Archive for the ‘Shashemene’ 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)!

I made a fifteen days trip with my wife and some other Dutch tourists, organized by a Dutch agency via the Ethiopian agency Greenland Tours.

We started in Addis, flew to Harar, spend two nights there, then drove to the south, with overnight stops in Nazareth, Dinsho, Goba, Awassa, Konso, Jinka, Mago NP campsite, Turmi three nights, Arba Minch two nights, then back to Addis.

Security = Ethiopia feels very safe. Never felt threatened. No thefts. Only town where I thought someone was following us in the street, and where I met an American man whose passport and money were stolen, was in Awassa.

Economy = Ethiopia looks booming! Everywhere you see new buildings being built. Road works to improve the infrastructure in many different places. There is more and more asphalt.

Harar = Lovely city to spent two days. Special atmosphere in those little alleys. Visited Rimbaud house and Harari cultural house. Good lunch at the popular restaurant “Cozy – pizzeria and coffee”, about 50 meters away from the equally good and popular Fresh Touch restaurant (same side of the street), mentioned in your book on page 418. We went to see the “new hyena man”. Weird to see, but still worth it. We stayed in the Heritage Hotel, was good. From the terrace of our hotel, at the end of an afternoon we saw a hyena walking between the gardens below. We payed 20 birr for a tuktuk ride from the city centre to our hotel.

Between Harar and Nazareth we visited the big khat market in Aweday.
Awash NP = saw crocodiles down in the river from the lodge near the Falls. In the park we saw kudu, wart hog, gazelle and many beautiful oryxes.
Nazareth Rift valley hotel = hotel looked nice, good restaurant, but the room we had at the second floor was shabby, dark and dusty and there was no water in the bathrooms during the whole evening.

Shashemene = lunch in restaurant Lily of the valley was good, they had special juices i had never seen before, maybe Caribbean/rasta.

Dinsho = spent a night in the Dinsho lodge. Made a log fire in the lounge, but after a while the whole lounge was full of smoke! At night temperature dropped to about minus 2 celsius. Next morning made a lovely walk with a very knowledgeable ranger. Saw wart hog and many endemic mountain nyalas, as well as francolins, white tailed ibis, bushbuck, yellow fronted parrot.
In the afternoon we drove to the very summit of Tullu Deemtu, 4377 meters, highest road in Africa. As far as I know, this is the only place in Africa where you can go above 4000 meters by car. (In my younger days, I used to hike African 4000+mountains: Kili, Mt Kenya, Ruwenzori, Meru, mt Cameroon, Toubkal Atlas, Karisimbi, …). Sanetti plateau is of great beauty. Ethiopia has such a huge diversity in landscapes, incredible.
We saw the Abyssinian wolf, mole rats, lammergeier, shelduck.

Spent the night in Webe Shebele hotel in Goba, very comfortable room. Condoms provided in the room!

On the right side of the road between Robe and Dodola, I visited the house of cave people in a place called Sebsebe Washa. You can see the rock from the road. The house is built against the rock, and once you are inside the house, you notice the house is connected to tunnels in the rock. I paid the owner a couple of birr to visit his house. Bring a torch light, cause it is very dark.

Awassa = spent the night in the very comfortable new Pinna hotel. Made a motor boat trip on the lake to the place where the hippos live, pretty expensive faranji prices.

Dilla = delicious mango and avocado juice in Rendez Vous restaurant.

From Dilla to Konso = I showed our driver the new road from Fisiha Genet to Konso, mentioned in your book and on our good Hungarian Gizi map, but he said the road was not good, he prefered to drive via Yabello.

Konso = Edget Hotel was pretty basic, no running water and no electricity when we were there, but the place is popular with locals, for a beer in the evening.

Omo valley = we visited villages and markets of ethnic groups like Hamar, Karo, Mursi, Konso, Ari, Dassanetch and Arbore. Price of a picture was mostly 2, 3 or 4 birr. Communication was difficult. I found a very basis Hamar word list on the internet, the people liked it when i spoke some of their words. That was always good to break the ice and make the people smile.
On page 533 you write that Arbore is “far more rustic and unaffected than many similarly sized towns in south Omo”. Probably times have changed, because the Arbore people standing along the road, waiting to be photographed, were the most pushy. They surrounded me, kept on pulling my arms, etc, nothing bad, but far from unaffected. Lots of jeeps with tourists when we were there. We were one of them.

Turmi Evangadi camp site = showers were always working. Not a bad place to camp. Lots of bees though in the open air restaurant.

