Ethiopia was the first trip I have been where I genuinely had no idea what it would be like. Did we want to see the mountains, or the desert, or the plains? Volcanoes or lakes? Did we want to motorbike or hike? We went there without a plan, ready to go anywhere at a moments notice, and then change our plan and jump on a minibus somewhere else.
Gondar was the first stop, after one day in Addis Ababa, and we finally felt like we were in Africa. Endless villages, rolling green fields, and people everywhere. The Simien Mountains were within reach and after a few days getting ourselves organised we headed north, bought our park permits and "scout" (read: local guy with a gun), and began walking.
The first day was a quick walk 6 or 7 kilometers up to a community run shelter at 3200m, with thick cloud hiding any views, but it didn't matter because the small villages were the most interesting part of this section of the journey. Just before reaching the hut for the night we sat down in a woman's home for a few cups of coffee and roasted barley. I would normally have said no to three cups of coffee at 4 in the afternoon but Ethiopian coffee is like nothing I have ever tasted.
After an average at best dinner and breakfast of spaghetti and omelettes, we began what is generally considered the beginning of a trek in the Simien Mountains. The day gave us almost everything that was on offer in the park - fantastic views along the escarpment, close up views of Gelada monkeys, herders roaming the fields, small isolated villages, men with AK47's, and colder weather than we had expected. Luckily the hut we were staying in that night was designed to face away from the wind, unlike the previous.
Our last day in the park threatened to be a slog all the way out, but we caught a ride after walking halfway, and at an unreasonable price we were out of there within an hour. It was hard to know what to think of the Simien Mountains, and coming from New Zealand we have high standards, but once we got back onto a bus to continue heading north towards Shire we knew what the best way to see the Simien's was. Take a motorbike, jeep, bus or minivan (in that order of preference) and drive from Debark to Adi Arkay. Then drive back. And repeat. It is the most amazing road I have ever seen.