A trek 325 mi/525 km northwest of Addis Ababa in the Simien Mountains is likely to be the high point of a visitor's time in Ethiopia. (The highest peaks top 13,100 ft/4,000 m.) The breathtaking mountain landscape and vegetation provide some of the finest scenery in the country. Many of the animals living in the Simien Mountains exist only in Ethiopia and some exist only in the Simiens. Lammergeyer vultures, whose wingspan reaches up to 10 ft/3 m, are protected by national park rules. Endemic mammals include the Ethiopian wolf (an endangered species), Gelada monkeys (which live in large, grass-eating troops that display little fear of humans) and the goatlike Walia ibex. The Simiens are also home to several endemic plants, including a form of giant lobelia whose hollow seedpod can grow up to 20 ft/6 m high and was often used by soldiers for stashing arms.
The park's headquarters are at Debark, on the main road. Park authorities will provide a guide and an armed scout (in case of poachers) and will arrange for the rental of mules to carry additional food and gear. The guide, scout, trekking permit and mules should cost about US$200 for a week. Visitors can buy supplies and rent camping stoves in Debark, but tents and warm sleeping bags should be carried from home. Take warm clothing as well as protection from the sun and rain. (The rainy season is May-October.) Although only limited food is available in the small towns within the park, the Muslim villagers (who have lived in this mostly Christian region since the 17th century) are happy to supply nonalcoholic barley beer to thirsty hikers.
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