It’s far too early on a saturday morning to be thinking of anything sensible, so early in fact that the sun hasn’t even got up yet. Bedtime seems an eternity away.
We leave in our hire car, our driver smoothly navigating the wild roads of Addis with ease. We pass through the early morning throngs of fruit and vegatable markets, Mercato still setting up, and before long have decsended in to the plains north of the city. From here on out there’s nothing but broken roads and open space. Bliss. It’ll be a long drive north to our destination but it’ll be worth it, so we settle down and watch life pass by in the dust bowl of Ethiopia’s summer.
Our first stop, like most who come by this way, is the Ethiopian Orthodox monastery in Debre Libanos. The imposing white-washed structure is hard to miss in the arid landscape, yet the natural springs bring an oasis of green vegetation to the valley. It’s a calm afternoon after a very busy morning, the large wooden doors to the church may be closed now but revellers still pile on outside, standing and kneeling by the entrance, praying and celebrating in a quiet trance. We take the obligitory tour inside the monastery, led by the head monk in charge. We stand and marvel at the modern stained-glass windows which make up much of the structure, the background filled with tall stories and history curtosy of the guide. We’re the only ones here, so he has our full, undivided attention.
After eye-balling every ancient object in the monastery museum, more passive-agressivly by the tour guide rather than willingly, we hop back in the car and 20 minutes later arrive at a small deserted cafe overlooking Ethiopia’s Great Rift valley. As impressive as the view is, and it is darn impressive, we’re not here for that, so shouldering cameras and water we set off down the side of the cliff line looking for a small pontoon oddly named The Portugese Bridge.
30 minutes later, after having been cirled by Eagles for most of the journey, we arrive at the tourist hot spot named #1 by most locals in Addis – yet there’s not a sole in sight. Probably too hot. We rally a guard from slumber, hand over what seems like an extortionate fee for a chaperone and then head off in the opposite drection. No, we’re not here for a concrete bridge, either. We here for the wild Baboons. Geladas, to be exact.
I not joking when I say they’re wild. They’re about as wild as animals can be. We got lucky with the weather, the sun was out with the temperature rallying so the Gelada’s were far too tired to bother with me steathfully stalking them. I hear it’s a different story during the cooler, wetter months. A 300 f4 helped get the portrait, but the 500 is coming out with me next time for some higher resolution, print-worthy portraits.