SANKABER - GEECH

    gordon
    Rockingthisworld - Ethiopia - Sankaber
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    I don´t think I have ever experienced as much as we did during our second day of this trek. Even before the day started, I had a couple of encounters with bushbucks in the darkness. Apparently, we had identified the same place near the camp to get some privacy; But they used it for grassing, I for peeing. :)

    The day started with our usual oat porridge for breakfast, and after packing up our gear, we started walking at 08:30. We walked to a range of different landscapes, from lush green forests, a hillside completely covered in the bright yellow, red and orange flower Red Hot Pokara, to dry, red and almost oily volcanic soil. In addition, a double digit number of unique birds, including my first meeting with the grand Lammergeyer and some smaller species endemic to the Simiens. In addition to overwhelming natural impressions, we also had some wonderful human encounters - three of which I wish to mention:

    1) While walking on a narrow trail on the way down to cross a river, we heard shouting from the steep hills on both sides of the valley. We learned that it was children watching over the family fields communicating with other watchers about the whereabouts and moves of hungry Baboons trying to help themselves from the crops. They walked around with slingshots and sent fast and precise stones towards to Baboons to scare them away. Although it felt a bit risky to walk in their shoot zone, I was very existed when I was able to snap a picture and capture this routine (even though Maria made me aware that it would have been way cooler if the children had been in school..).

    2) Just before we reached the campsite we walked through a beautiful village. The houses were made of clay with straw roofs, and perfectly merged into the landscape. We were now at around 34-3500 meters above sea level, and everywhere a palm-like plant was popping up - giving it an exotic, sea level feel. :) All of a sudden, we heard moaning and loud weeping. We could see a big group of people gathered outside a community building in the far end of the village. Apparently, someone had just died and we witnessed the grieving ritual and mourning song. Sad, but interesting to experience. We were also told that all the people in the village were about to move down to the city, since their ancient village is within the national park and the Ethiopian government wishes to protect the vegetation and wildlife. Villagers naturally collect a lot of firewood and keep livestock that compromises that. As tourists, seeing the old village was interesting and next year it will be gone. Slowly the open grassland will become a jungle again and wildlife will flourish.

    3) In the camp we met a lovely, British lady named Joy. She had brought many fabric bags donated to hear from a company to give to children for them to carry schoolbooks (or anything else) in. We volunteered to take pictures of the handout event. Many children had already started gathering on a big plane by the camp, and more were coming. Once Joy was ready, the children put on a show with singing and dancing. Very cute. :) At the end, they were all lined up (smallest first) and got one bag each. Big smiles on both the kinds and the grownups faces. For more info, please visit Simien Mountains Mobile Medical Service.

    After the bag-ceremony, we found our guide and made our way to a hilltop hoping to catch the sunset. An exhausting 30-40 minutes later (still not completely acclimatized), we were at the top and found a good spot for the camera tripod. It was quite windy and cold and unfortunately quite cloudy/foggy. Since we didn´t have any other plans anyway, we decided to stick around even though we didn´t expect to be wowed by any sunset. Oh, boy, am I glad we did. Some 30 minutes after we got up there, we heard Baboon-shouts and suddenly hundreds of them came souring down a steep (!!) mountain right next to ours. They were tumbling, jumping and sliding one on top of the other. Some carefully planning a safe route down, others fearlessly threw themselves off the cliff. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!

    As if this wasn´t enough for one day, we had asked (or demanded) chicken aka proteins for dinner and some of the other guests in the camp were having chicken too. Therefore, a child from the village walked with us to the camp with a couple of live chickens in his hands, and the slaughtering of them attracted a couple of eagles to the camp. They were SO close and SO beautiful.