Archive for the ‘Bale Mountains’ Category

Liza D writes:

I went to Bale mountains, for the 3rd time, and was shocked to see that the Dinsho lodge has been leased out to a private company that is now charging 55 dollars for a single and 75 dollars for a double and 20 dollars for a bunk bed in a dorm, with all the rooms sharing 2 toilets that don’t work properly, and two showers that look just as bad as they did a year ago when it was less than 5 dollars a night for the bed. They have changed the beds and cleaned up the place a little bit, but these are by far the most ridiculous farenji prices in all of Ethiopia. They also charge people an additional 400 birr a day if they want to use the kitchen.
Park entrance fees are still as before and same for all the other parks: 50 for foreign residents and 90 for foreign tourists.
Price for the guides has gone up, 200 for walk around the HQ (which I believe is totally overpriced – similar walk at Shala/Abyata park is 70 birr for the guide.), 250 for a full day and 300 for a full day if the guide has to sleep elsewhere than his home.

I’ve used the same guide as before, Muzeyen Turke, and I highly recommend him, he is extremely knowledgeable about the wolves as he used to work as a wolf monitor. His e-mail is muze1977@gmail.com
I know you don’t do guide recommendations anymore, so feel free to delete this part.

We also visited the new Bale mountain lodge in Harenna forest. We had coffee with the owners and got a tour of the whole place. It is really nice, and will be even more so after the rainy season, when the vegetation covers the areas that have got bare soil due to construction that finished recently. The place will have 15 rooms in the end, including a tree house-room. Prices are 220 dollars per person all inclusive (room, full board, all drinks including alcohol, and a guide). There is also a resident rate of 150 dollars per person.
The place also has 3 rooms that accessible for people in wheel chairs.
They have a website http://www.balemountainlodge.com

We stayed a hotel in Robe called Abadama. Twin rooms cost 300 birr and a queen size bed rooms cost 200 birr. There is no discount for residents, only for Ethiopian nationals (250/150 respectively if I am not mistaken). Rooms are fine, sheets were clean, there is hot water, though the shower is either boiling hot or cold, no in between.
They have a restaurant that serves decent food, including breakfast, but not before 7 am. They are super stingy with toilet paper in the rooms, you will get very little extra if you ask, so maybe travel with your own extra roll, which can be purchased cheaply in the local shops.

On the way back we stopped at Abiata-Shala national park to see the flamingos. Entrance fees same as Bale mountains, except car was 5 birr more expensive, as they decided that even though I was a resident, traveling with my car, the fact that I had a farenji in my car, it meant I needed to pay farenji car fees (20 birr instead of 15 – really small, but I didn’t like the principle).

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)!

Terence Baker writes:

1. The biggest talking point in Ethiopia is the huge hike in entrance to Lalibela. I noticed that no one seems to pay people if they are taking their photos any more, and the shoe carriers have disappeared. See my report for GoNOMAD magazine (http://www.gonoma.net/component/content/article/21-features/4818-ethiopia-s-rock-hewn-churches) and please note my comments on the wonderful Lalibela Hudad accommodation option and the “Library Club” scam as you come down from Asheton Maryam;

2. The Cafeteria Ali Bal in Harar is now a bathroom fixtures shop; The Zubeyda Guest House in Harar is cool and interesting but certainly not spotless;

3. The only place in the whole country where the children seemed spiteful, for some maybe threatening, was by Lake Ziway where the hippo boats leave from. I almost clocked one for throwing a stone at the Woodland kingfisher I was looking at through binoculars.

4. We were very lucky to see Ethiopian wolf on the Bale Mountains, and more so to see a Bale monkey (which I photographed) beside the road. It was very misty as we drove down from the Sanetti Plateau towards the Harena Forest, which might have forced this rare monkey farther down.

 

Terence Baker writes:

I thought your readers might be interested in my tale of getting to Harar from the Bale Mountains via the Wabe Shebelle gorge and river via the Sof Omar Caves and the tomb of Sheikh Hussein.

Breaking it into usable parts, rather than giving you an essay on my adventures:

 

i)                    From Robe/Goba – the road just a few miles east of Robe turns to dust, all the way to Sof Omar. There, someone on the side of the road flagged down my car (I was travelling with the excellent Zawdu Hailu from T Jazz Ethiopia (contact via British Addis Ababa resident Jerome Aubrey at jeromeaubrey@googlemail.com)) and demanded payment to the caves. It was not so expensive, but the “government fee” we knew did not exist other than in their pockets; throughout Ethiopia we heard about “government fees” and “association-fixed prices,” even if there never could be produced receipts or forms, which I always though associations loved. This is tiring when the “guide” produced does not speak English, but there you go. Sof Omar is a good site for Bristle-headed starling, Red-billed hornbill and Vervet monkey, and on the way there I saw White stork and Black-backed jackal.

ii)                  I used Hungarian company Gizi’s map of Ethiopia (www.gizimap.hu), which is detailed, but the only road that it looked possible to use to go north of Sof Omar was not the yellow one that goes between Ginir and Gure, but the thin red one that does go to those two towns but not directly, via Delo and Jara, where it was possible to eat lunch.

