Archive for the ‘Debre Libanos’ Category

News from Debre Libanos

Posted: October 1, 2011 in Debre Libanos

I stayed at the Ethio-German Lodge, Debre Libanos last weekend for a Yoga course (organised by Yoga teacher from Addis). I loved the place, the views over the valley are amazing,
the staff were very friendly, but it was very very cold, so I would advise people to bring a sleeping bag (though my friend who stayed in the rooms in the back said they were warmer than the rooms with the view).
We didn’t eat their food (as we had our own ‘yogic’ menu) and I didn’t pay for the room directly, because we had a package deal,
but the room prices I was quoted by an employee were 250 birr  for the front double room, 400 for the twin room, which I think sleeps 4, and the back room was 200.)
Tea and coffee were 5 birr each. I don’t know the other prices.
There is a nice short walk to the Portuguese bridge where they charge you 22 birr to cross, if you are staying for more than one day make sure you tell them, so they won’t charge you the next day again.

Liza D

Hi Philip

Returned yesterday from Ethiopia, with lots of comments on individual parts of your 5th edition. I am something of an Ethiopian aficionado, having done 2 years there as a UNA volunteer 40 years ago, and following it up with two “reminiscence “fortnights in 2009 and 2010. I bought your first edition some 15 years ago, and was delighted by the improvements of the 5th edition. Both recent fortnights were done through different mid-range German tour companies. Here goes with my comments:

1) Our tour group had 20 people from 5 countries. Only 2 of us had the Bradt Guide, yet all 20 plus the guide reckoned it to be far and away the best on the market, well ahead of the German “Reise KnowHow” and the Lonely Planet alternatives. Congratulations and thanks!

2) I have only one significant criticism. I don’t think you like shopping!!! I am an inveterate collector of Ethiopiana. Your books and records sections are good, but you are relatively weak on curios, pottery, basketry,silver etc. Sections on (for example) genuine handicrafts versus airport art would be a welcome addition, as would a detailed map of the confusion of the Mercato? That’ s what I really needed from your guide book two days ago when looking for berbere , and not finding the spice market at all! (I know where the old tyres are, and the Chinese plastic though!). Also the overall feel of your section on the Mercato rings too negative for me (“human excreta” and “pickpocketing”). I think you should re-edit this.

3)Addis The secondhand bookstores marked on the map on page 144 (C3) are nowhere to be found. I tramped up and down all the roads thereabouts, so either the dot is wrong or they are gone. Pity!

4) Addis I tried unsuccessfully to get Phillipson’s book on Axum and the Ethiopiques CDs, and finally went to the Hilton shopping area as recommended. They all looked at me blankly -never heard of either. The place was full of “airport art” rubbish and fancy jewelry, had nothing of any interest at all. A big disappointment.

5) Addis One really good cafe to recommend is Cafe Choche, an oasis of green and quiet in a hectic part of town, on one side of the old railway station, with old photos of the locomotives, and a delightful proprietor called Ato Talegete, whose latte macchiato and pancakes with fruit were not only excellent, but very good value. Unfortunately the station staff next door are hopeless at letting anyone in to look at the station.

6) Debre Libanos You are a bit hard on the Ethio-German Park Hotel. I found it delightful, and had a long chat with the elderly proprietor who turned out to be a grandson of the old Ras of Dessie, and so a scion of the old imperial family. When his father had all his land taken by the Dergue, he left to go to Germany, married there and has now returned with her to his home country.

7) Blue Nile Gorge The 30km dirt stretch is now asphalted as part of the Ethiopian Millenium project, and there is a second Ethiopian-Japanese bridge taking the traffic, so it is now possible to park and walk over the old Italian bridge and take as many photos as you like!

8) Bahir Dar The Tissisat Falls are indeed a real shock to anyone that remembers them from before. I saw them 40 years ago in the dry season. They are now less than a tenth of what they were even then.

9) Gondar Quara Hotel was better than you made it sound.

10) Gondar Habesho Kitfo was a very good restaurant, but you do need to make it clear that if you are in the North before Easter and at other times of fasting that entire menus might not be available. Despite its name Habesha Kitfo only did varieties of fasting food. Their “Social (Variety)” turned out to be a well presented mixture of various fasting foods (a sort of meze) and rather good. Their curio shop was overpriced though, despite their falasha mementoes being of poorer quality than in Wolleko.

