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gatoratlarge

Culture and Wildlife Collide in Ethiopia

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Seniortraveller

I must admit to knowing very little about Ethiopia, so pretty much all of this is new to me.  Not sure that I could do it, but thoroughly enjoying being carried along on this journey. Looking forward to reading about the rest of your adventure, thank you for sharing it with us.

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SafariChick

@gatoratlarge I was away all last week and finally getting the chance to look at your report - just got through post 15 - such amazing photos of the Surma people! As you know, I was one of those who went back and forth a million times about whether to join up with this part of the trip and have heard bits and pieces but am glad to get to see the whole picture and hear the whole story now. Really a unique experience even though I am one of those "more of an animal person" people, I am enjoying it immensely!

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lmSA84

@gatoratlarge - just Wow! Excellent writing, lovely photos - a real window into a world that I’ll doubt I’ll ever visit so thank you for sharing. It’s all good but the Donga and fly over are the highlights for me. 

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gatoratlarge

After getting back from Omo, we overnighted again at the Sapphire Hotel----@SafariChick had just arrived and a group was going to Al Degi National Park the next day and I was heading to Gonder and the Simien Mountains.  These destinations are more visited and I've seen a lot of good information on here about both...I arrived on a Sunday and the roadside views on the drive to the Simiens were positively biblical.  Parishioners of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church crowded the roadsides headed to worship...cattle, goats, donkeys, now sheep and horses were common moving down the road to market or to graze.

 

I enjoyed the sights of everyone robed in white---it was a trip down memory lane as this is how people appeared on the "flannel board" when they told stories in Vacation Bible School in my youth...it was an hour or more till I began to see the Simiens and various geological features that hinted of what was to come...pictures don't do it justice and the dust from the Sudan (everything gets blamed on poor Sudan!) mute what appears in the photos but suffice to say it is an incredibly impressive area to visit.  Canyons that rival the Gran Canyon and mountain formations that boggle the mind...stunning physical beauty!  First we had to pick up our registered  guide and armed park ranger which is required in addition to the driver.  Mi guide was a kindly old gent with bleary eyes---but an upbeat personality -- he certainly wanted to please.

 

First stop was the Limalomo Lodge which is fantastic.  VIews from the porch or patio are breathtaking and the rooms have huge picture windows to see the mountains, and the flora and fauna on the grounds of the lodge.  In fact, when we pulled up, a large make gelada monkey was perched along the wall.  Later the whole troop would noisily feed outside my room and in a large tree that fanned out and had some sort of blossom they liked to eat.  A colobus monkey took their spot the next day.

 

After checking in and a nice glass of wine and lunch, we headed out to see more geladas.  I was the only one sitting amidst this troop of a couple hundred geladas just down from the Simien Lodge, Africa's highest lodge.  They were so busy they paid me no mind...digging and eating grass, they made almost human mewing noises constantly.  They worked their way down toward the cliffs where they spend the night away from potential danger from predators.  But not before going into late in the day "grooming mode".  It was interesting that a few goats wandered in amongst them and they seemed to tolerate each other.  One of my observations is that the line for the boundaries of the park is indeed blurred...people live in and their livestock graze in the park.  My only fear is that the endemic fauna gets pushed out or in the case of Ethiopian wolves, contact some disease from the domesticated animals...such beautiful mountainous surroundings and people pressure all around...

 

Some of my gelada pics:

 

 

 

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gatoratlarge

Here is the colobus the next day and a few pics of Limalomo Lodge---as I said, they don't do it justice.  It's a very stylish and surprising lodge with an astounding view:

 

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My greeting committee:

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tree lined path to the lodge:

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rope swing:  IMG_7959.JPG.45468f475bacb797fdf7634342e3dfbe.JPG

 

incredible views from Limalomo

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my room:

 

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lunch and breakfast:

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gatoratlarge

Couple more from Limalomo:

 

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The Simien Lodge has been there longer and is actually inside the park but had a more "backpacker" feel which is what some prefer...I enjoyed the wifi and a beer at the Highest Bar in Africa:

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Lastly---the reason I came for:  the spectacular views and the chance to see endemics like the geladas and Walia ibex!

 

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I had hoped to hit the trifecta and see wolves but their numbers have taken a hit due to distemper? so there are approximately 50 in the Simiens NP but very lucky if you see them.  The Walia ibex though was a treat to see intermingles with geladas in high altitude.

 

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Another endemic the thick billed raven:

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and some klipspringers too:

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SafariChick

That lodge is really beautiful and the views even more so! you got some great photos there ! Love the views, the Geladas and the Ibex!

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michael-ibk

That flight over Gambella must have been incredible, how I woukd have loved to see that! Great video! Also love the Gelada pics, they are such cool animals. And those landscape vistas in the Simiens are just breathtaking.

