Lost World. (Journey to the plateau Sonett)

I was lucky enough to visit a few times in this country, working in a joint Ethiopian-Russian biological expedition. Our aim was to study the animals and plants in protected areas. These include the National Park "Bale Mountains National Park «, located about 500 km south of Addis Ababa. In March 1991, we planned to work there with the Ethiopian botanist — Director of the National Herbarium Dr. Mesfin, but he was forced to return to the capital with half of the route, and on the plateau Sonett. which is part of the reserve, we went four: two botanists from the University of Moscow, the superintendent of the national park, Abdullah and the driver all-terrain vehicle «UAZ» Alem.

Just behind the town of Gobo — the center of the province of Bale is situated at a height of 3000 m above sea level, the road went up the steep zigzag, up the northern slope of the volcanic massif. Planting of eucalyptus and cypress trees near the town were replaced by mountain tropical forests with Scheffler, juniper tree Koss large crimson flowers brushes, Maes and a number of others. At the edge of the forest thickets stretched scary barbed bramble, whip tenacious Abyssinian rose climbed high in the trees. And in the open field across the road occasionally flowering shrubs pink kalanchoe, knifofii with yellow-red spike inflorescence, tall up to 1.5-2 m tall stalks leonotisa with orange-red buds.

Bright yellow spots stand out among the greenery of the forest blossoming trees low hypericum with numerous large, 5-8 cm in diameter flowers. Even at the height of 3500-3600 meters above sea level, the forest where trees no more than 4-6 m, replace bushes — heather and cuffs, solid gray-green carpet covering the slopes. Among them — only rare trees Hagen, tree heather and hypericum. On the border of the forest among the heather and cuffs appear first gray hemispherical prickly cushion Helichrysum and vyshe3800-3900 m getting a lot of them. Mostly a fantastic sight — a powerful, up to 1 m tall, gray-white cushions almost entirely covered with soil, gleaming on all sides by thousands of silvery stars, inflorescences.

At an altitude of 4000 m streamers rise over — we drove to the plateau Sonett. The road went among the smooth ridges with some rocky outcrops and brought to almost leveled undulating plateau, which stretches for tens of kilometers, with hollows occupied by small lakes. Only the distance could be seen rising a few hundred meters of gentle slopes Tulu-Dimtu (4377 m), the second highest mountain in Ethiopia.

The general tone of the surrounding landscape — yellow-gray. He created the yellow tufts of grasses, gray pillows Bessmertniki — they are different here, including with yellow flowers baskets.

We knew that the summit recently paved road and hoped that our «UAZ» will overcome the last climb. And, indeed, drive about 20 km on a flat road, turned right at the top of the slope, which led initially quite flat, and then increasingly steep climb. Yet "UAZ «regularly rumbled and after one or two stops, when they were photographed covered cushions slopes, entered the flat top. After admiring the opened expanses, we rushed to collect plants. I was attracted by the small grass sticking out between the rocks on the top of the site, and my companion Dmitry Petelin walked away. A few minutes later I heard him shout, calling down to him, and went to the voice of the gentle crest of the south-western slope of about 50 meters below the top, in front of me opened unforgettable picture: on the rocky slope goes down, there were hundreds of amazing plants that even once it was difficult to characterize. Their thick straight trunks, one to two meters high, covered with gray bark cracked, came to an end at the top outlet of the many soft long leaves sticking out in all directions. In some instances hanging down, dying and dead lower leaves rosette covered trunks almost to the ground as if a continuous imbricated «coat». But the main thing in this strange woodland here and there could be seen even more amazing individuals, on the tops of which are in the center of the leaf rosette rose columnar gray-bluish inflorescences up to 1.5-2 m in length, consisting of hundreds or even thousands of light-blue flowers. These were high-African tree lobelia, which are part of a group of giant high-bush trees tropics. I wanted to see the giant lobelia ago, when he began studying the plants of the mountains and learned about their existence from books about Africa and South America, where such plants are there in the highlands. But he saw them «live» — ​​a dream come true! We took samples in herbarium, made a lot of slides, photos …

The weather was changing in his eyes, the sun was shining, but from the south from the edge of the plateau is already approaching gray wall of clouds, which shreds it broke on the flat part and closed the sun, then again dispersed. We wandered among the amazing Lobel and realized that they end their lives flowering. Here and there stood their dry trunks with axes of inflorescences, littered with fallen and decaying plant parts.

Finally, we returned to our «UAZ». He spends the night on the mountainside, where at night the car window covered with frost, the next day we went back to Gobo. Our satellites Ethiopians, first came to a great height, complained about the cold at night, and headache. And we were happy. And although both before and after visiting the plateau Sonett I had to see a lot of interesting plants, perhaps one of the most memorable experiences — giant lobelia.

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