We’d heard about the Gelada baboons and wanted to see them. This was all we knew. We didn’t consider the fact that sunny mountain sides are perilous for pasty white skin, that cool breezes turn lips into raisins, or the fact that sitting inside and using the internet for the past five months had in no way prepared us for our 3 day mountain trek at altitudes ranging between 12000-14000 feet.
Chapstick-less, sunscreen-less, and fitness-less, we lumbered into a van at 5:20 am Friday morning and made for the mountains in the most uncomfortable car ride of my life. It was the equivalent of traveling in a mobile washing machine and I would rather re-experience birth than go through those painful five hours again.
We wound higher and higher on gravel roads, through land patch-worked with crops and grass, and the sun was shining over the peaks. We hadn’t even done anything and it was already beautiful. All of the sudden, the van stopped, our driver opened the door, and we were tumbled out onto the mountain.
At 10:20 we started our trek and at 10:25 we saw our first incredible view. It was like we had stepped out of the van and into the Google Image search I did of the Simien Mountains a few weeks earlier. Somehow we had reached close to the top of the world and were looking over infinite valleys and peaks that tumbled and cut into one another. Hawks flapped off the side of a mountain and were instantly soaring thousands of feet in the air. I had never wanted to fly so badly in my life as I did while I was in those mountains, to be able to go from standing on the ground to gliding ten thousand feet over it in a single breath.
We ate it up, taking pictures and laughing, giddy with the novelty of “trekking,” which at that point had been nothing more than a car ride and five minutes of walking amidst intensely gold grass set against the blue, blue sky. The entire world felt right and fresh and new.
Eventually we hit our first uphill and realized the journey would not be all smiles and baboons. We would have to pay for some of the views with our own sweat and blisters and sunburns. Damn the altitude.
The first day of hiking ended at a campsite near Geech village, which in my mind is distinguished by the fact that a never ending hill preceded it. After only four hours, my legs had been replaced with lead stumps and I was silently bargaining with God to make it all end.
Miraculously, we finally arrived and collapsed as our awesome porters made us tea and then helped set up our tent at the edge of the golden plain. The cows went home as the sun set, the sky fading through shades of purple and blue as stars began their twinkling. Soon we wrapped ourselves tight against the mountain cold and fell fast asleep, our bodies resting up for another day of overwhelming natural beauty.
How did we get so lucky?