Day 40 - Simien Encounter

Trip Start Aug 07, 2007
Trip End Nov 07, 2007

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Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Saturday, September 15, 2007

Distance Walked: 2km
Distance Pushed Bike: 5km
Punctures: 1
Blow Outs: 1
Run Out of Petrols: 2

The Simien mountains are just over 100km from Gonder and have been highly recommended by anyone who has been so I couldn't miss them out.  The night before I left I met with a German couple who were touring Ethiopia on a KTM640 (motorcycle magnetism is a fundamental force of nature).  He works for the government and she is on holiday pillion.  We agreed to go together to Debark and into the national park for a bit of walking and a bit of sightseeing.

We sketched out a two day, one night trek and headed off to Debark.  Blimey there's a big difference between our bikes!  His (carrying two and fully laden) goes like the clappers, is a million times more stable and has a much better driver.  I struggled to keep up but they were very thoughtful and slowed up to save my male ego.

It is mandatory to take a scout (man with ancient Kalashnikov and sour expression who really only wants to sit, drink tea, and chat up the ladies in the village near the campsite) and he had to come with me on my bike into the park.  As it is possible to drive to all of the campsites I thought he would be meeting us at the campsite and accompanying us on the walks. The problem was that he had never been on a bike and with the dangerous roads he made them lethal.  We didn't actually crash ever but it was a very close call on more than one occasion.  His insistence on looking around (using full body each time) every two minutes; waving madly to all his buddies along the way; gripping me like a horse and steering me like one too; and leaning OUT of corners was all a teensy bit nerve (not to mention temper) fraying.

I wanted to kill him.  This place is remote.  There are many inacessible ravines.  He would never be found.

Anyway in the end, what with sitting in a cloud for the first day and realising that the hiking routes of yesteryear had since had roads built over the top of them so it was posible to drive the entire park without missing much at all (and walking along roads isn't really in the spirit of the whole game anyway), we actually did VERY little walking.  But at 3/4 thousand metres it's not so easy anyway.  That's my excuse for the laziness!

Stayed at Sankaber camp where there is a dramatic, high waterfall cascading down a ravine.  The following day drove to Chenneck camp, where there is a mini oasis full of palm-like trees at 3,600m.  Blazing sunshine.  Happy as a pig in muck.  We were then told by the scout that it was not possible to continue as the roads were so bad and we had better return to camp.  "To do what?", we asked (wondering what many routes he had planned around there).  Nothing.  Ahhhh, I see: more tea and crumpets.  No.  We'll continue.  And we did.  Up to Bwahit, 4,200m, where the scenery was as spectacular as the lie about the roads was big (It was).  From there we caught a glimpse of Mt Ras Dashen (Dejen), the 4th (or 5th depending on who you ask - maybe Meru beats it) highest Mt in Africa.  It is possible to climb the peak, just nto with a motorbike so we went back home.

But not without drama.  10km from Sankaber I got a puncture.  Did I bring my repair kit from Gonder.  No I did not.  It was the first day since August I've not had my tools and repair kit with me.  But as least we had another bike to help out.  The Germans had a pump so we limped home bit by bit (the remaining 46km to Debark, where I could get the puncture fixed).  The only problem is the scout insisted on coming with us, which made it much more dangerous and slow.  Eventually (I blame him) my back wheel skidded sideways and the innertube completely blew out.  I pushed the bike the remaining 2km.

Oh, but I didn't mention when I ran out of petrol.  I thought I had another 100km left but sadly had not factored in the extra weight of the scout or the uppy-downedness, or the extra miles we drove.  Thanks to my ever-resourceful companions I got home.  It was all a little embarrassing really! It was a classic case of diminished responsibility in a group.  I left behind my spares and my tools and relied on he help of the others.  Disorganised Brit, uber-organised Germans.  History repeats itself no?  Very poor show Clark. 

We got back to Gonder at about 6:30 very ready for a couple of well deserved cold beers.  Chaps,  thank you for all your help!
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