GERD visit: It was an encounter with ‘God’ in flesh and blood

We were awe-struck, dumbfounded and flabbergasted to the core as we found ourselves at the epicenter of national hope reverberating every Ethiopians’ aspiration. The ultimate pilgrimage called – the under-construction Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam!

Everyone from 139-member contingent of Arba Minch University had their heart pounding inside as they inched closer at its site, 1250 km away from Arba Minch. It was like seeing your God in flesh and blood.

The expressions of the visitors clearly showed as to how emotionally attach they are. And, if the Nile basin countries have immense potential then the mighty GERD will certainly reignite that latent potential to unleash much-needed economic growth and development in Ethiopia.

The journey to the unexplored land was full of challenges as the tour committee headed by Vice-President for Administration and Development, Dr Kassa Tadele, charted the way out. People packed in two large buses, one van and a car hit the road on 17th February, 2014.

The AMU delegation made their first brief stop at Soddo-Wolaita for a breakfast and cruises ahead. Except one of the buses developing a technical snag all was hunky-dory. Both buses headed straight to Addis Ababa, whereas Van driven by Fasil had to go via Hawassa to pick up four government officials attached to GERD Coordination office.

Consummate chauffeur Fasil driving the van at breakneck speed had made us feel at home barring jerks that rattle all of our bones. On the first day, as we in our snooze were about to enter the periphery of national capital, Dr Yechale’s phone woke us up, to the fact that same bus had broke down again at Shashamane.

Our first stop at Addis was at GERD Coordination Office in the swanky location, where the officer gave us the orientation apprising us about the dos and don’ts. The boys-in-charge picked up GERD inscribed T-shirts from down town Piassa in the evening.

On 18th February morning we had to hire another bus as AMU bus fully cranked out. As we left Addis Ababa, mountainous roads with serpentine and hairpin curves welcomed us. The amazing views of the Nile gorge had reminded us of Moon terrain full of deep pits, winding river paths and surrounding chain of high hills. Site seeing at the first bridge at the Nile was soothing.

As we descended gliding off two huge hills down into the teff land, farmers with their work force separating the grain from the chaff was an attractive site. Thereon, few hundred kilometers of dusty and cratered road to Debre Markos had sapped us all of remaining energy leaving us absolutely fagged out.

Good meal during overnight stay at hilly Debre Markos hotel rejuvenated all; on the third morning we hit the road, in the midway people had holy water. Breakfast at one of the villages, where one of the government staff had forgot to pick up his mobile after putting it for charge.

We had to make brief stop-over at Kasa village from where we had to take left turn to our desired destination. Over 200-km stretch of dusty road kept all of us on our toes as cloud of dust at times would engulf the front view.

Third night stay at Gilgel-Beles, a small village 135 km away from GERD site, was amazing as we had to get up 1 am on the fourth morning as we wanted to reach the site before Sun start scorching us.

The ride before the day-break on the dusty terrain lit by dim spooky moonlight was at times fearsome, but full of thrill. After being frisked at two check points, we landed at GERD site.

Senior Site engineer after brief orientation took us at the vantage points to show how GERD straddles the Nile. The huge main, saddle and RCC dams’ ongoing construction, rock support work, left and the right chambers in the main dam was worth seeing. Highly mechanized and advanced machineries at works clearly spoke volumes about this momentous work.

They had even blasted the rock using dynamite thus clearing the rocky land for the dam for visiting AMU members. After a sparse meal at the site, we made a retreat via Assosa, Gimbi, Nekemt, Ambo, Addis Ababa and finally to Arba Minch.

By Philips Joseph