I love mountains. Out of any kind of landscape, mountains stun me the most. In fact, out of all the sights you can see in a country I am often drawn to the mountains. And of all the mountains I’ve ever seen the Simien Mountains have been some of the most amazing.
I had read that they were one of the most spectacular ranges in Africa but they were really out of this world. I literally felt like I was looking on another planet. From any viewpoint the rugged, mountainous landscape continued for as far as the eye could see.
I joined a group in Gondar who were leaving on a three day hike the following day. We had to carry all our own gear and a mule carried our cooking equipment and food. I managed to pack down all the stuff I needed for three days into my little daypack. I was super proud of that effort. Now I’m a real backpacker, I can live with only the bare essentials. I was used to not having a shower anyway.
We drove to Debark where the Park Office is and picked up our guide, scout and equipment for the trip.
The first day we walked about four hours to camp after a short drive into the mountains. The scenery was incredible and we stopped every 15 minutes for photos, even though the landscape didn’t change much, it just blew you away every time you looked up. We arrived at camp at 4pm and we decided to get the water boiling on our old cookers pretty quickly because we were all hungry. We had packed basic food; rice, canned vegetables and canned tuna. We had half a pot of rice leftover so we decided to offer a group of scouts some food because they had come with none that we could see. We felt bad giving them rice and vegetables so we opened up another can of tuna and presented the plate nicely for them. We walked over with the food and they started shaking their heads, then we realised it’s fasting time for Lent! So we wasted a can of tuna but at least they ate the rice.
The second day we geared up for a big day. It was going to be six hours of walking to the next camp. We were walking at an altitude of about 3500m and for the others in my group that was really tough. Even though Kilimanjaro was over a month ago, I had no trouble with the altitude and walked with the guide most of the way, often 5-10 minutes ahead of the others.
The last hour we climbed a hill through a little village which had the most amazing setting. The residents all lined up along the trail to wave to the tourists and try and sell some souvenirs. Our camp was on top of the hill above the village and was right on the edge of a plateau. We all sat there watching the sunset; tired and dirty from the big day. Even though we were in the middle of nowhere they had beer, wine and food for sale. A few us thought ‘stuff this’ and bought our dinner for a couple of dollars. We then gave away the rest of the food we had with us to the local people.
The saddest part of the trek was that we had numerous people coming to us at the camps with medical problems hoping we could fix them. We had a mother bring her baby who had diarrhoea and sore eyes. We had a lady come up to us with a massive slice in her arm that we could see her muscle. A man asked for help because he was going blind. We didn’t know what to do. We weren’t doctors but at the same time we knew a little more than these rural villages did about medicine. A girl gave away her eye drops to the baby and we gave some antiseptic cream to the lady with the cut. But we couldn’t help everyone, they needed a doctor and the nearest one was two hours by car over the mountains and no one had a car.
The last day was also six hours which was much longer than what we’d thought. When we finally saw our van waiting on the side of the road we were pretty thrilled. But then we had two hours of bumping around on the worst road I’ve ever been on all the way back to Debark. When we saw the asphalt up ahead we started clapping and one of the girls said “Thank you China!” (Because China has, quite notoriously, funded majority of the roads in Ethiopia) which the driver thought was hilarious. Clearly they haven’t see any incentive to fund a road in the mountains… Yet.
I didn’t know what was priority when I got back, a shower or food. I finally settled on food. After three days a shower could wait another hour, especially as it wasn’t the first time I’d gone that long without one! However, hiking in these mountains has definitely confirmed for me that I’m falling in love with mountain climbing.
*post adapted from my trip here in February 2015 and from my original blog site elishasbigtrip.wordpress.com