Living on the Edge: travelling Ethiopia's Wabe Shebelle

It is 6 in the morning on 15th November. The sun has just risen. I have just come back from a walk to the very edge of a precipice with incredible views down the entire length of the valley we’re camped at.

Yesterday, we spent a good 10 hours driving from Ali Dege to the Wabe Shebelle Valley and as we drew close, a view down an escarpment that funnels into a rich ecosystem of thick acacia, Will suggested we sit on the edge of the car. So with the esteemed director of Journeys by Design, we hurtled down the valley at quite a rate, precipice on one side and a crumble of jagged boulders on the other, sitting on the edge of a truck that sounded as if it was about to fall apart. A novelty moment to consider.

This aside, it was stunning. Before reaching the valley, most of the day was made up of an extraordinary drive, one that even the page turning book that I have on the go wasn’t enough to tear me away from. Due to our sleepless few days, however, I did nap twice, and both times woke up in a in a totally different ecosystem encompassing villages with a totally different vibe each time. Stopped for lunch and ended up sharing the time with some local qat-chewers, who tried to persuade us to join in. We politely declined.

After pressing forward even at our fast pace, we didn’t quite reach our destination. The sheer quantity of donkeys and cattle crossing in front of the car during the day had taken its toll, so we set up camp without tents, on camp beds under the stars at the top of the valley. After the obligatory whisky, we settled down for a night at the bush theatre under a clear sky. The grand finale was hearing lions not so far away, after which no sleep was had.

To get to the very best views on our recent stroll, we had to scramble down a slope made up of scree and acacia bushes. As we reached the edge and sat, legs dangling, a strange vertigo sensation came over me causing momentary paralysis. I could’ve happily spent the day sat here and a good deal more exploring this haven on foot, but we must press on; next stop, Sheikh Hussein.

- Simon

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