One of the five distinctive habitats of the Bale national park, Gaysay Grassland is a suitable home to one of the distinctive animals and only the land of Ethiopia can flaunt to the world – the Mountain Nyala. Traversed by the Dodola road, surrounded by clustered of hills, embracing a magnificent mountain and bonding the two major rivers of the Bale Mountains. Gaysay grassland is the paradise of exotically wild aromatic herbs and colorful everlasting wild flowers, which not only attracts wildlife but humans as well for soul replenishment.
MEDIATIONAL & PICTURESQUE.
Trekking Day 1
After spending the night and had breakfast the next morning at one of Bale’s small town Robe, we got picked by a blue and white minivan taxi from the guest house we were staying by our tour operator. Armaye is a young and an aspiring tour operator whom we have been planning our trip with via email few weeks before the actual trip.
Meeting with Armaye in person was a great pleasure as he was very welcoming and humble and of course actual human interaction is sacred in every way. While having getting to know each other and the overall brief picture of our seven days trekking in the Bale Mountains conversation, we drove back to Dinsho where the head quarter of the park located for formalities. The head quarter located in a very nice woodland covered with different kinds of beautiful trees and where we camped before continuing to the second day trekking.
We got introduced to our tour guide – Mohammed. He is born and raised in Bale, very passionate about his home turf, nature and conservation. We got introduce with our cook as well, Idris whom appeared to be introvert but someone whom might open up slowly along the way.
Right after the introduction, Idris asked us what we want to have for lunch even though the options were limited which we knew and prepared ourselves for. We agreed with one typical dish of trekking in wilderness in Ethiopia – Maccaroni with canned tuna cooked in tomato sauce.
As we planned, the first day of seven day trekking started by walking to the Gaysay Grassland, a 20 – minute walk from Dinsho head quarter. It was a walk on an asphalted road through the small montane village Dinsho characterize by white and blue tuk tuk and minivan taxis, little shops, eateries and coffee places along each side of the road enliven with people and with unique and beautiful trees as backdrop.
We had our intro conversation with our tour guide for the next seven days trekking in Bale Mountains. We learned that Mohamed speaks three languages –Amharic (My native language which is in sematic language group), English and French and Afaan Oromo (Cushitic language group) being his native language.
We picked right away that we were in treat of a very rich experience with him. This is one of interesting details of traveling in my own country, which is a melting pot of different ethnic group, which makes a very rich and interesting journey in Ethiopia even for a native traveler.
The first word Mohamed taught us was how to say hello to the local people and we were so happy to say it as it was not that difficult even for my Belgian husband. Akkam is the one word which was strong enough to spark a smile and an eye contact with the locals when every time they heard us saying it to them along the journey through the Bale Mountains for seven days.
After the paved road we stepped in Gaysay Grassland.
It’s a tract of grassland on upper land of an altitude range from 3000 m – 3500 m above sea level, near to timberline for a splendid panoramic view and experience.
Its wide open space colored with the flora and fauna of gleaming golden grass, silvery grey Gold Cape ( Helichrysum Splendidum) and greenish Artmesia Afra ( African Wormwood). It’s decorated with fringe of greenish hills dotted with red from the flower of Hagenia abyssinica (African redwood). It’s a procreative landscape to induce powerful energy to rise from within.
Walking in Gaysay Grassland induces an intense feeling of how much little space we occupy in this world as it was hard not to contemplate the vast space and the magnificent hills we were surrounded by. Gaysay Grassland is a home to mount Gaysay (3,543m).
The sound of our footsteps on dry grass and bushes, wind and stream were more intensified for our sense of hearing. Sense of smell heightened by the aroma of different kinds of everlasting wild flowers and herbs.
As it’s a December trip in Bale Mountains, the one seasonal thing which was missing was the spectacular scene of Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia) plant which flowers from March – November. Red Hot Poker plant is the colorful signature of Gaysay Grassland and Bale Mountain regarding wildflower.
Every moment is different indeed as it would have created a different vibe and color of its own. Even though I had a beautiful experience to witness this colorful and exotic plant at Guassa Grassland where hills can be completely covered with the Red Hot Poker plant with colorful blossom at a certain time of year.