iii)                Sheikh Hussein is a highlight. Basically, it consists of one tomb (as you know), with whitewash, inscribed Arabic sentences from the Quran painted black, low roofs and a large outer wall. Again, a few costs seemed to be plucked out of thin air. We paid 200 birr each for entry, 100 birr  for a non-English speaking guide and 150 birr for a guard to stay up and look after us (which he did) when we slept in the one-storey government hut 200 metres south of the tomb. You need to bring your own sleeping bags and mats, but if was okay. Larger groups – when they come, which is rarely – can sleep in a school, with much the same arrangements but higher costs, one assumes. The children here were so excited to see us that they forgot they were twirling cut-throat razors as they came to see us. The only restaurant is at the far side of the village, has no name and has no cooking facilities apart from an open fire. Spaghetti with spicy meat sauce cost 35p, I calculated, and there is a small shop opposite that sold Harar beer and bottled water, which we bought so that our cook could cook with it. The tour of the tomb was wonderful, even if everything had to be translated. Several old men sat around outside, looking like Hollywood central casting characters for mujahedeen rebels; everyone was stoned on qat, and several bent over to eat pieces of grey gravel on the tomb floor. At the “restaurant” we met a couple of government officials from Addis Ababa who were there to look at the possibilities of providing electricity, gas and main-lines water to the village (there is none), and they said the extra “government” costs were fictitious. Still, none of that mattered, as costs are low, and the experience – sitting on low benches while bearded Muslims slowly got off their boxes on qat and hyenas moaned in the distance – memorable. Bring a torch!

iv)                The road north of Sheikh Hussein is not to be done in the rainy season. We were there in early April, and Zawdu said he would not have wanted to drive that route much after that month – actually, he said ever again if he did not have another vehicle with him in a convoy. The road is fine. Gravel. But for about 150 kilometres between Sheikh Hussein and Micheta, we saw only two boys shepherding camels. There is nothing. It is beautiful, and standing beside the Wabe Shebelle river, which flows into Somalia, and driving along the sides and across the stunning Wabe Shebelle canyon is every bit as wonderful as my trips to the Grand Canyon in Arizona and Waimea Canyon in Kauai. But suffer a breakdown, and help is probably three days away. The road is a little narrow in places, large rocks testament to landslides.  I was very happy I got through unscathed, but I could see the dangers of taking that route. It was the only place in Ethiopia where I did not see at least one person somewhere. No villages, no nothing, just a Salt’s dik-dik that was not shy in the least.

v)                  The road remains dust after it starts to become populated at Micheta. The towns of Mechara, Gelemso and Bedesa are very busy, and this was the most we heard the shouts of “you!” and “farangi!” on our trip. Perhaps because fewer people come that way. When you reach Asbe Teferi, the road becomes asphalt.

 

Joerg writes:

Awassa: The food in the restaurant of Lewy hotel was excellent (including free Wi-Fi), I stayed in Midre Genet Hotel (80 Birr) = ok. The reservation by phone of the Gebre Kristos Hotel (200 Birr) did not work, next day nobody knew about the phone call and no room was available …

-          Goba: Yilma Hotel: The very well English speaking owner (manager) was very helpful to his guests. So he arranged a one day trip  to NP Bale Mountains und the forest for a fair price. (Because of a bad leg I cannot do 3 day trekking …), The price for a single/double room was 80 Birr.

-          Bale Mountains: There is a possibility to stay overnight without tent at a place called the Harena Forest Hotel & Cultural Centre. You can leave the regular bus from Goba (with the slight problem to get further…)

Yves Marie Stranger of Equus Ethiopia writes:
We have just finished training sessions with the horse providers in the Bale National Park, which covered the humane treatment of equines, improving tack and horse training. This took place three weeks ago and should be an ongoing process in the next couple of years.
Also, just last week, Equus finished a training session with the Guassa Community Conservation Area north of Debre Berhan, where there is a conservation effort which is spearheaded by the Frankfurt Zoological Society but firmly rooted in age long conservation practices of the local community. This is one of the best places in Ethiopia to see Ethiopian wolves, and being there was a pleasure for us. The mules are hardy beasts that are far superior in many ways to many horses in Ethiopia and we heartily recommend the experience. The fact that Menz is quite isolated – yet easy to reach from Addis – and the friendly welcome of the local people really make this an unique highland experience.
Your readers can see the post I wrote about this experience on Uthiopia.com and see the picture album on the Equus Ethiopia Facebook page.
Meanwhile, back on the ranch… Equus Ethiopia has new riding packages available for residents, is going to start its new Zara Yacob Trail venture with guests this year, and besides offering 2 and 4 day horse treks in combination with extensions offered by Tesfa, is also now offering camping on its beautiful grounds just 30 minutes from Addis Ababa.

Guy Levene writes:

I am a British investor in Ethiopia and I am building the Bale Mountain Lodge, a new Eco Safari lodge in the Bale Mountains National Park of S Central Ethiopia. We have obtained a 45 year lease and the first government issued conservation concession agreement and we are working closely with the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority. The Lodge will have 15 rooms and will be the highest quality lodge in the country. My wife and I will be living on site and we shall manage conservation related activities in order to provide our guests with an intellectually stimulating and relaxing experience. Our website, www.balemountainlodge.com is up and running and construction started 2 weeks ago. Our target ‘soft opening’ date is July 2013 and we shall be fully operational after the 2013 rains sometime around Oct 2013.

I am keen for people to realise that the Bale Mountain Lodge is not the poor quality government run building at Dinsho but will be in the Katcha Clearing of the Harenna Forest, 5km south of Rira on the road towards Dolo Mena.