Oct 10 12

Simien Mountains National Park


The Special Simiens

 By: Danica

the Special Simien Mountains



“This is like the worst road in Ethiopia,” said Nicolai. “But imagine when it’s all tar,” Mom encouraged. “I don’t understand why they don’t just work on 10km instead of all 70km to Debark,” I replied, “much easier.” Our base in Debark was the Emet Gogo Hotel (named after one of the mountain peaks). It wasn’t much but the food there was fair and everyone very friendly. Tomorrow we would find out about getting into the park and accommodation there at the head office for it was already half past six and the sun was going down.


meadow of yellow

The morning was a slow one and the family slept in till 7. A person at the office said that we had to take a scout with us. So in other words, a big, grumpy man in an army suit with large feet (which meant that we had to move extra things onto my lap) and a gun sat in Mom’s place. Mom and Nicolai had to squash together the whole day.


Gelada like yellow flowers too

It happened to be the season of yellow flowers and they were growing everywhere on steep mountain slopes and down by the river that was 2km below us, crashing in three waterfalls down a deep gorge. When the densities were at their highest there was not an inch of ground to spare and the brown was covered with a beautiful yellow as pure as the golden stomach chakra.


Lammergeier, too resident of simien

I was disappointed about what was written in the information pamphlet that we had bought and to see it was not true. It read: ‘Simien is one of the last Ethiopian mountain habitats that are still virtually natural.’ Unfortunately it is cultivated throughout and very much inhabited and overgrazed by livestock. Whenever we stop at a viewpoint or get out of our car the little herd-boys come rushing up to us with fly swatters chopped from their poor horses tails and woven hats that always seem to be wet.

people of the simien


I’m not trying to be mean but how can you conserve the last of three species like this? To me a national park is a place where animals can live peacefully without human interference and the ecosystem can be natural. I like to go to the wilderness to get away from the outside world and its noise; to be alone and to calm myself down. I can easily see why there are too many people in Ethiopia because many families have many children. So from two people eight more are produced which is no way to keep a balanced population.


Enough tough talk. To the Gelada Baboons! Even when we’re driving in the park it is easy

Geladas are very social

to see them in groups of up to four hundred that stretch all the way down the mountainside to the classic stream of icy water running in the valley like a lush, light green tablecloth with little, brown furry bodies dotted unevenly all over. They were a lot more beautiful than on Planet Earth. Both sexes have a red, heart-shaped patch of skin on their chests which looks quite scaly from afar; a very long tail, lighter than the rest of the body and they were covered in hair, almost doubling their real size.

Gelada female

They are also equipped with the strongest fingers of any primate because they climb up and down their sleeping cliffs, spend at least two hours grooming every day and pluck their only food, blade by blade. That’s right – geladas are the main herbivores in these high meadows.


The geladas are very calm animals too, which means that we could get close to them easily and that was why I was so disappointed and angry to find I had left my camera battery in Axum! Dad and I actually spent time sitting right in the middle of a group.


endangered and endemic to the Simien - Walia Ibex

When the sun was just rising and the rock doves were just starting to coo, we left the hotel and drove all the way to the other side of the park, the only place on earth where we had a chance to find the Walia Ibex. It is much easier to view the landscape in the morning before the clouds blow in but all the geladas are still hiding out on their cliffs. “Our group,” said the scout, “is much lucky.”  The herd of 24 that we spotted was most interested in the Giant Lobelia leaves which seemed quite inedible to the touch. Too bad I felt sooo sick that day!

Giant Lobellias line the roads above 4000m


The Lodge’s very warm beds were a treat and from its curio shop we purchased our sling-shots, rolled by the local children out of their own sheep’s wool. At first it was hard to swing it without the stone falling out but soon the pebbles were all on the other side of the road – like David and Goliath!


sling shot practice





11 Responses to Simien Mountains National Park

  1. Roger says:

    Hi Danica. Those are some seriously hairy baboons!! Hope you are feeling better.

    • Marcelo says:

      Hi Roger,
      Danica was not worried at all. She just sat there only a few metres from them as they ate on the grass as if she were one of the troop. She is better, thanks. She had been looking forward to those baboons for the entire trip! How is matric going? Good luck for the exams! lots of love, Celeste and the rest

  2. Vince Aslett says:

    Reaching an end? What are your future plans? Your trip was amazing to follow. It has almost been a year since we have met at Ndumo :-)

    • Marcelo says:

      Hey Vince, always good to hear from you. Any ideas? Maybe a book? Still got Egypt to do and can’t get Staffie into the country. We will probably have to drive back if we do not get access …

    • Marcelo says:

      Hi Vince,
      Nearly a whole year indeed! We really appreciate that you have followed us. How are things in Kwazulu-Natal? How is your wife’s running? Regards to you and the family, Celeste and family

  3. Tally Dickinson says:

    Hi Danica, love reading your posts, you write so well! Enjoy the last leg of the journey! X

  4. Claire Mcdermott says:

    Hi Danica! It’s Claire. The mountains look beautiful! So do the monkeys, they are so cute :) I got your postcard you sent me and everything sounds so amazing so far. I miss you so much, I can’t wait to see you!
    from Claire xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

    • Marcelo says:

      Dear Claire, Have you been on any travels this year? Sorry to keep you waiting with this e-mail. I’m happy to come home to you and our farm now that we’re getting to the end of the trip. I hope all is well LOTS of love, Danica xoxoxoxoxoxoxooxooxooxoxooxoxoxoxoxoox

  5. Ilona says:

    Hey Danica,
    Hope you enjoyed the Simien mountains. It’s not really the same as our idea of national parks, but some places have to work with people who have lived for hundreds of years. We were there the same time as you….isn’t the sea of yellow beautiful? The flowers are called Meskel Daisies, and appear at the same time as the Meskel celebration!
    Keep having fun!
    Love Ilona

    • Marcelo says:

      Dear Ilona,
      What did you think of the geladas? Have you had any exciting travels this year? Tell Denise I’ve been doing lots of sketching. Love from Danica

      • Ilona says:

        I thought the geladas were cool! at first I was nervous of them, thinking they were like the south african baboons. But you can walk right up tp them! amazing! when we were there, some people were researching them. They don’t think they are baboons at all! so there you go! we didn’t go anywhere in africa this year and went to the olympics in london instead! It was fantastic. Anyway, planning some adventure to Gambia in Feb! Denise is delighted to hear about yor drawings. you will have to post us some when you get back! I am misising having pictures on the door!

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