Day 3: From Da’arho Village to Diksam Plateau
Following the night spent at the foot of Fermhin forest, we awoke to the sounds of gnashing teeth next to our tent. Goats were enthusiastically lapping up the short green grass and morning dew. Our local guide, the head of Da’arho village’s only remaining household, had a herd that numbered in the hundreds and was a little like the goat whisperer. As he led us towards the path leading to Fermhin forest, excitable baby goats playfully nipped at his ankles and bleated gleefully as he picked them up in his arms.
We commenced the climb, making our way towards the clusters of Dragon Blood Trees we had been able to see from the village. Soon, we found ourselves in a forest of thousands of these ancient trees, their gnarly canopy stretching as far as the eye could see. While we breakfasted amidst the dracaena cinnabari under the watchful gaze of several Egyptian vultures, a young boy from another village hurriedly walked past us, barefoot, with a large metal box perched on his shoulder. He was off to deposit the box in the middle of the forest, our guide explained. The bees would use it to make honey, and exactly one year later the boy would return to retrieve his bounty.
Our trek would eventually end in Diksam Plateau, a lively area whose inhabitants have a close relationship with their unique ecosystem. A team of researchers from the Czech Republic have been pursuing projects with the local community since the late 90s, and Mohammed, head of the household where we spent the night, is their main collaborator and had plenty of tales to share about his travels and life’s work.
We popped into the nursery for a look at Dragon’s Blood saplings that had been planted in 2006. With goats grazing throughout the forested areas, it has been near impossible for these endemic trees to regenerate themselves, hence the well-protected nursery established to keep the browsers out. It was hard to imagine that the leafy, fern-like plant we stooped to view would eventually become the extraordinary monocot, a process that would take thousands of years.