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Atravelynn

Exhilarating Ethiopia – Bale 8 nts & Simien 4 nts in February

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Atravelynn

 

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Two of the 3 iconic endemics of Ethiopia—Walia Ibex & Gelada.  From the Chenek region of Simien Mountains.  The Walia bex feel comfortable around the Gelada, relying on the Geladas’ keen senses.  When the Gelada are present, the Ibex are more relaxed I was told.

 

Ethiopian Quadrants accommodated my request for the services of Dynamic Duo Guide Abiy and Driver (working on becoming a guide) Begashaw to Bale Mountains for 8 nights, plus a night in Ziway.  Then I flew to Simien Mountains, leaving Abiy and Begashaw in Addis Ababa, for another 4 days.

  Trip dates:  FEB 7-22, 2018. 

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Sanetti Plateau, Bale Mountains

 

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Simien, much Gelada mating observed in February

 

In March of 2017 I had the privilege of visiting Ethiopia with @michael-ibk and @AndMicand we had a marvelous time, guided by Abiy Dagne, one of Ethiopia’s top birding guides and Begashaw, Driver Extraordinaire.  Trip Report from 2017:  Above the Clouds. Exploring Ethiopia´s Extraordinary Endemics.

 

For this 2018 trip I was looking for something a little more off the grid and extreme. And I got it.  With my input, EQ arranged this unusual and adventurous itinerary, centered mainly around Ethiopian Wolves, plus Bale Monkeys, Giant Mole Rats, Gelada Baboons and Walia Ibex, all endemics.  Abiy and Bega were the Team Leaders again.  It added up to EXHILARATING!

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Me in Simien Mountains.  In repose in front of the Geladas was not only clever composition, it afforded me time to drop to the ground and recover some strength, on my first outing after 1.5 days of being really sick.

 

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Herd of Walia Ibex.  Chenek region of Simien Mountains

 

Itinerary, drive times in green

 

1 nt Addis Ababa - Ghion Hotel – Arrived early in the morning, visa purchased on arrival, and was driven 20 minutes to Ghion Hotel.  We had booked 2 nights to guarantee a room upon early arrival (about 7:30 am) without waiting until 3 pm official checkin time.    Money well spent. 

  8 hours on the road, Addis Ababa to Dinsho, with a 45-minute birding stop at Bishoftu and also lunch

 

 2 nts Dinsho camping, visiting Gaysay Grasslands of Bale Mountains

About an hour on the road, leaving after lunch, from Dinsho to the Ranger Station in Sodata Research Area, Web Valley

 

3 nts camping at the Ranger Station in Sodata Research Area, Web Valley of Bale Mountains

About an hour drive from the Ranger Station in the Sodata Research Area, Web Valley to Dinsho then another 2 hours to Sanetti Plateau in Bale Mountains, then another 3 hours to Bale Mountain Lodge, spending time enroute photographing wolves  in the plateau after 2:30 pm, a good time to be in the plateau

 

 

3 nts Bale Mountain Lodge in Bale

Depart Bale Mountain Lodge 5:00 am to Sanetti Plateau driving straight through is about 2 hours to reach the plateau, arriving 7:00 am.  From 7:00 am to 10:30 searching for wolves and wolf watching.  But no need to get there that early.  Then another 5.5 hours from Sanetti Plateau hours to Ziway.

 

1 nt Haile Resort in Ziway, birding

3.5 hours on the road, Ziway to Addis Ababa, Jupiter Hotel

 

1 nt Addis Ababa - Jupiter Hotel

15 minute drive to Bole International Airport from Jupiter Hotel for the 7:30 am departure 1-hour flight to Gondar, then a 3-hour drive, from Gondar Airport to Simien Lodge, which allowed enough time for an afternoon visit to the Geladas. (Ethiopian Quadrants had purchased this domestic round-trip internal flight for me and I received the ticket when I got to Ethiopia.)

 

4 nts Simien Mountains (fly Addis to Gondar) - Simien Lodge

3-hour drive (8:00 am- 11:00 am) from Simien Lodge to the city of Gondar for city tour of a couple hours. No morning activity in Simien.

 

Last day - Morning tour of Gondar then fly Gondar to Addis Ababa, farewell dinner, then very late international flight home

1-hour flight, departing 4:10 pm, Gondar back to Addis Ababa, allowing time for dinner at Road Runner

before checking in at Bole International Airport for 10:50 pm international flight home.

 

The entire Itinerary was Feb 5 depart Chicago, the 7th-22nd was spent  in Ethiopia, Feb 23 arrive back in Chicago, 18 days total with 15 in Ethiopia, 13 nights in wildlife/bird watching areas.

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Web Valley of Bale Mountains Scenery

 

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Walia Ibex Ram, Chenek area of Simien Mountains

 

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Gelada youngsters in Simien Mountains

 

 

The political situation on the ground resulted in a strike and shutdown that required a change to the itinerary. Changes are shown in red and altered drive times are shown in brown.  This is what I actually did.

 

1 nt Addis Ababa - Ghion Hotel

2 nts Dinsho camping, visitng Gaysay Grasslands of Bale Mountains

3 nts camping at the Ranger Station in Sodata Research Area, Web Valley of Bale Mountains

About one hour from the Ranger Station in the Sodata Research Area, Web Valley  back to Dinsho, which is where the strike and shutdown affected us.

 

1 nt Dinsho Mountain Nyala Hotel

2 hours to Sanetti Plateau in Bale Mountains, then another 3 hours to Bale Mountain Lodge, spending time enroute photographing wolves

 in the plateau after 2:30 pm, a good time to be in the plateau

 

2 nts Bale Mountain Lodge in Bale.  The plan had been for 3 nights.    (I would never suggest planning only 2 nights at Bale Mountain Lodge.  But with some luck, a stay of merely 2 days produced 11 Ethiopian Wolves, Bale Monkeys, a pair of Giant Forest Hogs, and even a cultural honey gathering activity.  I encountered some other guests who had booked only 2 nights by design, plus another who had his itinerary cut down to 2 nights due to the shutdown/strike, same as me.   Everyone was satisfied and seeing good stuff during their 2-night stays, despite an afternoon of uncustomary rain. In contrast, we had a generous 5 nights at Bale Mountain Lodge a year ago, and made good use of every enjoyable moment, spending one full day in Gaysay Grasslands.)

 

1 nt Haile Resort in Ziway, birding

1 nt Addis Ababa - Jupiter Hotel

4 nts Simien Mountains (fly Addis to Gondar) - Simien Lodge

Last day - Morning tour of Gondar then fly Gondar to Addis Ababa, farewell dinner, then very late international flight home.

