Seycamore Pension - R60 p.p
Best value for money, hot water geyser, very nice bed.
We got up at 06:15 and packed our bags. By 06:30 the power came on so we plugged in our phones, but somehow the hot water still didn’t work.
We went down for breakfast and just ordered toast and tea. The skies were blue, so we were hopeful.
At 07:30 we went to the the Land Cruiser and met our driver and an Israeli girl, Aner, who will also be joining. Few minutes later Ewout and Joanna, the Dutch couple, also came down and we set off for Debark.
The two hour drive over mountain passes went by rather quickly and before we knew it we stopped at the park headquarters in Debark. We met Sammy our guide who paid all the fees at the office, before taking us to a coffee shop for our choice of tea or coffee which he paid for.
Before leaving Debark we put our bags on the roof and picked up the scout, our cook and all the food. Just as we were about to exit the town we got stuck behind a funeral progression. For what felt like ages thousands of people just stood in the road and then starting milling around before walking in the road. The driver had to slowly make his way through the crowd.
We entered the park gate a while later and continued on a dirt road for some distance. We almost drove into a large group of bachelor galada monkeys. The were flashing their teeth at each other and making a big racket, but Sammy assured us that they are very friendly and harmless. A few minutes later we were dropped. The blue skies had disappeared and we were in thick fog, but proceeded to hike in anyway.
At the first bush Sammy stopped to give some history on the park and an overview of the endemic animals, plants and birds.
We stopped at several view points where we could only see white fog, but one could feel that your standing on the edge of a shear 1000m drop.
The fog turned to light rain and then suddenly it started to hurt. Hail!! We ran for cover to a village house which was luckily close by. We first hided in the hay shed before being invited into the simple house with nothing more than a fireplace in the middle and numerous children around it.
We just stood there for a while and then the rain stopped. We continued our hike and at some viewpoints we even had a small glimpse of the valley far down below through a window in the fog.
The lunch packet that we received had egg sandwiches, banana and mango. Sammy also supplied bottled water.
We arrived at Sankabar camp around 2 p.m. we were welcomed with a plate of popcorn and biscuits. Our beds was also already made in the open mountain hut. To the one side the five of us would sleep and to the other side the five ‘staff’.
We had tea and coffee with the popcorn and had good conversations for a while, before Sammy called us to say the fog had disappeared. We hiked a few hundred meters to a viewpoint where we could finally see why people come to the Simiens. We looked down into a green grand canyon with mountains as far as the eye can see.
We admired the views for a while before heading back to the hut. The two couples shared how we met each other and what we do followed by Aner’s story. Just about then dinner was ready. For starters we got delicious vegetable soup with sliced panini like bread.
Mains were two large serving trays, one filled with tomato spaghetti and the other with vegetables. Both delicious as well. Sammy joined in and we chatted about all kinds of things until after 19:00 when the other staff started coming to bed. By 20:00 everyone was in bed.
Since we knew it was going to be cold we shared a single bed and used both blankets. The Dutch couple initially slept apart, but somewhere in the night Hugo heard a very cold Joanna getting in with Ewout.
The mattress were rather hard or thin so we synced our turning around quite often throughout the night.
The next morning we got up around 07:00, but it took some convincing as it was still very cold. When Joanna told Sammy she had to sleep with Ewout, because it was so cold he said we should have asked for more blankets as there are extras.
The weather looked promising and breakfast was served outside with a view. Just as we finished it started dripping again. We went back inside feeling a bit down as we really hoped for good weather in the morning.
We talked a bit and then Sammy came and said: “What are you waiting for, let’s go. The sun is out”. We hiked for about 3 hours and had the most amazing views with mountains and valleys and cliffs as far as the eye can see.
After 3 hours we reached the most magnificent view yet: A waterfall shooting over the edge of a cliff plummeting down 540m into the valley below.
The car waited for us on the road close to the waterfall and took us to Chenek campsite. The community lodge had two sleeping rooms, the hikers got the one room with three double beds and the thick blankets.
