Monday, May 11, 2015

Trekking and Tracking Troops of Baboons

Yesterday morning i awoke at 4am (still in Gondar, Ethiopia) to the sound of rain. That was followed by the slow awakening of a ring of mosques around me, which all began the call to prayer shortly after 4am and which continued their haunting music for about 3 hours.

Yesterday was my day to go trekking in the Semian (aka Simian) Mountains. I and two other girls (French) from the hotel left in a van with a driver and guide. Along the way we picked up two men with old Russian machine guns who would be our muscle - for protrction from what i am unsure.  We drove for a couple of hours through the countryside. It really is amazing seeing what people carry around in their daily lives, on foot, from village to village. People are walking miles carrying huge jugs of water or oil, massive bundles of firewood, multiple sacks of potatoes and onions, and logs - i saw one women who was well past middle age carrying three logs, each about 15 feet, on her back. Sometimes i feel lazy when i have to carry groceries 4 blocks home. Also seen: people frequently carrying big sticks or crooked walking canes. I presume these are for tending flocks, but when walking most people have them slung over their shoulders; and when they are all dressed in white it reminded me of the droogs from Clockwork Orange.

We drove through several small, rural towns where i saw signs in English and Amharaic advertising that children should go to school and not work. I also saw many kids playing in the street like it was 1940s America: marbles, hopscotch drawn in the dirt, and the very vintage hoop and stick combo (with the hoop generally being an old tire).

Finally we reached the mountains and began hiking. We had ascended rather quickly to a high altitude, which was noticable, but the hike was not too difficult. The views were beautiful and the paths we walked took us close to the edge and often through patches of eerie moss-covered trees with ravens and vultures circling.

Our machine gun toting companions stayed with us the whole time.

The best part of the hike was seeing hundreds of gelada baboons. They were everwhere in troops ranging from 6 to dozens.  They were busy picking and eating grasses, sometimes with babies in tow. We could get within about 10 feet of them before they would move away. They really were quite fascinating and i was delighted to be able to see so many and for such long periods of time. I also saw a small grey monkey with a white, furry face but it was too swift for me to get a photo.

My hiking companions were camping out but i was heading back to Gondar so after some coffee and fresh popcorn made on a fire on a summit, we parted ways.

On the way back to Gondor i stopped at Wolleka, aka Falasha Village, which had once been home to a population of Ethiopian Jews, but since they were moved to Israel in the 1980s, it is a regular Ethiopian village with some remaining, but disused, synagogues and art on the houses. 

That was a full day for me. I finished it off with a fabulous platter of Ethiopian fasting food (vegetarian food) at the charming Four Sisters restautant in Gondar which was probably the best meal i've had on this trip and was well worth the walk in the dark on the unlit, unpaved road there and back. Fortunately, i had my flashlight, though i doused it periodically to look at the sky, which was filled with stars - the kind you only see when away electricity.
I slept very soundly.


Alan Forsythe said...

All of that sounded incredible.

Melinda said...

Great photos. I find all primates fascinating, so that was incredible that you were that close to the baboons.

Wandering North said...

It was an amazing day. I had hoped to see some baboons, but never thought i would see so many or be able to get so close to them.