 

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Sanetti Plateau, Bale Mountains

 

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Chenek, Simien Mountains

 

Floral bookends, compliments of Abiy and Begashaw

Abiy and Begashaw greeted me at the airport with bouquets!  I was so surprised and jetlagged that I did not get any photos at that time.  The next day I requested a bouquet presenting re-enactment at Ghion Hotel. What a touching gesture.

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Abiy (right) and Begashaw (left) greeting me with bouquets

 

The flower-surprise theme served as bookends to my time with Abiy and Begashaw.  On our way back to Addis for our last night together, I walked into my hotel room in Ziway to find it was strewn with petals and flowers, organized by these guys.  Absolutely beautiful and heartwarming!  The two flowery photos are perfect depictions of the care and kindness to which I was treated throughout the entire trip.

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Flower-strewn room in Haile Resort in Ziway

 

 

To be continued

 

 

Edited by Atravelynn

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michael-ibk

Hooray! So great seeing this, and especially Abiy and Bege again (at least kind of!). Surely you are just testing my memory of mis-IDing the two gentlemen. :P

 

Fabulous pictures of Wolves, Ibex and Geladas, eagerly waiting for more.

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Atravelynn
16 minutes ago, michael-ibk said:

Hooray! So great seeing this, and especially Abiy and Bege again (at least kind of!). Surely you are just testing my memory of mis-IDing the two gentlemen. :P  Yeah.  That's the ticket. Just testing you.  It's more like direction dyslexia.  The names are right.  Thanks for being Johnny-on-the-spot with that correction.  Your spotting skills, as always, are superb.

 

Fabulous pictures of Wolves, Ibex and Geladas, eagerly waiting for more.

 

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Atravelynn

The adapter – Type C

All the outlet configurations took the Type C adapter with 2 rounded prongs.  Same as last year.  The camping setups could charge my camera batteries with the C-adpater, no problem, just like the lodges.

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Type C “Euro” adapter used throughout Ethiopia.  Prongs on this plug in Ghion Hotel are the type C adapter prongs. 

The wall outlet that accepts the 2 rounded prongs is from Mountain Nyala Lodge.

 

Tipping for Guide per Ethiopian Quadrants information

Escort guide, $15-20 per day, local guides $5-10 per a day, Scout $5-10 per day, cook $10-15 per day, driver $5-10 per a day.  In addition, there were camp staff and a ranger to be tipped.

 

The guide and driver can be tipped in US Dollars, but the others, who are more locally based, prefer Ethiopian Birr.  I changed all of my money at the airport.  It could also be changed at Addis Ababa Hotels and at bigger international hotels such as Haile Resorts.

 

Ghion Hotel, Day and Night of Feb 7

About 20 minutes from the airport, this hotel was located in a nice park for birding.  The hotel itself is a step down from Jupiter, where I stayed later on while in Addis Ababa, but I chose Ghion for its green and woodsy location since I’d be at the hotel a good part of the day. Didn’t get good bird pics in my brief time here this year, but the previous year with Abiy leading us, we had some great morning birding in this area.

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Marabou Stork - Bishoftu, about an hour south of Addis Ababa, on the way to Dinsho.

 

Bale Mountains Map

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Dinsho Camping and Gaysay Grassland in Bale Mountains, Feb 8-9

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Tents at Dinsho Camp Area, near Gaysay Grassland. The Dinsho Lodge was closed because taxes got too high, so we camped. 

I was made aware of the change in location during the planning process, not upon arrival.

 

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Gaysay Grassland, late afternoon.  No animals in here that I know of.  Scenery only.

 

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Gaysay Grassland, near Dinsho, Bale Mountains.  Female Mountain Nyala (endemic)

 

Mohammed, our local guide from Dinsho, accompanied us on the drives, plus there was a camp staff and chef, Idress.  Keeping it all in the family, Idress is the son of the long-time Dinsho ranger, who last year took us on an exciting “owl prowl.”  The father is still a ranger in Dinsho and I got to meet him again briefly. 

 

On one of our walks, Abiy found two owls, one of them living.

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Last year we visited Gaysay Grasslands for part of the day and hiked through the hills with the “father ranger.”  This time, I allotted 2 days to Gaysay and appreciated the relaxed pace by foot and by vehicle.

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Female Mountain Nyala (endemic) Gaysay Grassland, Bale Mountains

 

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Common or Gray or Bush Duiker – Gaysay Grassland, Bale Mountains

 

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Mountain Nyala – Gaysay Grassland, Bale Mountains (endemic)

 

Abiy, Bega, and local guide, Mohammed, were thrilled when we found a serval.  A caracal came visiting our site in the dark and I could just make it out.

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Serval way down the road, Gaysay Grasslands

 

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Serval far away, Gaysay Grassland

 

Another camp visitor was a warthog that must have been fed by previous campers.  It aggressively approached when we were eating.  We all stood up and waved our chairs over our heads to discourage it, which worked.  As so often happens when people feed wildlife, this ended badly for the warthog because we saw it the next day with part of a spear in its side, probably from behaving aggressively in the village.  Not sure about the warthog’s ultimate fate, but it was not suffering at the time of the photo.

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 Warthog in top photo is uninjured

 

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Warthogs were often found going about their daily business near camp, along with an unphotographed hyena I met when leaving the outhouse,

who was an unobtrusive but frequent presence at the perimeter of camp.

 

The big attractions in Gaysay are the Mountain Nyala, Menelik’s Bushbuck, and Bohr Reedbuck, seen while driving and on our 2-ish hour early morning walks over hilly but not difficult terrain.

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Mountain Nyala in Gaysay Grassland, Bale Mountains (endemic)

 

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Bohr Reedbuck in Gaysay Grassland, Bale Mountains

 

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Menelik’s Bushbuck, Gaysay Grassland, Bale Mountains (endemic)

 

Abiy and Bega made sure I had two hot water bottles at bedtime, although Gaysay was not as high up or as cold as the Sodata Research Area, the next location, where I really needed the added warmth.  When one of the rubber inserts to the blue water bottle went missing one evening as the bottles were being filled, a search party of five guys with torches immediately assembled to comb the nearby vegetation to find the tiny thing.  Excellent spotting skills. 

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Not only are the red and blue hot water bottles featured here, but the festive blue headgear I am sporting.  It is an Austrian balaclava, a gift from @michael-ibk and @AndMic,

presented on our last trip together in Kafue, Zambia.  It came in especially handy in the cold Ethiopian mountains.

 

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Mountain Nyala in Gaysay Grassland, Bale Mountains (endemic)

 

To be continued

 

 

Edited by Atravelynn

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TonyQ

Your photos are stunning, and such a selection of wildlife already. You must really like Ethiopia to be back so soon. It looks like you were well looked after!

