Ethiopia, Pt 2-The Simiens and the Omo Valley - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 02-16-2011, 09:50 AM Thread Starter
High on the Mountain Top
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Default Ethiopia, Pt 2-The Simiens and the Omo Valley

I travelled to the holy city of Axum after The Danakil. Axum was the reported home of the Queen of Sheba. The history of this area is long. I spent a couple of days in Axum. Here are a few shots of the road to Axum and some of the stellae of which Axum is known for. Stellae are basically giant tombstones reserved for royalty

They build many of their churches on the top of mountains. Why, I'm not sure, but Tigray is famous for these churches

From Axum I took another bus to Debark. This was an all day trip on very rough roads, but the roads are being worked on and maybe some day the trip to Debark will be easier. For now though, the road is a nail biter. There are many places where the bus is only inches away from drops of hundreds of meters staright down.

Finally I got to Debark and I had a day before my trek started. The trek was a five day hike of about 44 kms with a total elevation gain of about two thousand meters. I summited two peaks, one of 3930 meters and one of 4075 meters. The hiking was along the Simien escarpment which offered stunning views of the area. The hiking and summits were not difficult.
Here are the pictures. It's difficult to get clear shots of distant peaks as there is a lot of dust in the air.

Coffee is the main export of Ethiopia and it's very important in the lives of Ethiopians. Wherever you go you get invited in to celebrate the coffee ceremony. I trekked through a small mountain village and was invited in for coffee. The coffee beans first have to washed, then roasted and then crushed, so it can take a while. In this home, as in most homes, the livestock live in the home over night. This is done to keep the animals from getting stolen or disappearing.

The animals of the Simiens
The Gelada Baboon lives at 3000 meters and higher. They, at one time, almost became extinct because they were hunted for their fur. They are now protected within the national park. The Gelada is the only vegetarian primate in the world

A few other creatures that call the Simiens home
The Lammergeyer

The Tawny eagle

The Tawny eagle taking a dump. I'm sure there aren't many pictures of this around. LOL

The trek was very enjoyable. In the space of a week I travelled from 125 meters below sea level to 4075 meters above. I went from +44 to -2 degrees at night. It hailed three of the nights and actually snowed a bit.

After the Simiens I travelled to Gonder and then flew back to Addis. The next day I left for my twelve day Omo Valley adventure. The south is a very difficult area to travel in, especially along the Kenya, Sudan border. It was +42 every day and only cooled to about 28 at night. You would go to bed sweating and you wouldn't cool til about 3:00 a.m. There is absolutely no water during the dry season, except in only the biggest rivers, of which I saw only one, The Omo. There are a few lakes, but you can't swim in them due to Bilharzia, crocodiles and hippos.
The tribes were fascinating, but difficult to experience. The Mursi with their huge lip plates and the Hammer tribes with their jumping the bulls ceremonies. The jumping of the bulls is a coming of age ceremony where the unmarried women get whipped until they bleed and the young men jump on the backs of up to 20 bulls that are held in place. The man has to do this four times and if he is successful, he may ask a woman to marry. If he doesn't, like one of the two young men I watched, didn't make it and he was heartbroken, as was a couple of women watching. As far as the whipping goes, the women fight with each other for the chance to get whipped. They eventually bleed profusely from their backs, something which is hard to watch. But these women don't even flinch, they don't blink, it's like they are in a trance. I have video of this, but i will not add it to this TR. The whole ceremony took almost six hours in incredible heat. Here are some shots

The Omo River

Some of the animals of the south

This was a very difficult trip. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. Although the north has a well established circuit which include Bahir Dar, Lalibela and Gonder, getting anywhere else is a challenge. The roads off the main highways are terrible. Even on a good road, you just can't get any speed up because of all the livestock. The food in Ethiopia is awful. If I never have to eat mutton again it wouldn't be soon enough. Injera, the national food is horrible. It's a giant pancake made of Sorghum on which they place a stew, usually containing goat. They don't use utensils so what you do is, using only your right hand, you tear off a small chunk of the injera and then using that you grab a bit of the stew and you eat it. They eat this stuff at every meal. It is very sour and when you get to the bottom it is really soggy and disgusting. I can eat almost anything, but that was a challenge. But the most difficult challenge was that there was no water anywhere in the south. At 42 degrees everyday there is no place to shower. There is also no electricity so it's impossible to get any kind of a cold drink. They had no beer, no pop, no juice and the bottled water they do have is warm. While travelling through Ethiopia you get this distinct feeling that they are only one dry rainy season away from another huge famine.
I have to say, though, that the Ethiopian people are so incredibly friendly, always easy with the smile. You hear the word Faranji (tourist) a lot. Yes, there are many people with there hands out, but they don't hassle you like in other countries. You see many things that will affect you in a profound way. I am a hardened African traveller and I saw things that I won't soon forget. If anyone wants to go to Ethiopia I strongly recommend using an established overland tour company. Independent travel here, outside of the northern circuit, is fraught with problems, but you are free to do what you please and that's the way I like to go, the way I have always gone

Last edited by zeljkok; 07-26-2018 at 02:11 PM.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 02-16-2011, 10:01 AM
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amazing! This is a lot of experiences in 5 weeks! Canada will be the culture shock now! thanks for the great photos.
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 02-16-2011, 11:21 AM
High on the Mountain Top
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Stunning photos, including the ones in part 1.

