Last Saturday we took the faranji-mobile out for a little local exploration. Our destination was the Menagesha forest, about a 40 minute drive southwest of our home.
The forest is Ethiopia’s oldest park – in fact, it lays claim to being the oldest park in all of Africa, having been established as a protected reserve or “crown forest” by Emperor Zera Yacob in the mid-1400s It’s not totally wild; sections in the lower areas a filled with trees growing plantation-style in straight rows. But higher up is the old-growth area with big trees and lush undergrowth.
To get there, we drove on paved roads through the farmlands and small villages outside of Addis to the town of Sebeta, where we turned off onto a wide dirt road traveled mainly by horse-drawn gharries, and livestock, and women and children carrying wood and water. At the edge of the forest we turned onto a much narrower track leading up into the park.
The road going up is so rough and rutted I can’t imagine that it is even passable in the rainy krempt season. We tried out the truck’s 4-wheel drive feature (works great!) before we finally gave up and parked. We continued on foot for a couple of miles to a high point from which we could look down on the forest and the surrounding farmland. I was pretty pooped by the time we got that far, so Alekka and I sat and enjoyed the view while daddy-bear continued over the mountain to see what he could see (he saw a waterfall).
We know there are animals in the forest, but we didn’t have much luck finding them this time. We did spot a Menelik bushbuck as we started up the hill, and several interesting and colorful birds, but we were probably making too much noise to see the colobus monkeys or baboons that live there. The trees are mainly giant junipers and something called zigba; some of them are over 400 years old. All around are lobelia and other exotic looking plants.
The park has a couple of semi-improved car camping areas with firepits and barbecue grills. Maybe another time if we spend the night we’ll see a leopard. We know they’re here.