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March 6, 2002

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From Shire we must take an all day bus ride to Gondar. The twelve hour ride starts at 6 AM. We bribe our way early onto the bus - 50 cents does the job. It's worth every penny. We sit in the captain's chair by the driver. The awful road provides a good view through the Simien mountains. Only 3% of Africa's landmass, Ethiopia contains over 80% of the continent's land above 3,000 meters. The Simien mountains is the Ethiopia's principle highland region. Our bus couldn't handle the altitude; the engine died on a mountain's steep incline. Our driver fixed the problem, but we arrived late in Gondar, 10 PM. Because of bandits, bus drivers don't like driving at night. In Gondar the driver dropped us off at the police station instead of the bus station. A police officer, armed with an Kalishnakov machine gun, escorted us to a hotel. Bandits killed a foreign tourist last year and the local authorities offer personal protection. We welcome the security.
Homer said the Simien mountains were the chess pieces of the Greek gods. They're home to three of Ethiopian's endangered and endemic animals: walia ibex, gelada baboons, and the simien fox.
Simien 'chess pieces' overshadow small villages.
Women carry their lunches in round, leather-bound backpacks that are the perfect containers for injera, the Ethiopian pancake.