Goniocaulon is an invader from India, and now it is a common weed in
South Sudan and Ethiopia. We are carrying a research on the history of
some weedy thistles, and Goniocaulon is the key for understanding the
origin and distribution of this group of species. If you could get us
some seeds or dry leaves, we could use this material in our studies.
Gonder Region: 5 km south of Humera along the track to Noggera running parellel with Sudan border, 700 m. (14º 14’N, 36º 36’E).
The Gonder region at this time of the year is quite dry, difficult to breathe and full of dust. Humera, Ethiopia, a city just a kilometer away from Eritrea and a little bit more than four kilometers away from Sudan, In expansion. At the side of the main road which leads to the city, a dozen of seven floored building skeletons wait at the dirt to be finished, with no scaffoldings, everything herm.
Taking the track from Humera to Noggera, driving along the border of Sudan for over fifteen km to find the Goniocaulon Indica. Stopping in little villages along the way, asking if someone knows the plant –I printed a pic of the goniocaulon, black and white, and showing the locals the fuchsia color of the flowers so they can recognize it-, without success, I am starting to desperate. Next Village: an old women next to the road, surrounded by young girls, between twelve and fifteen and some little boys, eleven, getting some water of the well. I stop and ask: “do you know where I can find this plant? The flower has this color (showing them the fuchsia color of a band tied at my key ring). The grandma and the kids look at me surprised, like if I was someone from another planet, which it could be a good description. They start talking between each other in Tigray, which is, as well, the most septentrional of the nine ethnic regions of Ethiopia. I am there waiting and trying to interpret what they are saying thru the corporal language. Suddenly the old woman (I could not really tell how old is she), with her wrinkly fisonomy and dark and ebony skin color, tells something to that boy. Something like: “you go with him, help him find the plant”.
I introduce myself with the corporal movements that indicates “I”, bringing my hand towards my chest and saying my name: “I am Jordi, you?”. He brings his hand towards his chest and says: “Gobengu”. A little kid around eleven, small, skinny, with big eyes and shy. But with the conviction to help a stranger to get what he wants because an elder told him.
Jump onto the motorbike, Gobengu behind me directs me to divers roads, dirt tracks, little villages, dry rivers, looking for the Goniocaulon indica. We go to a botanical garden, where around fifteen men are working to bring water to the gardens. Gobengu ask them for the plant; I show them the picture, with the fuchsia band: “this is the color of the flowers”, I say. They don’t know. “It’s about two meters high”. No answer. So, we keep on going. Gobengu directs me with his hand: “to the right”. I do as he says, drive a bit more over a little hill, then down to the dry river shore, another plantation, this time just one man.
How difficult is to get water in this parts of Ethiopia! We repeat the same procedure: show picture, color, description, etc. Nothing. But, the man shows us his plantation. What I understood is that he grows some kind of plant that it’s used for airplane fuel. They are Jatropha seeds. Bio-kerosene for airplanes.
With the options gone, we make our way to Gobengu’s village, thru out a different track. In my head was the thought that it might have been to dry, wrong season, not good enough to find it, many thoughts went thru my mind. But, suddenly, Gobengu starts tapping my right shoulder energetically, like saying: “Stop! Stop!” I stop and feel that the little skinny boy jumps off the motorbike before I do, and runs towards the field –all dried and tilled- next to the dirt track. He stands next to a plant, the only one that stills standing in the mescal color field, about two meters high, looking at me and with his big eyes saying: “We found it”. I approach him, and yes, we found it! Better said, He found it! It’s the Goniocaulon Indica!
Note: Here, with the Goniocaulon Indica is how started the idea, the concept of No Solo Travel Chronicles. The Plant was found close by Humera, Ethiopia. Was tried to be sent on January 2009 from Ethiopia to Barcelona but with no success because I needed to go to the Department of Agriculture of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to get the related permit. At that time I was running out of money and needed to get to Djibuti and then to Yemen. Time was needed, I didn’t have it. Now, No Solo Travel Chronicles is created to get the time, the knowledge, the expirience, and the most important, to help others with those things they are interested with.