The Bale Mountains National Park is beautifully supports five different kinds of habitats, thus more than 1,300 species of flowering plants have been excavated in which 160 being Ethiopian endemic species and 23 which are distinctive to the park. One of more than 10 species of everlasting flower found in Bale.
The aromatic Artmesia Afra and the silvery Cape Gold lead us to the very handsome and endemic animal as being staple for the Mountain Nyala.
Gaysay Grassland is suitable home to this distinctive and unfortunately endangered animal which was the last to be found in 1970. It’s a place which provides a close up look of Mountain Nyala as close as 50 m.
Calves with their beautiful mother nurturing and grazing, young male with growing horn and spine mane fighting, and an older male –with notable white side spots, fully grown gracious horns and spine mane –usually alone browsing, are mesmerizing scenes to be witnessed at Gaysay Grassland.
The Bale Mountains is home to different kinds of animals like the endemic Menelik’s Bushbuck, Grey Duiker, Serval and Common Jackal which all can be viewed in Gaysay Grassland and we were fortunate enough to spot other animals which also lives in Gaysay Grassland –Bohor reedbuck, Warthog, Herd of Olive Baboon and Spotted Hyena.
Gaysay Grassland not only meddle to bring human and nature, it bridges two Bale rivers – Web River (Weyib River) and Danka River –on an impressive landscape. Besides being an eye vista, it provides an unusual experience of fly fishing of Brown and Rainbow Trout which travelled with British and being stocked in Kenya in the early 1900s and later found another African habitat in Ethiopia by being stocked in three of the Bale Mountains National Park’s rivers in 1960.
Waterfalls and streams induced a conversation about the fact that The Bale Mountains being the source of existence for over 12 million of people in the southeast Ethiopia even crossing the border to Northern Kenya and Somalia by proving water which rises from the Bale massif. 40 rivers rise in the Bale Mountain National park which empties into major rivers like Wabi Shabeelle and Jubba.
The local people has special and intimate connection with Gaysay Grassland as they revere the wild flowers and herbs for their medicinal value and the natural remedial water springs locally named as Hora. As we learned local people travel a long way to come here so that their cattle have a seep for overall good health and milk production.
As it is a dry season trip in the Bale Mountains which is from November – February, the average temperature of Gaysay Grassland during the day is 20 C. It was a warm and sunny day with extremely beautiful clear blue sky, so it was picture perfect to start the seven day trekking in Bale Mountains.
While heading back, we witnessed the upper land pushing the timberline via strangely but beautiful trees appearing here and there.
Back to the head quarter which is part of another Bale Mountain Habitat the woodland we, decide to spend sometime in the forest. During dry season the animals move from the Grassland to the woodland, so we get the chance to see the same animals back in the woodland which provided another beautiful scene.
The grassy forest bed within the woodland pave the way with the warming herbal aroma of the fallen leaf of the Hagenia Abyssinica tree which is another signature of the Bale Mountains. We were in treat as December and January is when the red spray of flowers of the tree blooms. Locally known as Koso, a mixture of dried flower of the tree traditionally used as remedy to combat tapeworm as Ethiopians love to eat raw meat.
It’s in this woodland the indigenous African rose –Rosa Abyssinica –can be found but unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to witness as it was not the right time of year.
St. John’s worth (Hypericum Perforatum) with its beautiful yellow flowers, attracting wildlife and supporting traditional beehives for a delicious Bale’s Honey is a throughout the year scenery. The short but sweet Dinsho trail with in the woodland topped with spectacular view over the mountainous village of Dinsho, Gaysay Grassland from afar and cluster of hills.
First Day Camping On The Roof Of Africa
We set up our tent on a ground which rises 3000 m above sea level, in the woodland hugged with trees and enliven with animal visits.
The temperature in Bale Mountains varies as its different kinds of habitats. Spending the night on the roof of Africa is part of the adventure and it’s where the weather can be one of the eloquent details of the backdrop – Sleeping in the clouds during wet season (April – October).
The lowest temperature recorded in Dinsho is – 6 c. During dry season (November – March) the days are warm, sunny and with clear blue sky as we witnessed but it can be very cold at night in which temperature can drop to – 15 c and usually with frosty grounds above 3000 m.
When the sun start to set in, we felt we were traveling through seasons – from Summer to Winter – and the transition was instant.