Ethiopia – Hiking in the Simien Mountains

Ethiopia – somehow we were intrigued and we booked our flights. While researching, the articles and pictures painted an image of a vivid and vibrant country with high mountain ranges with even snow-capped peaks, lush green plateaus and salt deserts, lively towns, an exuberant cultural life and a unique and delicious cuisine. Quite the opposite of what the media in Europe lead us to believe, mostly reports on the great famines in the 1980s, building a rather dark image of a barren country. Most of our friends and family were hesitant when they heard of our plans since they did not know what one could possibly want to find in this land-locked place, so I am more than happy to provide a few pictures and stories showcasing this extraordinary country.

 

 

Ethiopia – somehow we were intrigued and we booked our flights. While researching, the articles and pictures painted an image of a vivid and vibrant country with high mountain ranges with even snow-capped peaks, lush green plateaus and salt deserts, lively towns, an exuberant cultural life and a unique and delicious cuisine. Quite the opposite of what the media in Europe lead us to believe, mostly reports on the great famines in the 1980s, building a rather dark image of a barren country. Most of our friends and family were hesitant when they heard of our plans since they did not know what one could possibly want to find in this land-locked place, so I am more than happy to provide a few pictures and stories showcasing this extraordinary country.

As the outdoorsy people that we are, I spent a lot of time researching the hiking options in Ethiopia and eventually settled on trekking in the Simien mountains. The Simiens, from amharric `sämén´meaning north´, is a mountain range in northern Ethiopia with high plateaus and breath-taking escarpments. Its highest peak, Ras Dashen, climbs up to 4550 m and we eventually settled on a tour conquering its second highest peak, Mount Buahit, at 4437 m. The Simien Mountain National Park is home to big populations of the Gelada baboon, the rare Walia ibex and the Ethiopian wolf – and while I am usually short of luck in any form of animal sighting (no sighting of any lion neither in Kruger, Etosha or Chobe NP), we were lucky and even spotted the Walia ibex and the wolf in the distance.

We eventually settled on an organised trek for the Simiens. While it may be possible to go on your own once you have hired the obligatory scout with a gun to protect you from the exstinguished leopards, you will find yourself in the wild without any signs, marked treks or even appropriate maps to navigate. There are no fixed camps en-route but one could stop by the little local villages and ask for accomodation and dinner. However, this seemed a bit too complicated to organise from afar, so we joined a tour with Dezy from a local agency and have not regretted it. Dezy and his team set up a four-day trek for us, providing a guide and a cook, tents and the transport of our luggage. We wandered off into the vast plateaus and along the ridges of the Simien NP. Most of the day, we walked on our own, at our own pace (what the altitude allowed for). Sometimes, we came across a little village, sometimes we hiked for hours without any sign of civilization.

However, to be honest, there was also a little bitter touch about the trek. We always knew we were approaching a campsite when we spotted stray toilet paper and tissues on the ground building a sad loo-circle around the campsites. Alongside all the stray plastic bottles and wrappings this always gave a bitter after-taste. While we frantically tried to take every piece of plastic back to town with us, it is still us tourists who bring in the people and therefore the trash in this vulnerable ecosystem. Somehow, it feels strange to include these not so shiny aspects into this post, however, they are a reality of the tourism industry, a reality that social media often glosses over. I dont want this post to sound negative, nor do I want to discourage anyone, I, myself, as a tourist, am part of this industry and in Ethiopia, this made me question my responsability. I havent found a definitive answer yet.

Well, back to the Simiens themselves. The hike was literally breathtaking, starting at 3200 m along the escarpments with spectacular views down the cliffs. We walked through open grassland and little forests with moss-covered trees, we passed stretches of barren red soil and lush green jungle and we climbed up to the summit of Mount Buahit over rocks and stones. It was simply beautiful – we were amazed how quickly the scenery changed. See for yourself!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *