Archive for the ‘Ambo’ Category

Thanks to Michael Pinet for this wonderfully detailed and informative trip report:

We have read and studied the Bradt guide again and again to prepare our 2011 and 2014 trips to Ethiopia and it was the only guide we took with us. We like its thoroughness, accuracy and personal touch. However here is some updated detailed information I would have liked to find either in the latest edition or on the internet. I have also added some impressions about our own experience. I hope it will be valuable to people planning a visit to Ethiopia.

Bale trek
Goba is no longer the hub of the Bale area, Robe is. This the place where minibuses leave for and arrive from Shashemene. Bekele Mola hotel (250 birrs for 2 people in a single room with hot shower) is still fairly good value with its bungalows. As usual in Ethiopia, the bathroom is in poor condition.
The organization of a trek in the Bale mountains is not done through the park headquarters, dealing with civil servants , as in the Simiens but through the Nyala Guide Association next to it. So you need to be very clear and check twice what you really want as English is often misunderstood and they are keen to charge you for extra days, etc. The price are as follows :
– guide 300 birrs per day
– horse 120 birrs per day
– horse handler 170 birrs per day
– cook 400 birrs per day
– tent + sleeping bags 400 birrs per night (rented by a guide’s friend!), expensive but quite
decent equipment
– entrance fee 90 birrs per day / per person
– camping fee 40 birrs per night
If you do not walk back to your starting point, Dinsho, then you have to pay extra days for the horses and handlers. Logical. The same with the guide or cook unless they use your car or minibus to go back.
For a 5-day trek for 2 people you will need to add 1500 birrs (same amount in the Simiens 2 years ago) for the food which the cook will buy (you feed the whole group, of course as in the Simiens but you can tell the cook what you want to eat). He will also supply the cooking equipment.
You might need a car or minibus to pick you up at Sanetti Campsite, at the end of your trek to take you back to Robe, Goba or Dinsho. We paid 1900 birrs (a guide’s friend again). Expensive as usual, but it is the same all over Ethiopia and when you take into account the poor conditions of the roads it is acceptable.
We did the usual 5-day trek
– Dinsho – Sodota campsite (22k / 3100m to 3500m)
– Sodota – Keyrensa campsite (20k / 3750m)
– Keyrensa – Rafu campsite (17k + 4k to visit spectacular lava flow / 3990m)
– Rafu – Garba Guracha campsite (18k / 3950m)
– Garba Guracha – Mt Batu (4200m) – Sanetti campsite where a hired minibus picked us up
That was absolutely great! Not breathtaking as the Simiens was, due to the tracks often along the escarpment, but majestic because of the huge scopes of land and varied landscapes. No problem whatsoever with altitude, etc. and we are both over 65. Contrary to the Simiens there is no water at the campsites and there is a cold northerly wind (you can’t keep a T-shirt on as you would in the Simiens, you need warmer clothes and a woolly hat, especially the last 3 days!). The cook, Idris, was competent and nice and so was the guide, Awol.
They all expect tips as they would in Ethiopia. A day’s fee is the norm as I read in Bradt’s guide when we did the Simiens, so a day’s fee it was and they were pleased.
Wabe Shebelle hotel in Goba is nice, clean, with pleasant grounds (454birrs for a single room for 2, breakfast included).

Shashemene
Shalla hotel : good quality, clean, nice. 250birrs for a single room for 2 people. Not far from bus station

Hawassa
Midroc Zewed Village hotel (called Old Zewed Village now) is just as mentioned in Bradt guide. It is a haven of green, quiet and relaxing, thriving with wild life . We spent our late afternoons sitting by the lake and watching cormorants, Egyptian geese, egrets and kingfishers endlessly . The bungalows are roomy with still decent bathrooms. The manager told us he was planning to pull everything down and rebuild it. Let’s hope he will keep its unique atmosphere. A bungalow with a double bed is 414 birrs, breakfast included. The fish market is not to be missed and neither is the superb walk along the lake, full of life. Had a good meal at the Pinna hotel as mentioned in guide.

