Chasing wolves in Bale Mountains. 6 day brake from cycling.

But it is all about money, or maybe about not knowing what to do with one’s money, or maybe nothing is complete, or maybe…
Our guide Mohamed knows a thing or two about money and about the meaning of life. He definitely knows about Bale. Born and raised in Bale. Now I am blanking on how many years he works as a guide, definitely more than 7. I believe he told once that 10 years. He is 33 years old.

Bale Mountains National Park is a vast plateau with its peaks and valleys that was our next destination. We wanted to hike, to backpack far and deep, to loose people, to find animals, to watch birds. We got all of this and many other things.

We got Mohamed as our guide. We got some loose pricing structure at Park Headquarters. You know, when somebody looks at you and tells the price that is much higher from anything you have read before. You obviously try to question that price, but then gentle and caring voice explains you that
“all guide association agreed that guide fee should be 500 Birr/day, but if someone wants backpacking without pack horses, then WE DOUBLE THE PRICE, as it is very difficult for guide to cary all the stuff, food by themself. But if tourist wants backpacking, and we will provide what client wants, then we double the price. We even give you a discount, you know, and thus your guide will cost 900 Birr/day.”
Fair enough!

Also we got heavy loaded back packs. Not too crazy but when you are above 4000 m altitude and never done self supported 6 day hiking, then things can get rough. Especially when crawling uphill, sans all the needed oxygen 🙂 What else did we get? We got lots of pasta, and macaroni, and instant noodles. We did not get extra tuna, neither garlic.. We got below freezing night temperatures, but did not get serious rain.

We got plenty of sunshine and lots of wind. We got rainbows and some light fog. We rented an extra sleeping bag that has seen plenty of life. We got some quite murky streams for our water supplies.
“Hang on a minute, you guys are from Europe and you do not know that Bale has one of the most ecologically pristine water in (East) Africa.” – we were told by Muhamed.

He is probably right, we probably needed to get further into mountains, and the streams became clearer and nicer. Unfortunately our pump filter got clogged on the fourth day. We roll with the flow then and just use our Steripen. You can also boil it if you want. You can boil water to put to your metal water bottle to put it inside your sleeping bag just before the night so your feet get the much needed warmth as well.

We did see Ethiopian wolf and lots of sheep, goats and horses. Some cows and people. Very interinsting that even quite deep inside Sanetti Plateau we were meeting local nomads. We also learned about some of them having permanent housing structures but moving away to their farm lands which could be quite far so they move with all their tribe and animals for the harvest season. Then after a few months they come back to their permanent settlement. When on the move they build temporary structures inside the caves by the mountain side.

On the second day of our trek I got some stomach flu and this reliably happens to me every two weeks or so. Only once, while in Harar it was quite painful and all the other times, including in Bale it was rather a light poisoning. This time too, I just needed 1 extra day of rest before continuing.
After a brief recovery we were soon reminded that continuing won’t be easy mostly due to the high altitude (and the lack of oxygen). Every little hill had us stopping and catching our breath and then slowly continuing our journey.

Bale Mountains have a pretty diverse terrain and habitat so pretty much every day you encounter something different and beautiful. The first couple of days it felt like we were walking somewhere in the rocky Colorado, then views have morphed into a more dramatic moon-like Sanetti Plateau. It is quite harsh, low vegetation zone, endlessly flat and with turbo charged Chicago-like winds! We have never been in Iceland but were wandering if Sanetti could pretend as it’s equivalent in Ethiopia?

For cyclists contemplating to conquer Goba-Rira-Dolomena road, we would suggest to think twice as this unsurfeced road have quite brutal climbs. You definitely can do it but it will take you longer than you think 🙂 Knowing how much climbing there is in Ethiopia, every possibility to avoid any extra is justified in our books. I have read that this Rira road would take you through one of most scenic vistas in Africa and we can only confirm that – definitely one of the prettiest roads we have ever traveled.
Due to my illness we were a little behind our trekking time line so we’re “forced” to rent a 4×4 to come pick us up and on that last day we also wentured to Harena Forest with its fairytale-like moss blankets. It was another beautiful wander of nature and also it was easy with that rented Toyota. After 5 nights in the mountains Igna was feeling sone cold symptoms and we were actually happy to have some expensive “civilized” ride 🙂

After we have returned to Dinsho (Park headquarters), it took us another two days of cycling until we finally left that rather chilled and wet climate. Only in Awasa town we have reached reliably warm temperatures and our soaked shoes started to dry slowly.
It still continues to surprise us how diverse Ethiopia is, including its ever changing climate zones.

Remaining Bale pictures on FLICKR!


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