Mr. SafariChick and I have been back about a week from the three-country 20th anniversary trip that we'd been planning for over a year. Still not entirely caught up on sleep and haven't been through all the photos yet, but thought I'd best get started on a report before too much time passes. I have decided to write the report in three separate parts, since each part of the trip took place in a different country. (And also because this allows me to use different fun trip report titles. This title was provided by Mr. SafariChick).
Here is our oldest daughter hugging me farewell after she drove us to the airport to drop us off (a first for this almost-18-year-old)
This trip was an ambitious undertaking, visiting three countries in 12 days - and with each country, our destination for wildlife viewing required a drive of some significance to reach from the airport in which we landed.Nowhere was this more true than our first stop, Ethiopia. After a flight from SFO to Heathrow, a 6-hour layover (at least spent in a very comfortable United lounge with some decent food and beverages), and another flight from Heathrow to Addis, which were about 24 hours total of travel, we arrived at Addis at 6:30 a.m. local time. We obtained our visas without much trouble, changed some money, picked up our bags, and went outside to find our driver, Demiss. Demiss was waiting for us and had us packed up into the car quickly. He was a very nice fellow, with good English and great knowledge of Ethiopia and its history, geography as well as it’s endemic animals. We knew we were to be assigned a guide employed by Bale Mountain Lodge once we arrived there, but having Demiss along was almost like having a second guide, which was great.
We asked if there was somewhere to grab a quick bite to eat, not a sit-down place but just something to serve as breakfast. Demiss was a bit unsure what we might want and we tried stopping at a Supermarket called Safeway which amused us since we have a chain of supermarkets in the U.S. called Safeway. We ended up getting a piece of banana bread to share and getting on the road.
The drive to Bale Mountain Lodge had been described to me as everything from 6 hours to 7-8 hours to an “all day trip” so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Even though the road was paved most of the way, the trip actually took us closer to about ten hours including about an hour lunch stop and a couple of short bathroom stops. It was pretty brutal after the air travel we had done, I have to say. In retrospect, it really would have been better to break it up with an overnight half way or at least have had an overnight in Addis first. But we were concerned about not being away from home too long, both because we were leaving our teen girls for the first time for more than two days (with their former babysitter staying at the house) and being away 15 days was about as long as Mr. Safarichick felt comfortable being gone from work.
We stopped for a sort of brunch late morning at a restaurant that was quite good. (I am trying to find out the name from Demiss and will post it when I do). I had scrambled eggs and toast, and I don’t recall what everyone else had except that Demiss ordered a macchiato. I was surprised this was something they made in Ethiopia as I think of it as Italian (and co-opted by Starbucks and the like). But the coffee in Ethiopia was delicious and nice and strong and Demiss told us about the history of Italians having attempted to colonize Ethiopia – twice. He and our guide Biruk and some of the park staff would say “Ciao Ciao” to each other to say “goodbye” and he said that came from the Italians who lived in Ethiopia.
The drive was made longer and more difficult by the many villages we had to pass through, each of which was populated it seemed by large numbers of humans and their cattle, sheep and goats, as well as cart horses pulling little buggies with people in them. We had to slow to go around all these obstacles and I became somewhat queasy from this and probably from my all around fatigue. In addition to the animals being moved along by people, there were many animals just hanging around at the sides of the road on their own, usually trying to eat something it found on the ground like this goat eating some orange peels.
We passed through the park headquarters at Dinsho I think at around 3:00 pm and purchased our park tickets for the next four days, and I was surprised when Demiss told me we still had about two and a half hours to go to get to the lodge! And we actually still had to go through some populated areas even though we had entered the park. There are villages and people living around the park so you will be in what seems total wilderness but then come to a village before getting back to wilderness. The first wildlife we saw was some aggressive baboons that came right up to the cars, seeking a snack, and some warthogs and Mountain Nyala. I didn’t get great photos but here are a few:
You have to drive up to and over the Sanetti Plateau, which would be our viewing grounds for the wolves, in order to get to Bale Mountain Lodge. We were hopeful that we might possibly get a glimpse of wolves on this first trip across the plateau but were dismayed to find it started raining and then hailing as we drove through the plateau! This was unexpected as it was not even the rainy season and we hoped it would not continue during the rest of our stay. (Luckily it did not!)
The plateau is quite other-worldly looking in any kind of weather, but the hail really made us feel we did not know where we were.
We were very glad to finally arrive at Bale Mountain Lodge 10 hours after we left Addis! We were given a room called a Tree House that was a free-standing little house up a half-flight of stairs about a five-minute walk from the main lodge where meals were served. It was r private and in the trees, but there were a few problems with it that would cause us to move to another room halfway through our stay, but more about that later.
Edited by SafariChick, 26 February 2017 - 07:50 PM.