Tigrai
Be careful with the freshly appointed civil servant called Astbeha at the Tigrai tourist commission in Wukro. He blatantly overcharged us and is unknowledgable . He offered to be our guide for 275 birrs a day, which we found reasonable , yet it turned out to be the fee per person! (Our fault, I assume for not making things clear at the beginning!). However he proved to have no knowledge whatsoever about the churches we visited and made us miss the opportunity to visit Debre Tsion through lack of information.
It is important to know that you need a guide from the Gheralda Guide Association in Hawzien to visit the churches nearest Hawzien, namely Mariam Korkor and Abuna guebre Mikael as far as we were concerned. We were pleased to get rid of our “guide” for a proper one .
We used Wukro as a base for our 3 day visit and used a minibus (1500 birrs a day) with a competent, nice, responsible driver (Sishay Degu 09 14 49 07 06). Here again it sounds expensive yet the distances are important and the roads are just tracks most of the time. What’s more the driver accompanied us in all the visits and was a good help in discouraging the usual kids and teens .
Day 1 : Mikael Imba and Medhane Alem Adi Kasho
Day2 : Abreha We Atsbeha and Yohannis Maikudi (Debre Tsion could have been done!)
Day3 : Maryam Korkor and Abuna Gebre Mikael
Each church charges 150birrs per person and a receipt is given . Most of the priests do not ask for a tip and all have been very pleasant, sharing some injera and wot with us on two occasions.
Tigrai is not to be missed for the churches of course but also for the landscape and the walks which can be just as good as the churches themselves (the walk to Mariam Korkor in particuliar).
Lwam hotel is clean and pleasant (300birrs for a single room for 2)

Wenchi crater from Ambo
Abebech Matafaria hotel in Ambo is clean, very nice with welcoming grounds (285birrs for a single room for 2 with a good hot shower)
We paid 1100 birrs for a minibus to take us to Wenchi crater and back, a 1.5 hour drive each way on a bumpy track, leaving at 8.30 and coming back at 4.30. A good price negotiated through the hotel receptionist. It should have been 1500 birrs.
Did a superb 5-hour walk down to the lake, across to the island of Deber by boat , then to Immogil point by boat again , then along the Dawala hot spring valley with its watermills, back up to the park headquarters.
– car park fee :30 birrs
– entrance fee : 50 birrs per person
– guide : 200 birrs
– boat : 50 birrs per person
– horse and handler = 50 birrs (we hired them to contribute to the local economy but we didn’t
really need them and hardly used them )
A very scenic place with a nice and clean village and friendly people.
2 hours by minibus from Addis from Asco bus station or Mercato .

Some frustrations
– No maps or guide available anymore (Bale mountains national park, Wenchi crater, Tigrai
churches)!

- Dallas hotel in Mekele is dirty, smelly, not worth the 200birrs for a single room for 2. And we are
not fussy people in the least! The small Moringa hotel next door is much better with friendly staff
yet more expensive (300 birrs)

- Sky buses are still efficient with friendly staff in their ticket offices but the buses are deteriorating
fast and drivers do not seem as cautious as they were. We saw a huge difference in 2 years’ time
and not for the better (cockroaches in one, worn out clutch and creaking gears in another)!

Ulrike writes:
Time schedules for public transport were sometimes misleading. Possibly because of changed road conditions. I needed by far more time from Shashemene to Arba Minch then indicated (about 7 hours!) and the road from Gimbi to Nekemte is perfectly smooth and covered with asphalt, making less then 1,5 hours of connection possible (I’m sure from Dembidolo to Nekemte you wouldn’t need 10 hours, even though I didn’t do the trip directly – I stayed in Aira in between). On the other hand I can’t imagine you made Nekemte to Ambo or Addis Ababa in 5 or even 6 hours in any vehicle – it took me in public transport without breakdowns from 9 am to 7 pm to Ambo only! With one 1hour stay in Bako in between, but the road is horrible, very few parts covered with asphalt.

Suzanne writes: Prices have all gone up, some by more than 100%. Below I’ve listed the page number (5th Edition) , hotel and new price in order as we travelled around.

