Awassa is very beguiling and her seductions are truly seductive to a lone cyclist. To linger is seemingly the only choice. But this lone cyclist was aware of another interesting town according to whose fame, mysticism, lenient laws about ‘the herb’, and user-friendly daughters of Ethiopian peasants were to be found. These were mostly the reasons thought after the decision to leave for Shashemene. The initial real reason was certainly that she had been represented (by Rastafarians) as the ultimate point of pilgrimage for the negroid descendant- like Timbuktu; where the sons of slaves were the masters of their thought and spirituality, made to feel like the gods they are and treated as such by the emperor Haile Selassie, in whose veins flowed the blood of the Africa’s daughter from Sheba, who King Solomon thought wiser than himself. I believe it was she that taught her children- and her Solomon- the primordial and ageless truth of “One Love”. The sons of her sons even in captivity have not doubted her. For love is wiser than wisdom.
I set out to leave Awassa, whose beauty, now in the sunshine was like the flirtatious language of a mistress towards a famished vagabond just escaped from prison. The exotic sounds soothed and the smells of strangely sweet frying spices made me slow down as I rode out of town. I had a thousand sound reasons to stay a day longer and a thousand more to stay and settle, until my earthly possessions were spent. But the pilgrim’s path, I said to myself, is ever daubed with distractions that are pleasing to the ear and entertaining to the senses of an unwary cyclist including the sinfully delicious (second!) breakfast that I decided I needed at this point. But in a while, like a repentant son of unguarded appetites, I took on the impossible headwinds.
On your way out of Awassa is the town’s institution of liberal morals and bohemian lifestyles, the Awassa University. As the devil, or fate, had willed, I passed by the university as the students were breaking from a class. It must have been an arts class, for there were in my estimated ratio about a couple of long-haired daughters of Awassa for every shaggy bloke, all of them of improbable beauty. I almost envied the position of the young men who in their wisdom and unfortunate judgment chose the arts. I insist that it must have been an arts class. I assure you that there exists but a single kind of science students, and it is the kind whose faces are ever glum and who harbor an ill attitude towards laughter.
It was about the mid-morning when I finally reached the outskirts of Awassa from where one is to observe Lake Awassa, and hear the song of the marshes that surround it. The appearance of the picturesque lake in such a handsome morning and the enjoyment of birds and water plants in the breeze about and within it gave me such contentment of being a resident of this planet that I doubt I had felt any other time before. (Except that time when the girl that I keep hinting at, and whose name will be revealed by and by, asked me for the first time to stay for the night!).
Every photo that I took of the scene seemed more glorious than the previous one. I reckon that a mischievous young man upon observing young nude women bathing in the open would behave no differently with his camera. These were the elusive shots sought by many photographers of Mother Nature herself in the nude! The fate that was to befall these photos later on is one I wish not to discuss. I will only assure you, my friend, that I have kept the hope of yet finding then again.
In time, I was on my way. I was in no great hurry, however, to get to Shashemene, less than forty kilometers away. Had I even been in such a hurry, the unabated rush of headwinds would not allow me to pedal for any significant stretch of the road. On occasions, I feared the wing would make me bald from the insistence of having my way. I pushed, pedaled leisurely.
At length I rode into Shashemene early in the afternoon.