Thursday, November 05, 2009

Trekking the Simiens Part One

Hello folks of the world!
I am here in Gondar with internet for the first time in nearly a week. Somehow I survived. Let me tell you the story of the trek through the Simien Mountains I have just completed.

Unfortunately pictures seem not possible at this stage the computers here do not read my card unfortunately.

Day 0 : 31-10-09
Gondar to Debark
In preparation for the trip we left (that's myself and my two travel partners Graham and Nila) Gondar at around half past nine in the morning to head to Debark, at the foot of the Simien Mountains.
The bus was old, but left in good time and it was one person per seat. This didn't last, and a supposed three hour trip turned into five and a half hours. Through slum like villages but beautiful hills we rolled. People filling up the aisle, bags, baby vomit.... oh we had the works.
In Debark we ventured to the Simiens National Park Office to organise our trek for the next day. We needed - a guide, cook, scout (to protect us from naughty animals), and transport to the camp of Sankabar, from where we would start our trekking. Suddenly I turned around and all these people were already assembled! We bought some food earlier in Gondar and them some more with our cook in Debark, organised a tent and sleeping matresses as well as cooking equipment and we were one night's sleep awaay from the trek of a lifetime.

Day the One: Sankabar (3000m) to Gich Camp (3600) - 14km

I'll not lie - I was feeling decidedly seedy at 6am when I woke to start the trek. The hotel's toast was not an inspiring breakfast either. I sat in the bus, which I had understood was just for our crew, but they were giving lifts to others as well. At Sankabar we hired mules which would carry all our things over the mountains to our camp spot for the night. Our main packs, food, tent etc. There is nothing really out on the mountains so we had to take everything with us.
The trek began by nine thirty am with everything sorted. The views were amazing. The mountains are very green but not highly vegetated. There is a lot of wheat, grass and eucalyptus trees abound it seem here and all over Ethiopia.
We saw a waterfall and I soon got a stark reality of how it was to climb at altitude. Up one very steep hill I could barely breath, and was barely moving at all. Locals live in the Simiens and feed off the tourists. Suddenly a man was offering me a horse. NO! No way. Not so early. I pushed on.
The afternoon walk was easier, more downhill and flat. We had not had a lunch prepared though and had just eaten empty bread rolls. Not so good.
The last section was a long climb to Gich Camp. And boy was it hard on me. I started to feel very dizzy, and when I finally got there I was extremely light headed and blacked out for a fraction of a second. After some popcorn I scored a goal in a small football game the local kids were playing.
The temperature had dropped now (18ish during the day) and it was incredibly cold. Three people in a small tent kept us warm. Toilets were a fair distance downhill (and not pleasant) it was almost a mini-trek to get back up. One day over, three left!

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