The second, third and fourth day continued to bestow sights that made me feel like a mere pebble in the universe (and reminded me of the line from one of Baha’u’llah’s prayers: “I am, O my God, but a tiny seed which Thou hast sown in the soil of Thy love”). Some parts were challenging, particularly for my friend Pam who was battling an upset stomach and knee pains. I was constantly marveling at her tenacity and ability to keep smiling and joking around despite her pain. She’s also an incredibly warm, intensely compassionate person, which made me feel so lucky to get to do this trek together.
Most of the time we seemed to be alone in this vast stretch of land and sky. Occasionally, though, we passed some of the people living in the park’s mountains. With our guide translating, we’d exchange brief conversation; after moving on from such encounters, I’d muse with wonder at how different our lives were… One of us would soon return to the world of Addis with its cars, computers, conveniences, and a job of data analysis; for the other, her world was these boundless skies. How is it possible that two such completely opposite realities can exist on one earth? Our scout, who I think was in his 50s, was a bridge between those two worlds: he settled comfortably into the campsite each night with all of its modern conveniences of canned food and clean water, yet scampered easily and fluidly up the steep trails with an ease no outsider could match. One particularly sweet memory which I hope will never leave my heart came one heavily-misty afternoon along the trail. The clouds were such that we could only see a little ways ahead of us. It had been a long day and I was mostly focusing on just putting one foot in front of the other. Slowly, gently, a sound drifted up out of the mist: children singing. It was three girls tending to their goats on the mountainside. This sweet innocence coming out of the cloud-covered immensity was for me the embodiment of serenity and hope. Their country, and the world in general, still burns with the sting of many challenges, but the serenade of children is a reminder to press on and preserve the world’s underlying beauty. When we finally came upon the girls sitting just off the path, they had stopped singing and just stared up at us quietly, but I hoped they somehow knew how much joy and peace they had brought to my soul.
The final day of hiking was my greatest challenge, as cramps made me nauseous and made it difficult to keep my balance. But I did my best to press on (with our guide helping me up the slippery rocks), and by mid-day we had reached the summit of Mount Bwahit (4430 meters and the Simiens’ second highest peak)! We also got several great views of the ibex, a noble animal with formidable horns. With our journey completed, we headed back to the city of Gondor, after a quick sidetrack involving the car breaking down, hailing a random bus and a giant traffic jam that almost made us get out and walk the rest of the way back. I began missing the Simiens’ beauty immediately, but I gotta admit that that hot shower after 4 days felt realllly good 🙂 Final tally: 48km, with the longest hike being 18km on the third day.
There’s a lot more but this post has been delayed enough, so enjoy the pictures and try to come to Ethiopia to experience these sights for yourself!