11) Wolleko I have a very good collection of falasha figurines pre-airlift and with pre- and post Peace Corps designs, so was very keen to buy and compare. Here is my take on it: there is now only one place where tourists can buy Falasha goods. About 5 kilometers north of Gondar on the Axum road there is a straight stretch of road lined with about 10 curio stands, a signpost on the right refers the Ploughshare Womens Training Centre, and a sign on the left refers to Wolleko. Your report suggests two places at 3 and 5 kilometers, and I remembered a village on a corner from 40 years ago. I only saw this long straight one, and it was better and bigger than I expected. Best of all it was already open at 7.15am when our bus was on its way through, so we could stop and buy. Prices were very low, no bargaining though, and although the quality has of course suffered since the airlift I found the items still wo rth buying. A pleasant surprise considering the doom laden guides. I bought from a pleasant girl who said she was half Falasha and half Christian.

12) Gondar to Enda Selassie This just has to be the most beautiful road in Ethiopia, but it is still not asphalted, almost the only bit on the main ring not metalled (Enda Selassie to Axum was being done last week).

13)Axum We liked the Abunet Hotel’s food. A very good Doro wat for an astonishingly low 25 birr, and that during fastng time! A good but very spicy spaghetti bolognese too.

14) Axum Fasting time seems to also mean that there is no milk (I don’t know why – does it run out?). We learnt however to insist on them using powdered milk, which actually improved their latte macchiato!

15) Axum The second highest stele (returned from Rome) is now erected and resplendent, but the sling is still on the neigbouring slightly sloping stele.

16) Lalibela Now 300 Birr not 200 Birr, but still well worth it of course. The road in from Koren via Sekota is quite beautiful. Only gravel of course, but like Thomas Pakenham, my last visit 40 years ago meant hiring mules for three and a half days!

16) Lalibela Airport The only time I really felt cheated was in some of the prices at this airport, clearly catering more to the fly-in fly-out jet set.

17) Overall -hassle factor 40 years ago I was called “ferenji” and had stones thrown at me by little children every morning on my way to work. That has gone now. There was significantly less hassle in Addis,Bahir Dar, Gondar and Lalibela than before, and also much less than in Debarek, Axum, Yeha and Debre Damo, where being harassed is still sadly a fact of life.

So Philip that concludes my list of feedback. Hope it was helpful!

Adrian Greenwood

Hi, have just returned from a 10 day trip to Ethiopia in November and I wanted to say that I am hooked. We only had time to see a fraction of the country and had to stay at altitude because for medical reasons we needed to avoid malarial areas.

Highlight of the trip for me was Wenchi Crater (outside of Ambo) which is heartachingly beautiful. We had a guide and hired horses to get round, although in hindsight we would have been better off walking as we could have just done it at a slow pace and spent longer in the lush valley. The walk back up from the valley is very steep and dusty and due to the altitude we did struggle, the horses only took us part way up (probably because we are a bit on the fat side!) but we would have made it ok at a very slow pace on our own even though we are quite unfit and unused to the altitude. We paid for the hire and gave the horsemen a tip of 10 birr each on top but they were obviously thinking they would get more from us and were not happy, which sort of spoilt it a bit at the end. Is is hard to know what to give as we are seen as rich foreigners, but we were on a tight budget. My sister who is living in Ethiopia said we should have asked for the tip back if they werent happy and tha t it is a reasonable sum in terms of local salaries. Who knows.

On the way to Ambo we turned off the road to visit Gefersa Reservoir to look for birds, which was mentioned in the guidebook. We had some trouble finding it as it isnt signposted. Once we got there it was fenced off and we tried to find a way in. We met one person at a gate who seemed very bemused anyone would want to visit the place and said we needed to get permits from Addis, I think just to get rid of us. We then found another entrance and the chap there let us in to have a wander along the path. We were then accosted by someone else who escorted us off the premises! I think they take security of the reservoir very seriously so I wouldnt really recommend you try to go there. Although the ‘birder’ amongst us did get to see some endemic bird species so he was happy.

