Ethiopia unknowingly to some, is set upon a giant plateau and about 50% of the country is over 1500m above sea level. The Simien Mountains is often referred to as ‘The Roof Of Africa’ and is the reason why I first came to Ethiopia to begin with. I’m doing a four day trek into the mountains to take in some of the highlights, I hope I’m not disappointed.
It’s mandatory to hire an armed scout to take you into the national park, for reasons unknown. The guy I ended up with I’m fairly certain is not a trained scout at all, but just a villager who was approached and given a rifle when the park office was short staffed. I didn’t mind though as Haile only spoke about 3 words in four days and was a pretty cool guy to trek with. I also had a guide who had breath so bad it smelled like something had crawled into his oesophagus and died. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to ask him something without being sick but thankfully the highland air disguised the stench, to a certain extent.
Day one of the trek was quite light and mainly followed the road but already the views were quite spectacular. We passed through a few villages with some token snotty nosed kids who like being photographed. It’s a shame the adults won’t smile for your photos unless you pay them…
Endemic to Ethiopia is the Gelada Baboon. It’s estimated over 7000 of these beasts live in the Simien Highlands alone. The baboons hang around in herds of up to 400 and don’t mind their human counterparts getting up close one bit, last time I was surrounded by this many anthropoids must have been when I ended up nightclubbing in Sunderland on a Friday night.
Some of the views from the Simiens look toward the vast valleys of Eritrea, which at one time were ancient hills but over millions of years have eroded into thousands of pinnacles.
When doing a four day trek of this kind it’s very interesting to see the landscape change before your very eyes. The route leads you past the Gich Abyss and into a beautiful valley where the Jinbar river flows, then up and over a picturesque savannah which looks very African, well, that’s because it is…
The twin peaks ‘mullets’ are quite iconic rocks and the image that will appear on a lot of Simien Highland post cards, why they’re named after a vile 80’s hairstyle is anyone’s guess. Imet Gogo at 3940 is possibly the most dramatic scenery in the mountains offering 360 degree views of the surrounding valleys, wake me up, for Imet Gogo! Inatye (4070m) about another 2 hours hike, isn’t too shabby either.
The Walia Ibex is also endemic to the area but is a lot rarer than the Geladas. I was lucky enough to spot a few Walias near the end of the trek, I wasn’t that impressed by them as I though they just looked like a clumsy mountain goat, that’s probably why the Walias is also the nickname of the Ethiopian national football team.
On the final morning we made our ascent to Bwahit peak, which at 4430m, like the Berlin song ‘took my breath away!’ So Bwahit may not be the highest peak in Africa, and only the second highest in Ethiopia for that matter, but the Simien mountains have blown away any topography I’ve ever seen before and exceeded all expectations. This calls for one thing…posing with Haile’s rifle!