Hike through Ethiopia’s magnificent landscape enjoying its natural beauty
The Simien Mountain National Park is one of Africa’s largest mountain ranges of which 14 peaks rise more than 4000 metres above sea level. This trip features a hiking route through villages, terraced fields, a series of dramatic cliffs and escarpments towards Ras Dashen, the highest summit in the country (4635 metres) and the fourth highest in Africa.
In Addis you will visit the people, the different historical monuments, museums, mausoleums, churches, Merkato (the largest open air market) and the first palace of Haile Selassie I inside Addis Ababa University. The national museum and St George Cathedral, which houses a museum of various religious icons and artifacts etc. will be visited. They all show you the wonderful history, culture and life styles.
Gonder is the medieval capital of Ethiopia with its large royal enclosure containing grand castles, palaces, houses and outbuildings. You will visit King Fasiladas's Palace, the oldest and perhaps most impressive of the castles.
Beside the castle are various ruined buildings including the remains of a bathing pool, a chancellery and a library of Fasiladas's son Yohannes I. You will also visit Debre Birhan Selassie, one of the country's most famous churches that lies 2km to the north east of Gonder.
Drive to the first camp (Sankaber) via Debark (the small town) situated at an altitude of 3250 meters on an impressive view point between the northern escarpment and the southern Wazla.
Before you arrive at the camping site, you have about 2hrs walk. On the western escarpments you will encounter troops of the endemic Gelada baboons (found only in Ethiopia).
They are often referred to as the bleeding heart baboon or the lion monkey. Their coat is shaggy resembling a lion whilst their chest has a marked red heart or patch the Gelada baboon can be found in good numbers are quite easy to approach.
From Sankaber Camp the path to Geech Camp will stretch for approximately ten kilometres (5-6 hours). The initial stage of this path leads through extensive areas of highland grasslands and heather forests. This path offers some of the most impressive views of the escarpment. One of the best views is of the Jinbar Wenz waterfall which plummets down the Geech Abyss. After descending down to the Jinbar Wenz River a short ascent remains to Geech village. In this area cultivation is done in a two year cycle.
One side of the valley is planted whilst the other side lies fallow. You will notice extensive soil erosion in this area as a result of the combination of such factors as slope steepness, cultivation, overgrazing, erosive rainfall and limited land resources.
We pause in Geech village as we are invited into one of the local houses for a coffee ceremony. Here you will participate in this very important social tradition of Ethiopia as well as gain an insight into the traditional lifestyle. Just above Geech village is the campsite which will serve as your base for two nights. The campsite has great views of the mountains and is characterized by giant Lobelia plants. These plants can grow up to 10 metres in height and may live for as long as twenty years, at which point they first flower before dying.
Walk from Geech to Immetgogo, Saha and Kedatit. These three places are perhaps the most spectacular places in the Simien Mountains. The time taken to complete this hike is about 5 to 6 hours and then back to Geech Camp and overnight here.
The trek from Geech to Chenek covers approximately twelve kilometres (six to seven hours), following a path along the escarpment edge.
Just before arriving into Chenek you will encounter the Kurbet Metaya viewpoint at 4070 metres. This viewpoint is actually a gap in the precipitous cliff which reveals impressive views of the steep mountain faces to the west and the lowland areas to the left.
The tightly clustered houses (tukuls) that form the village of Dihwara, tucked below a cliff, are also visible from this viewpoint. Chenek campsite is spectacularly located in a beautiful valley at the foot of the Bwahit Peak. Strategically placed benches allow for the opportunity to take in the expansive views back toward Imet Gogo, especially beautiful in both the dawn and dusk light. A large troop of Gelada Baboons are common here and Walia Ibex is also often seen on the rocky escarpment edges.
Today is the longest trekking day so far, consisting of a total of about ten hours. From Chenek camp at 3650 metres, the path to Ambiko campsite crosses through Bwahit Pass.
Leaving Chenek you will be faced with a two hour ascent to the top of Bwahit Pass at 4200 metres. From the top of the pass views open up to the east over Mesheha Valley to the Dashen mountain range. Looking back the impressive rock formations of Imet Gogo loom large.
From Bwahit Pass the path leads steeply down and across the Mesheha Valley. Here you will notice an increase in temperature as you descend down to the Mesheha River at 2800 metres before climbing slightly to reach Ambiko campsite at an altitude of 3100 metres.
Today is summit day involving a trek of sixteen kilometres (ten to eleven hours)! The path will wind its way over eight kilometres and ascend over 1400metres to Ras Dashen.
At the start the path climbs steeply through barley fields and fallow land before clearing the vegetation zone and reaching the mountain steppe at around 3700 metres. From there the path flattens out as it traverses ridges in the shadow of Ras Dashen. Just below Dashen Pass at around 4250 metres, an impressive moraine can be distinguished. A moraine is material transported by a glacier and then deposited.
This moraine was formed 20,000 - 14,000 years ago in the last ice age when the Simien Mountain tops had small ice caps. The final stretch to the summit involves an exciting climb / scramble up and over large boulders to the summit.
From atop the summit of Ras Dashen at 4543 metres you will be amazed by the far ranging view which spans more than ten thousand square kilometres. On the west the steep faces of peaks in the National Park are visible whilst to the north and east the Tekeze valley is visible.
From the summit you will need to return along the same path to return to your camp at Ambiko. This campsite situated along the banks of a stream and amidst a small village is a project of the local church and a donation for the facilities is gratefully accepted.
From Ambiko the path leads us back down to the Mesheha River (2800 metres). Our destination tonight is Sona, which is situated at an altitude of 3100 metres, and is located at the northern reach of the Mesheha Wenz River. A great day to take in some more incredible views of the Simien Mountains.
Today is the lowland area walk and from Sona camp the path to Mekarebia camp follows the Lamo River. A 1000 metre walk will entail a two hour ascent to the Lamo river.
At the river you can take your time swimming and washing some clothes is possible. You can have your lunch here and then it takes two hours to the camp. The total time including the break is about 6 hours to Mekarebia camp which is at an altitude of (2200 metres).
Today is the warmer day. From Mulit camp we walk to Mekarebia across Derek Wenz river. There is also a very good swimming pool here where you can swim and then after the river there is about an hours walk going up to Awaza village. All the way to the camp is mostly flat and is about a 6 - 7 hour walk. Mulit is at an altitude of (2000 metres).
Today is your final day in the Simien Mountains. Trek for about 1.5 hours to get to the road, meet your car and drive straight to Gonder.
All accommodations in and out of Addis Ababa as indicated on the itinerary double or twin room (Accommodation depends on availability)
All breakfasts and dinners
All ground transportation; 4WD drive
All fuel, drivers’ allowance and insurance
All local guides and all entrance fees
All government taxes
International and domestic flight tickets
and it was one of the most memorable trips ever. It is thoroughly a fascinating country with so much to offer from history and culture to nature and cuisine. Unfortunately, we only had time to do the northern circuit so there is still so much more to see.
We couldn't have been more pleased to have used Eskinder's agency. He was professional and patient in helping us come up with a custom itinerary and was so responsible every step of the way, going well above and beyond. He truly does care about his clients.
I have recommended him to two other friends who have subsequently gone on trips with him and everyone has been happy!
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