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gatoratlarge

The drive back from the Simiens is quite scenic and you pass through a number of villages, some quite interesting...

 

https://www.timesofisrael.com/how-a-village-left-behind-by-jews-in-ethiopia-became-a-top-tourist-draw/

 

All along the way, horses, donkeys, sheep, goats and cattle...shepherds with their arms draped over their staff, often with a white head wrap or white robes...biblical scenes all around...I wanted to check out a famous church in Gondar as well as its impressive castle complex occupied by generations of emperors...also ate lunch in a nice local restaurant called The Four Sisters...

 

The Debre Birhan Selassie (Trinity and Mountain of Light) Church in Gondar is famed for its beautiful examples of Ethiopian church art. Built by an emperor and preserved by an archangel, it is also among the most important churches of Ethiopia according to TripAdvisor :)

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Wikipedia has this to say about the castle complex:  The modern city of Gondar is popular as a tourist destination for its many picturesque ruins in Fasil Ghebbi (the Royal Enclosure), from which the emperors once reigned. The most famous buildings in the city lie in the Royal Enclosure, which include Fasilides' castle, Iyasu's palace, Dawit's Hall, a banqueting hall, stables, Empress Mentewab's castle, a chancellery, library and three churches. Near the city lie Fasilides' Bath, home to an annual ceremony where it is blessed and then opened for bathing; the Qusquam complex, built by Empress Mentewab; the eighteenth century Ras Mikael Sehul's Palace and the Debre Berhan Selassie Church.

 

I thought the complex quite interesting and worthwhile...there were even Abyssinian lions kept on the grounds back in the day...

 

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I ended my stay at the Mayleko Lodge near the airport...very pleasant with a nice restaurant up on the hill...

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gatoratlarge

Last installment!  The last day/night of my Ethiopian Adventure was flying to Lalibela, home to the remarkable rock churches, and a stronghold of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.  I'm not sure what I was expecting but it's a pleasant town in mountainous terrain---par for the course in The Roof of Africa!  Ethiopia sure had shown me a remarkably diverse part of Africa.  I loved it and would certainly come back to see more...

 

I had a nice rest and lunch upon arrival but set out to visit the churches in the afternoon.  Many of the saints of the orthodox church have a day each month which is celebrated---St Mary's day was the day of my visit.  The architecture is certainly impressive and the fact the churches are carved out of a single stone but I loved watching the devotees, the priests, the faithful in these incredible surroundings:

 

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Like Varanasi or other holy places, it's considered a good thing to die in Lalibela and so many were interred here in catacombs and caves...

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Views from the hotel balcony:

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Scenes from Lalibela town---Haile Selasse, Barack Obama, Bob Marley and Kassa Hailu were frequently honored on tuk tuks and other decorations around Ethiopia...

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Playing foosball on the street...28377918_10156618943913488_9087754078077854666_n.jpg.a989e8bb8896ee3d6be1c2844296253f.jpg

Strange space ship-like restaurant I ate at my one evening in Lalibela---seemed to be owned by a British ex-pat

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And my one wildlife sighting in Lalibela was a lammergeier, at least that is what I was told.  I could see it clearly but the picture was much more difficult to obtain :)

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Scenes on the way to the airport near Lalibela:

 

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This concludes my little report---you can follow the rest of my journey on Tales From Tinga in the Chad/Central African Republic TR section.  Thanks for reading! :D Of course I can always answer questions if anybody has any :)

 

Cheers!

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Edited by gatoratlarge
picture ID

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pault

This is great Joel  ... and kudos for keeping two reports going at the same time. I’m up to the Sura bits and some of the photos have amazing poses. Who set those up or are they so proficient by now they know what their audience wants?  

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Zim Girl

@gatoratlarge, Fascinating report, really enjoyed reading it.

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gatoratlarge
3 hours ago, pault said:

This is great Joel  ... and kudos for keeping two reports going at the same time. I’m up to the Sura bits and some of the photos have amazing poses. Who set those up or are they so proficient by now they know what their audience wants?  

@pault  i certainly didn't set them up :D

 

They are striking people in their own right but posing seemed to come natural to them -- we certainly weren't the first people to take pictures so they may have had coaching in the past---still, they are the least visited of the Omo tribes due to their geographic location...

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Kitsafari

the little story about how the Omo guard was overcome with emotions upon seeing his pictures was very moving. thank you for sharing. 

 

the Limalomo lodge looks so comfy and inviting! did you have an overnighter there before going to Simiens Lodge or did you stay there for the entire time? the geladas are one of my favouritest (if there is such a word) animals ever. 

 

 

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pault

 

On ‎4‎/‎24‎/‎2018 at 4:54 AM, gatoratlarge said:

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Views from the hotel balcony:

 

 

Where did you stay in Lalibela? Looks like one to avoid.

:P

 

This was a great little trip together with Chad. You really got around and did some stuff - outstanding!  

