61 posts in this topic

Sangeeta:

 

You know how it goes – the very day after you learn a new word (like risible), you spot it immediately in the next thing you read. Or if you’ve just discovered that you’re allergic to peanuts, then all of a sudden you find yourself surrounded by people who are also allergic to peanuts? Guassa was something like that for us. The very day after Kit and I came back from our visit to this little-known home of the gelada monkeys in Ethiopia, National Geographic published a full-blown article on Menz-Guassa…

 

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/04/gelada-monkeys-grass-eating-guassa-ethiopia-bleeding-heart/

Where had they been when we were researching our trip?

Kit & I had had been looking for a short add-on to our trip to Zakouma. Since we were both flying Ethiopian Airways, it was logical to look for something in Ethiopia. But since we only had 4 nights on the ground, we decided that Bale was too far (although we both wanted to see wolves) and getting to the Simiens was just too complicated (the flights and transfers would have eaten up a substantial chunk of our time). Guassa, as it turned out, was our Goldilocks destination. Not too far, not too complicated and with at least a theoretical chance at seeing both wolves and geladas. And so, Guassa it would be.

A quick look back at ST shows that none other than @GameWarden talked about Guassa on ST as early as 2012: http://safaritalk.net/topic/9346-guassa-community-conservation-area-two-ethiopian-wolf-pups/ even though nobody seems to have visited at the time.

@TomKellie then linked through to some interesting papers here http://safaritalk.net/topic/14587-ethiopian-wolf-and-gelada-interaction-to-increase-foraging-success/ which resulted in an animated discussion on ST as well as an attempt by @@SafariChick to visit Guassa on her recent trip to Ethiopia (though sadly, that did not work out due to time constraints). Then in May 2016, new member @@Alyson described her trip to Guassa here: http://safaritalk.net/topic/16340-hi-from-new-zealand/

I mention all these antecedents simply to reinforce what a wonderful learning tool this community can be because of the generosity of those who have shared their knowledge so freely on this forum. I also want to add that although we may get a certain secret thrill about being one of the ‘first’ to do something or go to a place that is relatively unknown, we’re all really walking in the footsteps of those who have gone there before us. The beauty of exploring new and remote places lies in the privilege we have of talking about our experiences with others who share the passion.

Planning @@SafariChick’s aborted trip to Guassa helped me learn about the logistics involved. So I knew it would be a 5-6 hour road trip to Guassa, that we would stay at Frankfurt Zoological Society’s rustic self-catering lodge there, that it would be rather cold & breathlessness-inducing at an altitude of more than 3000m, and that with some luck, we would we would see both geladas and wolves there. Neither Kit nor I wanted to spend any time in the kitchen, so we took a chef with us. Turned out to be the best decision we could have made. Addis, our chef, whipped up a staggering variety of delicious meals for us day after day, and we got out of Guassa with no tales of upset tummies at all.

 

fsC3QAl02VRIiJuX4BwKyMiI_sjWq54gYxLaz06v

 

OnfJIIuGGqCUqbJGzbm8pxyuBPRjovONlmYifPOx

22 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sangeeta:

 

We had a booked a day room at the nearby Bole Ambassador Hotel for a quick shower, change and breakfast to get over our long flights to ADD from Singapore and Washington DC respectively. The hotel was adequate enough, I suppose, but nothing special. Annoyingly, our credit cards would not work, so we had to part with some of our precious birr to settle the hotel bill. This (non-functional credit card machines) was to be a theme throughout the trip – you should assume that credit cards simply will not work anywhere in Ethiopia and change what money you need at the airport itself. Sadly, we had very few birr between us on this trip and it did limit what we could spend on non-essential items.

 

While we were struggling with credit card machines, the crew was busy loading the car, and before we knew it, we were heading off on the highway north, heavily laden down with gas cylinders, baskets of vegetables, ice boxes, buckets, thermoses and a gigantic papaya ensconced regally on the seat between us :D .

 

FSNix_moUqOK-CZHJYO82j3IgbC-C4wc_9XA3F9w

 

 

I have to confess, I have developed a real love for this type of adventure in Africa. It reminded me so much of our long, long drive across Zambia, from Lusaka via Kafue to Liuwa Plain NP and the baskets of green mangoes that accompanied us on that trip as we bumped and jostled across the Barotse Plains (@SafariChick).