Apart from Wenchi we also went to Debre Libanos which was an interesting church and the compulsory guide was one of the friendliest persons you could meet and was well informed and spoke good English. There are some nice stained glass windows and religious artworks and you are allowed to take photos. There is a fairly short climb up to the cave which to be honest isnt all that to look at but seems religiously very significant for people. We had an armed guard to escort us and not sure why he was armed, but it probably meant we were less hassled by people asking for money along the way. On the drive back up from the church we saw gelada baboons by the side of the road and we got out of the car and watched them for a bit and they did not run away from us. We stopped at the german/ethiopian hotel near the portugese bridge and had excellent Ethiopian food, although my sister said it was very expensive. We also had a look at the rooms and they are great, lovely and cool with large beds and ensuite bathrooms with amazing views over the valley. I would guess at night the stars must be incredible. We couldnt stay there unfortunately as we had to get back to Addis. It isnt cheap but I think it is reasonable value as it is high quality and you pay for the view so I think it is worth it.

On our last day it was the Ethiopian Great Run in Addis. If you want to watch 30 odd thousand people run/walk a 10km race I would recommend it, there is such a good atmosphere. Even better if you can take part but be warned it is very hilly and at altitude as well. Also there is no free water given out as my brother-in-law who was running it found out. He was very pleased to finish in a reasonable time though.

During our time we also managed to walk up to the hills above Addis and see the ruined rock-hewn church. I had to pay 30 birr to the guide but locals get in cheaper. You are also supposed to pay per photo I found out afterwards but he didnt charge us. It was interesting as a ruin but I would also like to visit an intact church. After the church we went and had a picnic on the top of the hill overlooking the city. It was quite a long walk up to the church and hilltop but well worth it for the view. Also it was so peaceful after the noise of the city. I would also recommend the Ethnographical museum at the University in Addis as a good place to visit for several hours. Take some ID like your passport to get in the gate. I didnt have any but luckily I was let in anyway, but they do check. Also at the Museum of Ethiopia they will search your bags on entry.

We stayed at the Yonnas hotel in Addis which was basic, but clean with hot water, and the staff are very helpful and friendly. Double room worked out about 200 birr per night. Be warned that it seems double beds are a bit smaller than our usual sizes so if you are on the large side you may want to stay somewhere with ‘queen’ sized beds which are more like our doubles. Also take ear plugs if you dont want to be woken by the 5am call to prayer, which I thought was great as it made the trip seem more exotic but I realise not everyone would appreciate it. Most serious danger is the traffic and the condition of the vehicles, plus the exhaust fumes and dust would be hard for someone with any sort of breathing difficulty. However generally I felt very safe walking about the main streets and getting line taxis (the blue and white toyota hiace people carriers). There are lots of cafes and shops about and everyone I came across was really helpful even though I only just about managed to say thankyou in amharic and could almost manage some numbers. I felt a bit conspicuous being blond haired and very fair skinned, and I kept very covered up so as not to offend people but also to avoid getting burnt. You do get stared at a bit out of curiousity but it isnt threatening. In summary I had the trip of a lifetime and it has only made me more determined to go back for a longer visit and see more of this amazing country.

Janine

Itinerary

Ethiopia 22-28 November, 2009

Sunday 22 Nov: Early in the morning (4.30 am) a free shuttle from the Ghion Hotel (they should provide it, so claim it with no doubts) brought me and my friend to the Bole Airport to get our flight to Lalibela. 40 minutes by air, light snacks and we landed in the small airport among mountains. There we met lots of hotel representatives, but we have already agreed to try newly established Tukul Village, so headed to their sign, where we met our future guide Abebe. He organized a shuttle for us (45 birr per person), guided to the hotel. We got a room on the first floor of one of these modern tukuls. Very bright, spacious and clean en-suit, a boiler, shower, double-bed, two arm-chairs, small table. There was a nice balcony, which looked at mountains where St.George Church is hidden (though you cannot see it, but the scenery is fantastic). They also provide bottles of water. Room for two per night + breakfast costs 45 dollars, but you should pay in birr. The hotel has its tiny restaurant, where you can order simple European and local food. There is dial-up Internet as well, though very slow. But we could not find any broadband in Lalibela at all. They charge you 0.5 birr per minute.

Till the lunch-time we just were wondering along the main street, where you can find a number of souvenir shops.

I do recommend you to take sun-protecting cream with you, since it is hard to find it in Lalibela and that one they have is of a very suspicious origin.

