The Roof of Africa
Trip Start Jun 12, 2011
131Trip End Jun 16, 2012
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Where I stayed
What I did
Saw awesome mountains
I was now slowly adjusting to the Overland way of life. I began by making the cardinal mistake: I called our truck a bus. Given that it was my first infraction I was given a final warning and excused from making a donation to the swear jar, but it certainly hit a nerve with our driver, Daniel. I was also assigned to a cooking group, given daily chores and told the daily routine...hmmm, this would take some getting used to. Our TRUCK was named Asima (meaning "protector" in Arabic), but the crew still preferred her old name, Tortuga (despite meaning "tortoise" in Spanish)
Debark is the base for visits to the Simien Moutains NP, and our first stop. We pulled up at the Simien Park Hotel, who mistakenly identified themselves as the "Semen Park Hotel" on the menu, and went shopping. Debark had limited food stuffs at the best of times, but today was a Friday which meant that meat was also off the menu. Our cooking group eventually managed to scrounge up potatoes, onion, carrots, garlic, bread, tinned fruit and eggs. Fortunately this had pretty much been my staple for the last four months camping with Mozza so I already had some ideas in mind.
On Saturday we set off for the national park. The road from Debark winds up the plateau from the west without really giving any impression of what we had in store. All of a sudden we reached the Simien Lodge (apparently Africa's highest) and realised why this park was also on the UNESCO World Heritage list. We'd reached the northern escarpment and before us stretched a mindblowing array of cliffs and pinnacles. This area of Ethiopia contains several peaks in excess of 4,000m including her highest mountain, Ras Dashen at 4,543m. To put this into perspective, Europe's highest peak, snow-capped Mt Blanc is barely 250m higher
The Simien Mountains more than make up for this "lack" of height with the dramatic scenery they provide. After setting up at the Sankaber campground we began our trekking. Led by an overkill of 2 guides and 3 armed scouts we hiked along the escarpment to the amazing Geech Abyss. Here we watched a stream of water plummet hundreds of metres into a gorge while Lammergeyer vultures circled on the thermals. On our way back to camp we managed a close encounter with the abundant (and not shy) Gelada Baboon. If I remember my documentaries correctly, these are the only purely vegetarian baboon in the world.
The next morning we shifted higher up the range to the Chenek campsite. Now we were sitting at 3,600m and even the slightest exertion left us wheezing like pack-a-day smokers with emphysema. From here we tackled Mt Bwahit which took us to 4,430m and gave us a great view across the gorge to Ras Dashen, sitting just 113m higher. I actually coped surprisingly well, summiting directly behind our guide, but the final 50m definitely let me know I was at altitude. Each foot step needed to be very deliberate and a dull throb was developing in the back of my skull
That night we lost a few early to altitude sickness, but the remainder of us celebrated with our Feast of Minimal Ingredients, including the sauteed potato, carrot and onion dish which I'd mastered over the last few months (and been taught by my mum). The following morning we topped things off by managing a close encounter with two Walia Ibex. These timid creatures cling to the rocky escarpments and generally live quite a private life. Getting as close as we did was quite lucky. From here we returned to Debark and kicked back before our marathon drive through to Aksum the following morning.
[153 Days on the Road]