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It’s never a bad idea to get away from the office once in a while and find some different scenery in which to work or even relax. So the long suffering Mrs Ellis and I have headed south to her Ethiopian homeland.
It’s never a bad idea to get away from the office once in a while and find some different scenery in which to work or even relax. So the long suffering Mrs Ellis and I have headed south to her Ethiopian homeland. Best I know, Ethiopia is the only holiday destination on the planet where you really do get to be younger when you visit. Due to Ethiopia sticking rigidly to the Julien calendar, it’s still only early 2008 out there so I really did go back in time by over seven years when I touched down at Addis Ababa airport. Talking of time, 0 hours in Ethiopia is what we would call 6.00 am (when the sun rises) and it goes dark at around 13.00 or 7.00 pm in the evening in English money. Confused yet?
As they really do like to be different, Ethiopia actually has 13 months in its calendar, 12 months each of 30 days duration and one further month of 5 or 6 days, depending on whether it’s a leap year or not. No salaries are paid to Ethiopian public servants or employees of charities for work done during the 13th month. I do hope there are no Trust directors reading this. In these times of austerity, I wouldn’t want to give them more cost saving ideas, not at least without signing up in advance to a generous profit share arrangement. The great news is that Christmas day throughout Ethiopia is celebrated on 7th January so this year I get two proper Xmas day lunches, traditional turkey in Shropshire and traditional lamb in Ethiopia. Can’t be bad.
Ethiopia is a seriously mountainous place. Most of Addis itself is at an altitude of 8000 to 9000 feet making it the third highest capital city behind La Paz in Bolivia and Quito in Ecuador. There is definitely less oxygen in the air and the suitcase feels even heavier than normal. The high altitude conditions make ideal training grounds for the long distance athletes for which Ethiopia is renowned. Who will ever forget the great Abebe Bekele winning gold in both the Rome and Tokyo Olympic games? He seemed to make marathon running look so effortless. Younger heroes such as Haile Gebrselassie, Kenenisa Bekele, Derartu Tulu and the Bibaba sisters have since followed in that great man’s footsteps. The Ethiopian scenery is truly stunning, especially around the end of the rainy season in September and October when greenery really takes over. Early mornings can be surprisingly cold though; it’s often close to freezing in Addis in December and January so I packed an extra jumper just in case.
The Ethiopians had a thriving empire long before the Romans had grown out of short trousers. The Queen of Sheba was probably Ethiopian and that wise chap Solomon took a bit of a shine to her. Who knows exactly the extent of the ancient Axumite Empire? The evidence is lost in the mists of time but without doubt it extended north to Egypt and covered much of what is now Yemen, along with all the lands in the horn of Africa. Ethiopia is mentioned in the bible more than 20 times including in Genesis where it specifically refers to the Blue Nile or Ghion when describing the location of the Garden of Eden. Ethiopia is predominantly a Christian country, formally adopting it as the state religion in around 329 AD. Some of the early followers of Prophet Mohammed fled across the Red Sea to Negash in Tigray where they were well received. As an outsider looking in, people of these two great faiths seem, best I can tell, to live in harmony throughout Ethiopia. Long may that continue.
As Isaiah said some while back ‘there is no rest for the wicked’ and so it won’t come as any surprise to those who know me to discover that fisheries work will remain on my agenda whilst on holiday. There will doubtless be some Trust jobs that I need to get done as our team somehow always has far more tasks to perform than available work time to complete them. On top of that, I have been invited to take an advisory role in a major proposed fisheries project in the upper Wabi Shebelle catchment. The Wabi Shebelle river basin is very unusual in an African fisheries context. Back in the 1960s both brown and rainbow trout fry were translocated from Kenya and introduced into several rivers in the Bale Mountains including the Adabe, Goba, Web, Shaya and Danka. Not only have the two species survived in these cold water upland rivers, but the populations appears sustainable. We will be exploring the possibilities of extending the range of both species as well as the tourism opportunities.
The outside world knows little of Ethiopia’s extensive network of lake fisheries. Lake Tana, which is the close to the source of the Blue Nile, is pretty much the same size as my home county of Shropshire. Being fairly shallow Tana is a productive fishery, as are several of the Rift Valley lakes. The River Baro is a tributary of the White Nile which it confluences with in South Sudan. As recently as the early 1990s Nile perch of over 150 kgs were being caught by local tribes in the Ethiopian section of Baro river catchment. However, I have no information on catches during the past few years so it would not surprise me if specimens of this size are a thing of the past.
The team undertake a diverse range of work including looking after the Trust's £40 million worth of fish stocks, managing agreements with over 250 different angling clubs and helping more people, especially youngsters, take up angling on the canal. Follow this blog to keep updated with the thoughts and work of the team.