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Guest blog post by liveBooks client Ed Asmus
“Stunning” is a word that I don’t often use. But in this particular case, my trip to visit Ethiopia’s Omo Valley was not only aesthetically stunning, but strange and otherworldly. Almost ancestral.
This magical place is also known as “The Cradle of Mankind” – home of the oldest hominid fossil, #AL288-1 or “Lucy.” 3.5 million years after her, I went to photograph and visit her descendants.
This life changing journey started in a strange way. I am a long time user of the Broncolor lighting in my professional photography business in Sacramento, CA. One day, when I was reading their monthly newsletter, I saw a featured photographer and read about his trip to Ethiopia. His images were immediately captivating. Eerie, almost. It was hard to believe that what I was looking at really still existed in the world today. I contacted Ken, the photographer, who told me that things were rapidly changing over there, that I should go for at least two weeks, and that I should go NOW. He gave me his trusted guide’s name and shoot organizer, Ayele Sode, and all the pieces began to fall into place.
We planned our trip in November, just after the Ethiopian rainy season – their springtime – so native flowers would be in bloom. With equipment loaded atop our SUV, we headed to our first stop to see the “Surma Tribe.” It took three long days of driving in the bush to get to their village; the dirt roads were horrible. Not many Western people get to this tribe because they are so far off the beaten path, and there are no accommodations or running water. Our guide had organized tent camping and an enormous bottled water supply. He brought with us a chef and a hired bodyguard with an AK-47. I forgot we were in the bush and a long ways away from any cell service or modern conveniences.
We planned to stay five days with the Surma people, but it was cut short by tribal tensions one night, so we departed a day early. We still experienced rain, which made the roads even more difficult. On our way out, some roads were washed out and we ended up getting stuck four times. It crossed my mind more than once that we were all going to spend the night in the Landcruiser. The first little town we came to is where we found pension for $2.00 a night – and I gladly picked up the tab. The rain made our travels longer as we had another three days of driving to get to our next tribe. We saw seven tribes total, each more different than the last. The one commonality is that they all live and depend on the land; most are either farmers of teff, corn, wheat, or coffee, or they free range cattle and goats. Our accommodations ranged from $2 to $120 per night/USD. This really is a National Geographic wonderland, and what you will see and experience is worth every penny. All I can say is stunning.
I’ve been back for only two weeks and am already missing the ET native people. They seem to get by on what they have and are happy. My plans are to go back again next year, fine tune the logistics, and shoot more beautiful work.
Please check out Ed’s website for more stunning images!