trip report by site editor Rick McCharles
Day 4: Chenek-Buwahit, 4-6 hrs walking
We were up before the dawn, wanting our best chance of success climbing Mt Bwahit.
Our guards had slept outside beside the tents, despite the cold.
The day before our arrival a young Swiss couple had had their daypack stolen. Cameras, money … passports. 😦
It happens all over the world. It happens here, but not very often. Best guess was that one of the mule drivers had grabbed it. Might have been a young shepard boy, though they are chased out of Camp right quick.
I had my valuables strapped to my waist in a passport case, as always.
Our guide had said that our best chance to see Walia Ibex would be this morning. We weren’t disappointed. We saw a number up on a ridge. And later down by the road. They are not shy.
… only about 500 individuals survived in the mountains of Ethiopia, concentrated in the Semien Mountains, largely due to past poaching and habitat depletion. If the population were to increase, the surrounding mountain habitat would be sufficient enough to sustain only 2,000 ibex. The adult walia ibex’s only known wild predator is the hyena. …
I was still feeling weak though I had not lost my dinner from the previous evening.
I’d not slept much. Happily, as we climbed, I seemed to get stronger.
Though we ascended about 800m in less than 3 hours, it wasn’t all that cold. The sun helps for sure. We added and removed layers frequently.
Disappointingly, the road winds up close to the top of the mountain. At times we walked it.
There’s not much traffic, of course. Clouds rolled up the escarpment early. We’d need to reach the top before the clouds did.
We were very surprised to see snow on the top.
This is one of the few spots in Africa where snow falls regularly.
Mt Bwahit (4430m) is the third highest mountain in Ethiopia and the 13th or 14th highest in Africa.
This is as far as we got following the escarpment. But the road continues to Mekane Berhan, 10km past the Park.
In fact you can keep going 17 days all the way to Lalibela, if you like.
We celebrated with summit photos.
I left a Summit Stone in the cairn.
Nadine turns back. She’ll be reunited with her husband later in the afternoon.
Neither Nadine or I felt many altitude symptoms. Lucky. She gave some medication, on the trail, to one of the other hikers who was feeling rotten.
Obama is wildly popular in Africa though most distrust the American government.
We saw many more baboons on the descent. We’d left too early to see them on the way up.
The decent was quick. Psychologically, I was ready to go. The Simien a success.
In most high mountains lammergeier (bearded vulture) stay far away from me. But here they float right over your tent. After many attempts, this was the best photo I got. They have up to nearly 10ft (2.83 m) wingspan.
Here’s Josh’s best photo.
In Ethiopia, they’ve become more tolerant of people, now common near trash piles on the outskirts of small villages and towns.
We saw wild chickens on the way down, too. Nur told us that when he was a shepard, age-5 to age-10, he loved to try to catch one for dinner.
Heading out, I risked eating lunch.
Nadine was the one of the few hikers who completed ALL the original planned itinerary. But she was ready to head back to Gondor.
It’s a long, bumpy ride back to the Park gates. The roads are bad even in a Toyota Landcruiser.
The closest good hospital is in Dabark. If you crash like this 😦 … they have an ambulance. Another ambulance, I mean.
Rich tourists from the highest lodge in Africa take a short day hike to see baboons. Or do a tourist ride. Meh.
We tipped around 10% of our tour cost, aside for the cooks who got almost nothing. If the clients get sick, the cooks didn’t do the job.
I suggested to Mohammad, a super guy, that he and the other cooks put a big bottle of alcohol gel on the dining tables. Every time. And to ask cooks and assistants to use it non-stop while preparing food for foreigners.
About half of the hikers I spoke with had stomach problems. Clearly the cook house is not sanitary enough. Cooks work together. If one has dirty hands, it’s possible that all the food will be infected.
When we arrived at the Four Sisters restaurant in Gondar that evening, to celebrate, there was a large bottle of alcohol gel on the table. But don’t expect to see one on a Simien trek any time soon. Inertia is great in Africa.
I’ll suggest to future hikers that they consider bringing their own stove, cook their own food.
Thanks to Nur and Halie, childhood buddies, who are still working together. Nur Hassan is Coordinator for SimienMountainsTour.com. I’ll be recommending them.
Our cost was $1000 for 3 people for 4 days, all inclusive. The lowest price I heard quoted was $250 each for 7 people in one group.