Hike to Entoto

For all its adventures, Addis is still a city, so it was a relief one Saturday morning to get a break from the noise and pollution and take a short trip to Entoto, a smallish mountain just outside the city. Apparently Entoto is where Addis Ababa was originally founded, by Empress Taytu Betul and her husband Menelik II in 1886. Now, it’s a hillside covered by eucalyptus trees, a legacy of when Emperor Menelik imported them from Australia.

We passed a few people leading donkeys up or down the steep road, many with piles of eucalyptus leaves on their back. Apparently the leaves are used both to get cooking fires going (when dried) but also cooked as a vegetable.

So we climb this hillside, and get to what sort of looks like the top. We’d heard there was some sort of hiking trail there, but nothing was popping up. So the taxi driver asked one of the teenage boys chilling on the side of the road if he could take us on a little walk through the woods. This impromptu hike turned out to be fantastic—we were led through the dense forest by this boy who knew it so well that he didn’t need a defined path. It was totally quiet and peaceful as we picked our way over the roots and crunching leaves.

This boy (I’ve unfortunately forgotten his name) also showed us several plants and herbs people gather from the forest: some medicinal, some for cooking. As we walked along he’d suddenly bend down and pluck up a sprig of this plant or that, including the most potent oregano I’ve ever smelled!

At one point the boy pointed to an outcropping of rocks and mentioned that they formed a hyena’s den. “They hunt at night and sleep during the day” he commented. I asked him whether they might be sleeping there now. We took pictures on the rocks…

…And as we wandered away back to the “path”, a hyena ran out!! It was quite large and furry, totally different than the hyenas I’d seen on safari in Tanzania. The most unusual thing was its fur—not the thin black and brown hair of other hyenas, but a shaggy burnt orange that kept it warm in the high elevation’s coolness. It trotted away from us a ways, then stopped and looked back with a half-curious, half-irked expression reserved for those who have been woken too early. But he/she clearly wasn’t interested in harming us, so we studied each other for a while before it wandered off to find another place to snooze.

I couldn’t find any pics on the internet that looked like the one I saw, so you’ll just have to squint really hard and try to see it in this picture. This caption paid for by the Eyeglasses Association of America.

 

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