12 May 2008
Gonder - Sankaber camp (Simien Mountians)
SARAH: You know you've stayed in one place too long when everyone in town knows who you are, what car you drive and where you're staying! It was definitely time for us to leave the Terara Hotel and after our usual morning stop at the Bizwati café for some delicious tea and cake we left for Debark for trekking in the Simien mountains. The drive there took 3 hours on dirt road which was bad in places. One thing we've noticed in Ethiopia are the animals have zero road sense and are very stupid, as are some of the people on the road! There are also a lot of guns everywhere and it's sometimes difficult to see if men are carrying guns, sticks or umbrellas across their shoulders.
We organised our trek at Debark head quarters and collected our tents and sleeping equipment, some bread, fruit and sacks at the local market with the help of our guide Fernous. We decided to start trekking in the mountains and rather drive the first bit to Sankaber camp. The only problem being that we had to fit the scout with a big gun and the guide in the back of our 2 cars. With a squeeze they fitted and I was happy Taco and Brenda had the loaded gun in theirs. The drive into the Simiens was beautiful and looked like the foothills of the Drakensberg. We were also lucky to come across a troop of Gelada baboons on the cliff edge. They're incredible to watch with their long hairy coats and red heart-shaped chests. It's amazing to see them in the flesh. At Sankaber camp we organised what clothes and food we'd take and luckily could sleep in the comfort of our roof tents as it was a cold night.
RONNIES TEA SHOP AND FERAL FERNOUS & MANUEL
13 May 2008Day 73Sankaber camp (3230m) - Geech camp (3600m) (Simien Mountains)8km walk BRUCE: Mymymy but it was cold last night! We were up early and got a few final things ready and waited for the mule men to weigh all the baggage. You can only put 45kg's/mule so we would need 2 mules with 84kg of stuff and 2 mule men as drivers!! We left the landies with the camp scout and started our trek off towards the escarpment. I won't write too much more as the photos will tell it better but the views were awesome. We also saw some klipspringer! The walking was tough at such a high altitude, up and down, and I was feeling it with my tummy still no better. Soon after left we wondered why the mules weren't with us, only to then be told by our not so informative guide, that the mules took a different road route to Geech. Great!… considering all our lunch and warm clothes were on their backs! We told Fernous that we had no lunch with us and she wasn't very concerned replying 'No food? Oooh'. Luckily we had some bananas and biscuits to eat for lunch but not so luckily we didn't have our jackets when the afternoon hail and rain arrived! I was glad to make it to Geech camp where a dash to the loo was required. We stopped just before the camp as we came to Geech village, an Islamic village, and were quickly surrounded by the village children. The difference between the Islamic people, compared to Sudan, was huge. The clean faced, hands and feet of the Sudanese were replaced with filthy snotty nosed children with no shoes and dirty feet. They all looked a bit odd and unwell and really really dirty, dressed in rags. A mother arrived with a blind boy of about 3 who had really weird white eyes. It was only after talking with Taco that we realised that not many new people must come up here to live and the villages are all probably really inbred. When we got to camp Taco made us some tea and coffee and he looked like one of those Sudanese tea ladies with the jars all around him. It was dubbed 'Ronnies tea shop'! No sooner had we put our tents up and had some tea did the heavens open and it started to hail! We took shelter in our tents for 2 hours while it rained and hailed. We had dinner of pasta and joined some English guys and their guides around their fire. We have also crossed paths with an odd Spanish guy who seems to have a crush on feral Fernous! The guy must have no sense of smell! Anyway he has been nicknamed Manuel after his pot juggling in the fire trying to heat up his rice with onions! When we headed for the tents the rain was pouring down again and it was really freezing cold. We went to bed not sure that we would make it though the night but were determined not to take Manuel up on his offer to sleep with him, feral Fernous and the mule men in the hut! That place stank! Manuel must have serious olfactory malfunction!