Mago NP = on the road to the camp site we saw baboons, dikdiks, guinea fowls. At the camp site lovely black and white colobuses. End of afternoon we made a game drive, starting behind the Colobus camp site, crossing the river by car, and then through high grass. So high that soon our main concern was not finding animals, but finding the track. I think we were the first car there since long. The armed scout walked ahead of our car, to look for the track. During two hours of game drive, we saw 1 dikdik, thousands of tse tse like flies and one sad lonely turtle, that was all. So dont go to Ethiopia for the animals, but for the people! And when we found that turtle or tortoise, our local guide who had been to the Mursi village with us, lift the poor animal from the ground, hold it above his head, put it back on the ground and then put his feet on it. I think Ethiopia has still quite a lot to learn as far as nature conservation policy is concerned!

Omorate = had to go to an office where an official checked our passports and wrote our names in a notebook. Local guide asked us 100 birr to cross the Omo river, two ways. Your guide book says “a few birr”. Probably faranji price, we did not bargain. No police escort necessary.

Way back in Konso = had lunch in new Kanta Lodge, looks very beautiful, nice tokuls, nice garden. Extremely crowded, all the landrovers with faranji stopped there for lunch.

Arba Minch = lovely boat trip to see the huge crocodiles, very exciting, many fish eagles, goliath heron. Swaynes Hotel definitely misses character, isolated place, no locals, a small bottle of water costs one euro, and there was no running water for a big part of the day. Very nice atmosphere however in Tourist hotel in lower town, popular with both locals and foreigners.
Nechisar NP = saw baboon, dikdik, yellow necked francolin, Grant gazelle, ground hornbill, ground squirrel, kudu, Burchells zebra, and all five remaining Swaynes hartebeest, hundred procent score.

Humbo = visited the thursday big cattle market, not many tourists, people dont ask money for pictures

Tiya stelae field = worth a visit if you are interested in history. Very knowledgeable guide who opened the doors for us.

Regards,

Wil

I will preface this by saying I have probably driven close to a million miles in my life and I can honestly say that the trip from Shashemene to around Goba may have been the toughest drive I have ever made. I rented a Yamaha 600 Tenere during my stay in the country and it took everything the bike had and alot of skill to make it through this road in one piece. There was new road construction going on for the first part of the road which appears will be very nice if it ever gets built but from what I could learn that may be a while. Driving in Ethiopia is an unreal experience in and of itself and if you don’t have quite a bit of skill I would say leave the driving to other folks. The trip from Addis to Dodola took me about 7 hours and from the pain in my back felt like I had been driving a lot longer (beautiful drive though).
I stayed in Dodola at the Bale Mountain Hotel. Nothing special but decent although the folks working the restaurant area were really, really slow but just grab a couple of your favorite beers and enjoy the nice surroundings. I did manage to find one decent place to listen to some music at I believe it went by the name of the Rose Motel or something close to that, it was probably 400-500 meters down the road from the hotel in the Dinsho direction.
The trip from Dodola to Dinsho took me about 6 hours (mind you I was driving extremely slowly due to road conditions and didn’t want to risk busting my tire out in the sticks). A beautiful, scenic drive nearly throughout. I stayed at the Dinsho Lodge, had a hard time finding someone to open a door to I just hung my mosquito hammock in the open area and slept there. The care takers of the park were wonderful. Anouska and Teddy invited me up to their house and cooked a nice dinner and had some good conversation. If they are still there I would recommend having a chat with them, very helpful with many things. They also set me up with places to stay on top of the Sanetti Plateau and in Rira which I was very thankful for. Saw several Nyala’s, some warthogs around the Inn and quite a bit of other wildlife as well.
From Dodola to Goba I can’t remember how long it took but not as long as the previous days travel. I stayed the first couple of nights at the Goba Wabe Shabelle Hotel. It was relatively expensive (172 Birr) but one of the nicer hotels that I stayed at. I moved after the 2nd night because it was on the outskirts of town and I wanted to stay in the town without having the long walk back at night to the hotel.I moved to the Yilma Hotel next to the Nyala bakery. It was undergoing some renovations for the better at this time by the new owner who also purchased the Nyala bakery. Nice guy who I think will make the place much nicer than it was at the time I stayed there (I think he gave me the Ethiopian rate of 30 Birr per night, think it was generally 60 Birr for faranji). The Nyala Bakery also had pretty good pastries and coffee as well. There is one internet cafe that I could find which is located right beside the City Cafe in a very small room. The connection never got to working during the daytime when I tried it though.

Piers Majestyk