01/02/2010

Debark is only a 100 kms from Gonder. The road was pretty awful. Not a faulty Toyota in sight! The Landcruiser  took a battering today. First prize for the worst roads on this trip goes to Ethiopia so far! Signs of progress are evident. Road building teams led by Chinese men, can always be recognised by their straw hats.

Because of the state of the roads, our huge tyres produce a cloud storm as we drive along. A quick look in the mirrors and we can see people behind us dissapear in our cloud-storm as we pass. Some people dart across the road before we pass to avoid the worse of the dust. We tried slowing down to avoid it happening but it would take forever to cover the same ground. No escaping the dust here!

It took over two hours to get to the main ticket and administration office for the Simien Mountain National Park. We worked out our plan for visiting the park and picked up our scout which we must have to enter the park. He sat in the back of the car with his AK-47! Our guide will be joining us early the day after when we start our walk through the Bwaht Pass.

We followed the main track to the Buyt Ras, the main entry point to the park. We had planned to stay at the Sankaber camp for the night. Before we reached the camp we stopped for a drink at the Simien Lodge, an expensive lodge which claims to be the ‘highest hotel in Africa’.

After we stopped at several places on route to our camp and got fantastic views looking over the park, before then driving into a large group of Gelada baboons. The scout got out first! We followed and was surprised how tame they were. Some played with their young on their backs whilst others just were cleaning on the rocks. When you got too close they gave you a stern look and just moved away. We could get as close as two metres to them before they moved away towards the edge of the cliff. The Geladas live throughout the northern highlands, usually near cliffs and ravines. They are the only mammal endemic to Ethiopia that isn’t regarded as endangered and the population is estimated to be as high as 500,000.

02/02/2010

We headed onto Chennek camp and I got two hour walk with our scout. Bun was feeling rough still so she rested. She has a cold for the last few days. The altitude can’t be helping. The promise of a horse for bun to ride at the same time didn’t come true which annoyed us but there wasn’t much we could do about it being so high up and far from the nearest camp to pick one up. I got a glimpse of a Ibex when the scout noticed one resting on a rock up the hill. We tried to get as close as we could. We got within 20 metres of it before it shot off dow nt he hill. After I got back we had some lunch. Some baboons strolled through the camp. Cunning timing with food around. We had some food left on the back of the car. Before we knew it, one of the Geladas was off with some of our oranges and they sat there eating them in front of us!

03/02/2010

Early start. We dropped the guide and scout back the main office. We needed to get going towards Axum which we were told would be a 6 hour drive. Some more amazing driving trough the highlands. The landscape changed from deep ravines & high peaks to farming on the lower hills as we headed north. We had a few monkeys darting across the road as we zig-zagged through the hills. 5 hours later we had covered the 110 miles to Shire. The only smooth section was when we crossed the bridge which was covered in smooth metal over the Tekaze river. It lasted 100 metres before we had more bone shaking driving. We passed a Landcruiser on the side of the raod with it’s rear axel on the ground underneath the vehicle. Bun got out to take some pictures as the car looked like it had been there for a while. Before long a man with a rifle turned up. He smiled without exchanging words and we headed on.