We found it. I’m certain. I can’t imagine a more beautiful place exists.
Last week, Bridget and Joe graced Tigray with their presence and to celebrate, we climbed Tsibet, the highest mountain in the region. What we found on our accent to the 13,000-foot peak was astounding, secluded, wondrous beauty like no other I’ve experienced. As Joe pointed out, there’s no parking lot at the bottom of this one. In fact, as we scrambled higher and higher up the face of the mountain, we began making our own trails. There are no railings, no signs, no other tourists.
We began our adventure in Maichew, where we ate a big breakfast and then climbed in the van that would take us closer to the base of Tsibet. As we bumped along, Maichew grew smaller in the rear view mirror and in front of us loomed our destination. Finally, when the van could advance no more, we hopped out and continued on foot. As usual, we had a host of Ethiopian hosts accompanying us every step of the way, eager to understand what we were doing and why we were doing it. Green pastures of wheat, purple and white-dotted fields of potatoes and shadowy forests of evergreens flanked the rocky trails as we made our way over and around smaller peaks in route to the highest. We hopped over clear streams and gazed down valleys that looked like they came straight from a Bob Ross painting. Around each turn was a more beautiful, classic African scene, with round mud huts and thatched roofs.
It’s hard to put into words the atmosphere that surrounded us as we walked. At one point, we passed a small school that was registering students. A few hours later, several students caught up to us, carrying the pastel registration cards back home to their village. When school starts in a few weeks, they’ll make the grueling hike each morning and afternoon. When we passed through the last little group of huts, the women stood in their doorways and pointed us in the right direction. The final leg of the journey was the most difficult, but as we climbed, the children tending goats skipped around in their rain boots as though the ground was flat. Just minutes before we reached the top, it began to hail and rain, but it subsided in time to enjoy a view that was only partially obstructed by angry clouds. For a few minutes we shivered in the cold wind before heading down again.
On our way back down, the women of the highest village were waiting with kitcha, or flatbread, and smiles of encouragement. On the return journey, we took a different route that seemed even more pristine. Waterfalls cascaded down from overhangs and the late afternoon sun sparkled through wispy clouds. Kids laughing and calves bawling replaced the common city sounds of loud speakers and horns. As the four of us rounded a corner, we met the driver of the van, who had brought bottles of water and news that the car was close. The final decent was enjoyed with windows wide open and the cool, crisp air rushing in as we relaxed our tired legs.