Thursday, January 01, 2015
Simien National Park, Amhara, Ethiopia
Do I get up and see the sunrise? Peeped out the window at 6.40 am about when the sun will be appearing over the horizon and said "no". Wise decision as Michael, who was up at 5.15 am, said it wasn't worthwhile. Always tomorrow.

Toasty and warm inside thanks to the underfloor water pipe heating and insulation of the building. Slept literally most of the way right through having dropped off to sleep within a few minutes of my head touching the pillow so I must have been tired. Therefore New Year was celebrated without me but by the locals at the highest bar in Africa.

So how many layers do I wear down to breakfast? My light weight fleece jacket and 2 layers of merino was enough. Decided for the day's walk to just wear my short sleeve merino top and leave things like extra water, Raro sachets, long sleeve merino in my daypack that will be in the Coaster who will be shadowing us. Oh, how lazy these modern trekkers are!

Away at 8.30 am and again we had the low morning sun for our encounter with the first group of geladas. If I had known what we were to experience later I would not have taken any photos here.

Away we walked northwards with the slowly changing vista to our left. At each small headland we stopped mainly for the obligatory Kodak moment.

The herd of geladas numbered 800.

This reminded me of the Galápagos Islands and the animals having no fear of us humans.

Same applied here. We were able to go right up to the geladas or walk right round them and they didn't mind. Some useless facts:

The gelada, sometimes called the gelada baboon and bleeding-heart baboon, is a species of Old World monkey found only in the Ethiopian Highlands, with large populations in the Semien Mountains. Like its close relatives the baboons, it is largely terrestrial, spending much of its time foraging in grasslands.

The gelada is large and robust. It is covered with buff to dark brown, coarse hair and has a dark face with pale eyelids. Its arms and feet are nearly black. Its short tail ends in a tuft of hair. Adult males have a long, heavy cape of hair on their backs. The gelada has a hairless face with a short muzzle that is closer to a chimpanzee's than a baboon's. It can also be physically distinguished from a baboon by the bright patch of skin on its chest. This patch is hourglass-shaped. On males it is bright red and surrounded by white hair; on females it is far less pronounced. Males average 18.5 kg (40.8 lb) while females are smaller, averaging 11 kg (24.3 lb).

Geladas live in a complex multilevel society similar to that of the hamadryas baboon. The smallest and most basic groups are the reproductive units, which are made up of one to 12 females, their young and one to four males, and the all-male units, which are made up of two to 15 males. The next level of gelada societies are the bands which are made up of two to 27 reproductive units and several all-male units. Herds consist of up to 60 reproductive units that are sometimes from different bands and last for short periods of time. Communities are made of one to four bands whose home ranges overlap extensively. A gelada can typically live to around 20 years old.

Adult geladas use a diverse repertoire of vocalizations various purposes, such as; contact, reassurance, appeasement, solicitation, ambivalence, aggression and defense. The level of complexity of these vocalizations is thought to near that of humans. They sit around and chatter at each other, signifying to those around that they matter, in a way, to the individual "speaking". To some extent, calls are related to the status of an individual. In addition, females have calls signalling their estrus. Geladas communicate though gestures, as well. They display threats by flipping their upper lips back on their nostrils to display their teeth and gums, and by pulling back their scalps to display the pale eyelids. A gelada submits by fleeing or presenting itself. Thanks Mr Wikipedia.

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