14 May 2008
Geech camp (3600m) (Simien Mountains)
SARAH: My god it was freezing last night…literally! We had 2 sleeping bags, blanket and all our clothes on and we still froze. Lying on hard ground didn't help either so I woke up every I turned over. I woke with an even thicker head cold and sore throat and wasn't feeling very well again. We only had a short circular walk route today and after tea and jam at Ronnie's tea shop we set off at 9am. We met Manuel halfway up, as he was coming down, and heard him making plans to meet Feral Fernous in Debark when she got back. He was heading back there tomorrow and that would mean that he has to spend 2 days in that dump before she gets there. The guy is crazy!! There was an icy wind blowing and Brenda still had a headache so we took it slowly climbing to the top of Mitigogo (3950m). The view was great with mountains all below us. We had lunch with us today which we ate at the top and on the walk down we photographed some more Gelada baboons. Luckily the walk wasn't too taxing and I was feeling better as the day wore on. We all had an afternoon nap whilst our tents were warm in the sun and again found ourselves glad we hadn't hired a cook or else we wouldn't have had anything to do in the evening. We cooked Bruce's pikey paella and bought some firewood for a warm fire tonight. Luckily there was no rain tonight and we were in bed by 9pm.
SIMIEN MOUNTAINS DAY 3
15 May 2008
Geech camp (3600m) - Cheneck camp (3600m) (Simien Mountains)
BRUCE: It was another really cold night last night but we managed to get some sleep at least. Packed up camp and left the mule men to lead the mules as we headed of to Cheneck. The hike today was awesome. We hiked along the escarpment with awesome views and looking over a cliff we saw Walia Ibex crazing in the valley far below. We then made a steep ascent to the top of Nadia peak (4070m) and Brenda was suffering from bad altitude sickness. The view from the top was magnificent but we didn't stay long as we needed to get Brenda down. I had a great walk and felt really energised by the scenery and mountains. We got to Cheneck at about 3ish and the guides took us to see some more Ibex that were near to the camp. They seemed to be habituated so you can get quite close and we got some really great photos. The mule men had pitched our tents on some crazy slopes so getting any sleep will be a challenge. Once again our guide and scout did not seem to have any food and feeling guilty we gave them some spaghetti to cook. Our scour is a good elderly man who never sleeps, keeping watch for hyenas. Fernous on the other hand is a bit of a nuisance more than anything and her English is so limited she can only point out the obvious like 'cow - gives milk'. Oh well. Tonight feels colder than last night so we wrapped up warm before turning in. Tomorrow we trek along the road back to Sankaber and will try and get back to Gonder. The trekking has been awesome and definitely a highlight so far.
NEWS OF PHILIP
16 May 2008
Cheneck (3600m) - Sankaber (3230m) - Gonder (Belageze Pension)
22km walk ;134km drive
SARAH: Last night was the coldest night and we all got a bad nights sleep trying to sleep on a slope. People warned me that the Simien Mountains were cold but I was not expecting them to be so cold. At 6:30am it was 3deg inside our tent! Brrrrrrr! The 22km back to the car at Sankaber was along the road and not the most beautiful of walks but it was good to stride it out and get some good exercise. Bruce was so full of beans and energy too I've never seen him like that.
With about 5km to go could see we weren't going to make it home dry. The clouds caught us on a steep uphill and it rained and hailed all the way back to Sankaber. We arrived soaked but more concerned about the treacherous mountain road becoming slippery and dangerous. So we gave the mule men 30 Birr tip each and packed the landies quickly with the guide and scout in the back we set off and luckily only the first 10km were muddy- again we are thankful that we spent the extra on BFG all terrain tyres which so far have been brilliant.
Back at Debark there was no sign of rain again and thanking and tipping our guide and lovely scout we decided to drive back to Gonder before dark. Oh but one strange thing was that the Spanish man Manuel was waiting at the Debark hotel for our guide Fernous. He's obviously got a crush on her and definitely got a screw loose! Bizarre.
Back in Gonder we avoided the Terara Hotel and found brilliant accommodation at the Belegez Pension with the bonus of secure parking and a much earned HOT shower. I wish we'd found this place last time. There were other travellers there and Rebecca and Simon had just arrived from Khartoum. They filled us in on the Khartoum attack as well as Philip who is still waiting for his bike to be fixed when they left. Philip has definitely been the talk of overlanders since everyone has met him. I know his visa ran out on the 12th so wonder where he has got to …bike or no bike!
Brenda, Taco, Bruce and I had a great meal out with some local wine. Although it was a Friday night Gonder was dead and the electricity had shut down again so it was also dark. At last we had a good nights rest in a decent bed.