Can I ask how you went about arranging this trip? Did you go via a guide or outfitter?
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 02-16-2011, 11:50 AM
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quote:Originally posted by lobo

you are free to do what you please and that's the way I like to go, the way I have always gone
Your words say it all.

When I go to Africa I just might skip Ethiopia. I don't have the nuts. Luckily there are those like yourself who will share your experiences with the rest of us. I'll have to force you to go on another hike with me this summer so I can hear about it in person!
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 02-16-2011, 04:28 PM
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awesome photos. sounds like a destination for a veteran traveller not looking a lot of comfort. thanks for the TR.
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 02-16-2011, 04:42 PM
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Very good second installment Dieter. I really appreciate the cultural aspect you have shared. Like you, I too would find it difficult to witness some of these traditions but it is after all thier way. Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us.
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 02-16-2011, 08:12 PM
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When it comes to mountaintop churches, think about it.
If you're trying to get grandeur and inspire awe in people, on top of a mountain is pretty damn logical.
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 02-16-2011, 10:51 PM
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Wow!!!! Love those mountains on the way to Axim!!! And that road to Debark...and I thought the road from Lillooet to Lytton was a little challenging LOL. The Simiens are so beautiful,as are the Geladas!!!! So cute Too bad things were so screwed up Dieter,but it looks like you had an awesome trip anyways,I'm glad
ps That's a great shot of your tan in the altimeter shot LOLOLOLOL I kill me LOL
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 02-17-2011, 03:54 AM Thread Starter
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Again, thanks to all for the nice comments.

Leimrod- You do need guides pretty much anywhere. I arranged the tour company from home and they arrange the guide. But it is never as easy as that. You're taking a chance with that process. Ideally, it should be done from Ethiopia, but that consumes time.

Dav-You certainly don't have to force me on a hike. I'd love to go out again with you

NQ- Nice to hear from you again. Things did get screwed up, but that's part of the fun of African travel. You know something is going to go wrong, but you just don't know when
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 02-17-2011, 10:35 AM
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Incredible photography! Africa is a beautiful continent with many places to visit but it's not on my priority list right now. I'm still recovering from hordes of peddlers and bakshish-obsessed locals following my footsteps everywhere I go. Constant pressure from people who wanted to empty my wallet was very tiresome. How was Ethiopia is this regard?
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 03-20-2011, 01:05 PM
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Yeehaw! Way cool! Queen of Sheba. She was HOT!!!

I Kings 10: 1 - 13 (King James Bible)

1 And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions.

2 And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart.

3 And Solomon told her all her questions: there was not any thing hid from the king, which he told her not.

4 And when the queen of Sheba had seen all Solomon's wisdom, and the house that he had built,

5 And the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, and his ascent by which he went up unto the house of the LORD; there was no more spirit in her.

6 And she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom.

7 Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard.

8 Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom.

9 Blessed be the LORD thy God, which delighted in thee, to set thee on the throne of Israel: because the LORD loved Israel for ever, therefore made he thee king, to do judgment and justice.

10 And she gave the king an hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices very great store, and precious stones: there came no more such abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon.

11 And the navy also of Hiram, that brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir great plenty of almug trees, and precious stones.

12 And the king made of the almug trees pillars for the house of the LORD, and for the king's house, harps also and psalteries for singers: there came no such almug trees, nor were seen unto this day.

13 And king Solomon gave unto the queen of Sheba all her desire, whatsoever she asked, beside that which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty. So she turned and went to her own country, she and her servants.

Great pictures! I would love to see it! You're so lucky!

I used to live in Asmara, Ethiopia as a kid for three years. US miltary was tasked to keep a watch on the Suez Canal via the Red Sea. I loved it! Dad hated it! It was a trying time for him. So many beggars, so little to give them. Maybe they should stop growing cotton and coffee and grow food, eh? Oh well. Not my place to say, I guess.

You rock! what a great TR!! cheers!
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post #12 of (permalink) Old 03-20-2011, 01:30 PM
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Oh, I read the last of your tr and was amazed! You're right the food sucks! Didja eat

ZIGNY? gross!!

They only eat and dip with their right hand and use the left hand, the evil hand cursed by God, supposedly
for wiping the ass.

I'm left handed, too! D'oh! I would have a hell of a time eating, eh?

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post #13 of (permalink) Old 04-10-2011, 08:34 AM
High on the Mountain Top
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Wow...thx for sharing...great stuff!
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post #14 of (permalink) Old 07-17-2011, 10:49 AM
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Amazing!! Hard to believe there are still people that live like this, thanks for sharing! Do they get many tourists there or people that try to 'help' them or get them 'civilized'?
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