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Atravelynn
8 hours ago, TonyQ said:

Your photos are stunning, and such a selection of wildlife already. You must really like Ethiopia to be back so soon.  I did and hoped to spend time with Abiy and Bega again as my "caretakers."  It looks like you were well looked after!  Yes indeed.

 

Ranger Station, Web Valley in Bale Mountains, Feb 10, 11, 12

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Web Valley scenery, Bale Mountains

 

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Web Valley scenery plus a wolf, Bale Mountains

The hard-working rangers kindly allowed us to share their facilities. 

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Ranger Station and our tents-earlier comment in this report: “I was looking for something a little more off the grid and extreme and I got it.”

 

Idress cooked alongside the ranger chef (doing a fine job of it I might add) and we shared the dining facilities.  At times, we opted to dine alfresco to give the rangers more space and privacy in their dining room/bed room.

 

Just beyond the alfresco dining porch were Giant Mole Rat burrows.  Their proximity to human activity made these creatures slightly less shy, resulting in great photo ops.  But only until the Fan Tailed Crows swooped in and preyed upon a baby mole rat.  After that, for over 24 hours the mole rats remained wary and rarely ventured from the burrows.

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Endemic Giant Mole Rat outside ranger station in Sodata Research Area, Web Valley, Bale Mountains

 

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Endemic Giant Mole Rat outside ranger station in Sodata Research Area, Web Valley, Bale Mountains

 

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A collage of endemic Giant Mole Rats outside ranger station in Sodata Research Area, Web Valley, Bale Mountains.  Probably 10 GMRs in the area.

 

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Another collage of endemic Giant Mole Rats outside ranger station in Sodata Research Area, Web Valley, Bale Mountains

 

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Fantail Crows attack baby Giant Mole Rat

 

When we were not out in the vehicle or on foot taking in the scenery or spotting wolves, there were not many other activity options, so I spent a lot of time with the Giant Mole Rats and their buddies.

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Endemic Giant Mole Rat and Moorland Chat (aka Alpine Chat, Hill Chat) outside ranger station in Sodata Research Area, Web Valley, Bale Mountains

 

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Groundscraper Thrush, Hooded Vultures, Spot-breasted Plover (endemic)

 

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White-collared pigeons (endemic)

 

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Endemic White-collared pigeons and Blick’s Grass Rat

These were the approximate excursion times for Abiy, Bega, Ranger Ibriham, Local Guide Mohammed and me.

Day of arrival:   3:30-7 pm. 

Second Day:     6:15 – 8:30 am & 3-6 pm. 

Third Day:          6:30 – 10 am & 3:15 – 6:45 pm. 

Fourth Day:       Departure about 8:00 am, after breakfast.  No activities in Sodata Research Area that morning.

That schedule allowed ample time for Giant Mole Rat observation AND a nap, midday.  While the tent might have been frosty at night, by noon solar heating created a sweltering environment, no balaclava needed.

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Web Valley scenery, Bale Mountains

 

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One of our outings on foot – Web Valley in Bale Mountains

 

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Relatively close wolf in Web Valley.  Wolves were more wary and remained more distant in Web Valley than Sanetti Plateau.

 

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More typical of Web Valley wolves – distant and departing

Web Valley is beautiful in its remote starkness.  Morning light gave off the best glow, sometimes accompanied by frost on the ground.

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Web Valley, Bale Mountains

 

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Web Valley with frost

 

Our tents had frost on them in the morning and the dampness seeped into the top layer of blankets.  (Sleeping bag, mattress, and blankets provided, plus the water bottles; I brought my own liner.) 

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The resident horses took an interest in our sleeping gear.

 

I was given the luxury suite with an extra protective shell to help ward off dampness and this location had fascinating neighbors—Giant Mole Rat and Moorland Chat. 

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For our first early morning departure to the Sodata Research area in Web Valley, the vehicle’s windows were covered in frost.  Abiy and Bega were not used to such cold temps and the rangers rarely had overnight vehicles at their disposal that might frost over, so this was an uncommon phenomenon for all these guys. But I wake up to frosty conditions nearly half of the year, making me the relative expert.  So, for a fleeting moment, I sprang to action and took charge of the situation.  I located the vehicle’s defroster and blasted it to help melt the night’s frost, along with the additional layer of frost that formed when water had been poured onto the windshield in an unsuccessful attempt to melt that frost.  I handed out some of my credit cards and a spare lens cap to be used as scrapers.  We went to work and in no time could peer through the windows again, at which point my role as supervisor of defrosting promptly returned to that of tourist.

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Our team at the research station, left to right:  Idress the chef, Begashaw, me, Ranger Ibrahim kneeling, Abiy, Mohammed the local Dinsho guide. 

Much of the time 4 of the guys were in the vehicle along with me, which was a comfortable fit—5 people. 

But for a couple traveling, 6 in the vehicle would be a bit much for the 2-in-the-front, 3-in-the-back seating. 

To be continued

Edited by Atravelynn

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Atravelynn

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Lip smackin’ wolf – Web Valley, Bale

 

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Web Valley, Bale Mountains

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Web Valley, Bale Mountains

 

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Web Valley, Bale Mountains, wolf in upper left has a rat

 

The three days in Sodata Research Area with ranger escort were an outstanding experience.  An Ethiopian agent or Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Project can arrange this. My account of this area and activities is mostly a literal wide angle of what was seen and a literal focus on scenery. I was advised the minimalist approach on specifics is best.  That point was driven home when we encountered a caravan of visitors who exhibited intrusive behavior toward denning wolves.  Bega drove one of the rangers to town to report the activities of those vehicles, which hopefully translated to fines or bans from visiting the area.

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Wide angle in Web Valley.  Not wide enough to show the pack numbered 7.

 

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Nice weather and blue skies during our 3 days in Sodata Research Area, Bale Mountains.

 

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Web Valley, Bale Mountains

 

After leaving Web Valley, we approached the outskirts of Dinsho where several endemic Wattled Ibis were pecking at the ground.  As I was taking photos of these nicely posing birds with very visible wattles, I noticed a few guys walking down the road in our direction.  Abiy suddenly told me to roll up my window and stop the photography. I complied but thought, “Folks around here sure are sensitive about their Wattled Ibis or maybe they just don’t want any pictures taken of their fields.  Either way it seems overly protective to me since it’s not like they own these birds.”  Boy, did I have that wrong.  This was the start of the shutdown and political strike in Oromio against the government and corruption. These guys were letting us know that all traffic, including us, must cease and the time for tourists taking pictures had ended.

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Endemic Wattled Ibis I was obliviously photographing as the Oromio shutdown was being enacted.

The Statewide Strike and Shutdown

Instead of passing through Dinsho and continuing on to Bale Mountain Lodge, we had a wait, a walk to the Dinsho police station, and further a wait.  Then a convoy of a dozen tourist vehicles departed Dinsho to drive back to Addis, led by about 6 un-uniformed police with machine guns, sitting in the back of a pickup trip.

