The regions west of Addis Ababa and up to the Sudanese and Southern Sudanese borders are among the most fertile in Ethiopia and offer landscapes of striking beauty. Western Ethiopia, which is difficult to access in the rainy season by road or by air, remains a territory not much frequented by tourists. The lowlands of the region, poorly controlled by the central government, unstable and wild, are still real exploration grounds. The border with Southern Sudan and Kenya, where smuggling takes place, is nevertheless relatively unstable. The hot and humid climate, conducive to malaria, is tiring.
Gambela, the ultimate destination on a westward journey, retains the old-fashioned charm of a former commercial stronghold. Developed under the rule of the English who came here in the 19th century from neighbouring Sudan to create a port, the city seems more isolated than ever on the borders of the country. Capital of a federal region on the borders of Illubabor and Kaffa provinces, whose names alone already awaken dreams of exotic adventure, Gambela, once a wildlife hotspot thanks to its unique swampy environment, has had to suffer from a massive influx of refugees from Sudan and South Sudan. The already unstable balance between the local Nuer and Anuak ethnic groups has been weakened, and the wild fauna and flora are the collateral victims of this influx of new populations.
Two routes of equal beauty, crossing fertile territories and vast wooded areas, lead to the banks of the Baro River, which irrigates Gambela below the high plateaus in a humid tropical climate.
The western route offers several interesting stops before reaching Nekemt, capital of the Welega province.
The road to Jimma, further south from Addis Ababa, crosses Guragé country before reaching the Kaffa region, the historical cradle of coffee cultivation. It is from Mizan Teferi that it is possible to venture into the heart of one of the wildest regions of Ethiopia, the West Omo, partly covered by the national park, a territory of ethnic groups as fascinating as their neighbors settled on the eastern bank of the river.
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