Waking with the Wolf Pack

Hello there! As I sit typing this post, I have only 3 days left in Jimma, and in total in Ethiopia, 86 days down, 4 to go. It is crazy to think that my Ethiopian summer has come and gone just like that. This will be my last blog post I write while in Ethiopia, so I am going to mix it up, with a focus on my 3+ weeks traveling the country, and then concluding with a poem I wrote while on the mountain roads in the north. I got a request to talk about my daily life and food, something I have been meaning to do on my blog all summer long. I believe this post will be best once I remove myself from the daily life that has become my norm, so expect that in a few days once I return to Canada. But for right now, I am still in Ethiopia, and am trying to pack my last few days with as many experiences and friends I can.

In my last blog post, I asked readers to comment and contact me with what travel experiences they wanted to hear more about. My experience with a wolf pack in the Simien Mountains is what I will be talking about today:

On the 3rd morning I spent in the Simien, I woke up early, with 5 layers of clothes still tightly wrapped around my body in an attempt to stay warm. I walked out of the room I was sharing with the rest of my travel companions, walking right into the metal door as I tripped over a duffel bag despite my best attempts to silently make my way out of the dark room. The second I hit the light of the door of the small lodge we called our home for two nights, our scout Ashmoro was jumping up and down with excitement as he motioned for me to stare up the hill about a hundred meters away. There past the end of his outstretched finger was what looked like half a dozen Ethiopian wolves at the base of one of the dramatic mountains that encircled the small lodge and campsite at 3,800 meters above sea level. Now, wolves are quite common in Bale National Park in the south, but are rare to see in Simien. I ran back into the dark room, ungracefully found my camera in my backpack, and raced up the muddy road and around the bend, lucky enough that the road curved to about 15 meters from where the majority of the wolves were fighting each other, attempting to mate with a female. I was alone in the mist and fog that is a constant in the Simien early in the morning, alone in the middle of the mountains, with the only living thing in sight a pack of wolves in the dewy thyme-covered fields next to the river that ran parallel to our campsite. I took some pictures, trying to quietly get as close as possible without disturbing the pack of 6. The two biggest members of the pack then ran up the hill, going out of sight due to elevation and bushes, moving to a position right above me. I had no idea whether Ethiopian wolves enjoyed attacking humans, so I decided this was a good cue to start making my way back to the lodge hidden behind the mist somewhere down the road.

By 6:35am, I had seen a sight my local guide Gashaw had not seen in four years of working in the park, as wolves in Simien are known to travel alone or at most, in pairs. Luck has a large part to play in the experiences I have, but in order to be lucky, you have to be willing to push yourself into uncomfortable situations, to roll out of the warm cocoon of blanket and sweatshirt and go out in the chilly mist, or hike along a rocky mountain ridge in a hailstorm. Luck and my confidence in unexpected adventures have led to my most memorable experiences I have had in Ethiopia, whether on long-distance runs in new communities, spending every possible second outside while in Simien, or being in the office and around the alumni gardens at 7am each morning, working and hanging out with the company of curious monkeys while I eat breakfast before most people wake.

Now a poem that symbolizes what it is like driving the roads of Ethiopia, a country with more mountains than I ever thought imaginable in one place:

High-Altitude Insights

Eyes and ears popping
Nile crossing
And then up towards our throats our stomach climb
As we ascend, switchbacks and sheer straight-aways
For maybe one hour, maybe two, maybe even four or more. Who knows?
When you are up that high, the Boeing 747 that is time simply flies on by.
Those trucks now lying in steep graves on the sharpest of corners?
Well, they should have known better,
To try to make it to this cruising altitude with a view down on the clouds,
You need to be like us, land cruising in our 1992
The windows may not roll, but the tires still do
Squealing around the 1 and a half lane wide corners past trucks suffering from altitude sickness
As we cross our fingers, hoping air traffic control doesn’t send something cruising back down our way.
The ‘fasten your seatbelt’ sign stopped working long ago,
But no matter the risks, we continue our climb,
As there is no view quite like the one of civilization from the sky.
Those sharp turns into the unknown are what make traveling so beautiful
So cross the Nile, hold on tight, throw your apprehension into the trunk and fear up until the roof rack, and GO.
Go, go as far as your pocket money, beat-up land cruiser, and sense of adventure will take you.

As always, thank you for reading. In the comments today, I would love to hear, “What are some of the unexpected experiences you have had while putting yourself in uncomfortable situations?” And, “Where is next place you hope to travel?” (That second one is a question I have been thinking about a lot recently.

Much love from Ethiopia for the last time this summer. Canada, I will see you in a couple of days.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Dayo. says:

    Very very cool. A very superb read. And…certainly, a truly lucky encounter. But luck does not really exist. You worked for it!

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