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Convoy of about 12 tourist vehicles led by police in pickup truck.  Distant, poor photo.

 

We had another stop in Adaba, a town about an hour’s drive from Dinsho, more wait, and an audience with one of the leaders of the movement who hopped into the back seat of our vehicle.  He assured me, “You are safe.  This is not Iraq.  This is not Afghanistan.  We will not harm outsiders even though I do not like Americans or the CIA.  We have a reputation in our country we are proud of that we do not harm outsiders. This is between Ethiopians and our government.  It does not involve you.”

 

Permission denied to proceed past Adaba so we could drive to Addis. Therefore our police-led convoy turned around and drove from Adaba back to Dinsho, retracing our route.

 

Along the side of the road people were waving and the guys in our vehicle occasionally yelled pro-democracy slogans to them, in solidarity. With only one exception when our vehicle was briefly surrounded after we pulled out of Adaba and headed down the road in the “wrong direction,” there was never any animosity shown toward us and I was never fearful.  In fact, quite the opposite. The smiles and waves along the roadside exuded goodwill and a “we’re in this together” and a “we will prevail” attitude.

 

A surreal moment:  Between driving and waiting, it had been a good 2 hours since we had used the toilet and the police determined it was time for a pit stop, waving us all to the side of the road.  Some of the policemen slung their machine guns over their shoulders and strolled hand-in-hand, which is the typical friendly custom, with the tourist vehicle drivers, up and over the crest of a hill, to heed nature's call.  In our vehicle we did not need to go, so we stayed put.  Driver Bega used this break time to phone home to his wife and 45-day old son to sweetly sing, " Boo boo boo boo, bah, bah, bah bah" into the phone.

 

This was revolt Ethiopian style, at least as I experienced it—united, undeterred, well-coordinated, focused, but with a humane approach.  I realize that is not what happened everywhere in the country and there were even a few very unfortunate fatalities during this time.

 

Throughout it all, Abiy, Bega, Chef Idress, and Local Guide Mohammed (who were all in the car with me) emphasized they would make sure I was always safe, and I was. 

 

We overnighted in Mountain Nyala Lodge in Dinsho, thanks to some quick maneuvering on Abiy’s part to secure us rooms.  I was pleased my room was between Abiy and Bega, which made me feel safer if there were problems in the night.  There were drunks in the street banging on the locked metal barrier and door that enclosed the lodge.  If it had not stopped soon, Abiy and/or Bega would have had a frightened visitor banging on their door. 

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Security system at Mountain Nyala Lodge.  Only works on cement uncarpeted floor.  The coins remained balanced all night.

 

Demands for political prisoners to be released by the federal government were met and the state of Oromio returned to normal the next day, far sooner than what we had anticipated. The prime minister since 2012, Hailemariam Desalegn, also agreed to step down.  A lot was accomplished in a relatively short amount of time.  Having been on the organizing end of protests and movements in the past, I was really impressed with what the Ethiopians accomplished and their level of coordination and unity.

 

Mountain Nyala Lodge served the purpose of a safe place to wait out the 24-hour strike, but I wouldn’t stay there again if I had a choice.  No hot or even warm water (despite a big sign claiming there was), no towels, no toilet paper,  no working lightbulb in the dark bathroom, but there WAS an ensuite bathroom and western toilet, clean sheets, and door that locked.  Since there were no towels, I dried myself off after a cold shower with my sleeping bag liner (sheet sewn in half) brought from home.

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I let the towel airdry on my lawn chair right outside my door.  When I went to check on the sheet a little later, I saw my chair had been repositioned for a poker game several doors down, still draped in the damp sheet, with a guy sitting on it.  Yuk.  I asked Abiy to retrieve my sheet, which he did.

 

Minimizing risks to my safety not minimizing yuk was the goal, therefore:  Mission accomplished with Mountain Nyala Lodge.  We even met the owner, the town’s doctor, who was quite nice. 

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During the 24-hour hunker down time in Dinsho for the shutdown there was nothing uncomfortable or odd besides the drunks banging on the outer metal door and the guy sitting on my sheet, and those incidents were unrelated to the strike itself.

 

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Mountain Nyala did offer guests a “weight room.”  I made unserious use of the weights during our time at Mountain Nyala waiting out the shutdown.

 

Throughout the rest of the trip there were no security issues. My timing in Simien was lucky because I was in the mountains when a shutdown/strike occurred in the state of Amhara, where Gondar and Simien Mountains are located.  The entire area around the Simien Mountains and Simien Lodge was completely unaffected, from my perspective, by the shutdown in Amhara.   I was able to do a Gondar city tour with no problems whatsoever the day after the strike. 

 

I had John Hancock travel insurance which reimbursed me for the maximum daily amount for trip interruption.  Both Tony Hickey of Ethiopian Quadrants and Yvonne Levene of Bale Mountain Lodge willingly provided documentation supporting my travel insurance claim.

 

My modest itinerary changes were trivial compared to what the people of Ethiopia endured and are still undertaking.

To be continued

Edited by Atravelynn

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kilopascal

What a fantastic trip @Atravelynn.  I am very envious. As usual a superb trip report.  I am captivated.

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3 hours ago, kilopascal said:

What a fantastic trip @Atravelynn.  I am very envious. As usual a superb trip report.  I am captivated.  Thanks, Ethiopia is a captivating place.  With the political situation, I got to see more facets of this fascinating country.

Bale Mountain Lodge planned for Feb 13, 14, 15.  Actually stayed Feb 14, 15.

 

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Sanetti Plateau, Bale Mountains

 

Bale Mountain Lodge was fantastic again in Feb of 2018 just as it was in March of 2017. This time I had the Giant Forest Hog Room, about a 6-minute walk from the lodge. If footing is a problem, the more remote and distant rooms like the Giant Forest Hog, could be a tough go. There are rooms right next to the lodge also, where I stayed last time. Both were beautiful accommodations, warmed by a wood burning stove during the chilly nights.

 

Owner and host Yvonne mentioned to me that the Giant Forest Hog room had no eponymous photo to go with it.  When she heard we were lucky enough to see a couple Giant Forest Hogs, she requested a photo of this elusive creature to perhaps grace the walls of the room.  I sent the photo so my GFH might make an appearance if a better one does not materialize.

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Giant Forest Hog near Bale Mountain Lodge

 

Such comfort, luxury, and fine dining so far from civilization is a feat for Bale Mountain Lodge.

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But I did not go to Bale for comfort and luxury; I went for the endemic species that live nearby in far less comfort and luxury. We had some excellent Ethiopian Wolf sightings in the Sanetti Plateau during the afternoon transfer to the lodge.