The second part of the day we were guided by Abebe to the northern cluster of Lalibela churches. Entrance is 300 birr per person. + you are recommended to take a local guide. I have no doubts to recommend our guide Abebe Kassie (tel.  0911532650, e-mail atoabe2005@yahoo.com). He charges 450 birr for two days (both church clusters + tour to the mountain monastery). He is extremely helpful, knowledgeable, decent and intelligent.

The second day we visited mountain monastery, which took us around 4-5 hours. This trip was on mules, which were organized by Abebe (100 birr per mule + tips (appr. 30 birr, though we paid much more, because these people were very nice and helpful)).

After the lunch we visited the second cluster and St.George Church (ticket from the previous day was still valid). And then paid a visit to a local very famous artist, whose newly built office is 3 min. walk from Tukul Village Hotel on the main road. It is worth at least pop into and see his works and have a chat. He is a self-educated artist, but we found him very talented. So there you can buy a draw of his, if you’d like. He asks around 250-300 birr per a picture, and the price is fixed. He is also permantly in lack of high-quality paper, so if you can bring him some, he will appreciate this.

The night we spent in Tukul Village and early in the morning left for the airport to come back to Addis Ababa.

To resume: Lalibela is an extremely beautiful place, having both tremendous architectural heritage and fantastic scenery. You need at least two full days to spend there to visit churches, mountain monastery and just wander around the so-called city center.

One more point to mention is that people there live in extreme poverty, but are very friendly and nice. We found it is worth bringing there some clothes to leave for local people.

On Tuesday (24 Nov) we landed in the Bole Airport around 11 am and found a mini-bus with a driver, which we had ordered before from Ethiopian Quadrants (091 122 8887, EthiopianQuadrants@ethionet.et). It cost us 100 dollars for the mini-bus for the whole day (NTO asked 230 dollars). We visited Debre Lebanos monastery and Durham water-fall. Actually though car was fine and a driver was more or less reasonable and experienced, we did not enjoy the day, mostly, because there is nothing to see in Debre Lebanos. It is just a cave with barrels of water in it, very dirty path towards it and a modern cathedral nearby. They charge you 50 birr for entrance + expect tips for an armed guard, though you really do not need him. The only peculiarity of the place is the abundance of gelada baboons along the road, so you can easily make 10 meters photo-shots of them.

Durham Waterfall, though described as a second largest in Ethiopia, is nothing more than 3-4 meters width and 100 meters height stream. As you can look at it from a long distance, you won’t get much impression. But you will definitely be exhausted after 23 km one-way awful dusty non-asphalt road, which will take you up to 40-50 min each way.

So if you have got a day in Addis Ababa between your flights, as it was in our case, then you are highly recommended to spend it in another way (may be, visit Shiro Meda market, National Museum, IES museum and Entoto Mountain).

At 6 pm we were back in the airport to catch our evening 1.5 hour flight to Bahir Dar.

Wednesday (25 Nov)

In Bahir Dar we were met by Tegistu Adane (0918 762 307, 0913 183 556, e-mail: tegistu@ethiopiantraveladventures.com). He provided us with a free shuttle to the EthioStar hotel near Summerland hotel, which, unfortunately, was fully booked that day.

They charge you 300 birr for a double en-suit and 250 birr for a single. Actually, if you have the possibility to stay not in this hotel, but go to Summerland, please, don’t hesitate to do so. Hot water there was only in the evening, it was not that clean, the breakfast is quite moderate and takes long time. They provide you with anti-mosquito net, though still we used our fumigator. There is a nice souvenir shop to the left of the hotel entrance.

Next morning we went for a boat trip to three monasteries on Lake Tana and to the source of the Nile river to see the hypos (to see them you should come there early in the morning, to the midday they usually tend to hide). Tegistu was our guide. He charged us 600 birr for a motor-boat and 175 for his guide service. Ura Kidane Maryam is the monastery you should visit there. It is fantastic and gives you an absolutely different impression comparing to what you could see in Lalibela. There is a nice tiny private ethnological museum (0918010959, tirunehenyew@yahoo.com) near the entrance to the monastery. The entrance is 10 birr. And inside you can find lots of peculiar items from musical instruments to clothes and cutlery. You can touch everything and have nice pictures. The museum may be closed, so I would suggest you to call the owner Tiruneh before your visit to the monastery for him to come and show you around the museum.