 

Our driver, chef Addis and guide Fikay played local Ethiopian music and chatted with one another on the front seat while Kit & I caught up with one another on the back seat and looked at the passing scenery, which reminded me so much of India. The same chaos, noise and frenzy of construction, but cleaner, I thought. Soon we had left the city and suburbs behind us, stopping for lunch at a restaurant in Debre Birhan, where I decided to sample their vegetarian Lenten buffet. Apparently, the whole country (or least the majority Orthodox Christian part of it) goes vegetarian several times each year, and especially for the 90 days or so around Lent.

 

Refreshed after our lunch break, we headed north again, the air becoming perceptibly cooler as we wound our way up the first hills and towards the gravel road to Guassa. At this point, I nodded off so this is perhaps a logical point to pass the baton along to Kit…

18 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Kit:

 

Addis Ababa is far bigger than I had expected. The sprawling city was spilling out of its core centre, and while no hint of its dire past was present, there were slum houses that were being cleared under a government programme to move residents into better housing flats. we passed impressive bungalows and three-storeyed houses and we learned these were part of gated communities, which were flourishing on the fringes of the city. Signs of growing affluence sat comfortably (no one seemed to notice) with the use of mules to pull rickshaws along the roads outside the city.

 

Traffic was heavy in the city but thinned out as we left the city behind us. It was less crazy than traffic in Kolkata, but no less congested.

I was dismayed to see the streets and surrounding areas littered with plastic bags fluttering emptily, setting a forlorn backdrop in the city.

 

But as we moved out of the city, the spread of litter grew smaller until there was little evidence left of plastic bag usage when we climbed the mountains. Perhaps the ban on plastic bags in Rwanda and now Kenya is a good thing in the long-term.

 

 

we passed several villages, and a couple of times, we stopped and Fikay spoke to the local residents, presumably to ensure we were on the right track. when we turned into the gravel road, Fikay checked once more. I’m not sure if he got the answer he wanted but we continued in the same direction. then a sign signalling Menz Guassa Community told us we were on the right track.

 

 

Farms dotted the mountain sides. we wondered how the farmers could eke out any living there. The land was littered with rocks and stones; how they can coax any crops to yield, I don’t know. the undaunted farmers built terraces on the slopes. The trees that used to anchor the soils were all long gone, and now eucalyptus trees, not endemic to Ethiopia, were everywhere. Ethiopians have found that the fast growing eucalyptus trees adequately meet their needs - firewood, building homes, fences for their farms. But having stripped the land of trees, they had to make terraces to prevent soil erosion.

 

9hqRfdkyAK-QOL6xbDEtEJ14O3Ptm_s6OwlY2_zQ

19 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As the car heaved up the mountain roads, we suddenly made a stop. a small group of geladas were by the side of the road!

 

I first fell in love with gelada monkeys when I laid my eyes on a beautiful male gelada sitting placidly in a stunning meadow, surrounded by his similarly placid fellow monkeys in a goggle box - the TV. That picture was one of tranquillity and quiet but it made me determined to see them in person one day.

 

And here we were - Sangeeta and I - finally meeting the geladas in person! well, not really physically meeting, but seeing them for the first time made our hearts skipped a beat in excitement.

 

We quietly watched them for a while - the alpha male with his flowing mane sat for a short while eating his grasses, then walked purposely around his harem, before choosing a particular female to show his dominance. Was that a message to us? we were duly impressed, but we had to press on as we wanted to reach the Guassa Community Lodge before dark.

 

d8UEakKtLRNSSVSbHYmUuzl4NrkTRqDyLX5Wm5yr

 

_pHUATUCxDSlo4R1i7SsnfG9Ao6K6KGlStOsbadL

 

NldDlzszoUdR8QieuYfGWuQvZ6pC7451R97AYhFo

 

AVWCbNfsrgleR9khDvOHkzurd8hoJuWo7qhUN-cn

 

 

x9Dj0VSZ2JfBO_7sGr24gJtkPj-U3NG6qRMOJ-ra

 

 

1SzWqvRS7rbgo_8GTygJsosCLWgn4joxboaPvK2h

26 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Kitboey I love your astonishing images of gelada baboons. They are without a doubt the most stunning baboons of all in Africa. It is just shocking that Ethiopia allows the hunting of them. There is a trophy fee of $3,000 and fortunately there is a limited quota of 20 trophies annually. Hunting is also allowed of the hamadryas baboon which is also endemic to Ethiopia,but is much cheaper to hunt;trophies only cost $1,000.

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@@Kitsafari , there must be something in the air about Ethiopia; browsing through TV channels there was a road trip to Lalibela, an interesting piece that attracted my interest, plus I was reminded of @@michael-ibk et friends being there also. It looks like there will be more fascinating stories about Ethiopia reveled in next days/weeks .