We had lunch at the viewing point and watched the fog rolling in and disappearing before it finally came from all sides and stayed. The lunch bread had an interesting tuna, carrot and cabbage filling which tasted a bit like curry mince vetkoek.
Sammy suggested we wait for the fog to clear before hiking again. Just as we went into the room the rain came sideways through the window. We closed everything and lied in the pitch black room for an hour or two. We typed the blog and the others read books.
At 15:30 Sammy saved us from the darkness and gave the good news that the fog is gone. We hiked to a few viewpoints with more amazing views but didn’t spot any Walia Ibexes or Simien Wolfs like Sammy hoped we would.
Around 17:00 fog started gathering again, so we went back to the warmth of the blankets and watched the view from our beds through the window.
We took out the laptop and showed the Dutch couple some of our photos of Namibia and the videos we made of the rest of the trip. A while later Sammy and Aner joined in for the last few videos. Sammy actually came to call us for dinner so we all went to the kitchen.
We had delicious vegetable soup for starters, followed by rice, beetroot, chips and other vegetables. We even got fruit salad for desert.
After dinner a fire was made outside, but due to the smoke and cold the faranjis (that’s us foreigners) didn’t stay outside for long and went to bed early.
The mattress was much better than the previous night and we had a good night’s sleep. Joanna, on the other hand, was lying underneath a hole in the roof where the rain or condensation dripped through.
We got up at 06:00 and had scrambled eggs for breakfast again. We could see blue skies and it looked like the perfect hiking whether.
We set off for the second highest peak in Ethiopia, Ras Bhawit, at 4430m. We slept at 3600m, so we had to ascend 800m over 6.5km. Just before 4000m we stopped a viewpoint and took a group photo.
A group of Gelada Monkeys were also in the vicinity, some climbing up vertical cliffs. Aner decided not to go further as she wasn’t feeling well so Sammy went back with her. The rest of us continued with the Scout.
The last kilometer was quite steep and we started getting mild hypothermia from the ice cold wind, but we made it to the top. The highest Caro has ever been. The view from the top was amazing and well worth it. The peak actually looks like the highest peak, whereas on the actual highest peak, Ras Dejen, it looks like the surrounding peaks are higher. We shared sesame seed balls and date biscuits, took a few photos and then headed down again with the icy wind in our face.
On the way down the scout did some bundu bashing and started crouching towards a large group of Walia Ibex.
We got close enough for some pictures and then headed down further. We got back to Chenek by 12:00 and got the same lunch packages as yesterday.
We tipped the cook, assistent cook and scout and then set off in the Land Cruiser back to Gonder. The gravel road felt like it went on for ages. In Debark we dropped off the cooking supplies, the staff and Sammy. The driver then took us back to Gonder which we only reach after 16:00.
We asked to be dropped off at the Ethiopian Airlines ticket office as their website said there was no flights available. Luckily the website was wrong and we could buy tickets for a flight to Lalibela for tomorrow morning. It cost only around R350 per person.
We then got a Bajaj to the Sycamore Pension, where Ervin the Bosnian, stayed. At the pension we were given a double room for only 220 birr, the cheapest yet. Somehow it was also the best room yet, despite the price tag. The mattress was good, the duvet cover was the same as ours from home and there was an actual geyser for hot water (not the usual instant heating shower head, which never really works).
We decided to have dinner with Ewout and Joanna at the Master Chef restaurant, which was recommended by Sammy and others. The restaurant had a much more local and informal feel to it, but was more expensive than the Four Sisters restaurant. We shared Shiro again and they had Curry Fish and Grilled Fish. We talked again about all kinds of things and will definitely keep in touch. Their heading to South Africa after Tanzania and we said they should try and visit our parents for a traditional South African Braai.
Peter from the L-Shape hotel tried to call me a few times. When I finally answered he just wanted to know how our hike was and then probed until he could offer us a ride to the airport tomorrow. Sometimes their persistence is useful.
Hugo had some urgent work to do (despite us not wanting to work during the Ethiopia trip) so we only went to bed late.