What a difference a day makes. As soon as we entered
The day we left
That night, being November 5th, Gavin had a little surprise. He pulled out a small packet of sparklers and despite not having a guy to burn on our rubbish fire we celebrated Guy Fawkes Night in style.
By now we had left the desert behind. We camped in a crop field surrounded by properly sized trees, grass and such vegetation we have not seen since
We had been told a few things about
Despite being in the opposite direction to our destination we headed up to
The extremely conscientious Awaco, complete with AK47, was punctual the next morning and after realising that he did not know how to open or close the car door we were on our way. If a man is not carrying a big stick or umbrella he is carrying an AK47. However, we have not seen ammunition anywhere so I was not too worried. Also, Awaco did sit in the back with his thumb over the barrel, most of the time, which was most reassuring!
The road out of Debark was a shocker with football sized sharp boulders as cobbles, livestock and people everywhere, but back on the open road the track improved for the 40 minute drive to the entrance of the park. One child threw a stone at us which hit the rear window. Conscientious Awaco, now having figured out how to open the car door, was almost out of the car before I had a chance to stop. Off he ran, nimble as a mountain goat, after the children, returning with the offending boy. But we did not know what we were supposed to do with him. Awaco did indicate that we could tie his hands together and take him with us! Not sure that was such a good idea, so after some finger wagging and stern looks we sent him on his way. Once in the park the flora changed from pastoral agricultural land with barley crops and grazing to a more alpine belt with arboreal heathers and hypericum. The heathers were wonderful, hanging with thick lichen (remember Gavin’s “beard” at Ohau, Mum?). Higher up the only vegetation was the giant lobelia. We saw many raptors gliding and diving and the Gelada baboons were not at all shy and great fun to observe. They seem to spend the whole day sitting in the sun feeding by tearing up the grass and preening each other. The odd male will also act as the urge takes him to make marital relations with a chosen female- as I said, they are not shy.
That afternoon we decided to test our fitness at altitude by climbing the hill behind the campsite. For the first half hour we were huffing and puffing, but taking it very slowly. Then quite suddenly we felt so much better, first Gavin and then myself. Our breathing was much easier, my legs did not feel so heavy and I had more energy. We made it to the top quite easily and were at about 4000 metres. Certainly the highest I have ever been. Needless to say storm clouds were gathering and the view was not so great.
On the way down we came across a group of shepherd boys clustered around a very smoky turf fire and looking rather bedraggled as they huddled under their blankets. They were toasting barley which was delicious.
Closer to the camp it started to rain and by the time we were back at the car it was hailing and becoming very cold. We quickly erected the awning and had a brew. As night fell it got colder and colder. Overnight it was 2 degrees Celsius in the tent. Considering that the coolest temperature we had experienced in months was 25 degrees and that was only just before sunrise, we were really feeling the cold. We were really glad for our Swandris.
Up with the sun in the morning we saw Walia Ibex which are quite majestic and spent more time watching the baboons. The young were hilarious as they cart wheeled up and down vertical rock faces. As the sun melted the frost the Park was seething with life. Everywhere we looked there were insects, birds and mammals scurrying along. After breaking camp we drove up the Bawhit pass, recording 4300m altitude on the GPS. I think that is the highest the car is ever going to reach in its life- imagine driving higher than
Then it was back to Debark to drop off Awaco. On the way another child threw his stick at us. Gavin stopped and reversed but the child was off. Again Awaco made chase. This time he returned with a few boys but not the naughty one. He wrote down their names and proudly retrieved the felonious stick as evidence, which he indicated he was going to make a report about. Now when we see a child with a mischievous glint in their eye and something hidden in their hand we just drive straight towards them and they scarper pretty quickly. This missile throwing behaviour is not so bad for us so far, but we have heard of some Overlanders with dents in their cars. For motorbikers and cyclists it is a real hazard.
We plan to visit some of the Coptic Monasteries on the many islands of Lake Tana and the