4 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A brief discourse on Geladas:

 

Gelada monkeys are sometimes called the bleeding heart monkeys and in the past were referred to as gelada baboons. There are two sub-species, according to ICUN – the Theropithecus gelada gelada, generally found in northern Ethiopia and Theropithecus gelada obsucrusm found generally in the east and the south.

 

 

The primates are mainly terrestrial, that is they are found much of the time on the ground, foraging for leaves of grasses, mainly soft, protein-rich fescue grass or guassa grass which gives the land its name. Sometimes, during dry seasons when livestock drift into the conservation area (they aren’t supposed to except for the fringe areas), and if there is lack of food, the geladas dig for subterranean stems and rhizomes.

 

The name bleeding hearts is very obviously for their red hourglass shape chest. One of main purposes is for breeding. Females turned bright red when they are in oestrus. Although the primates are generally one male unit, some of these units can band together and form a herd. What had fascinated me about geladas is that while a rival male can depose an alpha male, the females of the group can reject and chase out the rival male, allowing the alpha male to return. Not quite a matriarch society but close to it.

 

The Guassa area, of around 100 sq km at altitudes of over 3,000m, houses the second largest population of geladas with 2,000 of the primates, with Simien holding the largest at around 2,500.

 

x4E4L7RHYVWNvxiTgKuffT6AKLwjOtvF8Zg-hXCj

 

SPuiiadJzoVu9qeQigvmpTuUxXmnANVwH5B90v0Z

 

18 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

The gravel road wove its winding way through the mountains. the torch flowers were bursting along the slopes, lending vibrancy to the bare rocky faces that lined the roads.

 

 

Then the sign Guassa Community Lodge with an emblem of an Ethiopian wolf loomed ahead. We were finally here. It was mid afternoon, the skies were still clear. we all checked out the lodge.

 

The lodge was built with local materials and are owned by the Guassa Community which has maintained this region for the past 400 years using a unique community natural resource management system referred to as the Qero system. Frankfurt Zoological Society is involved in this area and has supported the revival of the Qero system which essentially preserves the grassland and controls access to the grassland. All revenues from the lodge goes back into the community - one of the very few places in Africa that invests tourism money back into the community and a relatively workable way to get the local farmers to buy into, and protect, the region.

 

The lodge has 2 rooms on the ground floor, next to the office. There are 4 other rooms on the top floor. Sangeeta and I commandeered the ground floor rooms while the guys bundled into one room on the second floor. They are still putting final touches to a ensuite family chalet. It is almost finished - the beds are in there, all ready except for the bathroom which is not completed.

 

For all other rooms, you use a communal toilet building not far from the kitchen/dining hall. There are two loos and one shower room. The instant water heater was out of order when we were there, which meant that you had to boil water for a hot wash, and have a big enough water basin to contain lukewarm water. We were the only guests the first day we were there, but a German lady and her 3 beautiful kids joined us from the next day for the rest of our stay. Don’t expect too much from the rooms, they are pretty basic, a comfortable bed, very hard pillows and plenty of fleece blankets for the cold nights. a small plastic basin lying on the floor tickled my imagination but apparently it is for those who did not want to venture out to the loo facilities in the middle of the night. It is safe to do so, but could be freezing cold in the wintry nights.

 

fzZEJYe0WTfgfQY0DgzL-ioSVWRh7KRJ_CGci-Cx

 

Since the sun was still shining, Fikay took us on a short walk around the lodge. Right in front of the lodge is a vast plain, full of the guassa grasses. there was a small waterhole and that was where we sat to enjoy the peaceful quiet hours as the sun began to set.

 

As the first dusk gathered in Guassa, we headed back to the lodge, expecting a simple dinner but got a gourmet meal instead. Addis worked in hotels before and we were in for a treat at every meal.

 

tSkn66xCmNPUrtb0EuItQvgBdgEq37vp3-rlQGMj

 

2YMtDasZLDpwmZf-epZo2zY5UcD7OzlvIkfpY4Ca

 

Addis working his magic in the sparse cramped kitchen

Edited by Kitsafari
17 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

forgot to add a map, courtesy of Menz-Guassa Community Conservation Area

 

B9YOEWBu9LRIeoRXUvBHwM60O3rDebIHUfTI4PHo

11 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@@Kitsafari , there must be something in the air about Ethiopia; browsing through TV channels there was a road trip to Lalibela, an interesting piece that attracted my interest, plus I was reminded of @@michael-ibk et friends being there also. It looks like there will be more fascinating stories about Ethiopia reveled in next days/weeks .

