009