The second half of the day we were wandering around the city, took tuktuk (local three-wheel taxi) to the place where are lots of pelicans, eagles and other birds (bargain to 50-60 birr for a return travel). We went to the swimming pool in Papyrus Hotel, but did not dare use it, since it was dirty and they had no hot water in the showers. For the sunset we took tuktuk (60 birr for return) to go up to the Haile Selassie Palace. Palace itself is closed, though they are planning to open a museum there. But you can have a nice view from above the city, though it is not that much spectacular as in Lalibela for instance.

I spent a night in the hotel. My friend left for Addis Ababa.

Thursday (26 Nov)

I asked at the hotel reception to call to the bus station and the route scheduled mini-bus came to the hotel to pick me up for Gonder. I paid 60 birr for the trip, though normal price is 45-50 birr, so don’t hesitate to bargain. On this occasion I was just too exhausted to get the local price.

It is worth mentioning that if you want to hire a car for your own (i.e. the same mini-bus, but solely for you) you will be asked to pay 1,000 birr (Tegistu first asked 1,500 birr, but Summerland or any other hotel can make it cheaper, so does he as well finally). So it is up to you what means of travel to choose. I really enjoyed my travel in a normal mini-bus since I got at least some understanding how local people travel there. It was easier for me since I speak Amharic a bit, so I enjoyed talks with my travel-mates, who do not speak a word of English. There was a Swiss girl in a car, who seemed to be not that happy as me in the end of the trip.

It takes you around 4 hours to reach Gonder. They asked me if I want to be brought to the hotel, but since I had no hotel booking yet, I left it near the entrance to the Royal Enclosure. I headed inside where I met a local guide Alemayehu (or Alexander Kemal, as he writes on his business card, 0918776585, alexu_143@yahoo.com).

He offered me to lead me to a hotel, which was Queen Taitu hotel just 10 minutes walk from the Enclosure. It cost 120 for a single en-suite, which is reasonably clean, but badly furnished. On my way to this hotel I popped into one newly built hotel, which looked very attractive, but cost 300-350 birr per night. Next time I shall go there, I must admit. There is no breakfast provided in Queen Taitu, but you can walk 5 minutes to Quara hotel, where they have a very good restaurant with delicious European and Ethiopian food.

Then Alemayehu showed me around the Royal Enclosure, Fasilidas Pool and Debre Birhan Selassie Church. I can recommend him as a good guide and a nice person, though you should not expect much passion or motivation from him. Be careful with tuktuks there. They will charge you a lot in Gonder if you do not bargain hard. Alemayehu offered me to hire one for 150 birr for all three places. I would not say you really need one. It is 15 minutes walk to Debre Birhan Selassie Church, half an hour walk to Fasilidas Pool. Even if you don’t walk, this can give you understanding how much to pay for a tuktuk. If I don’t make a mistake, I paid 50 birr for entrance to both Royal Enclosure and Fasilidas Pool and 25 birr for the church. You pay for the guide service inside the Enclosure to the local Guide Association cashier.

In the evening I visited a local cinema to watch a first-night of some local Gonder blockbuster, but could not get much, since in 30 minutes the LG DVD-player stopped working and I decided to leave the place soon after that.

Friday (27 Nov)

I woke up at 6.30 to have my breakfast in Quara hotel restaurant and then leave the hotel at 8 am to go to Kuskuam (I booked a taxi for 110 birr for Kuskuam and from there directly to the airport, the entrance fee is 35 birr). You are highly recommended to go there and spend at least an hour, though unless my flight in 2 hours, I would have spent there much longer. It is a quiet, really holy place, where you can find yourself eager to meditate and think over your life. You can either sit on some ruin or just wander around. There are not many people around in this time, except praying girls and students of the church school, who live in small tukuls under the Kuskuam walls. Actually their appearance even adds you a will to think over the life essence.

From Kuskuam I left for the airport and was there in 30 minutes. Right in time, since Ethiopian Airlines decided to change the flight time and scheduled it two hours earlier that day. I was lucky not to have luggage and be there early enough, so after a short discussion with the staff I got my check-in.

