November 2019December 2019 January 2020

12/25 - Back Home Summary - Thanksgiving and Christmas

We went to New York City for a wedding in October, then to Ethiopia in November, but we still had Thanksgiving and Christmas and a trip to Seattle. This is in case you are wondering what we've been up to.

We returned from Ethiopia on Sunday, so we had four full days to Thanksgiving. We were doing Thanksgiving for about a dozen people, so we had to work quickly. Luckily, the turkey we had ordered arrived on time on Tuesday, so the rest of the time was spent shopping, cooking and recovering from jet lag. We had roast turkey, stuffing, kale salad, fennel salad, turnips with vanilla, delicata squash with oysters, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts hash, parmesan potatoes and cranberry chutney. Dessert was pumpkin pie, pecan pie, pecan brittle (just pecan pie filling) and our own dried apples with butter, sugar, and spices. It was a big success.

We chose a tree over the weekend and went into Seattle do some shopping for our Christmas party and to see the lights and sights. As usual, we checked out the gingerbread cookie sculptures on display at the Sheraton and Pike Place Market.

Our trees arrived the day after, and our party was that weekend. We set to with the lights, electric and candle, and started cooking. We soon had both trees under control and a cassoulet in the oven. We lit the candles on the cookie tree, and everyone tried to remember the words to O Christmas Tree. To our credit, no one tried to look them up online while the candles were lit.

We were home. We were out on the street when Santa came by on his illuminated firetruck, and we were all set for the big day.


Seattle sunset - Look, no viaduct!

Gingerbread village

Gingerbread city

Pike Place market

Another view of the market

Near the market

Back home in the grove

Our tree as yet unadorned, no Hanukah candles either


Ready to illuminate

Party night

Godzilla, his nuclear fires lit, admires the party spread

The pièce de résistance

Something to wash it down

Candles lit

All lit up

Santa is coming

The Christmas firetruck

Keywords: port angeles, seattle, christmas, thanksgiving

12/21 - To Addis Ababa and Home

We crossed the Sanetti Plateau one more time and made our way to the Gobe airport outside of Robe. The airport only has three flights a week, and it wasn't open when we arrived. Gate security wouldn't let us in for fifteen minutes when the Ethiopia Airlines ground crew arrived to open up the place.

Our flight was uneventful, and we collapsed in the luxury of the Sheraton with its electric power, cash machines, internet access and room service. We had a late flight out to Frankfort, so we booked an extra night and stayed in our room, explored the hotel grounds and took it easy. We were getting traveled out.

We slept on our flight to Frankfort then spent a few hours in the Lufthansa lounge before boarding our flight to Vancouver. We took a north polar route from Germany to the west coast of Canada. In late November, the polar regions are in darkness, so for a good part of our journey the sun was to our south giving us hours of pre-dawn light. The slow sun of the arctic does things like this. The green flash is a transient phenomenon where the rising or setting sun refracts green for perhaps a second or two, but one group at a south polar station saw it for 20 minutes during a slow polar sunrise.

From Vancouver, we took a puddle jumper to Fairchild airport in Porrt Angeles. Canadian entry was pretty straightforward though the ATM like machines were a bit confusing at first. American entry was easier for a small plane like ours. It was just a short drive from the airport. We were home.

Last look at Bale Mountain Lodge

Last look at the Sanetti Plateau

Another look

Night lighting at the Sheraton

Back in bustling Addis Ababa

While we were gone, the jacaranda came into bloom


More sunrise

Even more sunrise

Even more sunrise

The sun was to our south for much of our journey over the arctic

Canadian ice

And more ice

Another bit of sunrise

Sunrise and clouds

Keywords: ethiopia

12/20 - Rira Waterfall - Part One

We were tired on the last day of our stay at Bale Mountain Lodge, but we had to get out and see more. There was a waterfall trail in Rira, the village not far from the lodge, so we headed off to the trailhead by the road. We passed through pastureland with woven bamboo fences and across green grass dotted with boulders and trees. The air was much thicker than up on the Sanetti Plateau and the foliage lusher.

