Dan’s had the past month off from teaching so we’ve been able to do a bit more traveling of late. This past weekend we visited the Bale Mountains, the westerly edge of which are about a 2 hr drive directly east of Hawassa. A German NGO built a series of five mountain huts that are stocked with cooking supplies, bunk beds and warm bedding (http://www.baletrek.com). A local farmer acts as hutkeeper and you also hire trained guides, horses to carry your packs and grooms to lead the horses. Everyone gets paid directly, a form of self supporting eco tourism that tries to give people wages other than in the form of cutting down trees. We had done the exact same hike 9 years ago this May. It was rainy season at that time and our second day we hiked for 6 hrs straight in absolutely pouring rain. So, we decided to go back again…this time with a 6 year old and 3 year old. Because we are into self-punishment.
here we go!
Actually, the weather cooperated, for the most part. It did dump rain both nights on the trail and on our second night it actually hailed hard enough to cover the ground with white. The trail was a mucky mess as a result. The first hut, Wahoro, was at 3,300 m elevation (10, 826 ft) and we passed through dense afroalpine forest on the way up filled with weeping cedar trees (I don’t know their proper name) and heather trees (Erica species), rhododendrons, red hot pokers, wild nettles, etc.
weepin cedar from below
The hut was the same as I remembered though sadly a big neglected and very dirty (rat droppings on the food shelves!) I had knit the entire family warm hats and scarves for this trip in particular and we definitely used them. The last time we had done the hike, one of the local families had prepared a nettle pesto and we requested it again. At first the hutkeeper said they couldn’t make it but then in the morning he brought over a big boiling vat of bubbling green slime that smelled vaguely of smoke and wet animal hide. It was very different than the time we’d had it before but it tasted, well, ok so we took some with us to have with our dinner that next night.
view from Wahoro
red hot poker
The second day of hiking was blissful. We did a short stretch up the escarpment and then up onto the moor which was covered with wild thyme, everlasting flower and small heather-like bushes. Sweeping views of the surrounding peaks and valleys were jaw-dropping.
up on the moor
view towards the north
Actually, this part of the trip was my absolute favorite and made up for the fact that the last time I did that stretch it was completely clouded in and pissing rain the entire time. The kids actually walked quite a bit the second day as it was fairly flat up on the moor. The second hut was Angafu at 3,460 m (11,351 ft) elevation and took us about 6 hrs to reach. A couple of guys from Zambia were there and had set up an elaborate tent camp for a group of hunters who were set to arrive the next day, their intention to hunt the Mountain Nyala. Evidently they paid 250,000 birr to hunt this endemic and rather rare species with only 1500 left in the wild.
early morning in front of Angafu hut
view from Angafu hut
This was the night of the hailstorm and it was truly cold that night. Again, the wood stove was not working so we huddled in all the clothes we had brought and enjoyed the light provided by the generator the Zambians had schlepped up the mountain by horseback.
The final day was the hardest as we had a long, slippery, muddy descent. Dan also got food poisoning from the nettle pesto and was nauseated and vomited along the way (the rest of us avoided it apart from a few polite bites). I rode horseback with Gus for most of last bit (he didn’t like to ride alone, frankly I preferred walking) and I now know the joy of having a blister on your tailbone. Isn’t there a name for that? Saddle burn?
getting carried over a muddy part
riding on the plains
He actually fell asleep on the horse during the last hour of trekking. We were all a bit weather chapped, sunburnt and very tired after our 3 day trek. We headed straight home to Hawassa for hot showers and fresh food. I always swear I’ll never camp/trek/backpack again after the last time I do it. But then I forget the torturous aspects of it. I do hope the kids will remember this little adventure we took with them.