I spent in Addis Ababa next two days mostly having business meetings, but also enjoying my visit to the National Museum (I doubt if you need more than two hours there), Shero Meda market (nice place to buy souvenirs, clothes from local cotton etc. and they usually do not charge you ferengi price there), went to Entoto Mountain. I also took a massage session in the Axum hotel on Haile Gebre Selassie Road. I do recommend it. They charge you 90 birr for an hour full-body massage + finnish sauna + Turkish bath. It is clean, they provide you with a towel, slippers, soap, they have hot shower there as well. I was said that if you stay in the hotel you get free access to the sauna.

I myself stayed in Yonnas hotel on Haile Gebre Selassie Road. They charged me 200 birr for a spacious single en-suit with double-bed, hot water, TV set, breakfast not included (20 or so birr extra). It was not that bad place, but you should be ready to share your room with numerous cockroaches. But next time I shall try Axum hotel, I believe.

And the last general advice: try to book your domestic flights from abroad and beforehands. And if you use Ethiopian Airlines to get to the country, don’t forget to mention this, since then you can expect to get a lovely discount for the domestic flights.

 


The Ethio-German Park Hotel in Debre Libanos (context Abnet Shifferow  at 001-6563213) sits on the edge of the rift gorge, is brand new – memory foam beds in traditional bed frames, terrific food all for about $30/night at the moment. really great.

Nancy Bogue

My partner Louis and I got back from Ethiopia at the end of November and there are just a couple of things I do think are worth a mention:

  1. Debre Libanos – we used your email update to locate Abenet’s hotel and he was gob smacked that we knew his name on arrival. His hotel is right by the turning for the Portuguese bridge (you actually have to park in the hotel car park and pay him 10 birr if you are visiting the bridge only). As we had the update on us & were able to give him the paragraph relating to him, for his office wall, he charged us 150 birr per night as stated but when we were leaving (after 2 nights) he told us the price is now 200 birr per night. He was a very chatty and pleasant man, he is Ethiopian but has worked in Germany for 35 years starting off as a waiter and ending up owning his own restaurant there, which he sold as a going concern. His wife Annette is German and they have lots of German friends who come & visit & stay at the hotel. Also people drive up from Addis to stay the weekend – a German baker and his wife, UN worker and Swedish Embassy worker while we were there. He told me he owned the land from the road to right by the Portuguese bridge, some land down in the gorge where we could see a distant church and also has some land in Muger Gorge where he plans to build another hotel. The locals refer to the hotel as ‘the German Hotel’ and as far as I could tell there were 5 double rooms with another 4 (1 of which had 2 double beds) under construction so eventually it will sleep 20 in total. Abenet said he would like to be included in the next edition of your book. Address: Ethio German Park Hotel, Debre Libanos, Chagel; Name: Abenet Shifferaw Tel: Mobile 0911978834; Office: 0116563213. It was very spacious and comfy and the nearest thing I saw to western standards apart from Tukul Village in Lalibela (we didn’t stay there I’m just nosey! We stayed at Chez Sophie’s)
  2. Crossing the Blue Nile Gorge – Purely by our own naivety we got stuck in Goha Tsion (mini-buses stopped, no other transport until next day) at 2pm it seemed a dead end place and whilst sitting in a dirty cafe deciding what to do next we witnessed a nasty (by my standards) fight which freaked me out. So we decided to hitch hike to Dejen thinking we’d make it by dark (32km in the guide book). We had no trouble getting a lift in a huge Chinese lorry – Ethiopian driver from Addis. The journey was slow and hot but we expected that and sat back and enjoyed the scenery. There were distance markers (milestones) every kilometre along the roadside and at 30km just before we got back on the asphalt road the lorry broke down. It was dusk and we thought there were only 2 km to go so we very nearly got out and walked the rest of the way. In fact Dejen is 40km from Goha Tsion so we would have had to walk 8km in the dark and been at risk from who knows what. I’m so glad we stayed with the lorry and eventually got safely to Dejen after 8pm at night. Sorry to be picky over 8km but it could have been life of death for us! Actually after getting in the lorry we noticed what looked like a brand new hotel in Goha Tsion on the left hand side of the main road as you leave heading for Dejen called the Blue Nile Hotel. With hindsight it may have been wiser for us to have stayed there overnight.

Thanks, Rita Griffiths