11-Feb-2006 -- 8N 38E is not far as the crow flies from our home in Butajīra, Ethiopia, but by road it's quite a journey. Ben, Candi, and Jacob Williams, as well as Trevor and Corban Parker went along with me on what would collectively be our first confluence visit. We left around 9:00 a.m. for the confluence point. Our hope was to arrive there sometime before lunch. The first leg of our journey was a 37 km drive south on the area's only asphalt road to the town of Wurabe. From there we left the blacktop to take the only passable road up to the mountain ridge that contains 8N 38E. Upon reaching the ridge we drove north for about three km to the town of Alecho. We drove northeast from there about 20 km to a fork in the road at 8°6.5'N 38°13.2'E. Just before reaching the fork in the road, we stopped to look east from a point where the road comes within a few meters of the edge of the ridge. From the overlook point there is a fantastic view of the Rift Valley. On a clear day, Lake Ziway, one of the Rift Valley lakes, is easily seen.
After enjoying a panoramic view of that portion of the Rift Valley, we drove about 10 km southeast to the town of Bole Gebia. Saturday is apparently the town's market day, and we observed people traveling from miles around to the market. The market is very colorful and covers much of the town. Large baskets with interesting woven patterns appear to be the area's specialty. The market also had a large selection of horses, something rarely seen in the towns along the rift valley floors.
We passed through the market at Bole Gebia and continued traveling southeast for another five km to the town of Ārek'et'. From there we turned northwest and drove another five km to the small village of Bid. The confluence point is just 500 meters beyond Bid, and we were able to drive within 200 meters of the point.
We left our vehicle on the road leading out of Bid and took a look at our confluence point. It was near the bottom of a small valley between two hills. We walked steadily downhill to the point, and picked up a small crowd while walking. The people in this area appeared to be primarily farmers and herdsmen. One of our group members did his best to explain why we were interested in a particular spot on their land. The local landowners didn't quite understand what we were doing, but they were friendly and patient with us as we waited for the GPS to get the best reading it could and took several pictures of their home. The confluence point was between the two trees in the foreground of photo number one.
After marking the point on our GPS, we were able to get several of the local residents together for a photo. Then we climbed up the hill to our vehicle, a much more taxing walk than the trip down. Though we were all winded when we reached our vehicle, we were excited about completing our first confluence point visit. We spoke with the local residents a little more, and then made our farewells and returned the same way we had come. On our way back we stopped in Ārek'et' for lunch at a small hotel. The hotel prepared tasty versions of two national dishes for us, Kai Wat, a spicy sheep stew, and Tibs, finely diced and cooked sheep meat. After our bumpy ride and tiring climb, the meal tasted great. After lunch we returned home without any difficulty. The drive to and from Butajīra took about two and a half hours each way. From Wurabe the roads are all dirt roads, and while all roads were passable with a 4-WD vehicle when we went, they may be difficult to use during the rainy season.