Over the last week I spent time seeing all of the places in Ethiopia I wanted to visit before heading back to the UK. From Axum I travelled down to Bahir Dar (plane from Gondar and then minibus which limped into Bahir Dar with a broken fuel line causing frequent stoppages in the last section of the journey!) In Bahir Dar, on the edge of Lake Tana (the largest in Ethiopia), I got chance to relax and also see the Blue Nile Falls. They were more chocolate when I saw them and not has spectacular as in the past due to water being diverted for hydroelectricity but it was well worth the short walk. Of note I had the only officially trained female guide in Bahir Dar with me – really good to see women being given opportunities and training in this way.
Following this I headed back up to Gondar for an afternoon of sightseeing at Debre Birhan Selassie church, with wall paintings of the life of Jesus, and the Royal Enclosure which includes a number of castles built by Emperors during the 15th and 16th centuries. The church opposite the hotel didn’t make for a quiet neighbour but luckily I had my trusty earplugs.
The next day I headed up to the Simien Mountains, the roof of Africa and one of the most spectacular places I’ve been. We managed a short walk in amongst the clouds following the drive up. Almost immediately we came across a troop of Gelada baboon, which are only found in the Simiens. They live in massive family groups speaking to each other with about ten different calls creating a range of sounds. You can get so close to them – less than a meter away in some cases. The ground is covered in herbs as well as the grasses eaten by the Geladas. Walking along the scent of thyme is released into the air all around you.
It was lovely to stay at the Simien Lodge in the park (the highest lodge & bar in Africa at 3200m) with hot showers, hot water bottles, open fires and good red wine ☺ I spent a very enjoyable evening with two doctors in Ethiopia on holiday from the UK sharing a bottle of wine.
The following day we set off in the morning aiming to drive further into the park to a waterfall while there were no clouds obstructing the views. This was where the four-wheel drive became necessary! At the first section of deep mud in the road sadly the car got stuck. Luckily there was lots of help on hand from some of the local boys. After much trying the decision was made that the guide, scout and I would get out a walk hoping for the driver to get the car free and catch us up later.
After about an hour of walking with spectacular views of the mountains we saw the welcome sight of the car coming up the road. We drove on through some more deep mud before coming upon a long deep section of mud which wasn’t safe for the car to try. So it was time to get out and walk again. We did make it to the waterfall after a couple of hours. An amazing cascade down 500m of rock made even more impressive following all the recent rain.
After walking up, down and then up again we were met by the driver who had managed to get through, after several trucks and farmers had cleared a path. We managed the drive back down to Gondar without getting stuck again where it was an early night for me tired after my long walk at altitude. The next day it was time to head back to Axum where it is now time for the final push to complete the neonatal unit before I leave Ethiopia.