Waking up within a small tent, surrounded by frosty ground, and in unbearably cold weather, was an instant reminder of being on the roof of Africa – which actuates you to venerate the warmth of sun as if it’s for the first time. We had coffee, scrambled egg, home baked bread with locally made honey for breakfast, before continuing our second day trail to go deep within the Afroalpine Leas.
Walking from the park headquarters Dinsho (Juniper woodlands) and slowly entering into the heart of the Bale Mountains – Sanetti plateau –, while passing through the Upper Web Valley, unfold impressive eye vistas.
The first few kilometers before entering into the Bale Mountain National Park, was walking through charismatic villages with bamboo fenced compounds complemented with full of character huts, villagers, cattle, horses and donkeys. Surrounded by rocky hills and beautiful mountain ranges as a backdrop of farm fields.
Leaving village panorama behind, following the Web Valley track road, which parallel to the Web River, presented memorable moments of crossing the river and witnessing it superbly passing through beautiful valley and under naturally made stone bridge.
We stopped at the top of an Impressive gorge for our first sight of the endemic Rock Hyrax locally known as Osolee (in Afan Oromo) or Shikoko (in Amharic).
Climbing steep hills and being rewarded by wide open spaces surrounded by astonishing mountain range started to take place. Clear beautiful sky, breezy but warm weather and sunny day brighten up the surrounding for more magnificent scenery. The tranquil energy brings out stillness from within.
The Bale Mountains are one of the best places to have exceptional birding experience in Ethiopia. According to the Bale Mountains National Park Traveller’s Guide book, it is rated by the African Bird Club as the number four birding site in Africa, and it is home to 310 species of birds.
The Moorland Chat (Alpine Chat), Thekla’s Lark, Chestnut – naped Francolin, Augur Buzzard, Tawny Eagle and Common Kestrel were birds we were fortunate enough to witness along the way.
Even though the Finche Habera waterfall – which locally known as Woman’s urine – , was not at its peak due to the timing of the visit, but the swamp underneath was hosting the jewel of Bale Mountains – Blue winged goose – our first view of this captivating creature made the whole day trail worthy.
While getting closer to the campsite, we are being able to spot the flagship of this impressive habitat from afar – Ethiopian Wolf.
The campsite in the wilderness seemed far away from everything and hallowed in serene aura. The temporary kitchen set up was where resourcefulness being tested. The tent was where the art of simplicity being expressed. The wilderness was where the spiritual practice of accepting what is and being one with life naturally applied.
Traditional handmade three lagged stools, decorated with colorful painting of the Mountain Nyala and Red Hot Poker plant – Signatures of the Bale Mountains – was a luxury in the wilderness. All these materials were carried by the people and the animals accompanied us, so every item which happened to be at the wilderness were venerated.
Towards the end of the day, the temperature dropped instantly to freezing, which made changing cloth a defying task. The darkness brings out not only bright stars but a feeling of surrender.
Day Three: From Finche Habera Campsite to Wassyma Campsite
Waking up early in the morning in a wild, covered by frost, started to become familiar. It was a holiday so our guide gave us an imaginative and much appreciated gift which brighten up our day – bouquet of everlasting flower.
While having breakfast and enjoying the sun, we were being able to spot the Ethiopian wolf preying from far away, which was another teaser of a spectacle of the Afroalpine meadow.
Every day and every step of the trail was taking us higher – from 3,000 m to 4,000 m above sea level. Artemisia Afra pervaded a strong and sweet aroma in the wild which reminded me Guassa Grassland where the smell of wild thyme enlivening the overall experience of trekking in Ethiopia.
It was another warm sunny day and the bottled water we were carrying with us stayed cold and pleasant to drink, which reminded me the opposite experience that I had in the Danakil Depression , where the bottled water stayed warm – experiencing two extremes within a country beautifully diverse in so many ways – Ethiopia.
Spectacular landscape with magnificent mountain range and unique Afroalpine vegetation kept unfolding before us. Here and there colorful lichen-clad rocks, as a reminder of trekking in Bale Mountains, breathing clean air. Walking through magnificent valley and next to impressive rock zenith pervades a sense of humbleness.
Somewhere on a rocky hill, we took a lunch break and we were surprised by the gracious Bearded Vaulter (Lammergeyer) flying over us, hovering around the hills preying. To witness this memorable spectacle up on the blue sky of the Bale Mountains, we stopped eating the savory avocado sandwich which we were carrying with us prepared by our cook Idris for a moment.
We continued our trail and within an impressive Wassyma Valley we spotted a Giant Lobelia plant, which signaled that we were getting closer to the Sanetti Plateau. The Wassyma Mountain, locally known as the mountain which attracts wind started to unveil itself from afar. Crossing frosty streams and seeing snow way on the top of the hills were all indications of ascending higher.
The crew already reached the destination and set up the kitchen within a naturally created space on one of the hills and our tent was on another smaller hill where Wassyma Mountain was a backdrop – we were actually within the view, living it.
Another cold night appeared but ironically it was soul warming – as gathering around a campfire with strangers whom wanderlust brought together in the wilderness and celebrating a holiday somewhere on the roof of Africa is a sacred experience.