My first port of call was to be Awassa, sometimes seen as Hawassa. The guide book suggests a number of interesting places to visit when travelling south. Despite the many benefits, a price to pay for travelling by local transport is the inability to deviate without a clear idea of how to get out of a place. It’s very easy to get off a bus at an interesting village or viewpoint but then you can be stranded.
But Awassa has plenty going for it. Sitting on the edge of a lake, one of the smaller of the lakes in the rift valley, it has a thriving local fish industry. An interesting morning was spent at the fish market on the lakeside. Here, not only is brought ashore and sold, it is cooked on makeshift charcoal grills, attracting Hawassa locals and tourists alike. But it’s not just the local human inhabitants that benefit from this industry. Pelicans crowd around ready to open their handbag-like mouths to catch scraps that are thrown to them. Meanwhile, while the rather ungainly marabou stalks, strut about seeking their share of the offal. These somewhat unendearing giants are a common sight even in dense urban area where their enormous bodies perch precariously in the smallest of trees.
I'The city centre is dominated by the large church of St Gabriel, reminding one that Ethiopia is one of the oldest Christian states in the world.
The lakeside provides a pleasant evening stroll, having the feeling of a western seaside promenade with couples and families enjoying the evening sunshine. It was here that I experienced what was to be one of the enduring features of Ethiopia, the easy viewing of birds. Where throughout the rest of the world the birds take to flight at the first sight of human beings, here they remain seemingly undisturbed.