Saturday, April 19, 2008

A short walk in the Simiens - Day 4 - Chennak to Arkwasiye, Ethiopia


The great western plateau of Simiens National Park at sun up. It took us a day to traverse the massif from right to left. Imet Gogo is the first peak on the right.

Ibex!

Ibexes!

We're on our way to Bhawit Pass, the highest point on the journey. Weird looking plant. Perhaps a lobelia. If you blow up the picture, you'll see the road on the left. The slope is kind of horrific so there's a lot of switchbacks.

Fantee hauling jackass up to Bhawit. Sorry, that's Joey, the mule.

Notice the diversity of species is diminishing as we went higher... 4430 m is pretty high. I was surprised I didn't get a headache from the altitude. As a reference, Calgary is something like 1050 m ASL.

Man, I love the scenery. If you look closely at the massive cliff to the right you'll see ledge that the route follows. A bit exposed but not too bad. Ok, it was nothing.

While traversing the crux I caught a glimpse of the Exit Strategy (if Dubya doesn't have one, I'll have one). It's the deep chasm straight ahead. Looks like that Valley of the Cresent Moon to me, eh?

Looking down the ridge towards Arkwasiye...

Scores of monkeys...

Nice lady we met on the way to Arkwasiye...

Arkwasiye. The complimentary toilet is to the left. The field to the left, that is...

School's out and everyone wants their pix done. Don't let the glum faces fool you but these kids were as bubbly as they get. After each press of the shutter, they'd rush the camera hoping to see themselves in the tiny LCD screen...

By special request, this guy (I think I'll call him the Fonz of Arkwasiye) really wanted his pic done. The guy to his left was particularly hilarious...lighten up buddy.

Boy #1.

Boy #2.

Boy #3.

Foosball in da hood. I'm sure there's some kind of underground economy of second hand foosball tables in Ethiopia. They popped up in the most unusual places. Reminds me of the thousands of pool tables in Tibet...

I slept in this guy's (a seamster?) sewing shop. I didn't see any seamstresses.

Folks I was staying with were really nice. Here the eldest daughter was roasting some coffee beans for coffee ceremony. Coffee had a distinctive smokey taste but delicious...

Bubba's clutching dinner or asking for a wicked case of avian flu...

Fasil plucking the feather's off of dinner. I had no objections buying dinner but I left the cooking to others...the little kid in the corner was kind of cute...

Mmmm... blowed up chicken. I had no idea why he blowed up the chicken.

Looking at the innards, can u tell me the sex of the chicken?

I'm in the village of Arkwasiye. Stopped short of our intended goal of Sona. However, it started hailing/raining shortly after we arrived. The weather seems to have a familiar pattern here. Sunny in the morning followed by late afternoon rainstorms.

Started at 0749 and finished at 1400. I was very happy to leave behind the other tourists entourage of guides and cooks. The guide book was correct when it questioned why would anyone would want to hire a guide who will in turn blather in your ear non-stop 24/7 (especially a guide named Peter aka Mr. Barcelona. What a maroon...).

Anyway, it was a beautiful morning, clear skies and a bit nippy. Fasil found a couple dozen ibexes grazing on the bottom of a cliff above Chennak for me to photograph. I sneaked to within 30 m of them. Lucky for me they weren't exactly camera shy. They were quite handsome creatures thought. Reminded me of the Rocky Mountain Sheep back home. Hiding behind lobelia plants, I shot for 20 minutes before the entire troupe scaled the cliff and disappeared over the rim.

From this point it long long haul up to Bhawit Pass via a combination of steep roads and pastures. Again, outstanding views from the escarpment edge. In due time, we went over that edge. The road, an incredible engineering feat, continued up to the pass while we turned left to faced the crux, a short exposed path beneath a massive promontory. Afterwards, it was all downhill till the trail lead to long flats of pasture land and eventually Arkwasiye.

Fasil has fixed me up with a family. I'll be sleeping in their sewing shop for the night. Bought the crew and myself a live chicken (doro) for tonight. It's the second live chicken I've ever bought. The first was in Pakistan. All I asked was that once cooked, this chicken better have 2 legs and other meaty parts, damn it. So, it's a whopping 30 birr for the chicken, and 20 birr for the accommodations. I figure it's a good monetary contribution towards the local economy. Personal finances are still healthy...

Funny story. I asked to use the toilet. The young man I asked pointed towards a small shack near the edge of town (Arkwasiye was so tiny). I walked over. There was a woman by the door. I mentioned the toilet. She nodded. I stepped into the hut. Huddled in the dark dank interior was a man and a bunch of kids in the hut. Where's the toilet hole, I wondered. The original young man stepped in and tugged at my arm, saying this wasn't the toilet. It was the family's home. My guide took me outside and pointed to the large flat field behind the shack. Where I asked? The answer: anywhere. I walked about a hundred metres away to find a small divet in the ground behind a rock where I unfortunately took the most time consuming and biggest dump of my life. Well, at least the view from this vantage point was amazing.

The GPS said the crux on Bhawit Pass was here at N13 15.315 E38 13.316 (4189 m) and Arkwasiye was here at N13 18.004 E38 14.254 (3635 m)

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4 comments:

soapyDave said...

speaking of ibex, there is a new Ethiopian-Eritrean restaurant in town - called Ibex.

Sorry about the Habs.

bubba said...

soapydave, wonder if they serve an ibex dish...

Steve H. said...

Thanks for the dump story. I was about to have breakfast.

I'll bet you could lose a lot of weight on a hike like that...

bubba said...

Hmmm... weight loss on a trek like this... there's a novel idea...