The Omo Valley in Southern Ethiopia is where several ancient African tribes still live their traditional life. This remote region is difficult to reach, which adds to the mystery of this region.
It will be no surprise that no public transport reaches this region. If you want to go there (and you should!), you need to arrange an experienced 4x4 expedition. Jeeps or overland trucks are the preferred vehicles.
Find out which organizations offer tours to the Omo Valley on the Adventure Travel Ethiopia page. And read our tale below, about how we reached the Omo Valley with an overland truck.
More Adventure travel tales in Ethiopia:
Bahir Dar, Lake Tana
Ancient African Tribes
Other African Tales:
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Masai Tribe, Kenya
After lake Langano there are a few more lakes in the Rift Valley that we pass on our way south.
Around the lakes mountains trade places with African planes, with some acacia trees. We see hurdes graze, but there is also some agriculture here. There is no drought, the land seems quite fertile here.
After a day of driving, we leave the asphalt road to drive up into the mountains. We make camp on a side of the mountain flank with a beautiful view over lake Abaya.
When we wake up next morning and peek outside our tent, we are amazed. There is a mini market with linen, scarves and hats in bright colors. While we have breakfast and break up our camp, local people are trading their goods with us.
The two merchants hitch a ride with us up the mountain to Chenda. This is the domain of the Dorse tribe.
The Dorse people are experts in making textile and thus we see a lot more booths selling goods on our way. We make a few stops to admire the weaving and to buy some more.
There is also a woman working on her knees to handmake the nicest pottery and cans. The Dorse people appear to be very skillful.
Chenda is the biggest town in the Dorse area. Here we see the traditional high huts characteristic for this tribe. They are similar to huge beehives of 11 meters high.
We stop and take a look inside some of the huts. Inside, the space is bigger than we would expect. There even is room for cattle, and storage.
They also cook inside and when we are offered a coffee ceremony, the hut is full of smoke.
We taste a bit of what the people make from the fake banana tree, but that’s no success. Neither are the many children, who are begging for “pen, money, birr”.
But as we leave, they are swinging, waving and making acrobatic moves for us.
We head back down to the asphalt road which takes us to the town of Arba Minch. Here, we tank and buy some groceries.
From now on, we continue over dirt roads. However, every once in a while we are hit by a shower, so there is not much dust.
The environment is pretty green here, too. There still is a lot of agriculture, especially bananas. But we are still driving along a lake, on the other side of the mountain it will probably be different.
Slowly we start climbing on our way to Konso. This is the area dominated by the Tabor people.
It is pretty obvious that the woman of this tribe do most of the work. We see a lot of them along the road, carrying huge bags on their backs. Their backs are grown hollow from it. They can also be recognized by their double skirts and their braided hair.
When we arrive in Konso, mainly men surround our truck. They are trying to sell wooden puppets. These are the traditional puppets they make of deceased persons and their relatives, to put on their graves. But nowadays, they also serve as souvenirs for tourists.
We leave Konso to make camp outside the town. But when Benni, our fire starter, starts collecting wood he gets involved in a conflict.
Our driver Gerard appointed a guard, who has a discussion with some locals. They appear to be the owners of the land where we camp. They have no problem with us camping here, but they don’t want us to use their firewood. In the end, we pay them 10 Birr (a bit more than a dollar) and they even help us collect the wood.
It is a cold night on the side of the mountain, and we hope to enter the warmth as we descend today into the Omo valley.
We take our places on the truck but only half an hour later, we need to get off. The truck has to pass through a river (the bridge was washed away two years ago), but another truck is blocking the passage.
Gerard decides to use our truck to pull it free. In two attempts, and with us carrying stones to ease the way, we succeed, to great joy of the locals. After passing the river ourselves, however, we see the next truck getting stuck. We could spend days here freeing trucks from the river, so Gerard decides to move on.
We continue our way and enter another shower. After each mountain range we pass we hope to have better weather and indeed, the sky clears a bit. But the landscape is still very green and it’s clear there was a lot of rain here, too.
There are a lot of termite hills between the prickly vegetation that was supposed to be a lot dryer.
We enter the area of the Bana tribe. We see a few of them along the roads and stop where a small group has gathered. These people are clothed in animal skins, have beaded necklaces and carry metal bracelets.
We are staring at them for a while, and they’re staring back at us. After 10 minutes we move on, giving two of them a ride.
At a small village on the next mountain range we drop the two hitchers. And during our lunch here we meet two girls. We can make pictures of them in exchange for some food and birrs.
We enjoy each others company and regret to have to move on. As we do, it starts raining again. It was said this area doesn’t see much rain, but we doubt that now.
Until we reach Jinka, the big town where we are setting up our camp for a few days at a hotel/camp site, it stays wet.
Reaching the Omo Valley was an adventure in itself. You will meet several interesting tribes and cultures. Be prepared for some setbacks, but enjoy the ride.
Find out which organizations offer these trips on the Adventure Travel Ethiopia page.