The path is winding moderately upwards through dry grasslands. The landscape in which we are trekking, the Simien Mountains looks like a bavarian pasture after an unusually hot summer, lazy cows included. Wassi, our obligatory scout, is striding nonchalantly ahead, but we are soon out of breath.
When we reach the edge of the cliff, looking down about 1000 m, we remember that we are at the height of the highest Alpine peaks. Up here the air is thin. Eventually, we will reach a plateau of about 4500 m, and our highest campsite is above 4000 m.
Far below us, the fields and villages of the Ethiopian highlands stretch out, and from an isolated rock a deer-like animal stares up, attentive but unperturbed. A rare sighting, we learn, of the shy walia ibex that is endemic to Ethiopia. The gelada baboons lousing each other near the campsite are far less nervous about visitors, and thick-billed raven (also endemic to Ethiopia) cleverly extract edibles from plastic bags just as their brethren in Berlin do.
Our Simien trekking cuisine
Cooked on the rented, basic kerosene stove, our food is nothing to be envious of, we think. Even Wassi, our scout, who brought nothing but two stone-hard pan-baked breads on the six-day trek, suspiciously inspects the pasta. No meat? “We are vegetarians!,” we explain.
As we had expected from reports of others, we end up cooking for Wassi and the boy leading the mule. In the thin air and at temperatures already below zero even in the last evening light, that turns out to be a major challenge.
Wassi, it turns out, is a religious man, and Ethiopian Christians observe a plethora of fasting rules and periods. For the duration of our trek, he is strictly vegan.
But like us, Wassi is always thirsting for that good Ethiopian coffee, with a lot of sugar. Perhaps it is the lack of sugar that makes us so slow on the slopes…
NB: Our trekking in the Simien Mountains was not sponsored in any way. We paid all expenses ourselves. We organised the trekking directly at the National Park office in Debark.