Simiens in the Clouds

July 17, 2015

Come July, the clouds descend on the Simien Mountains as much of Ethiopia goes through the long rainy season. The rains are vital for Ethiopia as so many people live off the land for their livelihoods, and and for weeks beforehand, conversation revolves around when the rains will arrive and whether they are late or early.

Being in the Simiens during the rains is a very different experience from other times of year. Initially when the rain is only occasional it is beautiful – the fields are turning green, there is still plenty of sunshine and the days are fresher.

But then the clouds start to settle, visibility is often next to zero and the heavier rains come to create a mystical atmosphere. Trees, animals, people and villages appear to emerge as shadows through the clouds. Trekking along the escarpment edge, there is little to see over the edge, but occasionally you can catch glimpses of the lowlands below, through the breaks in the clouds.

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If you are lucky you get to see Jinbar Falls at their best, dropping approximately 500m (nobody has yet managed to reach the base to measure it accurately).

Anyone who heads into the Simiens at this time of year needs to be prepared for adventure. There are rivers to cross – Jinbar river on the way to Gich, and Muzema river before Ambiko camp. Normally wading through is possible, but after particularly heavy rain you may need to wait a while for the torrents to calm down.

The roads can become treacherous mud baths making access to some parts of the park interesting. Everyday life becomes team work as everyone works with each other to meet the challenges that the rains bring.

If you are a keen wildlife spotter, it might be best that you plan your trip to the Simien Mountains at a different time of year. Not only do the clouds make it difficult to see many of the animals and birds that are famous within the National Park, but the Gelada Monkeys (one of the highlights) on the gloomiest days prefer not to graze over their grasslands, instead staying curled up warm and cozy in their caves on the cliffs. 

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As the rains peter out in September, what emerges is breathtakingly beautiful – a bright green and lush landscape, so green that there is even a special name for the colour in Amharic – lemlem. The crops are growing well, ready to ripen up to harvest, the livestock are grazing happily and the fields are covered in the yellow meskel flower, just in time for Meskel, an Ethiopian Orthodox festival celebrating the finding of the true cross, at the end of September.

Everything that can emerge out of the rains - food, livelihoods and new flora - is always a reminder to us that we mustn't complain about them, but see that as an integral part of making the Simien Mountain National Park as spectacular as is is. That said, we know trekking is harder during this period, so our rooms are slightly cheaper during the rainy season; Limalimo lodge Reservations.

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