After more than two months, it's come time to conclude. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make it to Ethiopia. Right before I left, Marie became very sick with some vile stomach bug. I could've left her laying sadly on the bathroom floor, but I decided against it. We had already scheduled other things for the time remaining (about three weeks) after I was to come back, so I couldn't make more room in the schedule to go to Ethiopia. So remember, if you need to blame someone for me not completing the entire project, blame Marie ;).
I won't lie, I'm not as sad as I would've expected. Ethiopia is the kind of country that, if you go, you should go for a few weeks. Being Africa's oldest highly organized society, there's a couple thousand years of important and interesting history there that's left behind ruins across the northern and central parts of the country in addition to the natural beauty of the Ethiopian Plateau and the Simien Mountains. The southwestern part of the country is an entirely different world, still being one of the most remote, undeveloped, and unexplored parts of Africa. Some day I'll be back to see all of Ethiopia, rather than just Ras Dashen and its immediate environs. Also, after four mountains while not exactly in the best shape of my life (...actually, the worst shape I've been in along every metric literally since I was 15), I was drained. I could've made it, but it would've been more of a trial than it should've been and I wouldn't have been able to enjoy it as much as I should have either. Also, in a few years, Ethiopia's northern neighbor Eritrea will reopen its borders and thus their own awesome-looking mountains.
On the upside, it's given me some extra time to plan my next project. I've already put the list of mountains together, but I'll save it as a surprise. Hint: It will take me to parts south again. Though not quite this far south.
At the risk of sounding like an awards show diva, there are a few people that need to be recognized for their contributions to this campaign. Obviously, Marie deserves some applause for tolerating the project and my time-consuming hobbies. Al-Karim and Jameel at Beyond Wilderness Expedition out of Nairobi put together the necessary guides and equipment for the mountains and at some of the best prices available in the area. They also worked hard to clear up any logistical and other snags we ran into while planning and executing the trips. If you're ever planning an east African mountain or other adventure, give them a call. The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation itself got pretty excited about the project spent a lot of time promoting it around the internet. The Been to Africa blog generously opened itself up to my writing to help the campaign get more visibility. Obviously, all of the donors also deserve a shout out. You know who you are. The hugs are coming.
And with that, it's goodbye for now. I'll be back soon with more mountains.