Ofir and Konjo traveled out of the capital on the highway. Though Ofir could barely handle a horse, a village man named D’Jote Aberra said to him, “You watched too many Westerns.” Within days, Ofir would be alone and on the verge of starving. Can such a journey be worth its risks?
Ofir and Konjo descend into the Gibe River valley, in part because no one can tell Ofir what is there. Following the river is arduous, and they have to cross in places guarded by hippos. Soon they’ll be forced to climb onto loose, treacherous soil on a mountainside. A journey is about the gift of the unexpected, but when should the unexpected make you turn back?
Ofir with Konjo at camp, exposed on all sides. The large fire is to scare off hyenas and leopards. After what would happen over the coming days, Ofir would feel mentally prepared to enter a war zone for the first time.
Ofir has to abandon Konjo after both of them fall down a cliff. The Gibe River is unpopulated; Ofir has seen no people for days, and his food stocks are completely gone. The welts on his face are from the bites of tsetse flies.
Completely out of food and bitten on the face by tsetse flies, Ofir spots fisherman along the Gibe River. They give him bread, then move off to fish with giant hooks but catch nothing.
With the fishermen is a woman and her daughter, who both wear nice dresses. Ofir struggles to communicate with them in Orominya but takes their prosperity as a sign that there must be villages near. Carrying a gift of food, Ofir continues along the river and finds no one and his body begins to give out.
Ofir heated and licked drops of oil off the carcass of the baby hippo he found. Sick and famished, he made it out of the river valley. Though he’d never felt weaker, he knew he was already stronger than he’d ever been. Was the journey wholly reckless or the kind of experience he was lucky to have?
Out of food for days, Ofir tried fishing, tried bludgeoning monitor lizards with rocks, tried catching a python with his hands. But all he found to eat were river clams, and harvesting them from the water took as much energy as they gave back. Ofir could see in his arms that he was wasting away. His only hope was to climb out of the valley.
These three photographs, before, during, and after, were taken in the same month on Ofir’s Journey through the Gibe River valley, in which he lost his horse, lost his way, and didn’t eat for two weeks.