The Simien Mountains are on UNESCO’s Danger List – we checked out a new tourist venture that claims to be trying to save the area.
In the busy market town of Wossen, an entourage of around 100 curious children followed us past small roadside shacks selling everything from garish blankets to vegetables and jelly sandals. Jostling to be at the front of the throng, some wanted to stroke my arms, puzzled by my freckles; one little boy burst into tears when he saw me. “I think you might be the first blonde woman they’ve seen,” my guide explained.
There were plenty of “firsts” on this new trek in northern Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains. Aptly described by Homer as “chess pieces of the gods,” the Simiens are majestic: a vast cauldron of deep ravines and gorges, towering pinnacles and rock spires, and fascinating wildlife found nowhere else on Earth.
Driving through the National Park, we passed gelada monkeys sitting calmly by the roadside, with golden manes like lions’ billowing in the breeze. Walia Ibex, giant mountain goats with impressive, arching horns, rushed away as we approached. So did the world’s rarest canid, a shy Ethiopian wolf – only around 400 survive in the country’s highlands.