The trail sloped gently downwards, and we entered the forest. There were orchids blooming at the side of the trail. Down we went, then the trail became steeper. There were staircases to descend.

Morning at the lodge


Woven bamboo fence

Pasture and fences

Green country

Green boulders

More trail scenery

Green country

Gray sky on a misty day

The forest thickens

Possibly a coffee tree or some relative

More forest

At our feet

An orchid

More orchids

The trail continues

Blue orchids?

Another orchid

A stairway

Keywords: ethiopia

12/19 - Rira Waterfall - Part Two

We descended some more. We could hear the waterfall before we saw it. The air was moist and the foliage lush. We approached the pool and admired the waterfall for a bit. It wasn't Victoria Falls, but it was a pleasant sight to see. In the northern part of Ethiopia, some hermit would have set up his digs beneath it and started carving what would become a hermitage and then, centuries later, a church, shrine or monastery. As pretty as the site was, we weren't tempted.

Then we headed up a bit to see a smaller waterfall above this one. It was worth a bit more exploring. Then we retraced our steps, down to the lower waterfall, then up all the steps, through the forest, across the pasture and finally back towards the road where our driver was waiting for us. First, however, we had to check out a bunch of baboons who had come out to say goodbye. It was our last day in the Ethiopian country side. The next day we were heading back to Addis Ababa and then on to Frankfurt, Vancouver and finally Port Angeles.

Down towards the waterfall

More steps

The waterfall

Another view

As we started to climb

The stream

The upper waterfall

Another look

Downstream again

Interesting vegetation


Farther back along the trail

A small creek

A small bridge

Forest and pasture

Back to the woven bamboo fences

Goodbye baboons

Keywords: ethiopia

12/18 - Up to the Sanetti Plateau

We had crossed the Sanetti Plateau on our way to Bale Mountain Lodge. At over 13,000 feet, it had seemed like another world. Now, we were going to return and explore some more. We headed back through Rira and climbed over a mile to the plateau. It had been sunny at the lodge, but it was cloudy as we began to wander among the scrub plants, mainly ghostly artemesia, that covered the broad open plain. There was always something fascinating and beautiful to see whether it was some detail at our feet or the broad vista around us. We stopped at the shores of the alpine lakes that dotted the plain. It was exhiliarating.

It was sunny at the lodge.

Kale for sale in Rira

Gnarled trees along the road up to the plateau

Did we mention the great cell coverage?

Mists, mountains and the plain

Ghostly ground cover


A detail at our feet

Another detail

Rocks and knolls

Across the plain we wandered.

Another detail, someone's home?

Ghostly shrubs

Color in the scene

An alpine lake

One of the birds

More details

More color

Even more detail

Keywords: ethiopia

12/17 - Sanetti Plateau to Gobe

One of our missions was to replace our spare tire. We needed a new one, and the nearest service station was in Gobe, just north of the plateau. We took a nice long walk in the high country, then we headed down into town to eat lunch while our driver and guide wrangled a spare tire. There's nothing like the AAA in this part of Ethiopia.

Gobe was a busy town full of small shops selling everything. There were dress shops, furniture stores, cell phone stores, food stalls, restaurants, banks and the like. We could see signs of progress with electric power and satellite dishses, but it will be a while before the chain stores move in.

A lobelia

An alpine lake


Field of rocks

Misty vista

Heading down towards Gobe

A volcano to the north

Pastoral fields

It looks makeshift, but there is electricity.

Under construction

Another bit of Gobe

Many little stores

More of the main shopping street

A mosque in town

Ready for business

Alternate transportation

A restaurant

A gateway

Keywords: ethiopia

12/16 - Back on the Sanetti Plateau

With a new spare tire and fortified by lunch, we returned to the Sanetti Plateau. We took a longer walk passing through what one might call a lobelia forest.

