followed by torrential rains which created the thousand gushing waterfalls which in turn eroded away the newly formed mountain massif, creating the great gorges and gulleys which are so typical of the region. South west of Axum the land descends gradually southwards toward the Takazze river. At the lip of the gorge at about 1,400 metres (4,600 ft.) one can look across the chasm to a similar plateau beyond. On top of this plateau, adorned with steep turrets and bastions rising in three distinct steps, is perched the north wall of the Semyen.
The mountain massif is a broad plateau, cut off on the north and west by this enormous single crag over 60 kms. (40 miles) long and 1,000-1,500 metres (3000-5000 ft.) high. To the south the table]and slopes gently down to 2,200 metres (7,000 ft.) divided by deep gorges 1,000 metres deep and taking two days to cross. Time has not yet been sufficient to soften the contours of the crags and buttresses of hardened basalt. As far as the eye can see looking north from the escarpment, the fused volcanic cores stand starkly defying the elements. Overhead stretches the vast dome of a sky of the deepest blue, which spreads downwards as clear as sapphire to the mauve of the horizon.
In this scenic splendour, lives the Walia Ibex; here and nowhere else in the world. Forced by Man to retreat, and to retreat again, it has been driven in its extremity to inhabit the most inaccessible (except to a bird or a Walia), cliffs of the Semyen escarpment. The Walia once existed in significant numbers probably several thousands in the highland massif, feeding on the cliff faces and coming up to roam the plateau at rutting time. Large herds wandered unmolested on these chilly heights.
Even up to 50 years ago there were well over a thousand. With the Italian agression in Ethiopia, the species started its dramatic decline to the brink of extinction. Guerrillas fighting the Italians and living off the country found the Walia a convenient source of meat. Later, the local people again took i up arms against the Walia, killing perhaps five in order to reclaim the meat from one. Most of them, whose wounded bodies spin and crash from the narrow ledges where they feed, into the abysses a thousand ieet or more below, are never recovered. Rarely, a rope descent will bring to the surface the meat and parts of the skin, but the trophy, the splendid horns desired by locals to make drinking mugs, and by sportsmen to decorate their sitting rooms, are usually lost forever.