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Monday 9th July - Ethiopia - Simien Mountains (Day 2)
Andrew left the lodge early this morning with our helper from last night so they could go back to Debark and get park permits for us. They expected to be gone for about an hour, but it turned out to be more like 3 hours. The park officials were very strict about park rules and our helper got his fingers rapped for helping us to get into the park without permits. The officals also insisted that we take a scout and a guide with us into the park. The scout came fully armed with a Kalashnikov for our protection. (We later discovered that, while visitors to the park must take a scout in with them, it is not obligatory to hire a guide. We think the park officials insistence that we take a guide was simply because they were angry at us for getting into the park without permits).

Meanwhile the girls and I had a leisurely breakfast, played with a few toys in the lounge of the lodge and then went off in search of Gelada baboons. One of the men from the lodge came with us and soon we saw baboons on the hillside, coming down towards us. We walked over to them and much to our delight we got very close to them. They are impressive, big, hairy creatures with bright red markings on their chests. Keziah was very amused at the little baboons jumping off a tree and the babies on their mothers backs. We saw lammergayers soaring over our heads, their enormous wings outstretched. I was sorry that Andrew was missing it all. Andrew arrived back shortly after that, feeling very hungry since hed been up for hours without breakfast.

We drove to Sankaber, a village further into the park and went for a short walk, complete with our staff of two (guide and armed scout). On our way there 2 klipspringers bounded over the road in front of the car, while we walked we came across another group of about 20 baboons and then Andrew and the guide spotted a Menelik bushbuck in the distance so we did quite well on our nature-spotting walk. We saw some beautiful panoramas of steep-sided mountains and deep valleys, but clouds rolled in as the day went on and our views were obscured.

In the afternoon we went for another short walk down from the lodge where once again we found a large group of baboons. Each time we saw baboons we would just sit and watch them for ages. The girls took their binoculars (thanks Hugh & Mary!) and loved looking at the boons as Naomi called them. The really cool thing about the baboons is the fact that they arent at all shy. They were perfectly happy to dig about for food just a few metres away from us. As we walked back to the lodge it started to rain very heavily and the rain continued into the night.

Simien Lodge is very nice. Its clean and new and built in an attractive way in a very beautiful location. We havent seen much of the view from the lodge because there has been a lot of cloud but we have glimpsed it and its a birds-eye panorama of mountains and foothills as far as the eye can see. The staff are all local people and are all very friendly and helpful. The food is very good and the children have the run of the place since there are hardly any other guests (a few lunch guests came today and a group of 4 Americans are staying the night tonight). Keziah loves the porridge here and has had a bowl for breakfast and then two other bowls for snacks during the day!

This afternoon there was a power cut and the power didnt come back on for the rest of the evening. Two large log fires were lit in the lodge, but well certainly need our hot water bottles tonight.

Today, out of the blue Keziah said Im missing my home. We jollied her along and she didnt dwell on any homesick feeling that she had, but it did bring a lump to our throats. Maybe its the Simien weather thats reminding her of Scotland.

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