I was born on 12th October 1988 in Ambaras, a small village situated inside the Simien Mountains National Park. As a boy I was fortunate to be able to attend elementary school about 15 kms away from the village. I am grateful to my parents, especially to my father, for providing me with an education despite many hardships. Lack of awareness and environmental influences result in very few people receiving a formal education, and I am the only one in my family.
After elementary school, because of the absence of a high school in my village, I had to leave my village and attend school in Bahirdar for three years. Bahirdar is one of Ethiopia’s ancient and attractive towns, where many tourists come every year to visit Lake Tana, one of the largest lakes in Ethiopia.
Three years later I was compelled to return to a small town near my village to complete my schooling. A year later I graduated from the Tour Guide training program. This program was launched to develop a sustainable tourism industry, run by local service providers. The Austrian Government Development Co-operation Project, proposed an idea to give high priority to the locals based inside the park, to improve the awareness of the National Park by the people. The project performs different activities for the Park in an integrated manner, putting emphasis on a “park with people” approach.
After passing the exams for the Regional Bureau of Tourism Commission I had the opportunity to become a Guide and am a founding member of the Walia Guide Association. I feel truly blessed by this initiative, and can hardly find the words to express my appreciation to the two concerned organisations which exerted unreserved efforts to assist us.
Visiting my Grand Mother
Taking my siblings to a nearby school
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We did a 4 day 4 night trek in Simien Mountain National Park, Debark Ethiopia and added on a day/night in Gonder. We found our guide Dawit (Dave) Johannes (firstname.lastname@example.org) on trip advisor. He was born and raised in the SImien Mountains and has a good knowledge of the terrain, wildlife and the local villages. Dave arranged everything including the cooks, mule handlers, tents, park fees and park scout. All we had to do was show up in Gonder Airport ready to trek.
The first day we hiked near the park entrance along an escarpment. When we arrived at the campsite our tent was set up, our bag was inside and a table was set with tea and snacks. Dave took us to watch a sunset and in the evening we sat by a campfire. On my way to the outhouse in the star lit sky my flashlight dazed 2 ibex walking in the woods near the campsite. Next day we hiked along a ridge down to a waterfall, we saw Gelada baboons and met with shepherd boys and villagers. Dave took us to a coffee ceremony at a typical house in Gich village. It was an amazing experience. They were very poor by our standards but proud, self sufficient, kind and hospitable. We then climbed up to Gich Campsite which is on a high grassland plain.
From Gich, Dave took us up to a cliff where we could watch the Gelada baboons descending the cliff side close up as the sun set. We were the only ones in the place (the other guides stayed at camp).
I felt like I was in an episode of Mutual Of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. The baboons would tumble down the hill and call out at each other. The next day we climbed up 4000 meters and descended to another campsite. In the morning we watched the baboons coming up from the cliffs. The Gelada eat grass, live in large groups and are very docile. Last day we hiked through forests and fields to Dave's his old village where we stopped for Injera and home made beer at his Aunt's place. We then continued across the valley and up the mountain to Ambaras village. This is the trail used by village kids to get to high school. Along the way we saw buzzards and hawks circling and more Gelada baboons. We were joined by three shepherd kids for lunch (they did not like our pasta but liked the granola). The last night was spent in Ambaras village.
Dave speaks good english and clearly loves the mountains and loves to guide (he sings as he walks). He is very attentive to guest preferences. The trails were in very good shape and we were never too exposed despite the high altitudes attained. The cook and crew were lots of fun although they did not speak english. At night we would sit by the fire and they would sing and joke around. The meals cooked by chef Abiew cooked were tasty and plentiful. We ate mostly vegetarian (trekking without refrigeration). One afternoon as we were drinking beer, we noticed a boy walking into the cooking hut with a live chicken and leaving empty handed. That night we ate chicken- it was fresh, local (bought from the villagers) and definitely free run.
Note that this is rustic trekking. There are only outhouses and washing up consists of using wash basins provided by the staff, or the occasional river. You are in a poor part of a poor country. There were no bugs, but the sun is very hot. We went in dry season and some trails were dusty. One the last day Dave took us to the Debark market and then the Gonder castle. We went out to a great restaurant and then to a night club for beer and live Ethiopian music.
This was a fantastic experience combining nature, wildlife and culture. Thanks to Dave and his crew we really got to see how Ethiopians of the Simien mountains live and to take in the incredible landscape.
If you go you will need sunscreen, sunhat a headlamp and warm clothing for night. Optional items that are good to bring include a big bag of candies or something imperishable to give to the kids, a bottle of whiskey for the campfire, a bluetooth speaker. Western snack.
Dave can be contacted by email
I had the most amazing 4-day trekking experience in the Simien Mountains thanks to my wonderful guide, Dawit, a local man from the Simiens. He was organized, knowledgeable, kind hearted, spoke fluent English, and showed a deep caring for his clients, the villages, and the land. Not only did he guide, but helped me organize accommodation, transport for the onward portion of my trip, and was pure joy to be around. His information is attached, if no image available call +251 913 03 48 22