 

Bunch of wolf pics:

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Sanetti Plateu, Bale Mountains.  Wolf and Giant Lobelia, both endemic.

 

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Sanetti Plateau, Bale Mountains

 

Our ride through the Sanetti Plateau on Day was so successful wolf-wise that Day 2 was devoted solely to Bale Monkeys in the nearby forest.

The Bale Monkeys are a quiet bunch, rarely signaling their presence to other troop members.  Abiy and the local Bale guide were excited to hear a Bale Monkey call out shortly after we entered the forest in the morning.  I was disturbed to see all this bamboo cut down, which is the Bale Monkey’s food.  The Bale guide told me that the local people pick out the old bamboo branches and cut selectively to generate new growth from the host tree with the goal of maintaining the forest.

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Bamboo cut by local people in Harenna Forest, Bale Mountains. I was told it was selective cutting for sustainability.

 

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Harenna Forest, Bale Mountains.  Photographing flora when the fauna (Bale Monkeys) were elusive.

 

About 3 hours of hiking and searching in a wide circle, never hearing another call from the monkeys, brought us back to where we started.  And there were the Bale Monkeys! Probably 75.  We spent about an hour with them before they disappeared into the forest.

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Bale Monkeys in Harenna Forest, Bale Mountains

 

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Mating Bale Monkeys.  Abiy took this one.

 

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Bale Monkeys in Harenna Forest, Bale Mountains

 

Last year it took us nearly 3 days to find them and this year, 3 hours.  Sometimes they pop out along the road with no search required at all.

To be continued

Edited by Atravelynn

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Rain clouds over Sanetti Plateau, Bale Mountains

 

During lunch we had rain.  The drizzle continued into our afternoon outing.  An interesting activity that only happens in February in the Bale Mountain area is honey gathering from one of about 150 hives. For a small fee that goes directly to the local people, visitors can watch and have a taste.

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Steps 1-12.  Step 7 disappeared. Gathering honey in Harenna Forest, Bale Mountains

 

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Eathing honey in Harenna Forest, Bale Mountains

 

Heard lions about 4 am one night. Never saw them, which is typical, especially when it has not rained a lot.  We looked for the lions the night after the rain, but no luck.

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Big Yawn, Sanetti Plateau, Bale Mountains

 

 

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Another big Yawn, Sanetti Plateau, Bale Mountains

 

Because the Giant Mole Rats had been so accommodating at the ranger station in Web Valley and because we had only 2 days to explore around Bale Mountain Lodge, we did not spend time trying to find them.  In the rockier areas of the plains we did go hare hunting for the endemic Stark’s Hare.

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Stark’s Hare, Sanetti Plateau, Bale Mountains

 

Our last day we left the lodge about 5 am with breakfast boxes. The Bale local guide joined us because he was well acquainted with the lay of the land. Conveniently there are buses that travel through the park that the local guide could catch to return back to Bale Mountain Lodge.  As in Sodata Research Area of Web Valley, where specifics were subordinated to the general overview for trip report photos, the same goes for our final hours in Bale, plus birds. 

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There is a wolf here, Sanetti Plateau, Bale Mountains

 

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Augur Buzzard, Sanetti Plateau, Bale Mountains

 

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Emerald Cuckoo in Harenna Forest, Rouget’s Rail (endemic) in Sanetti Plateau, Streaky Seedeater in Gaysay Grasslands of Bale Mountains

 

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Wattled Ibis in flight.  Sanetti Plateau, Bale Mountains

 

Wolf totals for 5 days in wolf country (that was supposed to be 6 days but was cut short by one day) were an astounding 80, made up of 69 in Web Valley and 11 on the Sanetti Plateau (and that’s without devoting a full day to the plain, just on the way in and out).  We broke Abiy’s previous record of 19 in one day by seeing 29 one day in Web Valley.  Of course, when a pack of 7 is milling around, as they were in Sodata, the numbers can escalate quickly.

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Part of the pack of 7, Sodata Research Area, Web Valley, Bale Mountains.  Could never get all 7 into the frame.

 

Of the 80 total sightings, I’d estimate there were at least 30 individual wolves. The Web Valley sightings tended to be further away.  In contrast the Bale wolves could be right next to the car.  Like wolf behavior, scenery was different in the two areas, but equally majestic.

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This wolf ran along side of the road next to the car, stopping, stalking and hunting at will, ignoring us.  Sanetti Plateau, Bale Mountains.

 

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In contrast to the above photo of the wolf next to the vehicle, this photo is more typical of the sightings in  the Web Valley area of Bale Mountains.

 

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Web Valley Scenery – Bale Mountains

 

 

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Sanetti Plateau Scenery – Bale Mountains

 

The double whammy of rabies followed by distemper that had plagued the Bale Mountain wolves in the recent past was over, at least for now, and the numbers were rebounding.  It is hard to determine specifics, but there are about 450 wolves throughout Ethiopia and about half are in Bale.

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Sanetti Plateau, Bale Mountains

 

Last year we had heard very hopeful talk about a 10-year management plan that would address problems such as habitat destruction and encroaching villages in Bale Mountains.  There was even talk of making Bale Mountains a World Heritage Site.  Apparently that 10-year study has been all words and no action.  The ever-encroaching human population continues to be a concern and we saw new homes and a new mosque in Web Valley. 

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New mosque in the distance Web Valley, Bale Mountains.  I believe this is not in the buffer zone where villages are permitted.

 

Minutes after our arrival at the ranger station in the Sodata Research area of Web Valley, two dogs went racing across the field about 300 kilometers away.  I believe I was told it would be legal to shoot and kill loose dogs in the research area. 

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The wolves like to be near the cows because the cows scare up the rats.  So it is feast for wolves in the short-term.  But in the long-term, the presence of cattle destroys

the dens of the Giant Mole Rats, reducing their numbers and food for the Ethiopian Wolves.

 

There is a beautiful coffee table book on the Ethiopian Wolves entitled Hope at the Edge of Extinction.  A perfect title.

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Sanetti Plateau, Bale Mountains

 

To be continued

Edited by Atravelynn

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Quote of the Trip

Harking back to last year when we saw a Coca Cola truck that read “Happy Satisfaction,” we continued with that theme, right where we left off.  There were many occasions where it seemed there had not been nearly a year since when we were last together.  We laughed a few times about Mr. Chigarellum (Translated from Amharic to Mr. No Problem).  Remember him, @michael-ibk and @AndMic?

 

Haile Resort in Ziway, Feb 16

Ziway was a nice stop off between Bale Mountains and Addis Ababa.  We had departed Bale Mountain Lodge early and spent a long day in the Sanetti Plateau and then on the road, so a late lunch and some relaxation was all that was on the agenda the afternoon of our arrival.  It was at Haile Resort where I opened door for the petals and blossoms surprise.

