In November 2014 I travelled to Ethiopia. This was my first visit to Africa, & my experience of the people, culture & environment there has had a deep & subtle effect upon me. I did not find it easy to be this person from an English working class background, I could not fit. For whilst moving among the people there, between places both urban & rural, I found myself inadequately equipped, both emotionally & intellectually, to comfortably assimilate the culture I found myself immersed in. Surrounded by such dynamic landscapes of beauty & diversity, it is easy to hide behind a camera & focus on the wonder one beholds. The land though is but half the experience, for there are also the people it sustains.
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At a height of 2,881 metres above sea level, Wenchi (or Wonchi) is a crater lake situated in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, about 130km west of the capital city, Addis Abeba. The landscape around Wenchi is rugged & dynamic, contrasting dusty, rocky gullies with waterfalls, hot springs, deciduous forests & lush vallies ribboned with glistening streams, where wild horses roam and graze on lush grasses.
The inhabitants of the region, mainly Oromo people, live a mostly agricultural & pastoral life, herding goats & cattle for meat, limited dairy produce, & hides; and growing grain crops, such as wheat & teff (used to make Ethiopia's distinctive tasting & ubiquitous injera bread). False Banana (Ensete ventricosum) is a main root staple of the region which takes 4 to 5 years to mature (to a height of near 20 feet), and provides about 40kg of food (kocho & bulla, from the root alone) once ripe. The local horses (seen in some of the images) are free to roam the vallies until it is decided they will be used to carry produce to the market; others are used for carrying the less able or lazy tourists around the lake area.
The placid turquoise lake is 4km by 4.8km & nestles 450m below the volcano edge. I have read conflicting reports that measure the depth of the lake at between 78m & 400m at it's deepest point. The crater, or caldera is the result of a volcanic collapse after a voluminous eruption leaves the magma chamber below empty & unable to support the volcano. This collapse can happen immediately, or over time. It is estimated that Wenchi's most recent eruption may have been around 1500 years ago.
We were told that the locals fish at the lake from boats, and only swim far from the banks to reduce the risk of disease from parasitical insects that live along the shoreline. Also, one of the small islands on the lake is home to a monastery, though it was closed to visitors whilst we were there.
The journey from Addis Abeba takes about 3 to 4 hours, depending on your vehicle & the current road conditions. A 4 wheel drive is highly recommended. I would also recommend arriving the day before & finding accomodation, as they will also provide packed lunches to take with you for your trek. It's a good days hike around the lake, with some challenging terrain, though guided horses are also available to hire. I've attached some links below for more information. If you have the opportunity to go, do not turn it down.
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