 

You are right @@xelas, how coincidental that we all seem to be heading to Ethiopia. @@SafariChick just returned from her epic trip which included Bale Mountain while @@michael-ibk's group is still romping through the country. It is a fascinating country and hopefully I can return to see other parts of Ethiopia. I'm sure @@Sangeeta is plotting her way back there one day soon. :lol:

5 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks @@Kitsafari for your nice report and the pics of Guassa. We'll be there too in September as part of our first trip to Ethiopia.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Botswanadreams@kitsafari When I eventually visit Ethiopia I'd like to visit Simien Mountain National Park, Bale Mountain National Park, Awash National Park, Lalibela,and Guassa,

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have been looking forward to reading your trip report. I still hope to get to Ethiopia some time soon. It's just a matter of finding a suitable slot and some people to travel with :)

3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Post #1 - the mist makes the picture. Have to get my hands on a copy of that Nat Geo. Timely indeed.

 

I was right back in Guassa with you through those beautiful Gelada photos. Great info on this peaceful and amazing creature.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Very excited to see this report @@Kitsafari and @@Sangeeta ! Even though I see my name is tagged in here several times, I wasn't on ST for a few days so I'm only seeing this for the first time today even though I see you started it several days ago.

 

Yes @@Sangeeta the driving through Zambia with all the mangoes was a fun adventure. We said we'd NEVER be able to eat them all but as I recall, we did!

Edited by SafariChick
1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@@Kitsafari

 

Great start to what should be a fascinating trip report. From what I've been able to discern, we should have a slew of Ethiopia reports this year. Good for me!

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Addis dressing the part!! :D Taking the job seriously.

 

Geladas done before your even arrived.

 

.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Sangeeta

@@Kitsafari

A great start to a fascinating short trip. It is encouraging to see a community owned facility - and the Geladas are beautiful.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@@Kitsafari and @@Sangeeta although I had already heard quite a bit about your wonderful Guassa trip, it's really nice to see it along with the photos.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@@Botswanadreams I'm thrilled for you! how long are you staying at the lodge?

 

@@kittykat23uk it will work out for you very soon, I'm sure, and you'll enjoy every moment of it. that reminds me of something that has slipped my mind!

 

@@Atravelynn can't wait to read your impressions!

 

@@SafariChick thanks for the comments. i remember your trip and the lovely photos of the towns and people.

 

@@Alexander33 me too - can't wait to read others' TRs although @@IamFisheye is keeping us gripped to his TR now.

 

@@pault Addis was so proud of his uniform, and so were we, although he took it off until the last night when he whipped up a buffet for everyone staying at the lodge. just incredible how one person managed to cook for some 12 persons.

 

@@TonyQ thank you for the kind comments !

 

@@twaffle thanks for still reading all about it.

 

The next instalment should be coming up soon courtesy of @@Sangeeta. I'm looking forward to it as well. :)

3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@@Kitsafari unfortunately it will be only for one night but we will come from Ankober. So we have the whole afternoon and until midday the next morning. We had planned two nights but to get the day after to the Sunday market in Senbete should be not possible due to more poor road conditions as in the past our Guide told me. For Geladas we will have two other option on this trip - Semien and the Blue Nile Gorge.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

What a joy to read this, @@Kitsafari and @@Sangeeta , Guassa is such a special place and it´s great to get your perspective. Very cool you saw the Geladas right away on the way there, they kept us waiting a bit longer. Our guide was fasting as well btw, and not only vegetarian-style but vegan - no animal products allowed at all while fasting. Kit, you mention a plastic ban bag in Kenya? That´s news to me, although very good news.

Edited by michael-ibk
3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@@michael-ibk thanks for the kind words. I'm waiting to read yours!

 

here's a good piece on the ban in Rwanda:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-carver/rwanda-plastic-bags_b_2680631.html

 

and a piece on the Kenya ban (second time!):

https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/business/article/2001232832/kenya-issues-fresh-plastic-bags-ban-amid-protests-from-manufacturers

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

@@Sangeeta @@Kitsafari

Just got my issue of the April NG with the Gelada monkey piece and the fabulous pictures and videos. What a timely article to your trip. Look forward to more of your trip report.

Edited by AKR1
2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@@AKR1 next instalment coming up very soon over the next few days!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.


© 2006 - 2017 www.safaritalk.net - Talking Safaris and African Wildlife Conservation since 2006. Passionate about Africa.