553       Ambo            Abebech Matafaria Hotel                        Twin Room            295 B

575       Across the street from Classic Café – new Hotel called Desalegan Hotel      Twin 330 B, Manager      Ms Tigist      0911 820 175     reception 0576 616 262.

560      Jimma            Central Hotel                                                Twin Room            304 B, The swimming pool was clean – my 9yr old happily swam in it.

153      Addis  Ababa  Mr Martin’s Cozy Place            Family Room                        340 B, Internet  35c per minute ( not 50c). Extremely clean and extremely well run by Dawit ( no longer German owned). Extremely good value and was NEVER loud ( we stayed there 3 times over 5 nights)

204        Bahir Dar            Ghion Hotel ( the darkest , dingiest place I have seen)    Twin/ triple 400 B

225        Gonder                        Queen Taitu                        Twin            280 B

226/7       Gonder Golden Gate Bar and Restaurant does not offer Chinese food, Tuscany no longer exists – now called Habesha (groovy place), Roman Hotel does not sell icecream

238       Debark                        Simien Park Hotel            Triple            400 B

256        Axum                        Africa Hotel                        Triple            300 B

268        Yeha                        Entrance                        100 B

290        Gheralta             Gheralta Lodge            EXCELLENT                        Triple            $70 (inc Breakfast), 120 B  for a 5 course Dinner

291         Abuna Yemata Guh                                    100 B entrance

291         Debre Maryam Korkor                        100 B entrance

292        Abuna Abraham Debre Tsion                        Horrible Priest – wanted a 50 B tip and was not going to open the church door. We gave him 15 .Only bad experience we had with the priests and the churches – all the others were fine and took a tip after our visit

356/7      Lalibela            Seven Olives                        Poor value – dark + musty rooms            Twin            $42;  Timkat Twin $100;  Asheton            Better value            Twin            500 B for 3, ohers reported paying 350 B for a couple

444           Hosaina            Heme Hotel            Twin            276 B

511            Arba Minch            Bekele Mola              800 B for db room + dinner (2 course) + breakfast; Paid extra 100 B for mattress. We really didn’t like this place – very isolated and apart from the view – nothing special. The meals were some of the most expensive that we saw in Ethiopia and since our fee only included 2 people , we had to pay extra for our daughter to eat and it was expensive ( so were the drinks). I would not recommend that place to individuals – OK for big groups but just stuck out in the middle of nowhere. Had to go to the doctor in Arba Minch and was recommended to go to Abaya Medical Clinic ( near the bus station) by an English nurse who works in Arba Minch. Good service.

516            Chencha + Dorze            Obligatory 150 B entrance fee to Chencha market. Initially said that it included entrance inside Dorze home as well and then asked for more money so that needs to be clarified. We did not pay more money. Dorze homes are 100% made of bamboo + grass – they are not made of enset ( false banana) leaves. The guides were adamant of that. The market in Chencha is Tuesday  ( not Monday) + Saturday. Meskel is celebrated in Dorze on 27th September ( not 1st October)

552            Konso    Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge                        Looked like a dump; Ate the worse meal I had in Ethiopia at the restaurant; It was so bad that I refused to pay for it. Karat Konso Villages – Drivers tend to take tourists to a closer village called Gamole (7kms). Obligatory   150 B  Guide  + 60 B per vehicle + 50 B per person entrance

532            Key Afar + Dimeka markets            Obligatory 150 B guide

536            Buska Lodge in Turmi            Double US $100 ( including breakfast); Twin  $ 105; Double camping with spring mattress  $ 50 ( no breakfast); Double camping with mattress on ground $ 15 ( good value); Single camping with spring mattress $ 35; Single camping with mattress on ground $ 10

541            Kolcho to visit the Karo tribe 350 B village entrance + 150 B guide (obligatory)

504           Yabello            Yabello Motel                        Large twin            863 B ( book says 200 B)

533           Arbore Tribe Wanted 200 B village entrance + 150 B non English speaking guide (didn’t stop)

463           Wondo Ganet            Wabe Shabelle Hotel                        Twin            606 B week day

That’s a