From Mekelle To Asayita




by Joakim Larsen

January 2016


It took me three days to drive on the motor cycle from Mekelle in Tigray to Asayita in Afar. I followed the old highland route through the mountains of Raya in Southern Tigray and in Alamata met with the new road towards Weldiya in the North Eastern part of Amhara Region. Right before Weldiya, rather than following the road that takes you back onto the high plateau, rising dramatically just 20 kilometers to the West, I took a left turn, and followed the road that brings you through the mid-hills of Eastern Wollo towards Afar, and deep down into the very different African Rift Valley.


I enjoyed slow driving on the winding roads with lots of stops. For the magnetizing and ever-changing Ethiopian landscape will captivate you and constantly reward you with new views and spectacular scenery that simply make you wanna stop and look...


Mekele is the administrative capitol of Tigray Region, a region of primarily highland located in the Northern part of Ethiopia. Asayita is the former capitol of Afar, a region bordering Tigray to the West and Somali Region to the South. Both Tigray and Afar share national border with Eritrea to the North and for Afar also Djibouti to the East.


Although Afar is vast, it mainly consists of a hot lowland region with remote desert and strange salt lakes to the North and vast semi-dry savanna further South. It is inhabited by wonderful and characteristic but tough and independent tribal people.






Raya in South Eastern Tigray: fertile highlands, where things are yellowing up as the dry season is setting in.




Harvest season - here beans are harvested and stacked for sun-drying before extraction.




Manual work - everything is done the traditional way.

Hard physical labour. But everyone helps and it strengthens the social bonds of the area.




These men waved me over as I passed on the motor cycle. I stopped and walked over, and right away one of them handed me a glass of juice. There is a strong tradition of welcoming strangers and guests in this land. But don't stay long. If you do, you will be bidden goodbye.




Green valley




Newly harvested fields at the Northern edge of Haik Ashenge.




Highland beauty... a young mother with her newborn baby on the back working on the millet harvest. The sea shell decorated leather straps over her shoulders are part of the traditional way of carrying children on the back. And she has put butter in the hair to make it shiny and beautiful.




Haik Ashenge




Storks and cattle feeding at the fertile shores of Haik Ashenge




Harvesting with seals - a field is harvested in a day.




Finally done with the threshing of the day. The mouth band is removed so the bull can feed.




An early bird. This noisy hornbill and his mate woke me up early. Nice way to start the day…







Leaving the mid-hills behind and entering the lower-hills you are met by a new landscape with another vegetation, another people, another culture, and another language... Amharic.




Amhara Hairstyle






As you leave the highlands and middle-hills of Wollo and decent into the African Rift Valley the temperature rises markedly. Here the plains bordering Eastern Wollo and Western Afar.




Further down into the Rift Valley the landscape changes. And the vegetation gets tougher.




Lake Tendaho (?)... just South of Logiya in Afar.




Hard place to live; water is scarce, the earth salty and there is hardly any vegetation. This place is hot hot hot... the sun is hammering down and you need to cover. Fortunately the wind from driving the motorcycle cools you down. But you feel the intense heat the second you stop.




People frequently stop to make sure I am OK, when I stop for photos. There is an inbuilt kindness and curiosity in the people in this country... and there is always room for a good laugh.




Cattle trek




And everything stops...





After Semera the landscape changes into more sandy (and no, there is no refreshing lake in the horizon...)




Around the waterholes...




Only the toughest survive. Here a dead camel...




Approaching Asayita. The old capitol is located on the other side of the mountain. As you approach Asayita, you also approach the enormous Awash Delta. Vegetation begins to appear again and as you continue the living conditions for people and cattle are markedly improved. The Awash Delta is currently being cultivated and changed into large agricultural areas for cotton, corn and other profitable crops.


The great Awash River has its spring in the highlands of Oromia, hundreds of kilometers to the South West, somewhere between Ambo and Addis Ababa, and runs out in a huge delta in Estern Afar. From here the water flows into the mysterious and remote salt lake Lac Abbé at the border of Ethiopia and Djibouti.



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