Rick Layne & Mary Thomas’ Ethiopian Diaries
BALE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
Bale Mountains — Walkies. We spend the day exploring the surrounding area on foot. In the morning we explore the forest immediately adjacent to the Lodge, including looking at the Lodge’s mini hydro-electric facility. In order to spare the generator having to run all day, the owners have installed a water turbine which is fed by water diverted from a nearby river, carried along large plastic conduit to a filter, and then down a steep drop to the turbine. Given the terrain, it is a marvel of hard labor and engineering. It provides sufficient power (18kw) to the Lodge to run the lights overnight. In the afternoon we trek down (and inevitably back up) to two waterfalls over some rugged ground. Afterwards, we stop at a local (very local) hotel where you can stay in a hut w/o facilities, to have a drink (non-alcoholic as this is a predominantly Muslim area) and to buy honey. The mother of one of the guides from the Lodge collects and sells the stuff, and after a tasting test a deal is struck: two kilos of excellent, unadulterated honey for $20 (£13). Like most things not associated with the up-market tourist trade, prices in Ethiopia are very low, e.g., two soft drinks and two coffees total $2.40 (£1.60). With our large plastic container of honey in hand, we return to our new room at the Lodge which is partially built into a tree and supported by stilts giving a great view over the valley and the mountains in the distance, with the sound of an unseen river rushing somewhere down in the valley. The Lodge opened two years ago by in a spectacular setting at the urging of the Bale Mountain National Park and its ecological advisory team to provide luxury accommodation in this area of natural beauty and home of endemic and endangered wildlife. I think the hope was that up-scale foreign tourism would bring in money to improve the park and help save the wildlife.
Thursday 18: Bale Mountains — The great wolf hunt. The day has been set aside to see the famed Ethiopian wolf, the rarest of all canine species, and increasingly endangered. Just after we arrived at the Lodge we met Neville, who is part of a team of wildlife specialists hired by the National Park to manage and protect (mainly) the wolf. The news is not good: whereas there were upwards of 400 or more wolves two years ago, that number has plummeted to an estimated 150, due to rampant distemper and rabies from local dogs which also roam the park. Neville and crew are trying to trap the wolves and inoculate them before many more are lost, but are distressed by the low numbers they are finding in their traps. With this as background, we set off to the high plateau where the wolves make their home. The landscape is barren and flat with only a gray heather growing as ground cover with rocks and boulders of all sizes. We eventually spot a couple of singleton males, and our guides suggest spotting the creatures used to be easier and many more would be seen hunting the various types of rodents which we see running over the ground.
The wolves’ appearance is like that of a red fox with longer legs and a longer snout.
Sunday 21: Lake Langano to Addis — Slow day as we wind up our road trip and head back to Addis. We detour to another lake to look at a number of aquatic birds, but it is pretty much a straight shot to Addis. We check into our hotel and bid a tearful goodbye to our companion for the past three weeks, our guide and friend, Dawit.