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 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