Gray plain

Some lobelia, dead and living

Details at our feet

Ghost forest of lobelia

Lobelia dot the plain

A veritable grove

At our feet

Gray forest

Rock garden

Another field of lobelias

More scenery

Aged rocks

Endlessly fascinating

Lobelia are strange and surprising

An Abyssinian hare

A boulder

A distant mountain

A lone lobelia

Even more scenery

Keywords: ethiopia


12/15 - Alpine Lakes, Lobelia Forest, Another World

We passed a number of alpine lakes and wandered among the boulders and lobelias. It began to rain lightly. The sky was almost silver. Despite this, there was color all around us. There were shrubs and flowers and lichens. Here and there, the ground cover was green, not gray. We could have wandered and wandered, but eventually the wet and cold took their toll, and we headed back south to our lodge.

Gray and green

Yellow flowers

One grows fond of lobelias

A large alpine lake

A copse of lobelias

Green and gray

Misty mountain

More boulders

More green

More yellow flowers

Another bit of alpine lake

Rock wall behind a lake

Lobelias by the lakeside

Another hare

Another boulder

Red and green

Red and yellow

Gray lobelia sky

Across the plain


12/14 - The Road to Harenna

From our base at Bale Mountain Lodge we drove down to the Harenna Forest, at 7,600 feet above sea level probably the lowest point during our trip to Ethiopia. Here the forest was even lusher. There were baboons wandering by the road. We stopped briefly, then headed on, continuing on our way down and south.

At one point, we stopped and our guide pointed out some of understory trees with dark leaves. There were much taller trees in the forest, but these trees with their almost black glossy leaves were different. They had berries, and when one peeled the husk off a berry, there was a green coffee bean inside. We were in land of wild coffee where the beans were first discovered and cultivated.

A sunny morning at Bale Mountain Lodge

Clouds gathering as we headed south

Roadside flowers

Roadside baboons

We stopped to watch

Tangled forest trees

A beehive - We were getting better at spotting them. The local honey was thick and delicious.

Some understory trees with dark glossy leaves

A close up

Even closer - Those are coffee berries.

Inside the husk, a coffee bean

The road, unsealed

More coffee trees

Banana trees, cultivated

Signs of civilization

Keywords: ethiopia

12/13 - Coffee Ceremony

Here we were where it all began. This was it, the ancestral home of the caffeinated bean that let Starbucks, Peets, and Chase and Sanborn happen. We were in a village was just a local plant that had berries one could use to make a pleasing beverage, so we had to enjoy the Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

We settled down in the pavilion, and our hostess started by setting up her fire and threshing the dried beans, removing their husks. She used a mortar and pestle to loosen the husks, then separated the beans from the husks by hand. Then, she roasted the beans over the fire. From time to time, she would adjust the fire and stir the beans so they roasted evenly.

Slowly, the beans browned and we could smell the coffee. She ground the beans in the mortar and pestle and brewed the coffee with boiling water in a big iron pot. Then, she poured us each a cup. It was one of the best cups of coffee we had ever had, rich and delicious. Interestingly, it didn't have the fruity notes were used to in Ethiopian coffee imported into the US. It was perfectly balanced, as one might expect.

Our hostess checking out the breans

Separating the husks

Roasting the beans

More roasting

The beans turning brown

Our driver enjoying Ethiopia's excellent cell phone coverage - He did not text and drive.

Roasted coffee beans

Heating the water

Brewing coffee

Just add water, after doing everything else

A great cup of coffee

A bit of the coffee village

More coffee trees

Keywords: ethiopia

12/12 - A Short Afternoon Walk

That afternoon, probably powered by caffeine, we went for a walk right from our lodge. We followed the trail one might take climbing that distinctive peak visible in so many of our photos. We had no illusions. That climb was way beyond us, but we wanted to explore.

We crossed the stream that provided us with electrical power then walked past the horses in the paddock and the local warthogs and headed into the forest. There were old gnarled trees, a colobus monkey and groves of bamboo. We avoided the stinging trees and made our way along until the trail began to ascend in earnest.

We knew better than to continue. We more or less retraced our steps, heading back down to the lodge. Meanwhile the skies darkened.