Nice to see Limalimo Lodge - no geladas and even worse haze for me... but they were blaming on the fires more than Sudan when I was there, so maybe I had double the haze? Still liked it though. 

 

I still have to look at the second part of the Omo tribes visit and Gambella. Bit by bit. 

 

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gatoratlarge
15 hours ago, Kitsafari said:

the little story about how the Omo guard was overcome with emotions upon seeing his pictures was very moving. thank you for sharing. 

 

the Limalomo lodge looks so comfy and inviting! did you have an overnighter there before going to Simiens Lodge or did you stay there for the entire time? the geladas are one of my favouritest (if there is such a word) animals ever. 

 

 

@KitsafariI stayed at Limalomo the whole time---just stopped off to use the Wifi and have a beer at the Simien Lodge :D

 

Strange that the Simien Lodge doesn't particularly take advantage of the views surrounding it---I would definitely recomend Limalomo although it's probably a 30 minute drive from the Simien Lodge...

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gatoratlarge

@pault  :D surely you saw geladas though in the Simiens just not at Limalomo?  How was you and your mom's visit to Lalibela?

 

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mopsy

What a fascinating trip @gatoratlarge, thanks for sharing.

 

The views at your hotel in the mountains were stunning!

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Botswanadreams

Thank you so much @gatoratlarge for this trip report. Your visit in the Omo Valley was amazing and the flight over Gambela too. Both are places I would like to include for a second time Ethiopia but I don't know when it'll be. 

Edited by Botswanadreams

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pault
On 4/27/2018 at 1:29 AM, gatoratlarge said:

@pault  :D surely you saw geladas though in the Simiens just not at Limalomo?  How was you and your mom's visit to Lalibela?

 

Oh yes!

 

I didn’t go to Lalibela as Mum went the day we were coming from Chad. She liked it.

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Atravelynn

Your vistas in Simien benefitted from much clearer and crisper conditions than what I had in  just past mid-Feb, 2018.  No wolves for me either in Simien.  Damn distemper.  The Walia Ibex were great to see and photograph.  Nice going with that species!  How long did it take you to get from  Limalomo to Chenek where the ibex are?  It was 2 hours from Simien Lodge.  Tell us again how many days you were in Simien?   We could have toasted each other at that highest bar in Africa, though no actual clinking of glasses.

 

I had heard that encroachment on Simien was very minimal due to its status as a World Heritage site.  Your comments and my observations call that view into question.  Lotsa people and livestock, yeah.

Culture and Wildlife Collide is the perfect title!  Between Zakouma and Ethiopia you had two very special trips!

 

 

Edited by Atravelynn

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gatoratlarge

@Atravelynn From Limalomo, I believe it took about 40 minutes or thereabouts to get to the Simien Lodge which we passed on the way to Chenek.  Had one of the most amazing views for lunch sitting on the edge of the cliff/mountains and eating what they had packed for me near Chenek.  The roads were pretty crude and a bit rough so it made for a long day there and back.  Still, I loved staying at Limalomo and would stay there again if I went back.  I spent two nights at Limalomo and one night in Gondar before flying to Lalibela.  Another day in the Simiens  would have been ideal but my time was limited. 

 

That was also your assessment?  They kept telling me they were moving people out of the park but I saw lots of human settlements, horses, goats (in the midst of the geladas!) and cows not just on one side of the road.  They didn't look like they were going anywhere anytime soon.

 

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xelas

One more excellent report about Ethiopia @gatoratlarge! I am intrigued by the colours on your photos; they looks very much like scanned slides. Are you using film or is this a special effect on digital?

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gatoratlarge

@xelas I'm not the best photographer and don't have the best camera so if the lighting is not the best, I'll use Camera + to make it easier to see---or even some of the filters for afffect...I have all the originals but if I can convey the mood better, I use them.  I don't have lightbox or photoshop which I think cost a lot.  It's just an app I bought for $1.99 or so :D often its as simple as hitting the clarify button

Edited by gatoratlarge

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Sangeeta

@gatoratlarge I am so sorry that I have not been able to pitch in sooner. But you've done such a great job that I can honestly say that our contributions were not missed :D

 

As for Joel saying that he does not have a way with words, this is from one of his FB posts...

"The nights are greeted by a loud chorus of frogs and sometimes a crashing thunderstorm. After last night's rains, winged termites floated upwards toward the sky in the morning light- the effect was magic to me."

 

I was with Joel in the car that morning as we drove through rust-colored puddles and drizzle and watched the hawks swoop down to catch termites in mid-flight. It was magical indeed.

 

Joel, I hope you don’t mind if I add some more Omo and Gambella pics to your report. Also adding L's GoPro video.

Not sure what our other pro-photog’s name is on ST, but if you could tag him @GameWarden, it would be lovely to have his images on this report too. He took some really beautiful ones.

 

 

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