A little girl handed me a small bottle of warm milk from one of her family’s cows. We were sitting outside one of their huts on the outskirts of Bale Plateau, making Coffee Latte. Behind us was a 14 kilometer nearly flat hike from Tulu Dimtu (4377 m) to Rovu Campsite. I kinda pictured a campsite, but what met me was a nomadic welcoming family of 5, some huts, a couple of dogs and lots of goats and cows.
On the trip was my sisters’ husband, Øystein Kostøl and our mandatory guide Jamal from the Bale Mountain Guiding Authorities. The plan was to find some boulders climbed by a Swedish crew two years ago, and hopefully discover some more.
We walked around the area in a wonderful state of mind. I think most adventurous people feel it every now and then. The satisfaction of feeling very far from home, but yet be in control and aware of that an ambitious plan is actually working. The altitude was in advance a worry, but none of us felt any symptoms. So we went to bed that first night, it was clear sky, stars, -5 degrees and a forest of rocks waiting for us the next morning, and a coffee latte.
In perfect charging temperature between 5-10 degrees and sun we started the discovery of boulders fitting our level and some more. As only a few had been there before, and we also new little about their whereabouts, it was a day of search, attempt and conquer/fail. It became a hilarious classic look on us every time we finally solved a problem, as we topped out unable to speak due to lack of breath.
The expression was something between a smile, laugh, and desperate breathing hanging on our knees, and then off to the next one. Sometimes it felt like we had stepped back in time. Or stepped onto untouched ground by humans for millions of years. We knew it was not a fact, but we still let that feeling embrace us.
The slightly shy nomadic family slowly opened up as well. The variety of pushing ourselves on a boulder and after sit down with a family showing us the different animals they kept behind a wall in their classic Ethiopian hut made a solid touch of something extra on the trip.
I later became aware of the battle between the need to protect wildlife in the Bale Mountains National Park (as so many others), and the nomadic people who feel pushed to seek new areas for their cattle. We met them both. The scientist who argued to shoot the nomads we meet, as they were regarded poachers, and the family who for many reasons had entered a national park in their search for a livable life. The endangered endemic Ethiopian wolf lives on the plateau of Bale. Dogs may infect them with rabies. We saw cattle everywhere up there. I still felt like an untouched place on earth. But also a journey that reminded me of how few places like this that still exists, and how quickly they may change.
The bouldering area is rarely visited by western tourists. You can reach it horse or feet. Be aware of issues with altitude sickness, as you never go below approx. 4000 meters. You need to pay a entry fee and bring a guide. You will meet the challenges of population growth, “battles” between authorities and locals, a unique landscape and most likely a wolf eating rats.