Cloudier in the afternoon

Our landmark

Across the fields


Warthog at peace, probably eating something

Another bird

Fascinating tree

Typical bit of trail

Blue flower

More of the trail

Another fascinating tree

More trail

Bamboo grove

Tall tree

We watched the canopy

We spotted a colobus monkey

A rather poor photograph of a colubus monkey not being cooperative

Field in the forest

More forest

Keywords: ethiopia

12/11 - Caught in the Rain

We weren't all that far from the lodge. We were maybe 15 or 20 minutes out when the sky darkened further. Then, the heavens opened. We were officially in the dry season, but that's climate. Climate is what one expects. Weather is what one gets. We got weather, heavy rain.

We made our way as briskly as we could back to the lodge. The paddock was waterlogged. Our raincoats kept the upper part of our bodies dry, but our hats were dripping sponges and our pants quickly soaked through. We were a soggy mess back at the lodge. Now, however, we could congratulate ourselves on our good sense in not heading out farther. We could only imagine getting caught in that rain and having another hour ahead of us.

Just before the rain

An old tree

Rain coming in

Rain starting to fall

The soggy paddock

Perturbed warthogs

Running for shelter?

Rainy field, rainy sky

Sunset that evening, all dry

Keywords: ethiopia

12/10 - Leaving Webb Camp

Our last morning at Webb Camp was as frosty and cold as the one before. The ground was covered with frosts. The spiders cowered, we presume, in their spider holes waiting for their webs to defrost. We could see sunlight falling on distant mountains, but our camp remained in shadow.

By the time we finished breakfast, the team had taken down the cook tent, and the dining tent vanished shortly after we finished eating. We packed our belongings, and our sleeping tent was disassembled shortly after. The tent, awning and even the toilet were gone. Everything was squeezed into the truck. We, our guide, our driver and one of the other workers squeezed into our jeep for the ride to Dinsho.

Near Dinsho, we stopped at a wildlife refuge where we saw nyala, and other now familiar creatures. We were much lower and already warmer.

Good morning, frost!

Distant sun

More distant sun


Another frozen spider web

The falls in shadow

Moving light

The sun approaches

More frost and shadow


Saying good bye to the warthogs

A nyala at the refuge

Another nyala

There were lots of them.

One of the interesting trees.

One of the interesting plants, perhaps nyala-proof

Scenery at the refuge

Another nyala

En route

Keywords: ethiopia

12/09 - The Road to Bale Mountain Lodge

We drove back towards Robe and passed through Goba where we picked up our missing bag at the airline office. With only three flights a week, they had recovered it and flown it in the day before. There were no flights this day. The airport was closed, but the office in town was open.

Then the road started to climb to the Sanetti Plateau. The wildlife park was around 8,000 feet above sea level. The plateau was over 13,000. As we leveled off onto the plateau, the scene was dominated by a large cell phone tower. Ethiopia has made cell phone coverage a priority, and it had the towers out there to prove it.

We stopped at one of the alpine lakes and admired the blue winged geese. It was cold, though not as cold as our morning at camp. We stretched our legs a bit and continued across the plateau. There were tall lobelias and scrub vegetation, a lot of silver gray artemesia. There were cloud capped mountains in the distance.

The clouds moved in as we headed south. We descended through fog towards Rira and Bale Mountain Lodge. The road wound its way down the south face of the plateau. We only had glimpses and shadows. We were soon in a different country, a land of bamboo slat fences and barrel like bee hives mountain high in the trees.

Flowers in bloom

Escarpment and lobelia

More high country

An alpine lake

Blue winged geese

A giant mole rat

Another photo of the rat

Clouds, mountains, artemesia

Clouds rolling in

Descending from the plateau

Gray sky

Still descending - We went down over 5,000 feet.

Fog and the road

The land of bamboo slat fences

Scenery towards Rira

A quick snap of Rira

A beehive in a tree

More scenery

A close up of the beehive

Keywords: ethiopia

12/08 - Welcome to Bale Mountain Lodge

Bale Mountain Lodge is just south of Rira. We were welcomed by colobus monkeys in the trees and baboons by the side of the road, but we pressed on. We had been sleeping on cots in a tent and were looking forward to such luxuries as real beds, real walls, hot showers and indoor lighting instead of solar powered lamps.

