Today we thought we could sleep in. We did not make the calculation of Day three of Timkat. This was the day of St.Michael and the church with the same name was just next to our hotel. While Chris was blessed with his earplugs and slept through, Esther got woken up at 4 AM by some loud chanting by the monks and priests. And when we mean loud, it was really like next door loud. Like they were practising some strange Hogwarts Choir where everyone chanted a different tune at the same time.
We tried to find some melody in the chanting but really could find none. Needless to say that Esther did not fall asleep again. So two short nights in a row… We are looking forward to our Simien Mountain trek , expecting peace and quiet after these three crazy days of Timkat.
But first we had to sort our luggage we needed for the trek into one smaller bag that can easily be strapped onto a mule. Nevertheless even for the two of us we keep a small army of locals and mules busy.
Besides our regular driver (who will have the next days off) and guide we are going to pick up a cook, assistant cook, a scout with gun (for the leopards and wolves), two mule handlers and four mules. If we were a party of five, we would have had to take on another cook, assistant cook, scout and the number of mules and handlers that were needed. This is Ethiopia and at least it‘s not all just going to large travel agencies that are using one (possibly foreign) guide and driver and then the locals have not much of it. This way at least some of the money the tourists leave here are creating quite a number of jobs for the locals.
None of them though besides our usual guide Gashow can speak a speck of English. So Chris is busy practicing his Amhara. OK, Thank you, I don’t want, I do want, water, good and can I take a picture ? Are some of the words he learned quickly.
First we needed to drive from Gondar to Debark, a 2,5 hrs drive normally. If it was not for Timkat. We passed (or rather crawled) past several village celebrations, always blocking the main road of course.
As Gondar had no gas station with gas, (permanent shortages in Ethiopia) our driver was happy to find one that carried gas and we filled up. One liter is 17,80 Birr, approx. 50 Euro Cents)
On our way we went. And all of a sudden a group of chanting and dancing boys with sticks blocked the road. What might look scary in different circumstances was just some boys asking for contributions to their villages Timkat celebrations (or maybe to buy some drink for themselves), we gave 5 to 10 Birr (15 – 30 Cents) then they cleared out of the way and on we went…
… into the arms of the next group blocking the road, demanding their share… and so it went for a good 45 minutes and we were several hundred Birr lighter.
If we had had no guide with us, we would have probably worried what they were up to, wielding their sticks and mock threatening us.
Finally we arrived at Debark, where our guide’s family lives and we had a lovely lunch there in his house with his wife and his two adorable daughters.
In the early afternoon we went to the park office to get our permit and pick up our supplemented staff for the four day trip. Soon we left the asphalt road and on we went getting an „African Massage“, that‘ s what locals call it when you get rattled through by a dirt road. After one hour we arrived at the starting point of out trek and set out by foot with our scout and guide for about three hours until our fist campsite.
Cook and assistant cook drove with our driver ahead as it was possible to reach the first camp by car. Our mules and maybe a horse or two with their handlers will join us tomorrow morning. We hiked past some spectacular scenery.
Walking high up on a plateau we saw very cute antelopes and, well, not so cute lammergeiers.
We hiked up to 3.250 meters to the first campsite called Sankaber Camp. Here our tents and bags were already put up and inside of the kitchen/sleeping house for scouts we had a lovely cup of coffee and tea in the sun overlooking massive mountain ranges.
We are looking very much forward to this trek, as everyone we met has not stopped saying that Simien Mountians were the best part of their trip. After a delicious meal and a beautiful moon rise we went to bed early.