Because of this, organized jeep tours cost over a thousand dollars per person for an 8 day tour of the tribes - 8 days being minimal considering it takes 2 days to get there and another 2 back.
Luckily, I met Hitomu, Akira, and Aki: three independent backpackers from Japan who had the idea of trying it ourselves - without a tour.
Not to mention the cramped conditions. In one of our minibuses, I counted 22 people in our bus built for 12. I did everything from sitting on the floor to laying in the back of a truck.
This was taken right before 5 more people came on board.
The first time I tried it, I read 34 pages of my Dubai guidebook before I realized what I was doing. One guy told me he chewed chat and read the entire Quran in one sitting. Where was this amazing plant during high school?
Wise word of advice: Never wear a skirt to a tribal market!
However, at the same time we met Daisuke (also from Japan) and Jong Ho from Korea, who both decided to travel onward with us. Even with Akira gone, our group rose from 4 to 5!
We missed the last weekly bus to the next town (Turmi) so we had to contract a private one to take us. I've realized that splitting everything 5 ways is quite nice!
Akira and Tom taught me an amazingly addictive Japanese card game called 'Daifugo.' We played a round of it to decide room picks and - being the winner - I got the 'suite!'
If you've ever traveled through Africa, you'd understand how nice this room is! This is like Vegas status in the Omo Valley.
We resorted to hanging up some flashlights and the five of us started playing Daifugo for money. What started as 1 Birr stakes (5 cents) quickly escalated into 30 Birr stakes (2 dollar) a few hours later. With a game this fast, you'd be surprised at how much people start to owe after a while. The most we ever played for was a 200 Birr game, roughly 12 bucks!
It doesn't sound like a lot, but once you get used to spending less than $20 a day in Ethiopia, 12 dollars is a LOT. We also chewed some chat while playing, of course!
The women wear bras because the husband-to-be and his family whip (that's right, whip) the bride(s) to symbolize them giving themselves to their husband.
It got to the point where brides would actually fight each other to be whipped first. One bride almost cried because her husband didn't want to keep whipping her.
After the whipping, the final ceremony is the bull jump, where the husband must jump and run across a line of bulls 8 times to signify his manhood.
Everyone else being on their way down to Kenya, I said a few bittersweet goodbyes to the group of awesome people I traveled with for over 9 days.
I miss everyone already!
As for my experiences back in Addis Ababa, this dusty city has been overwhelming, to say the least.
While I won't miss not showering for 4 days at a time and sleeping in mosquito nets, I sure will miss those kids.