My Ethiopian Adventure: The Roof of Africa, Part Two


Although wonderful paved roads exist in most of the northern half of Ethiopia, the government forbids a good paved road throughout Simien Mountains National Park.  Since we went during the rainy season, a muddy mess prevailed.  At times I thought, “This is hopeless; we will never make it through.”  I was so wrong!  Alemu persisted; we always arrived where we were headed in spite of the roads, the trucks, and the mud.

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We came up on one of the first obstacles on the road here.  We parked, got out, and watched.  The Al-Qaeda truck had a flat tire–the truck in the front.  The Obama truck, after unloading the passengers, tried to pass with this result.

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It slid into the Al-Qaeda truck.  The women passengers and we climbed up to the grass and waited.  The men surveyed the situation and decided to solve the problem.

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They attached a rope to the front of the Obama truck and pulled successfully.  Everyone climbed back in the truck and headed on down the road.  This allowed us to continue on our journey.  As we drove along, the guide noted the duikers along the road.

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See the two brown spots in the middle?  Duikers.  I admire real wildlife photographers.  With the exception of the gelada baboons, getting good wild animal photos seemed quite a task.  Either they moved too fast or they blended so well into the landscape, you could only see them when they moved.

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Here we stopped to hike to the highest waterfall in Ethiopia.  Once the guide explained where we would walk, I decided to hang out with Alemu and the driver of another vehicle stopped here with four people from New York, some of the few people we met from the US.  Most travelers to Ethiopia appear to be Europeans.  The other driver liked to talk and regaled me with stories, one of which was about a German woman who decided to trek (visitors can elect to go on either 3 or 10 day treks here).  It was cold, they camped in a heatless (what else is new!!) building.  She requested her guide sleep with her because she was so cold.  This continued for days.  Apparently, she became very cuddly and the guide misinterpreted, etc. etc.  Luckily for the trekkers, depending on how “primitive” they want to trek, men like those in this photo, take food and other supplies from one camp spot to another.  The other driver knew a lot about Ethiopian birds and pointed out one called a bone crusher.  A raptor, it captures its prey in its talons, flies high, drops it on a rock to kill it, waits until something else eats off the meat, and finally gets the bones, flies high again, and drops the bones on a rock to break them open.  It eats only bone marrow.

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Because people lived and farmed in these mountains long before they became a park, visitors see villages and farms in various areas of the park.  We were told that the government planned to eventually move everyone out of the park.  Our guard lived in the park in an area like this one.  We dropped him off on our way out.  I also noted electric lines in areas where it looked impossible to build.  The guide informed me that a lot of Chinese died building the lines.

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Here and there gelada baboons appear.  This photo shows a typical view of the muddy road we traversed.

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Another stop waiting on Al-Qaeda and Obama trucks.  I never quite figured out why Obama trucks are called this.  They haul people from place to place but not long distances–buses do that.  I never saw an Obama truck wrecked.  Al-Qaeda trucks haul goods, supplies, anything commercial.  Like here in the US, apparently time is money so those drivers hurry.  If something is in the way on the road, drivers may drive off the road to get around it and if the load shifts, over they go.  We saw Al-Qaeda trucks wrecked everywhere–they are the terrorists of the road.

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Above timberline, the landscape changes to this.  The plants in the foreground are giant lobelia.  Ethiopia contains the fourth and fifth highest peaks in Africa.  Much of the time we drove above 12,000 feet.

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Frequently, we drove through thick fog, but truly lucked out when we reached the area immediately under the fifth highest peak in Africa where rare walia ibex reside. Alemu and the guide told us often visitors come here to see the ibex and see nothing.

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If you look closely, you can see several ibex in the middle of this photo.  We counted 23 on this mountainside above 14,000 feet just a few hundred feet below the fifth highest peak in Africa.  Ibex blend into the landscape so well, they are extremely difficult to see unless they move.

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By the mountain stream red hot pokers (see middle of photo) thrive.  I was shocked to see them growing wild here, having always thought they are desert flowers.

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Finally, on the way back out of the park, we stopped so I could see the highest waterfall in Ethiopia.

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