Friday, October 28, 2005. Trekking the Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia. A short three hour drive from Gonder brought us to Debark, the gateway town to the Simien Mountains. Here we picked up a national park guide and a required scout. Before heading into the mountains, we stopped at the local market for a quick look.
As we drove into the Simien Mountains, we saw some of the most spectacular and diverse scenery in Ethiopia—huge mountain ranges, waterfalls, wildflowers, terraced fields, and traditional villages. We hiked about four hours from Sankaber to Geech camp, stopping along a river for lunch. Again, the scenery was amazing, mostly for its diversity. As we finished lunch and were preparing for the final stretch, I saw Erik and Anne hiking out with a scout and an American, Amos. We chatted briefly and made plans to meet in Askum in a few days. After two more hours of hiking, we arrived at our camp on a bluff overlooking a valley. Our cook had hot coffee waiting for us. With the coffee to warm us up, we watched the sun set over the Simien Mountains.
Saturday, October 29, 2005. Simien Mountains to Aksum, Ethiopia. After breaking camp, we (Fred, Charles, guide, scout, and me) hiked out and were met by our Land Cruiser. We drove six hours north to Aksum through, around, and down several mountain ranges, passing some amazing vistas along the way. The road was entirely dirt, but relatively smooth. According to our driver, the roads were built by the Italians in the 1930s. Indeed, they were reminiscent of the winding and cliff hanging roads of southern Italy's Amalfi Coast.
About 15 kilometers from Aksum, our driver slammed on the brakes (and clutch) to avoid a child in the middle of the road. In the process, the clutch apparently broke. Fortunately, the Land Crusier broke down in the middle of a village. We were, however, still 15 kilometers from Aksum. As we got out of our Land Cruiser to retrieve our belonging from the back, dozens of children surrounded us. This is known in Ethiopia as the "Faranji frenzy"—lots of attention given to foreigners from mobs of children. The children didn't give us any space until a woman came out from a nearby shop with a pail and started throwing water at them. Eventually, a local bus picked us up and drove us the short distance to Aksum and our hotel, the Africa. At the Africa Hotel, we met other travellers whom we met earlier: Hillary (Australia), James and Rachel (Britain) from Gonder; and Arthur and Rex (Hong Kong) from Nairobi.