ETHIOPIA / Part I: Food Poisoning, Gelada Monkeys and Interesting Ravens...

I went to Ethiopia for three-weeks in the summer of 2018 with several definitive goals in mind. The first goal was to go to the Simien Mountains to see the endemic Gelada Monkeys.

The second goal was to visit the city of Harar to meet the Hyena man and all his gorgeous, furry friends.

The Karo People

The third goal was to travel south to the Omo Valley to meet the colorful tribal people who call this far-flung region home. All of my goals were happily met, and all exceeded my expectations. Ethiopia was absolutely spectacular, but it also came with its fair share of challenges.

I landed in the capitol of Addis Ababa on the 6th of August, after spending three weeks guiding a nine-person camping safari of my own through South Africa and Namibia. I was exhausted (because guiding is hard work!) and ready for some downtime - so what did I do? Did I take a rest? No. I immediately contacted a guide to show me around the infamous Merkato in Addis. It was a massive, chaotic and ramshackle African market; we saw as much as I could tolerate in three hours and I was starving, so my guide took me to a restaurant to try the local delicacy - Kitfo - or Ethiopian Steak Tartar.

Oh, my. Will I ever learn? Adventurous to a fault, I grabbed some spongy injera bread and dug right into this RAW repast of minced Ox meat mixed with clarified butter and spices, accompanied by spinach and this funny white stuff called false-banana that tasted more like aged cheese. It was all very delicious. The 'raw' thing didn't bother me at all, because I like my steaks rare and I love sushi, but it really should have, because I was new to Ethiopia and my digestive tract was unprepared for what I can only assume was a microbial, pathogenic onslaught.

And, very sick, I got. Four whole days lost to bad decision-making. I spent the two remaining days in Addis in bed (near the toilet), and two more days resting in Gonder on antibiotics. I was supposed to camp on that fourth night in the Simiens, but I didn't trust my health situation, so I did a day-trip on the fifth day instead. And what a trip it was!

I got to spend an hour mingling with a troop of over 200 Geladas (Theropithecus gelada) - or Bleeding Heart Monkeys. Geladas are found only in the grasslands of the central Ethiopian plateau. They live at high elevations (1,800–4,400 m or 5,900–14,400 ft), and use the cliffs for sleeping and the grasslands for foraging.

"Ooooh, this root is soooo delicious!"

Geladas are the only primates that are primarily graminivores and grazers – grass blades make up to 90% of their diet. They eat both the blades and the seeds of grasses. They eat flowers, rhizomes and roots when available, using their hands to dig for the latter two. They consume herbs, small plants, fruits, creepers, bushes and thistles. Insects can be eaten, but only rarely and only if they can easily be obtained. At night, they sleep on the ledges of cliffs. At sunrise, they leave the cliffs and travel to the tops of the plateau to feed and to socialize.

"Ewwww! Who farted?"