The lodge did not disappoint. We had a comfortable room near the main lodge buildings and made the most of the facilities as soon as we arrived. If nothing else, one could open a suitcase - including our recovered friend - and organize our belongings. We handed in a bag of dirty clothes to be laundered to the lodge. Then we settled in and admired the view.

The lodge had its own hydro-electric plant. It was rated at 25 kilowatts. We were grateful. Our e-readers were grateful. We recharged our battery packs just in case. There was lots of hot water. After Webb Camp, 20 liters (about 5 gallons) was a lot. We were back in civilization, or at least an outpost of it.

Greeted by baboons


Our view

The main lodge as seen from our room


Keywords: ethiopia

12/07 - Webb Camp - Day Two - Part One

If anything, it was colder the second morning. There was frost everywhere. Even the spider webs were frozen. Having two hot water bottles instead of just one helped, but late night visits to our outdoor bathroom were challenging and not just because the wash water had frozen again. (We should put in a good word for Purrell here.) Once again, we staggered out of our tent and made our way to the dining tent for coffee and breakfast, and once again we watched the mountain shadow creep across the plain before reaching our living quarters.

The coffee in Ethiopia was wonderful, and not just because it was something warm to drink at a frozen campsite. All of the coffee in Ethiopia was excellent, even the darker roasts. This is not surprising, since Ethiopia is where coffee was discovered and, so, Ethiopians have had longer to figure out how to brew it than anyone else. They do a magnificent job.

A dark and frozen campsite

Frozen plants

Our campsite - Notice the light on the clouds. The sun is shining somewhere.

The waterfall in shadow - You can see a touch of sun on the mountains at the right edge of the picture.

Another view of our frozen campsite

A glimpse of sunlight

The sun approaches across the plain

The shadow

The sun almost at the falls

A frozen spider web

Another frozen spider web

Frozen ground and approaching sun

Our camp still in shadow

A visitor who dropped by during breakfast

A passerby in the distance

The moon with its terminator almost horizontal

Sun has reached our tent - The frost is melting.

A chat, one of the many small birds about

The falls in sunlight - at last

Keywords: ethiopia

12/06 - Webb Camp - Day Two - Part Two

We took a slightly different walk this time. We headed down towards the falls as we had the day before, but instead of heading up the far side, we headed under the falls. There was a cave beneath the waterfall. The river, be it the Web, Webb or Weyib, carves out such caves whenever it flows through suitable soil.

We were not the first to notice this. Folks back in the Mesolithic, 45,000 or so years ago, lived in shelters carved by this very river. There had been a paper on this published in Science back in August, "Middle Stone Age foragers resided in high elevations of the glaciated Bale Mountains, Ethiopia". We hadn't paid much attention to the paper when it first came out, but we looked it up when we got home. There it was, an account of an ancient shelter right by Fincha Habera, the very waterfall we watched every morning while waiting for the sun to approach and warm us up a bit. There was even a picture of what had become a familiar scene.

We climbed out from under the waterfall, most likely as some ancient ancestor had done some time back, and we continued exploring the plain. We weren't up to as long a hike as the day before, but we did spot a group of nyala and saw some awesome scenery.


One of the birds

Approaching the waterfall

The riverside flats

Heading down


A view of our camp through a serious curtain of drips

The cave beneath the waterfall

From Science, maps and pictures

Heading back up

Looking back at the falls

The river and eroded land

Blue flowers

Another view of the river

More scenery

The plain

Another bird, definitely not a chat


and the plain

Keywords: ethiopia

12/05 - Webb Camp - Day Two - Part Three

This part of the plain, on the far side of the waterfall, was colorful. There were nyalas. We stopped and watched them. Then we explored some more, climbing here and there for a better view. We weren't as ambitious as we had been the day before. We made our way back to camp and rested.


A touch of pink

A herd of nyala

Those nyala again


Green and blue

A band of red and orange

More scenery

It was probably like this during the Middle Stone Age, except even colder and with glaciers on the mountains.