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Flower strewn room at Haile Resort, Ziway, arranged by Abiy and Bega.

 

Abiy had to depart for a family emergency involving an uncle, so I bid a sad farewell to him sooner than planned, making it all the sadder.  Abiy had made the trip a “Happy Satisfaction” with all his coordination and fine guiding.  He is definitely "The Fixer." He even continued his helpful oversight on the next leg of my trip in Simien, where he intervened by phone to help with a glitch in my pickup from the Gondar Airport.

 

The next morning Bega and I walked right out of Ziway Haile Resort into great birding along the lake.  Bega is training to be a bird guide and he put his skills to use.

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Hadada Ibis at Ziway

 

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Sacred Ibis at Ziway

 

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Ruffs at Ziway

 

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Adult and juvenile jacana at Ziway

 

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Ziway birds in sunrise

 

Jupiter International Hotel, Feb 17

Before checking into Jupiter in Addis, I had the privilege of meeting Bega’s wife and under 2-month-old son at their home and seeing their absolutely gorgeous wedding pictures.  The smiling and highly photogenic bride and groom could grace the cover of any fashion magazine.

 

Bega drove the Jupiter to Bole International Airport transfer the next morning, a 15-minute trip with no traffic. 

 

Simien Lodge in Simien Mountains, Feb 18, 19, 20, 21

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Simien Mountains, baby geladas

 

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Geladas in Simien near the road that runs through the park.

 

Driver Bahabtam and I left Gondar for our 3-hour journey to Simien Mountains, picking up Guide Assahfah, as we neared the park.  An armed scout from the lodge, Wooboo (phonetic spelling) joined us on our outings, so we were a group of four.

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Scout from Simien Lodge

 

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Geladas. Simien Mountains.

 

I had debated about staying 3 or 4 nights in Simien and felt 3 was probably adequate since I was not including formal trekking.  But I added a 4th night in case I could not find the ibex, or we had bad weather, or I fell ill, figuring an extra day couldn’t hurt.  Good plan.  I got sick and missed 1.5 days.  All I could do was stumble to the toilet and return back to bed during that time.

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Baby Geladas in Simien Mountains

 

I think it was altitude sickness and I took pills, prescribed from my doctor at home, once I felt sick.  I also took Cipro in case it was food-borne.  And I was not alone.  Even through the stone walls of my Rondavel (#E-4), I could hear at least one other visitor was experiencing a similar unfortunate ailment.

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Raising the flag at Simien Lodge

More on Rondavel #E-4:  The E row was the lowest up the hill, which meant it had the least spectacular views.  When I was able to leave my room, but still feeling very weak, so that I shuffled slowly to the main lobby building, I was so thankful my round-trip journey was about 3 city blocks and not a big long trek from one of the rooms with the best views.

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Simien Mountains

 

Views were lovely from anywhere on the grounds and the lodge offered a comfortable accommodation in this remote and captivating park.

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Near Simien Lodge

 

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Young Walia Ibex in Chenek Region of Simien Mountains

 

Just 2.5 days of activities in Simien produced outstanding results.  The geladas are usually no more than 90 minutes away by foot or vehicle, sometimes right at the lodge.  Most of my time with the geladas was just me and them.  When the occasional bus trip stopped for gelada photos, they would spend about 15 minutes, which truly was enough time for nice pictures because the geladas are so accommodating and unaffected by visitors*.  But I was very pleased to be able to linger with them as long as I wanted (Scout  Wooboo and Guide Assahfah were very patient) until the geladas started scattering or moving out, or in some cases racing to greener meadows.

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Simien Mountains

 

We added a bit of unexpected adventure to our first gelada outing.  The plan had been to walk downhill to a troop of geladas and spend time with them until the light faded and they moved out, then drive back to the lodge.  But where was our driver at the end of the gelada photo shoot?  Nowhere to be found, so the Guide Assahfah, Scout Wooboo, and I started hiking uphill back to the lodge along the steep winding road, an estimated distance of 5 kilometers.  Fortunately, a bus of German tourists came by and we flagged them down for a ride back.  I later found out our driver had decided to take some tired backpackers to their campsite in exchange for a hefty tip, leaving us behind.

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I actually enjoyed the addition of the hike, which was not too long or arduous because the Germans promptly rescued us, so the driver desertion was not that big of a deal.  But I did convey my displeasure to Assahfah, who had the better English skills between the two of them, and asked the driver be made aware that I was not pleased.

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All those baby geladas have to come from somewhere.  Simien Mountains.

 

*While the geladas care not if tourists mill about in their midst, they are wary of local people who are more likely to chase these crop-eating intruders from their fields. The geladas are smart enough to distinguish the difference in people.  We experienced this same phenomenon in Guassa, Ethiopia.  Large numbers of fleeing geladas could be seen when local people walked in the area or down the road near the troops. 

 

When two local Simien guides came marching into the midst of the troop, I noticed the gelada took little notice and did not scatter as they usually did in response to locals.  When I asked the guides how the gelada knew these guys were no threat, I was told because they were carrying cameras and photographic equipment for the tourists.  Sure enough, they were.  The gelada can distinguish both race and gear!

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Flying baby gelada

 

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Simien

To be continued

 

Edited by Atravelynn

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The Walia Ibex are found in the Chenek, about a 2-hour, somewhat harrowing, drive from Simien Lodge.  Driver Bahabtamu redeemed himself after abandoning us for the backpackers the day before, by safely and expertly negotiating the winding roads with steep drop-offs. 

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Walia Ibex are well camouflaged on the rocks.  They are more evident on the grass.  Chenek area of Simien Mountains.

 

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Walia Ibex in Chenek section of Simien Mountains

 

Several decades ago, the Walia Ibex flourished, then when highway through the park was built, they became more skittish and scarce.

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Walia Ibex near the road in Chenek section of Simien Mountains

 

Human encroachment has not helped either. But in the last few years Assahfah told me that sightings of Walia Ibex can now be “guaranteed.”  Not sure how ironclad that guarantee is, but the trend is reassuring.  How many ibex?  I heard numbers from 1200 to 2000 and growing.  I have read reports from 2015 that show 900.

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Walia Ibex in Chenek section of Simien Mountains

 

The best time to find the ibex I was told was 10 am  - 1 pm.  Apparently, they are up high in the early morning and then retreat to shadowy cliff overhangs when it gets sunny after 1 pm.  Cloudy days they stay out longer.  These ibex rules are, of course, just generalities. 

