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Published: October 30th 2011
Rise to a welcome breakfast and hand on the second portion of omelette to some American friends (they work with RL and are here purely by coincidence) whose cook, after some misunderstanding, was left behind in Debark. DJ eventually manages to work out that their cook is on the way.
We set off for a day’s hike – 6 hours or so at a steady pace. We rise onto the escarpment of the park and follow it to sit above the Geech Abyss with its impressive waterfall cascading a good five hundred feet or more into the bottomless abyss (there is a bottom of course, it just can’t be seen from our craggy vantage point).
We scramble up an eroded hillside to meet the dirt road that is now used by all the local villagers and their mules as well the occasional truck and tourist-bearing minibus. It’s strange to be hiking through the hills trying to avoid the road that winds alongside it.
We drop down again above the waterfall and pause by the river for a welcome lunch in the warming sun. After a brief rest, I scramble along the rock to the small waterfall a short
way down – it feels good to put boot to rock and have smooth crags under my fingers again. I stand for a while above the natural bowl this river has creased into the land. Barley is growing on every stretch of land, goats and sheep are being herded up the hills, the shepherd children come down to ask for food. RL hands over half her sandwich which is gratefully received. Another half a roll remains to be given but the older (perhaps ten years old?) of the two shepherd boys is already scrambling up to his younger brother (perhaps six years old?) with his first cache so RL throws the foil-wrapped roll across the stream to him. It is not caught and spreads across the dusty rocks but is swiftly collected – nothing goes to waste here.
We walk on to the Muslim village of Geech. The young people here are leaving for northern Sudan where they can get work away from the back-breaking toil of farming in these fragile high hills. A disturbing encounter with a young village girl brings the direct results of the influx of tourist money starkly into focus. There are children nearly everywhere
along the trails here either hawking their woven wares or simply begging for money. It makes for uncomfortable feelings while walking but one is very aware that giving directly, in many ways, is only taking advantage of these children. Ethiopia must find a way around this or these fragile human settlements will swiftly lose whatever sense of worth they retain.
As the afternoon cloud mass turns grey and ominous, we march on to Geech camp. Lying on a pleasant green hillside with views down the valley and up to humble rocky peaks, if it weren’t for the tawny eagles, the ever-present thick-billed ravens, the dusky sheep, goats, cattle, mules and horses, this campsite could be in a lush Welsh valley.
More misunderstandings have led to the American friends’ cook arriving without any cooking equipment - it’s available for hire a bit lower down the hill though so eventually all is organised.
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