We could see the effects of erosion everywhere.

As we headed back to camp

Keywords: ethiopia

12/04 - Webb Camp - Day Two - Part Four

We took it easy for the rest of the day. We weren't up for another hike, and, besides, we had to pack. We took it easy and explored the area around our campsite. We tried to spot grass rats. The ground was full of their holes. Now and then, we would see them, but they were never still long enough to photograph. We checked the rock formations for hyrax and actually spotted one. It resisted posing, but we did get a photograph of a sort.

Our last evening with the waterfall

Rocks around the campsite

More rock formations

Walls of stone

The winner of the rock-paper-scissors-flowers competition

Scanning the rocks

A hyrax tail

Keywords: ethiopia

12/03 - Webb Camp - Day One - Part One

We woke up early at Webb Camp. It was definitely the luxury camping experience. We each had a cot with a proper mattress, clean sheets, wool blankets and a heavy futon like blanket that was probably six inches thick. They even threw in a hot water bottle. We needed all of them, the hot water bottle included, and it was so cold that we asked for two hot water bottles the next night.

We had our own private bathroom out behind the tent. This included a siphon flush toilet - just add water - and an outdoor shower. There was also a bowl and pitcher of water for washing up. That was frozen over by morning. We were at over 12,000 feet above sea level, and it was cold out. The tent was around freezing in the morning and the camp was set up facing west. That meant that the sun wasn't going to reach us until it had risen over the hills surrounding the east side of the camp.

We settled in for breakfast and watched the sun rise, the shadow of the mountains sweeping across the plain to our west. It was dark and cold, but there was a brazier in the dining tent, hot coffee and a hot breakfast. We had a view of the waterfall, Fincha Habera. We watched as the shadow crept closer and closer to us. Eventually, it lit up the falls. By the time breakfast was over the sun had reached our tent. The frost on the tent was was melting.

We went out for a walk. We descended to the base of the waterfall, crossed a stream and headed south. We left the protected river canyon and were soon heading across the plain with its scrub vegetation and distant mountains.

Our camp in early morning shadow

The waterfall in shadow

A broader view

The sun rises

The sun on the distant mountains

The waterfall in sunlight

A warthog

White collar dove

The Webb or Web or Weyib River

The plains

Life on the rocks

River valley


Geese and goslings

More river and mountains

Plant life

Wide open space

Keywords: ethiopia

12/02 - Webb Camp - Day One - Part Two

We kept our eyes open for wildlife, but there was lots to see right at our feet and off in the far distance. For example, there were spider webs over holes in the ground. Those holes were made by grass rats and turned into excellent traps for eight legged predators.

There were also red wolves. We only saw them in the distance. They were beautiful creatures. They mainly hunted smaller animals, like those incredibly useful grass rats and elusive giant mole rats. The wolves didn't bother the cattle who were grazing on the plains. In fact, we were told they use the cattle like stalking horses to hide their scent and lull their prey into a false sense of security.

We spent hours walking across the plain, now and then climbing up to a rise, then down into a valley. Then we saw a distinctive silhouette in the rocks above. It was a nyala, an antelope, and we were to see many more of them.

Hiking the plains

A spider web

Another web

A red wolf, the smaller animal, not the cow

Another red wolf

Natural rock art

Plains and canyons

Plant life

More plant life

Shrubs and flowers

Another close up

Yet another red wolf

That red wolf again

An eagle

At our feet

A distinctive silhouette

A nyala

Another glimpse of the river

Another view across the plain

Keywords: ethiopia

12/01 - Webb Camp - Day One - Part Three

We kept on going for a good long while. The air might have been thin, but it was cool, moist and invigorating. The plain was green and wide open, and there was always something else to see. Eventually, though, we tired and made our way back to the waterfall and our camp.

Yet another eaglee

Purple flowers in the green

The Webb River

Another river view as we returned

And yet another

Back to the waterfall

An eagle near our camp

Keywords: ethiopia

November 2019December 2019 January 2020