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Walia Ibex in Chenek Region of Simien Mountains

 

My viewing time was about 12:30 - 1:30 pm. Though we arrived in the area just after 10:00 am (having left about 8 am) it took us awhile on foot and by vehicle to find the ibex.  We had clouds that day, which helped our cause because it delayed the herd taking refuge from the sun in the shadows of the cliffs.  What also helped was the presence of a Gelada troop near the Walia Ibex, a calming factor for the ibex, making them less skittish.  Assafah said the ibex rely on the geladas’ keen senses to alert them of danger.  If the gelada are at ease, the ibex can be too.

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Spraying from atop cliffs in Chenek region of Simien Mountains.  He seems impressed with himself.

 

Along the cliffs, enroute to the ibex, we stopped to see the endemic Ankober Serin, very exciting spot of a drab little bird.  Also saw these endemic birds in Simien:  Wattled Ibis, huge distant flocks of White Collared Pigeons, Spot-breasted Plover, Abyssinian Catbird, Blackheaded Siskin.  Saw the Melenik's Bushbuck, an endemic, at least once. 

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Top: Abyssinian Longclaw (endemic), Moorland chat, Black-headed siskin (endemic)--Bale Mountains. 

Bottom:  Thekla Lark--Bale Mountains.  Ankober Serin pecking its foot--Simien Mountains (endemic)

 

On the way to Chenek, the guys in the vehicle spotted a leopard and were very excited about it.  It crept into brush before I saw it.  On the way back from Chenek, near where the leopard was seen, we saw what might be further proof of leopards in the area—a klipspringer with an old wound, consistent with a leopard attack.

 

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Klipspringer with leopard wound from the past, Simien Mountain

 

Ibex were the sole focus of our day, and it does take a full day to see them, with 4 hours total roundtrip transport time, even longer if stops are made for birds, scenery, etc.

 

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I celebrated my good fortunes in Simien at the highest bar in Africa (3,260 meters) with a hot chocolate and looked forward to what was planned for the next two days.

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Bar at Simien Lodge Lounge

 

Simien outings:

First afternoon       – geladas in afternoon, after arrival, 4:10 – 6:10 pm.

First full day             Depart 8 am for Chenek to see Walia Ibex, 2 hours away. Leisurely return about 5 pm.

Second full day    – geladas in morning light and afternoon light

Third full day         – Head back to Chenek again for Ibex, perhaps more stops to/from.

Fourth day            – Morning departure for Gondar city tour, then fly out.

 

A great 4-day plan and one I would recommend for Simien.  Unfortunately...

...my illness started about 1 am the second night in Simien, after the first full day at Chenek and the Walia Ibex.  The next day I stayed in my room the whole day, unable to even walk to the main lobby and restaurant.  I think some soup was delivered at lunch.  Guide Assahfah checked on me and brought me extra water.  Sick through the night again.  By morning I improved enough to head out for the geladas, but I needed a steady arm to hold onto when walking along the rocky hills.

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We had two fabulous groups of geladas, estimates were that the second group, which was widely spread out, numbered 1,000.  There are 200,000 total geladas in the 412 square kilometers of the park.

 

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More mating in Simien Mountains

 

The morning with the geladas wore me out, as I was still weak.  Guide Assahfah helped me back to the room and I bid him farewell and thanked him for such a wonderful time in Simien.  I knew I would need to crash that afternoon and we would have not more time together.

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Crawling felt good and brought me to their level.

 

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Simien

The actual Simien outings I did were:

 

First afternoon       – geladas in afternoon, after arrival, 4:10 – 6:10 pm

First full day             Depart 8 am for Chenek & Ibex, leisurely return about 5 pm.

Second full day    – sick all day

Third full day          – 9:00 am departure. Because I could not walk a lot, we had to find a troop fairly near the road and that took until 10:40 am.  First troop, 10:40 – noon.  Next troop, again near road, 12:15 to 12:30.  Rest until the next morning.

 

Fourth day              – Morning departure for Gondar city tour, then fly out.

large.101618618_zz3M7A4126wrestlingpair.

 

large.471398718_zz3M7A4128activeplaygela

 

large.1545528060_zz3M7A4317mischieviousg

 

Total time with the geladas was about 4 hours for 3 groups.  I feel I saw a variety of activities and got good photos in that time.

 

large.1964826074_zz3M7A4401looksliketick

 

large.719072530_zz3M7A4155babygeladaspar

 

large.191823978_zz3M7A4159teethsparbabyg

 

large.823341998_zz3M7A4160neckbitesbabyg

Simien Mountains

 

My last day I was up early packing.  Couldn’t find the binos.  Where could they be?  Then I remembered.  I had let Assahfah wear them to help locate the geladas, as we drove around looking for them, the day before.  He had walked me to my room and helped me in with my camera and monopod at the end of our morning gelada outing.  But he had never returned the binos and I was in a compromised state so as not to notice at the time. It could have been an oversight forgetting to hand me the binos, but he had the entire afternoon and evening to realize they were still harnessed around his neck.

 

I asked Driver Bahabtamu the morning of our departure if the binos had been left for me in the vehicle.  No.  Then I asked Bahabtamu to help me search my entire room for the binos—in every drawer, under the bed, between the mattresses, bags dumped out completely.  I wanted to be sure two sets of eyes had covered every inch before I made an accusation. 

 

No binos, but then I knew we would find no binos.  I had the Simien Lodge manager call Bedassa of BJ Tours and Trekking and I explained the situation to him.  He was livid and promised I would get the binos back.  Ethiopian Quadrants also was made aware of this problem.  Having several advocates contributed to getting my binos back. 

 

Driver Bahabtamu and I departed Simien Lodge, and near the entrance to the park, where we had originally picked him up, Guide Assahfah was waiting for us, along the roadside.

 

“Good Morning Madam,” Assahfah said as he handed the binoculars back to me through my open window.  “It is important to get good reviews on Trip Advisor.  This is my contact info. He handed me a little scrap of paper with an email and phone number.  “Please leave positive feedback for me and then email me with the link.”

 

I said thank you and tightly gripped my Nikon Monarchs, and we headed toward Gondar.

 

The guide for the city tour, arranged by BJ Tours and Trekking (I regret not remembering his name) was enamored with the architecture and history of his hometown.  His enthusiasm and appreciation added to the enjoyment of our tour.  He bought me postcards as a reminder of what we saw, which was very sweet and helpful.

large.91950014_zzIMG_7679.JPG.53a245953e

 

large.183230735_zzIMG_7675.JPG.364cac704

Cages for lions, no longer in use

 

There were services being held at Debre Birhan Selassie Church so we were not allowed in or even allowed to photograph the exterior.  If the Birhan Selassie Church landmark is a must see for you, be sure to arrange the visit when there is no worshipping occurring.

large.48865533_zzIMG_7662.JPG.412c7f7d40

Gondar

 

The city tour was a nice addition that fit in well with the itinerary and I am pleased the political situation and my health allowed it.

