Africa Diary – Day 6 – Cheated and Mis-Guided

Cleary Ethiopia D6000002

Awake for several hours before the alarm goes off at 6:45, it’s still dark outside and as usual, all the electricity in the town is off.

I quickly pack the final items which have been charging overnight and walk to an early breakfast (back at) Gojo restaurant where I order 2 Spanish omelettes and coffee.  Gerry, Danny and Soloman join, we discuss the latest information from the local guide association and all seems good-to-go based on their assurances.

Because the Mursi’s location is deep in Mago Park – a considerable distance, we have the restaurant prepare Injira lunches for crew to take-with.

We swing-by the guide office and pick up our local guide Frewu Fikadu, who unexpectedly explains that the Mursi situation has changed, that we are unable to enter the park because the road has been closed by the authorities.

Frewu does some fast-talking, says he has made arrangements for us to photograph a group of Mursi which he says he has gathered for us within the town of Jinka, at the river.  Reluctantly we drive there… its a pathetic scene, in fact I can see that some are not even Mursi.  At this point it’s clear to all of us that we’ve been conned by Frewu, in an effort to make money.  It’s pathetic.

I’m mad as hell.

Some strong words are exchanged, we reconvene at the hotel in an effort to clarify the situation, Frewu’s story changes every time he opens his mouth.
My team are livid, when pressured, Frewu offers that we can visit a different village of Mursi, which he knows the way-to.  Sceptical by-now, Soloman and Gerry make the decision to visit the police chief in Jinka and ask him to advise us directly.
The police chief says unoquivically, no.

At this point Gerry tells Frewu to get lost.

Picking-up the pieces,  we discuss potential tribes that could salvage our day in lieu, we decide to travel to the Arbore, who are located north east of Jinka, somewhat conveniently situated to Konzo where we will overnight.

On roughest roads yet, we drive 3 hours/130km, the environment becomes arid, scrubby and super-hot.

After picking-up a new local scout we drive directly to the village, where we were immediately swarmed by the village people.

This was the first experience I had where there was difficulty in expressing our ambition to create different photographs then the typical ‘forenghi’ snapshots.

Though this latest local guide – whom we were obliged to hire, was totally useless, Cale stepped-in and sorted things out, once he worked his magic I was free to move about the village and photograph as I chose.

The day was blindingly bright, dry and 40+ degrees Celsius, huge amounts of sunscreen and water were the order of the day.

Eventually, my medium format camera/digital back and laptop became too hot to touch.

On this trip my typical process was to scout people and locations first, then assemble gear and shoot handheld to the Contax/Phase with the Broncolor MOVE providing light for shape and style via a soft box on a short handheld boom.

Towards establishing a comfort level for the tribe, I started with some handheld, wide angle scenes

We broke for lunch, my team went to find shade and I stayed with the vehicle and equipment.  I was swarmed by women and children asking for soap, water, empty water bottles and trying to get me to pay them for taking their picture. It’s hard to describe the relentlessness of this.

Interestingly, at about this time a second land cruiser arrived with a guide and two American women, a few minutes later I saw one of the women crying and angry with her guide, insisting they leave.  Gerry intervened and it turns out her guide had poorly handled a payment to one of the tribe for a photo, with the result that the tourist was quite upset about it.

Not a stellar day for guides in the region, at-all.

After wrapping late afternoon, we began the long bumpy 107km drive to Karat Konzo, arriving just after dark.

It’s Danny the driver’s policy to avoid driving after dark at all costs, he stretched it today for me due to our circumstances, but I see his point, given all the livestock and people covering the roads, even at night!

Top of list is a shower and change of clothes, I’d like to rid myself of the goat-shit and dust which has permeated every part of me and my gear.

Late dinner of beef curry, a well-deserved Sundowner and conversation with several interesting German guests who are also guests at our lodge.

A bit of bad news – during file review/backup.. some of my early shots from today are stuck on a troubled CF card, hopefully they can be rescued when I return to Canada.