Archive for the ‘trekking’ 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)!

Andy Parker writes:

I had a fantastic experience with Mulualem Gelaye of Ethiopia Simien Tours when visiting Ethiopia in January this year. I was short on time and only had 4 days to work with, and decided to see what tour companies could offer me rather than my original plan of getting to Debark and trying to organise everything myself. I don’t doubt that it’s possible to organise a great trip after arriving locally for less money than I paid, but I am really pleased I organised my trip in advance. The time it would have taken to get everything set up would have cut out some of the ‘must sees’ on my Simiens list.

As it was I shopped around and approached a couple of companies that sounded good, and haggled about itineraries, extras and price. I can’t advise strongly enough how much it pays to shop around and negotiate over times, routes etc, The price range offered by different companies for similar service was large. In the end I chose to go with http://www.ethiopiasimientours.com/ as Mulu was super helpful getting the exact itinerary that I wanted for a good price. He has organised Simien visits for the BBC and National Geographic among others, so it is no surprise how professional this company was.

Some specific notes for prospective Simien visitors:
– It gets COLD in the night. The sleeping bag provided for me was a bit thin and was often too cold to sleep, even with all my clothes on. This was the only downside of an amazing trip, so not a major gripe.
– I didn’t know that there were basic cold water showers at Gich and Chenek and this was a nice surprise
– I hired a horse for riding on for the 4 days of walking as I had a calf injury and wasn’t sure how it would hold up. In the end the calf was okay but it was great to have the horse for breaking up the larger uphill climbs at 3700m when I had not acclimatised to the altitude.
– For those with limited time to spend in the Simiens you can still have a great adventure by getting driven in and staying for a single night There might be better options. but from what I saw I would v strongly recommend getting a driver to take you to the Chenek campsite It is deep into the national park so the scenery is incredible, you get the fun of a night’s camping, and there were loads of geladas and walia ibex wandering around.

John Steinberger writes:

My son and I recently took a trip to Ethiopia. We were in Ethiopia for approximately 2 weeks from April 28, 2013 to May 11 2013. Part of the trip involved a trek to the Simien Mountains. Our trip was organized by Ethiopia Eco Tour and Trek run by Addis Yimer. Our itinerary was as follows:

Day 1: Gondar – Debark – Sankaber Camp (3,200m)

Day 2: Sankaber (3,200m) – Geech Camp (3,600m)

Day 3: Geech-Imetgogo-Seha vally-Kedadit-Geech

Day 4: Geech (3600m) – Innatye (4070m) – Chenek (3,600m)

Day 5 .Climb up to Ras Bahiut which is about 4370masl and back to chenek

Day 6: Drive back to Gondar:

We enjoyed the Simien Mountains immensely. We hiked for 5 days. We would hike for about 7 hours a day. We saw lots of the native animals including the baboons, ibex and the Ethiopian wolf. We saw interesting villages along the way and encountered various herders. The people were very friendly. We booked our trip with Ethiopia Eco Tour and Trek which is owned by Addis Yimer. He selected our guide and cook who were both excellent. Our guide pointed out various landmarks, informed us of the customs and practices of the villagers we encountered, pointed out the different vegetation and animals in the region. Our cook took a lot of pride in his cooking and each dish he made was excellent. Mr. Yimer went the extra mile in helping us have a good trip. Our luggage didn’t arrive when we landed in Addis. We started the hike without our luggage. Mr. Yimer was able to secure our luggage and had it driven up to our campsite.

If you are planning a trip to Ethiopia, I would highly recommend Ethiopia Eco Tour and Trek run by Addis Yimer. The web site is www.ethiopiaecotourandtrek.com. His email is addis_yimer@yahoo.com. The email for his web stie is info@ethiopiaecotourandtrek.com.

Cornelia writes:

- We did an absolutely wonderful hike with TESFA, but due to internal problems between TESFA (Lalibela) and Tesfa Tours (Addis) the organization of the trekk was awful. They overbooked some night stays and forced us to change our plans the day before our planned hike even if we had booked and paid weeks before. TESFA wanted to charge us the last night again telling us that Tesfa Tours did not send them enough money for our stay. They proposed us to claim it back in Addis after the hike. Our guide had different information about our meeting point and time and it was difficult to find him at our starting point in Filakit. And finally we had to bargain to be picked up at the end of the hike for the price they had announced us before… The hike for itself was a wonderful experience, but until they do not solve their problems, it is hard to recommend it.
- Buses and even planes tend to leave a lot earlier than planned. We always managed to catch them, but e.g. our flight from Lalibela to Addis left almost one hour earlier than announced. Minibuses often left around five when we were told that they would leave around 5:30 or 6:00.

Arianr writes:

“I’d like to recommend a guide for the Simien Mountains: Birhan Asmamaw.
He oragnized a four days trek for us in December 2012. Birhan organized everything very professionally, all the staff required was friendly and efficient; we just had to walk and enjoy, and think about nothing else! Before the trek, he is very present to reply (very fast) to any question you have and adapts to your preferences, ideas, desires, etc.
He could unfortunately not guide us during the trek, but found an excellent subsitute guide, Abebaw. Abebaw is a very good guide, knowledgeable, very friendly and who’s goal is for you to enjoy your time in the Simien. This trek has been very enjoyable, thanks to the whole team that organized and accompanied us, not to mention the continuous beautiful scenery.
To recommend! His contact informations are on his website: http://www.simientrekguide.com

I wanted to recommend Ethiopia Eco Tour and Trek, which is run by Addis Yimer. He ran the trek we did for 10 days in the Simien Mountains and did a fantastic job. He was very knowledgeable and professional, and we had a really fun time. For more details see simienhiking.com

Elizabeth Bury

Hendrik writes: “For everyone who is searching for a good guide in the Simien Mountains: we can recommend the guide named Yalew Tafete. Speaks English very well, friendly guy who takes more than enough time to tell you and show you everything you want. Also available for arranging tours in the rest of Northern Ethiopia if you want, but specialised in the Simien mountains. Check his website: www.guide-ethiopia.com.”