Simien Trek One Stop Info Post-can anyone who has trekked recently assist?
Replies: 17 - Last Post: May 8, 2013 6:04 AM Last Post By: Kali737
Feb 16, 2013 11:07 PM
15We did a four-day trip to the Simians a week ago, and while most of the info we'd have found useful is already above, here are a few extra points.
Transport into and out of the park
We got a car from Debark (there are loads of mini buses and a few buses too from Gondar to Debark) to drop us near the Simian Lodge inside the park gate to shorten the first day. We paid B1,400 for the car all the way to Sankabar (it's 1,000 birr to the park gate, 15 kilometers from Debark) as the guide (slightly craftily) insisted the car should go that far to drop the cook, food etc there while we walked. It made for a much shorter first day, and we didn't miss so much, as the scenery before the Simian Lodge, although nice enough, is gentle and rolling, along a dusty, unpaved road all the way, and nothing like as special as the last part to Sankabar, as the great escarpment isn't visible until after passing the Lodge.
On the last day we got another car from Chennek to take us back to Debark, for the flat rate of 2,400 birr. It's ridiculously overpriced, as the road isn't that far or that bad, but it saves a very long walk along an unpaved road which would be a huge letdown, scenically, after the wonders of the three previous days. There's a reasonable amount of transport carrying locals (even a bus!) along the Debark - Chennek road; we could probably have catched a lift back easily enough if we had more time.
A Fantastic three day hike - Debark - Sankabar - Geech - Chennek
Our first day's hike, along the escarpment from Simian Lodge to Sankabar, was only a couple of hours, but very spectacular. The second day we walked up to Geech, which is surely far, far better than walking to Cjennek direct, which follows the road for half the day, and avoids the most spectacular bits of scenery on the whole trip. The third day we walked from Geech to Chennek along the escarpment. The views on this day are less continuous than on the first two days, as the trail keeps away from the edge for much of the way, but Imet Gogo, and later, when the trail rejoins the escarpment at the highest point, Inatye (4, 070 meters) is unbelievably spectacular - by far the most amazing scenery on our short route.
Hut accomodation at Sankabar, Geech and Chennek
We were intending to camp, but found that we could stay in the huts at Sankabar, Chennek and Geech for 80 birr each per night, which isn't so much more than renting sleeping bags and a tent. The huts are of course basic but have 'real' beds with matresses, cleanish sheets and blankets, and were far more comfortable than the mountain huts I'm used to sleeping in while trekking in Taiwan! We even had a room (usually only 4 or 5 beds in each) to ourselves two of the three nights.
We rented mules in Sankabar (they're also available in Geech).
It's perfectly possible (and would make a fantastic trip) to trek Debark to Chenneck via Sankabar and Geech in three days, and return to Debark on the third day, as long as you're not a really slow walker; the park gates are closed to traffic between 6 pm and 6 am. We were only steady walkers and did the Geech to Chennek day via Imet Gogo (the 'hardest' day) in 7 hours, so there's plenty of time to return to Debark after arriving at Chennek. It's well worth spending a night at spectacular Chennek enjoying the wildlife and the views, though if you have time.
At Chennek we were hoping for perhaps a distant view of a solitary Walia Ibex on an innaccessible ledge in the cliffs, so were shocked to find a harem of female Ibexes milling around on the edge of the camp both in the evening and the following morning! The males were a bit shyer, but two of them also came to the edge of the camp once to show off their magnificent horns during our evening there. These animals are certainly not shy of humans, allowing us to creep within about 5 meters of them, so possibly they've started feeding of tourist scraps. Chennek camp was a bit of a mess, with litter strwen over the grassy slopes, and we probably offended our guide when we had an impromptu trash clear-up, grabbing loads of plastic bags, scraps of foil etc. The Simian MOuntains won't be a pristine landscape so very much longer if they carry on like this...
Minor Guide and Cook Hassles
Maybe it's because we are both older (in our 40s and 50s) and looked like an easy push-over, but from our experience, although the Simian Mountains' famously friendly guides are friendly and helpful as ever, they also seem to be learning how to squeeze a little extra money out of hikers. We unwittingly paid for a fourth day on the mountains when we could have finished the hike in three, and after buying our own food for the trip, had to battle with our over-enthusiastic cook, who was trying to buy enough food for a small army when we went with her to buy extra bits in Debark the afternoon before starting the trip. Food, in the end, was probably the second biggest expense of the trip - if you want to keep costs down, seriously consider not hiring a cook, or be prepared to get really tough with her on the pre-departure shopping exhibition in Debark!
We later found our guide (and probably the rest of our group) was eating the mountains of food left over after we'd finished each a meal, and this was probably their plan all along.
If our guide's attitude is anything to go by, tips are basically compulsory these days - he made lots of unsubtle hints on the third night about tips, basically refused to let us give the mule drivers our originally planned amount, and in the end we paid the mule drivers and the scout 100 birr each, the cook 200 birr and the guide 300 birr. All except the guide seemed really happy with the tip; maybe we just got a slightly pushy guide.
In the end, we spent about US$500 for the four days for two of us; it would have been a quarter of that if we'd gone more DIY, but it was still worth every birr. About half of that amount was blown on the car hire at the beginning and end of the trip, and another US50 - 60 for the food (although it would have been a lot more if the cook had had her way).
I'd be a lot firmer if I planned a trip to the Simians again, but with all said and done, organising your own trip in Debark is still loads of fun, it's an absolutely extraordinary experience, as much as for the encounters with locals and with wildlife (the incredible Gelada baboons especially) as for the incredible landscapes, which themselves are among the most spectacular that I've seen in many years of travel.
May 4, 2013 3:47 PM
May 8, 2013 6:04 AM
17Thanks for the trip report, it's always good to read them. We never experienced anything like you describe with the pressure from the guide for tips and would have been unhappy if we had. It's a shame when things like that happen.
There's no way I would do the trek without a cook, he was worth his weight in gold. We could stay warm in our tents till it was time to eat rather than be messing about in the cold and quite dark huts at the camps.
Our guide was great and I highly recommend him, professional, organised and good fun. His name is Tesh and his details are:
name: Teshager Berihun
mobile: +251 91873 1621
He was born in the Simien Mountains and now lives in Debark and so obviously has a deep love for the area.
My trip report is here: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=2282672&messageID=20589279#20589279
Cape TownBook now
(0 star Hotel)
From US$17.06 per night
(4 star Hotel)
From US$182.81 per night
(4 star Hotel)
From US$116.73 per night