Catching Sticks and Stuffing Faces: trout fishing in the Webb Valley

It is the evening of 17th November. I woke naturally at 6.30 this morning and got ready for trout fishing day. We set off, gear in hand, and had the obligatory bumpy drive across the valley to meet our horse guides, where I was reunited once again with my stallion-of-a-pony. Off we set to a paradisiacal setting in a small canyon made up of crags and rocks and caves immersed in the smell of thyme, garlic, and mint. I’m aware that each of my entries have described my situation as a touch of heaven, but here we were once again, not an hour from camp. Here by the river the temperature is a scorcher.

After a few patient lessons on casting off from Graeme I was ready to step out on my own. We spent a good morning fishing and I feel that by the end I had perfected the technique, but unfortunately when all was concluded, the only thing I had caught was a stick, which I didn’t even get to keep. Well actually in the end nobody caught one. The rains in Bale had just ended, churning up the sediment in the river, making it difficult for the trout to see our bait. Even so, living the life on the river, feeling like Huckleberry Finn off on an adventure was perfect. This was a morning for just being.

After giving up on the fishing and calling it a day, we were reconciled with our horses and followed the noise to the village market, which when we reached was enormous. It was a lively counterpart to the easy-going morning we had just emerged from. The sound of people haggling and the mosque blaring out every minute or so, the vibrant colours of the women’s burkas, and underlying smell of spices, gave it the touch of a place brimming with life. Looking over to Will at my side, his face was lit up with delight. He was home. After spending a good time soaking in the atmosphere, we decided to buy a large pot of fresh local honey.

Will suggested that we go and find somewhere for tibs and injera. Made up of strips of beef, mutton, or goat minced up with onions and spices and sat atop a fermented pancake, this is the staple diet of Ethiopia, eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner. Where not unpleasant in moderate quantities, the locals will eat it by the truck load when possible. We made our way through the doorway, narrowly avoiding the various meat carcasses hanging up and chose a place to sit in the corner. The horse guides that we had invited to lunch looked on in eager anticipation as Will ordered what sounded like a lot more than necessary, plus drinks.

After we had thoroughly scrubbed our hands, a 15-minute shovelling frenzy commenced, led by Will. Finally, as the pile of meat that had been heaped onto the table in front of us subsided, he slumped back, slowly sighing in relief and glanced over at me, nodding with a look of sheer satisfaction on his face.

We paid up and left the cafe boarding our horses once again. Our final trip with these noble steeds was not incident free. Halfway back to camp, my horse tried to eat a mouthful of grass while wading through a bog and fell over sideways. I slumped into the bog, taking more than a few seconds to understand how a horse on top of me in water might affect future plans. Jumping off onto one of the horse guides was all I could do to stop it squashing me. I get the feeling the horse guides will remember that one for a while yet and if you ever find yourself up there, please send my best. We made it back to camp and just relaxed, watching and listening to the world in this serene environment go by for the rest of the day.

Tomorrow is our last stop. We drive to Chebera Churchura, one of the last strongholds in Ethiopia of elephant and Cape buffalo.

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