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Published: November 23rd 2009
I Was Only 5½ Hours From Simien
"I Love You! You Are Beautiful! Give Me Your Banana"
It's another early start today (5:30a.m.) as we have a long drive ahead to The Simien Mountains
. The tour company literature says it will take about 5½ hours - Good! We should be there for lunch!
We get underway at about 6:30. There's already a lot of Ethiopians moving on the roads, making the most of the coolest part of the day. The road is rough and unmade and we make very slow progress. After one hour we get excited as we suddenly hit tarmac but it only lasts about 500 metres. There was another short stretch of tarmac later on but it didn't last for long. There seems to be a lot of work being done on the roads with groups of workers at regular intervals. With each group of workers there is always one person with a rifle. We see a lot of people with guns during the day.
Whenever we stop we tend to be surrounded by groups of small kids. We are obviously on a tourist route still as all the kids have learned enough English to
be able to ask for pens, books, money and food. Clarry gets the best chat-up line of the week, "I Love You! You Are Beautiful! Give Me Your Banana". I don't think she was swept off her feet though, the kid didn't get the banana!
As we get higher and higher the countryside gets greener. It begins to look almost Alpine -I almost expect to see Julie Andrews come running over the top of one of the hills! Jim gets really excited when he sees thistles growing at the side of the road. During the drive a lot of the conversation is about the state of our insides as we speculate what the toilets will be like at the campsite.
Our Three New Best Friends Join The Trip
Eventually we reach the town of Debark
at the entrance to the National Park. We take on some extra passengers here - a guide, a cook and three guys with rifles. We're not really sure who or what they are going to be shooting at. One of them comes and sits next to me on the minibus - I decide he's going to be my new best friend!
We are relieved that they sit on the minibus with their rifles pointing upwards - we are still going over a lot of bumps. Jim finds some liquorice sweets in his magic bag and offers them to our new friends. We all wait in apprehension, hoping that the "scouts" like the sweets and don't shoot Jim.
We walk the last 30 minutes into the campsite and it's completely dark when we arrive and finding tents and getting organised is a bit chaotic. It's more than 12 hours now since we left Axum for that 5½ hour drive. We have been really lucky with the driver we had for the journey - he did an incredible job driving for 12 hours on really difficult roads and we all felt really safe with his driving all the time.
As with all trips of this nature, though, the cook does an amazing job with the food he prepares for such a large group of people with such basic resources in the middle of nowhere.
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