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Africa » Ethiopia » Amhara Region » Simien Mountains
October 19th 2011
Published: October 30th 2011
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The road ahead. Down into the valley and straight up the other side and there might be a summit over there in those clouds
One of our American friends has woken with serious digestive issues so a hasty search around the camp for the right anti-biotics is under way by the time we rise. Various drugs are located (some might even help) but their trip is over – they will be heading back today.

We march on back up to the next lump of escarpment and hike over its craggy ridge to reveal more fantastic views and the first sight of our route up Ras Dashen. It’s a thousand-metre drop in altitude down the river in the valley between us and the Ras Dashen range and then it’s another thousand-metre ascent to reach the summit. A long, grinding descent leads to the corrugated-iron clad village of Chirro Leba. A tourist-priced cold drink is in order at the wee “hotel” DJ leads us to. Opportunism to leech money out of the tourists abounds here and one’s brain is already wearily over-fatigued of this pattern by this point. The local kids swarm around us as we pass through the village, an endless combination of cheery greetings, teasing cackles, and mixed hawking begging techniques fills our ears as we walk. Every Eucalyptus-framed, mud rendered house we pass
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From whence we came
leads to another chorus of child’s excitement but most are well meaning enough. The worrying thought here is that (aside from agriculture) this whole village seems to be strategically placed to entrap tourism for Ras Dashen. I hope I’m being overly cynical in that statement but I fear I am not.

A long, hot hike down to the river leads to a welcome splashing of its cold waters over a very hot head. And then the ascent begins. Hiking up the valley, DJ shows me how the pod-like bright red flowers lining the trail still hold morning dew in their pods. Intrigued, I grasp one and squeeze. Cool dew does indeed trickle out onto my fingers. Unfortunately, humans are not the only ones that know about this and, unseen, just below my fingers, a bee is busy harvesting the goods. My hand slides down to invade the unseen worker’s personal space. The bee takes offence and delivers a sting to my little finger that makes me jump (and stings a bit too). Examining my finger, I see that the sting has failed to bury itself into the flesh - it has fallen out and is swept away on the
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The route up getting closer
breeze. RL delivers some instant outdoor treatment with the assistance of some juice from one of the many aloe plants that line the hillsides. The soothing effect is good but the plant’s fleshy leaves have been basking in the sunshine for many an hour so the liquid is surprisingly hot. Anyway, this wanderer will live to see another day – unlike the poor, innocent bee.

An hour or so up the hot valley brings us to the dog-ridden village of Ambiko. Our campsite shares its field with the local mules and flanks a small river. We settle down to a cup of coffee and negotiate a cool beer from the villager who appears upon our arrival with a crate of drinks he’s no doubt been keeping in the stream. Inspecting, repairing, and preparing feet is a daily task, especially for the long suffering RL. Nearly every strap, tape, and padding we have has been used on ailing joints and toes but RL is keeping her spirits impressively high (and we all know, barring serious injury, spirit is the most important ingredient of such treks). Post the latest check, our wee camping table is strewn with all sorts of goods
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The morning's target
as a fluke wind blows into camp and flings everything off the table. A tin tray flies off into the air at pace and smacks into my elbow. A stone is cast at speed into DJ’s forehead.

Every item in that corner of the field is flung at the stone wall above the stream. No major injuries are found but goods are scattered widely. A brief search or three leads to a slightly shortened inventory but the only loss of any importance seems to be a patellar strap and we have a back-up for that one so no crisis. Chatting later, all the guides are bemused by the freak wind – no-one has seen its like here before. Brief thoughts of mountain omens cross my mind but I keep them to myself.

A brief planning session leads us to agree a 4am start for the next day’s summit attempt so an even earlier night than usual.


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Tot: 4.046s; Tpl: 0.045s; cc: 5; qc: 54; dbt: 0.0467s; 3; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb