The Simien trek: return to Debark

Masafent turns up very punctually just after 7 am. It’s the last trekking day, and he’s probably eager to leave as soon as possible. We set off after breakfast, a little before 8, although the muleteer is nowhere to be found. Masafent gets upset and when he finally gets him back from his home where he’d gone to spend the night, he keeps nagging at him.

We initially follow the track, which makes me fear that today will be another day of tiring road. However, we soon branch off to follow a beautiful path that crosses a forest of low juniper-trees with contorted trunks covered with frays of moss. From here on, the route is very pleasant until we get to Debark. It’s not the dramatic views we enjoyed from the top of the plateau, but it’s nevertheless a lovely countryside.


We stopped for lunch at the home of an acquaintance of Masafent’s where we were treated to a delicious injera with shiro, the chickpeas cream flavoured with an orange-coloured mix of hot spices called berbere. Outside, in this same village a funeral was being celebrated and a large number of mourners had come to attend, all wrapped in their white cloths.

All through the day we walked incessantly at a brisk pace. I remember when we climbed down the last steep slope into a large beautiful valley with yellow fields and scattered villages and trotted on along its bottom nearly chased by a group of three wayfarers following hard on our heels. Once we reached the top of the next hill where the path continued in a descent, we all stopped in the fierce sun to draw breath. I drank some water to moisten my parched mouth, but the locals have an extraordinary endurance to thirst and hunger.

Masafent would like to make us believe we are still a long way away from Debark and stretches his arm to indicate a remote distance snapping his fingers to pinpoint the exact location. But we know he’s kidding us. As we make our way into the outskirts of Debark, children remark our passage. A kid comes up to me and hangs his body from my hand and with a cry “Hop!”, signals he wants to be lifted up. He’s so little that I can do so repeatedly with no effort and I see he enjoys the thrills of the roller-coaster.

In Debark we part from our scout and muleteer. I have a shower, wash my clothes, relax. In the street I meet a nice young guide who suggests I join him for dinner in a local restaurant, which I’m delighted to do. Janto, who hates injera, goes out with the travellers we met in Chennek, but I’m all against the idea. When I greeted the German longhair, he was only in a hurry to ask what price we paid the room, just to announce jubilantly that they had the better deal, and with hot shower into the bargain.

I feel I am a bear, but I’d better stay clear of the pitfall of competition with other travellers. These days with Janto, who I got on very well with, are the only ones in which I had company of other than locals, but after all this is the purpose of my coming to Ethiopia.