Ethiopia – Day 8 – Bale Mountain Lodge

 With only one day at BML, we wanted to make the most of our time so we split into groups with the keen birders going off with the naturalist James and the rest of us attempting to summit Mt Gushuralle, the volcanic plug in front of the lodge (seen on the right of the picture below).
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The walk took us through the Harenna Forest and up through the bamboo forest which provides the very important habitat for the Bale Monkey.  Unfortunately the Bale Monkeys were shy that day but we did see plenty of Colobus monkeys and birds.
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Ibrahim our guide was excellent at telling us about the birds & plants that we were walking past and the view from the top was well worth the 2 hour climb.
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Ibrahim is passionate about the mountains and has been so motivated by the work that Guy & Yvonne are trying to do that he has set up an environmental club to educate the local population about over grazing etc.  It was great to see how the impact of BML being built has motivated local young people like him to help preserve the forest and their surroundings.  The forest is home to the Bale monkey, a vervet type monkey wtih a little white beard.  It is also home to many bird species including the Abyssinian catbird, yellow-fronted parrot. Menelick’s bushbuck & giant forest hog are easily seen with more rare visitors being African wild dog and black maned lions.  We saw a number of droppings from leopards, lions, honey badgers and hyenas but unfortunately none of them were brave enough to show their faces!
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 Ibrahim pointing to the lodge location
After a delicious lunch of pumpkin soup, pasta salad and fritata, a group of us went on a short horse ride.   In this area of Ethiopia there are horsemen with horses everywhere.   The horses look well looked after and the saddles & bridles were very comfortable.  Unfortunately we only had time for a 45 minute short hack but it would be lovely to spend half a day exploring the forest by horseback.
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Next up was a site inspection of the rooms.  So far 7 of the intended 12 rooms of phase one have been completed.  The remaining rooms will be completed over the rainy season and will come online in September.  The final 3 rooms will be completed in phase two which will finish by the end of 2015. There are 3 rooms attached to the main lodge which are wheelchair friendly and 5 rooms dotted on the hill side in front of the main area with amazing views of the mountains and overlooking the stream that runs through the plot.   The stream has two waterfalls just in front of the rooms and Guy & Yvonne are planning to create a decked area around these stunning natural swimming pools.  This will be a lovely area to be able to chill out at.
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As it can get cold in the evenings at BML due to the altitude, all of the rooms have wood burning stoves & hot water bottles which make them very cosy!
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View from Room 5 – this is room which is furthest away from the mess area therefore perfect for those who want to be completely immersed into the forest.
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All the rooms have been built using traditional materials, in order to blend in with the forest and to be as ‘low impact’ as possible. Before any construction began a thorough environmental impact assessment was made, and technologies put in place to help make the Lodge carbon neutral. No trees have been felled in the construction of the Lodge, as the rooms have been built around the trees that were here, inside a natural clearing.
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We finished off our jam-packed day by witnessing some traditional honeyharvesting.  It was fascinating to the see the honey farmer shimmying up the tree with such ease and also terrifying to see how high he had to go!  Once he is safely settled up at the top of the tree, his partner on the ground sends up the Spanish moss bundle which he lights and puts into the hive.  This sends the bees out of the hive & makes them sleepy which makes it safe for him to put his hand in and collect the honey.
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The honey was absolutely delicious and one of the projects Guy & Yvonne are helping the local community with is to help start selling it to tourists & to other parts of Ethiopia.
The delicious lamb stew and amazing sticky toffee pudding was the perfect way to round up the day.   We were also lucky enough to be treated to a traditional coffee ceremony as a farewell…..I’ll certainly miss the delicious Ethiopian coffee!
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