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Published: November 28th 2007
This turned out to be one of the most exciting day’s drives of our whole trip. We left Goba early with the target of covering a good distance this day. As we climbed up out of the town, up onto the Sannetti Plateau, the road improved and we were now well over 13,000 ft in brilliant sunshine shining on moorland where the air was so clear you could see for miles.
As we looked back we could see the clouds from a new angle - from on top! This was the place where we might see the unique Ethiopian wolves but, search as we did, we never saw any. It was really beautiful with alpine type flora and little tarns scattered around the moors and colourful ridges and high peaks around us. There was one silver coloured close growing plant which turned the whole landscape a beautiful silvery colour - quite unique, I am sure, and very striking. It was very unlike the Simeon Mts which were rugged and harsh - this was more soft and rolling and gentle. It took us well over an hour to traverse the plateau where the only animals we saw were hares, mole-rats, feral
dogs and, at the end, cattle.
We arrived at the edge of the plateau where the road almost fell away down the southern side. There was a lot of cloud preventing us from seeing the stunning views we knew were there and immediately the road started to go down, the vegetation changed. Gone was the moorland, we now had large plants of heather, plenty of colourful flowers and clear evidence of much more rain here than on the top. The descent was tortuous and steep, winding down till we entered the woodland at the foot of the mountains. A real rain forest where the road was good as it wound still further downwards. The vegetation was lush and dense with colourful growths of wild flowers interposed. A total contrast to the morning’s scenery. We variously saw baboons, colobus monkeys and had one sighting of bushpig - and there were no people!! It really was lovely. This wonderful forestland finally gave way to acacia type scrubland but, in the last stages, we found local people growing coffee under the forest canopy. Big coffee plants and we saw bags of harvested beans being carried out by donkeys.
Our final run
was on a much more unpleasant bumpy road and, due to the now prolific population, there was no hope of free-camping whatsoever. The guide book told us that one of the hotels in Negele offered camping facilities to the traveller but, when we saw what they offered, we rejected it immediately. Again it was a carpark, close to a dusty road, crammed next to a parked truck and miles away from the loos the state of which we could well imagine - and there was no water on tap.
So we set off to look for another hotel, the Tourist Hotel, which our guide book described as “set in jacaranda clad grounds on a high spot on the edge of the town”. When we found the place it was no longer a hotel but now a small nursing college. Nothing venture, nothing gained - so we drove in with our eyes fixed on secluded, well fenced areas of longish grass either side of the 300 yard drive. We reached what had clearly once been a modest hotel complex and which now was the college where we found the dean whom we asked as diplomatically as we could
whether we could camp on his grounds.
At first he was doubtful but he soon warmed and agreed to let us camp there for one night. We were thankful because there really was nothing else on offer whatsoever. When he saw our setup, roof tents and ground tent in a sort of triangular corral, he warmly said we could stay there two nights if we wished! We had a more disciplined audience this time. It was clear that we were off the tourist route because not once were we asked for anything, there was no begging, and indeed when a couple of the student nurses came to chat us all up we were delighted to have their company!
We slept well, disturbed nevertheless by dogs, crowing cocks, and one hyena wailing in the distance. But what a day! We had been up to nearly 14,000 ft and had descended to about 4,000 ft, nearly 2 miles vertically, and driven through the most varied countryside you could imagine. None of us will ever forget it.
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