After some effort, I manager to unzip the tent and carefully fold the flap up so I could get out. The temperature at this point was approximately -12°c - not a very African temperature! Even though I was wearing 3 pairs of trouser, 2 shirts, 2 jerseys & a jacket, I was still very cold, so decided to go for a walk to warm up. First, I checked around the vehicle, and found what I was later to identify as Simien Fox tracks - but no sign of them now. On this walk I visited all the nearby lakes, and saw a pair of Wattled Cranes and some European Wigeon - but no sign of Ruddy Shelducks. Somehow, the latter did not surprise me, since the last time I had seen them was in the Guadaquivir area of Spain, whose climate is totally different.
By 09:00, the sun was up and had melted the ice on the tent to allow me to fold it away, and leave. I had no intention of staying for another night of this type of torture. After a few minutes I came across 2 pairs of Simien Fox right next to the road, and Red-billed Chough and Abyssinian Longclaw were seen in the same area..
Continuing on across the plateau, I reached the southern side very quickly - the plateau was much smaller than I had expected. From here the road started to drop down through the different vegetational zones (which were not clearly demarcated on the Goba side of the plateau). The number of species increased quite quickly as one went down, and Rouget's Rails were very common on the upper slopes. Even before I reached the larger trees, I had already come across several parties of White-backed Black Tits, and several Rüppell's Robin-Chats, as well as a single Mountain Nyala.
The drive to Mesio was relatively uneventful, and then I continued to the Genale River. Soon I reached a bridge over quite a large river that looked somewhat dubious - and when I looked carefully I noticed there were no tyre tracks over it - and the locals were pointing upstream - presumably indicating a crossing-point. On reaching it, I had grave reservations, since the river was approximately 50m wide, and the bottom was quite rocky - although no more than about 30 to 40 cm deep. Having walked across and back, a local asked if I would give him a lift to Bitata. After some discussion, he convinced me it was fordable, although there were no tracks visible.
In reality, I shouldn’t have tried to cross it, but to turn back would have meant crossing back to Goba, Shashamene, etc - and I would not have had enough petrol to drive round. So I tried it. Although my feet got a bit wet, the crossing was feasible, but if the water level had been just a bit higher, I would have flooded the engine. As always, it was only having reached the next town that I discovered the road is closed and no through traffic is now allowed. I would not advise using this route in future, as the crossing could easily be impassable due to the water levels.
On reaching the Genale River, I found the wadi referred to in Julian Francis's trip report, and wandered downstream looking for the Ruspoli's Turaco. Within minutes, Adem Dube ran up to me waving the trip report, showing me his name in it, and offered to show me the bird. Since he was pointing in the opposite direction to where I thought the right habitat was, I was not sure, but he was certain he could find the bird, so I acquiesced. We walked up the valley for nearly 30 minutes, searching, and then after a further 30 minutes searching found one - except it turned round and became a Narina Trogon. Normally I love these birds, but this one wasn't too popular at that time. However, a few minutes later, Adem said he heard the Turaco calling, and tracked it down. I have no doubt I would never have seen it without Adem's help.
Since it was still only around 16:00, I continued to Negele, in order to find out if there were any problems getting to Bokol Manyo. A few km before Negele I came across a small party of Scaly Babblers. I had done all my calculations and had worked out that I had sufficient petrol to get there and back, and could then make Moyale via Yavello. However, the road south from Negele was completed cordoned off by the army. It wasn't just that they were searching vehicles, etc - they were allowing no-one through. The reason turned out to be that a local election was being held in the area, and they were expecting major problems. Also, to complicate things further, the road beyond Bokol Manyo was mined, and there was much armed banditry, as this route was being (or rather had been) the main route for delivering aid to the SE of Somalia. They didn’t even want to let me through so that I could turn east to Yavello, but in the end I was allowed through.
However, by now it was nearly dark, so I looked for a place to camp. Just before the turnoff to the west, I saw some farm-workers returning home to their houses, and asked where I could camp. They allowed me to camp outside their homestead, and we spent several hours talking.
An Ethiopian trip: 27/11/1999 to 17/01/2000Giles Mulholland 31 January 2000