The most visited village, simply because it’s the easiest to reach, is Gamole, 6km west of Konso town. Just as interesting architecturally, and better overall because of the much lower number of visitors, is Machekie, 14km southwest of Konso. It still has three original sets of weathered wagas and also a rare newly erected set. Near Machekie, the village of Gesergio itself gets few visitors, but the oddly eroded valley alongside it does. Thanks to the towering pinnacles that someone decided resemble skyscrapers, it’s now commonly known as ‘New York’. One local legend explaining the landscape states that it’s the result of a magic spell cast by village elders to reveal the location of a chief’s stolen sacred drums.
Fasha, between Gesergio and the turn-off to Machekie, hosts the biggest market in Konso-land; Tuesday is a smaller affair. The road to Machekie and Gesergio passes the home of Chief Kalla Gezahegn, one of the nine Konso clan chiefs. A former civil engineer in Addis Ababa, he speaks fluent English and welcomes (paying) visitors.
Though seldom visited because it requires walking or riding a motorcycle 4km, Busso (5km southwest of Konso) is perhaps the loveliest village, as it surrounds a rocky point. It’s also home to some original wagas. Dekatu, about 1km off the main road near the Dokatu Market, is the nearest traditional village to Konso town and also very interesting. It’s best accessed by foot because the road is so bad. Usually a stop on the way to the Lower Omo Valley, Arfaide, 20km out of town along the Jinka road, has a large collection of old waga that were recovered after being stolen.
Gersale is the one village of note along the Arba Minch road. It’s just north of town and is visited for a new tree-planting program (plant a tree for US$20), where a small plaque with your name is placed in front of your tree, and for the half-hour traditional dance performances rather than its architecture. Inquire at the tourist office.
Before visiting any of these villages (except Arfaide) you must pay fees (village fee per day Birr100, vehicle Birr50) and hire a guide (per group Birr200) at the Konso Tourist Information Centre. You’ll likely be charged an additional Birr20 to enter individual compounds and Birr5 per picture of people.
The children’s faranji frenzy (a result of previous visitors handing out sweets, pens, etc) gets irritating at times, but it’s only truly aggressive at Gesergio. If you want to give something, ask your guide to take you to the local school.