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A Jumbotrek in Ethiopia's Mountains
Journey across the Simiens, one of the world's most elevated and isolated wonderlands
My new companion on the mountain ledge emitted a croak and hopped a little closer. A momentary standoff followed as I contemplated a beak like bolt-cutters and talons the size of butcher's hooks. The ground dropped away for a vertical mile on either side of this slender promontory. This was no place for wrangling with a feathered brute. I shuffled back to let the enormous raven—twice as big as any I'd ever seen—scavenge from my picnic leftovers.
If you've ever wondered how Jack felt on that first foray up the beanstalk, you could do worse than to visit Ethiopia's Simien Mountains. Looming high above the volcanic outriders of the Great Rift Valley, 670 miles north of Addis Ababa, the range is nature junked-up on growth hormones: a 37-mile-long basalt escarpment staggered between altitudes of 10,000 and 15,000 feet. The area is populated by supersize plants, boisterous monkey armies 500-strong and supersize ravens with a penchant for cookie crumbs.
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