 

Farewell dinner at Tony Hickey’s Roadrunner Restaurant

I dined with staff member Temesgen, who I had corresponded with but never met, Begashaw and Ethiopian Quadrants owner Tony Hickey.  It was fun to recount the trip highlights and interesting to discuss the political situation.

 

My weakened immune system caused me to arrive back in Chicago with bronchitis.  My husband drove me straight from the airport bus dropoff to the walk-in health clinic near my home.  That was a first.  In no way did this health hiccup, the political issues, or the temporary loss of the binos in any way diminish the sense of exhilaration that came from this adventurous and at times remote trip in Ethiopia--especially when in the able hands of Abiy and Begashaw and Ethiopian Quadrants.

large.892639449_zz3M7A3185theend.jpg.221

The End

Edited by Atravelynn

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kilopascal

@Atravelynn your photos of the ibex are superb.  Thanks for this trip report.  Still jealous. 

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Atravelynn
59 minutes ago, kilopascal said:

@Atravelynn your photos of the ibex are superb.  Thanks for this trip report.  Still jealous. 

You'll get there.  Wishing you better health than I had when you do go!

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madaboutcheetah

Fantastic report, Lynn ..... Thanks for this!  

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Kitsafari

@Atravelynn awesome photos of all the endemics of Ethiopia - geladas, ibex, bale monkeys, mole rats, birds, etc. and awesome sceneries. Would you go a third time, and if so, where would you return to or which new spots you would want to discover? 

So sorry about your illness, and I hope you are fully recovered for your next trip in August! really wish I could join you, but am also glad I decided not to because of the situation at home. 

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Atravelynn

I am fully recovered, @Kitsafari, thanks!  I would do cultural activities another time.  Maybe Gambela.  A few days relaxing at Lake Langano with the tremendous birdlife and colobus monkeys would be nice if it fit into an itinerary.  We spent 2 nts there on Trip #1. 

 

We will have to team up again some time in the future!

 

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Botswanadreams

@Atravelynn Thanks very much for your wonderful pics and the detailed report. It looks like there is a little curse in the Simien Mountains that a lot of people (we too) struggle with problems. 

 

4 hours ago, Atravelynn said:

Maybe Gambela.

 

Do you have any proper information about Gambela from your ground operator? What time of the year would be the best? How is the security situation in this part of Ethiopia? What is in general possible during a visit? 

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Atravelynn
11 hours ago, Botswanadreams said:

@Atravelynn Thanks very much for your wonderful pics and the detailed report. It looks like there is a little curse in the Simien Mountains that a lot of people (we too) struggle with problems. 

 

 

Do you have any proper information about Gambela from your ground operator? What time of the year would be the best? How is the security situation in this part of Ethiopia? What is in general possible during a visit? 

No info at this time, sorry.  It's just an area that interests me, but  There were some people who went there recently. @optig is one of them.

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Botswanadreams

@Atravelynn I know but they only flew over as far as I understand. That's not what I'm looking for a return trip to Ethiopia.  

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SafariChick

@Atravelynn just finished this report, read it almost all at once as I hadn't been on ST for a bit and didn't see you'd started it until it was finished! Wonderful report and your photos were excellent! Great action shots of both wolves and geladas (so many cute baby geladas! Did you see wolf pups?) as well as cool ibex shots. And the Bale monkeys were excellent - sad I didn't see them when I was there, but I didn't spend much time looking either. Are you using a DSLR now, do I recall correctly? If so, or whatever it is, they are really looking terrific! I knew already about some of the trials and tribulations you experienced but seeing it all spelled out really underlined the drama of this trip. You are such a good sport though, and smart to build in extra time just in case of some of these things.  I wonder, will Assafah be receiving a 5-star Tripadvisor review from you?!  

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Atravelynn
8 hours ago, SafariChick said:

@Atravelynn just finished this report, read it almost all at once as I hadn't been on ST for a bit and didn't see you'd started it until it was finished!  From start to end was just a couple of days. Wonderful report and your photos were excellent! Great action shots of both wolves and geladas (so many cute baby geladas! Did you see wolf pups? ) as well as cool ibex shots. And the Bale monkeys were excellent - sad I didn't see them when I was there, but I didn't spend much time looking either. Are you using a DSLR now, do I recall correctly? Yes, for most shots.  Still have a bridge camera for backup that I use.  But for motion I find DSLR is best. If so, or whatever it is, they are really looking terrific! I knew already about some of the trials and tribulations you experienced but seeing it all spelled out really underlined the drama of this trip. You are such a good sport though, and smart to build in extra time just in case of some of these things.  I wonder, will Assafah be receiving a 5-star Tripadvisor review from you?!    Definitely not.  But I think it was a situation that might tempt and even "entrap" some of the best of us.  He had no binos, his job is a guide/naturalist where they would make a big difference for him, he ends up with binos around his neck and can make his way back home with them with no one the wiser, the owner of the binos is "out of it" and likely not going to figure out they are missing until he is long gone and she is long gone as well.  What are the odds of getting caught?  Probably slim.  What he did not bank on was that I would recover my senses, get pissed, and relentlessly purse the return of my property.

 

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Sangeeta

Super report, Lynn! Sodata has just climbed many vertical spots up on my list of places :)

After so few ET reports in the initial years, it is wonderful to see so many fantastic ones coming on one after another. Your photographs are astonishing, but that stalking wolf was my hands down favorite! Thanks again.

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pault

:) So good! I forgot about the "trouble" that wasn't really..... and produced those weight shots that should be framed and placed above your fireplace at home. How you could wait so many months to share those with us I do not know.

 

Webb Valley looks so lovely.

It seems almost sad that the honey gathered so carefully was devoured so greedily and quickly - but it isn't sad really.

Love all the photos of wolves - and the mole rats too (probably slightly less the baby being killed by crows, but I would never have known otherwise).

Yes, this seems like a very short report for Atravelynn, but it is epic.  I'll do the Simiens with you a bit later.

 

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sek07

@Atravelynnthanks for this- as always really well written and I learned a lot, signs of a good report.  I don't know why I didn't think that serval, caracal, even warthogs were in Ethiopia (I assume hyenas are everywhere!).  and hearing the lions must have been thrilling- I had read that lions had been photographed in camera traps last year in  a very remote area.   and signs of leopard!!  thrilling

we were in Oman this past spring and saw tracks of hyena, caracal, wild cat and we saw Arabian gazelle and may have had a sighting of a wolf but we were unable to confirm whether or not it was a feral dog.  we also found porcupine quills.  and we had no idea any of those were there before we left for the trip. 

 

thats why I love this site so much

Edited by sek07

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