Bale Mountain National Park

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Date of travel

January, 2016

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We stayed in Ethiopia’s Bale National Park (a UNESCO site) at Bale Mountain Lodge for three nights.

The Park, covering 2200 sq. km., has more than 40 rivers and streams and four sections:

1. Grassland area called the Gaysay Extension(northern section)
2. North Woodland (northern part but higher than the grassland area)
3. Sanetti plateau with the HQ in Dinsho (has the highest peak)
4. Harenna forest in the south

We stopped at the HQ Dinsho Lodge to buy tickets and have lunch followed by a gentle post-lunch circular walk through the grassland area where we were lucky enough to see the endemic Mountain Nyala and Menelik’s Bushbuck roaming amongst beautiful trees (Hagenia abyssinica) with reddy coloured hanging flowers hanging like lilac.

The drive from the park’s entrance to Bale Mountain Lodge took around two hours because of the rough, steep, narrow, twisting tracks. We spotted a huge congress of baboons at the roadside and had to quickly wind up our windows prior to stopping. After watching them for a while, Eskedar naughtily tempted them by dangling half a banana out of a crack in the window. Unsurprisingly, the largest baboon jumped on the car and pawed at the window before climbing all over the front. Eventually after he had taunted it long enough, Eskedar threw him the banana.

The next morning we set off for the Sanetti Plateau, intent on seeing the endangered Ethiopian Wolves who are being affected by rabies from domestic dogs living in the park. Despite driving and trekking for a couple of hours, the wolves remained elusive and we stopped for a mid-morning coffee on the shore of one of the crystal clear tarns found on the plateau. The plateau has the world’s largest expanse of Afro-alpine moorland and clumps of tough, grey heather-like plants abounded, which at a distance looked like rocks. Lobelia, three to five foot high trunks with a cactus like plant on top, also dominated the scenery.

The park contains Ethiopia’s second highest peak, Tullo Deemtu, at 4377m which fortunately you can drive to the top of. Here we shivered but had fabulous views.
Eskedar wanted to do one further run of the plateau for the wolf as tourists he’d spoken to had confirmed a sighting and lo and behold we eventually saw one, albeit at a distance, scratching around in the ground for the giant mole rat it feeds on.

The following day we drove along a dusty dirt track to the Harenna Forest where low gnarled trees were laden with moss and swathed in old man’s beard. It looked like a scene from a fairytale. We also spotted the distinctive black and white colobus monkey with their long white bushy tails which makes them easily identified amongst the green trees.

People live in the park and we encountered cattle and goats being herded by either long-cloaked Muslim women on horseback or machete-brandishing teenage boys. We stopped at the Maanytee coffee village, a community project established by the Frankfurt Zoological Society. The idea is you stroll through coffee plantations, have a cup of coffee from the beans and browse the shop selling local handicrafts and coffee. Unfortunately we found it shut.

On leaving the park for the final time, we drove across the plateau keeping eyes peeled for the wolf. Eventually Roy excitedly shouted “stop, stop, stop”. The driver pulled up and reversed to where a wolf was basking in the sun right on the roadside. Unfortunately by the time we got armed with camera and binoculars, a public bus arrived from the opposite direction, the students alighted and frightened the wolf away – Eskedar remonstrated with the driver about his behavior.

So whilst we may not have a close up photograph, at least we saw it with our eyes.

Helen Jackson

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