Simien Mountains - Sure beats working!
Trip Start Dec 16, 2005
125Trip End Jun 12, 2006
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I had decided against the all inclusive package from Gonder and decided to go it alone. Debark was a bit of a hole and I was getting hassle at every turn, I was starting to regret my decision. After visiting the park HQ I was happy again, I was quickly assigned a guide and a 'scout', a gun carrying fellow who is there to stop anyone attacking you! Millis, my guide, spent a few hours shopping with my, not too much on offer so it would be pasta, tuna, tomato paste, garlic and onions for dinner each night, egg sandwiches for breakfast and chocolate spread sandwiches for lunches! Eggs could be bought in the mountains. Spent the evening with Millis, was feeling a bit flush so I bought him dinner - cheeky git ordered the most expensive thing on the menu!
First days hiking and up at 6am for a bus ride to the mountains, we picked up a mule and mule handler at our start point. Saw plenty of the endemic Gelada baboons, very spectacular with their bright red coloured chests. We hikes all the way along an escarpment with some fantastic scenery, the landscape reminded me a lot of the Grand Canyon although very different vegetation. Saw lots of interesting plants including Giant Lobelia and a couple of Red Hot Poker plants that were still in bloom. We also passed through some local villages. Geech, our campsite was situated high on a grassland plateau, although mot of the grass was grazed down to almost nothing. I decided to have a wander and take some snaps, Tagon our scout was a very keen chap and decided to follow me the few hundred yards from the camp even though I was in full view all the time!
Spent the evening swapping travel stories around the camp file with Steve, Nat, Thomas and Joke, 2 Canadian brothers and a Belgium couple.
Day 2 and what a cracker. We continued across the plateau and then up to Imet Gogo, a 13000ft peak with 6000ft drops to the valley floors, much of it pretty sheer. My English lungs were struggling with this altitude. We stopped at another peak, Innatiye for lunch before heading to Chenek camp, all the time up high looking over the cliffs to the valley below.
Day 3 was supposed to be a nice easy one, it started off badly as my kerosene stove took over an hour to boil the kettle for tea! Never mind fantastic hike up to the 14000 foot Bwahit. I had a pounding headache by the time we hit the summit, managed to spot one of the endemic Walia Ibex very close to us near the top, it had of course disappeared well before I could grab my camera! Also saw plenty of troops of the baboons. That afternoon sat back in camp we saw one of the famous Lammergeyer birds swooping overhead.
Sick to death of pasta the 5 of us decided to slaughter a sheep - well we got the chef from a posh tour group to do it for us. $30 killed and cooked for us, although there wasn't too much meat to be had! It came out on a bit platter, chops, liver, kidneys, tripe and all!
Nat had bought his laptop so we all sat around that evening looking at the photos of his brother Steve's wedding to and Ethiopian lady a few months earlier. Like most Ethiopian girls Steve's wife was very attractive, every time a picture of her came up on the computer all the guides, scouts and mule handlers would burst into applause. It was only right for me to join in! The other thing I found funny was my name in Amharic was 'Johannas' - When the Ethiopians pronounced it, it sounded like 'Your Highness'. It made me feel kind of important :-)
Day 4 and back to Sankabar camp where we started, not a fantastic day for scenery as we had moved away from the cliffs - we did however see plenty of Auger Buzzards, very spectacular with their white undercarriage and wings. Had a very special lunch. Tagon invited us back to his house. Like all the homes in the area, it was a circular building with a thatch like roof with grass on top to keep in the warmth. Inside it was all one room and included the kitchen (a fire I the middle of the room), beds and an assortment of animals including hens and goats! Spicy Injera was first on the menu, a pancake like food used like a nan bread. They put a dairy product on top of this that was a lumpy milk. Next we had kolo, a roasted barley and very tasty indeed. Finally the coffee, they took the fresh beige coloured coffee beans, roasted them till they were black, crushed them and then added them to a kettle of boiling water. Not quite a cup of Yorkshire Tea, but a very fine cup of coffee and I don't think I've ever had such a fresh coffee!
That afternoon took a minibus back to Debark - No water in the whole of Debark, apparently a water main had burst - not really what you need after 4 days hiking, luckily there was one place in town with a big water tank, so I paid my 5 birr and took a cold shower.