Published: February 3rd 2011January 1st 2011
Planned an early start, breakfast at 6, leave at 6:30, it's a 3/4 hour drive to the Simien Mountains, so it needs to be early to fit it in a day. I did not realise it was St George's Day though, as it's in April in England, so the church started blaring music and sermons around 5am. Even with ear plugs in, it woke me with a start!
My 4WD driver arrives and off we go, the town is heaving with people in white robes heading to the church for the saints day, amazing at such an early time of the morning. As we reach the edge of town I realise why 97km will take so long, the tarmac disappears and gravel and dirt track mark the rest of the way :( We pass many hills and great scenery, I would have been happy to take photos there and then. At times new roads appear but are still under construction so are either cordoned off with stones or huge pipes, occasionally there is space to sneak through which we do, but that sometimes backfires where there is no where to exit the other end or in one extreme case where the
other end is more than 20ft above the original road, that involved a U turn rather than driving cross country to find a way to the road. We arrive at Debark after 3 hours, good going. I meet me guide, Abi, and armed guard!! We stop briefly at a hotel for my driver to eat and to use the toilets then we continue the bumpy ride to the national park entrance. The scenery is amazing, rolling hills and mountains everywhere. I only manage to see one type of indigenous animal, the Gelada Baboon, otherwise known as the bleeding heart baboon. Apparently they are not actually baboons, and because they are herbivores they are not vicious like the usual baboons I've seen. I got very close for photos as they were more interested in picking fleas off each other. They hang about in huge groups and as we drive further into the park we see hundreds on each side of the road, amazing sight! They are called bleeding heart baboons as they have their mating sign on their chest rather than their bottom, this is usually bright red so looks like a heart. The males have many females and choose one
female to be the lead 'wife', she is then in charge. She will decide where the troop will feed for the day and will settle any disputes within the ranks, if the lead male disagrees, she will go off and find another mate from the remaining bachelors so he'd better tow the line!
We stop at various view points, and I have my packed lunch at one. A few birds start perching around the area waiting to eat my crumbs when I leave. A few of the birds are indigenous to the area, a huge thick billed raven eyes me evilly. After only 3 hours in the park, it's time for the long ride home again! We first stop in Debark again though this time to have the car welded back together, interesting... I would have liked to have napped on the way back but as we pass 3 towns and hundreds of people walking, working and transporting goods along the road I can't, the children always wave and their faces light up when I wave back so I have to keep on watch for that :)
I find it difficult to find dinner in Gonder. Many places which
look like restaurants are cafes so only serve drinks. I finally find a restaurant by chance as it's below a cafe where I have asked for food. The man seems to want to please me and tries to get me to sit at a 6 seater table, I opt for a small one in the corner though. The pizza is excellent and as cheap as local injera meals. The juice is avocado and mango, half/half! It's like the avocado is the main course, and the mango on the top which is drunk last is the pudding, excellent!
There are more photos below