Archive for the ‘Woldia’ Category

Charlotte writes:

I was in Ethiopia for 2 and a half months for research from mid July 2014 – end September 2014, but also did some travelling. I did a lot in public transport, for which information is sometimes scarce so I have added some info here, though it is usually quite easy to get information by asking around a bit. Note that the prices that I have put here is what I was charged in Summer 2014, however prices are variable depending e.g. on market days, type of bus taken for transport, prices also vary for peak/off peak seasons, e.g. for hotels , I was there in the off-season.

 

GENERAL INFORMATION

Sky bus

Their office on Meskel square in Addis does exist but is hard to find, and we found the man bad tempered and unhelpful…maybe it just wasn’t his day…and told us that there were no tickets left on the bus, however we went to the office at Itegue Taitu hotel in Piassa and the lady was very helpful and got us tickets for the bus we wanted.

Took Skybus from Addis – Hawassa and back, a good bus service that leaves on time and is a good price, though there is constantly noise from film/music/standup comedy that they play for the whole bus, so earplugs are worthwhile if you want some quiet. For toilet breaks, the bus just stops on the side of the road somewhere quiet. Also receive a small snack & drink.

They are also very flexible, we had almost illegible tickets (through water destruction) for a Friday, we had tried changing the date, however no-one was around in the Hawasa office and on the phone they just told us to turn up at the busstop at 6am on the Sunday, the day we wanted to leave. After we explained the situation, they accepted our ruined tickets for the wrong day and allowed us to travel! Great!

 

Selam bus

I took it from Bahir Dar – Addis, same comments as Sky bus.

 

Theft

Generally speaking, if you are careful, there should not be a problem, but there are the odd people that will try to take things from you. In 10 weeks, only 2 attempts were made to take my things (luckily both failed!). In Addis a group of boys distracted me on one side while one of them puts their hands into your pockets on the other side. Even so I continued to keep e.g. phone in my pocket throughout my travels, but I was careful. In minibuses & public transport, if you have bags with you, keep an eye on them (or if you travel with big bags/rucksacks, just avoid keeping important things in them, or if you must, then put them in the least accessible places). I had a small rucksack that I had put by my feet in a minibus, and later caught a man’s hand in it! Luckily I had tied up the inside opening well and he couldn’t access anything, but it is better to keep smaller bags on your lap.

Another friend had his phone stolen by a group of men in a bajaj, clearly they were working together with the driver. He only realised after.

 

Other

- Tea and coffee in local places almost always comes automatically with sugar already in the drink, although some places more used to foreigners will put sugar aside.

- In hotels, if you like hot showers, one of the 1st things you should do is turn the boiler on as it often takes some time for the water to heat up.

- Cappuccinos don’t have coffee – it is hot milk with a little cocoa powder

 

SHASHEMENE AND HAWASSA

Hawassa

I enjoyed Hawassa, it is a nice, clean town, and the lake is beautiful.

Paradise hotel – Great location near to the minibus station, good for early starts. It is a nice place but the bar next door is very (very) loud, but otherwise is good value for money

 

Hawassa to Shashemene and back

10 birr, 20-30min

NOTE – in Shashemene there are 2 bus stations. The minibus from Hawassa goes to the Old bus station

 

 

BALE MOUNTAINS

The rainy season is not the best time to go – we were there in mid-August & it rained every afternoon.

 

Shashemene to Dinsho/Robe and back

100 birr in minibus – if you go to Dinsho, you still must pay the price for Robe. It takes 2h30 from Shashamane – Dinsho.

The buses between Shashamane and Robe arrive and leave from the New bus station.

 

Dinsho 

This is where the Bale Park forest office is, and also where you can get guides. It is at the end of the town (Robe side). It is possible to stay in the Dinsho lodge, but we did not do this as we had heard that it wasn’t great and that it was expensive. From the outside it looks okay so maybe things have changed.

Tuesday is a market day

 

Dinsho – Robe

11 birr in minibus, 20-30min (15 birr on market day)

 

Robe

We decided to stay in Robe instead of Dinsho as a point de depart for the Bale Mountains.

Public transport between Dinsho & Robe is easy, although we once had difficulty getting a minibus back to Robe at 4pm, although that may be due to the market that there was in Dinsho. It can sometimes be easier picking up a minibus on the side of the road instead of from the bus station in Dinsho.

Thursday is a market day in Robe.

- Abdama hotel – 300/night for 2 single beds (they call it a double). It is fairly clean & comfortable, but shower isn’t great (there is hot water, but not much water comes out of showerhead at a time) & they don’t give much toilet paper. Note: They lock the gate so if you must leave before 7am someone must come and open for you. Good location near the bus station.

- Hanni café is nice, as is the Harar bar and restaurant opposite which seems popular for tibs BUT be careful in Robe asking for tibs, as you may be presented instead with a plate of chips!

 

Sanetti plateau

The park management advise against using public transport for the Sanetti plateau, and from experience, I will agree with them, unless you have time or plan it well! Getting there was easy however returning was a problem.

From Robe you must go to Goba (5 birr, minibus, 15 min). Sometimes there can be very long queues so if you are continuing to Sanetti, then it is best to leave early (I would suggest about 7am, as we were there at 9am it was far too late).

From Goba, take a bus direction Dolo Mena, and get off at Sanetti campsite (your guide will know it; 60 birr in a public bus, about 1.5hrs; we had 50birr for luggage). It is standard to pay the price of the whole trip to Dolo Mena. Try to leave as early as possible, it took a long time for our bus to fill up, but I don’t think it was the 1st bus that left.

For the return from Sanetti to Robe/Goba – you must wait on the side of the road and wait for a passing bus/truck/car that is willing to take you. We waited all afternoon once and had nothing, and were forced to spend an extra night on the plateau. The afternoon is a bad time for getting transport here although you may get lucky. It is easier to get transport in the morning, we ended up getting picked up by a truck (we were 3 people, 2 travellers and 1 guide).

 

NORTHERN CIRCUIT (MEKELE-WOLDIA-LALIBELA-BAHIR DAR)

Mekele

Diana hotel – Near the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia. Decent place, but price variable (100birr for a man & woman to share, 150birr for two of the same sex to share). The shower & toilet are shared, but are clean enough.The manager Tesfay is friendly and helpful and can help you out with problems.

Merkeb hotel – We paid 130birr (although according to another couple we met, they paid 100….maybe it was because we were 2 females).Cleanish but I prefered the Diana hotel, which is better for a very similar price, however you can’t beat Merkeb’s location next to the bus station (for southerly destinations), and close to Selam bus stop, particularly useful for early travellers.

 

Mekele to Hawzen & back (via Wukro)

40birr

Take bajaj in Mekele to the Lachi bus station & can get a minibus from there

To return: it is difficult to get a minibus back after 3pm

 

Hawzen

Good base for visiting rock hewn churches (of which Abuna Yemata & Debre Maryam Korkor are definately worth visiting, particularly if you also enjoy hiking a bit, the views are wonderful!). It is also possible to arrange longer hiking trips over several days (or even weeks I think) to less accessible churches.

Gheralta lodge – it is by far the nicest place to stay, and worth it (1300birr/ night for a room with 3 single beds, private bathroom, and includes a great breakfast)

Vision hotel – Recently opened (end of August 2014) and is nice and clean, the manager is friendly and speaks good English. No running water, but this was a problem in the whole village at that particular moment (130birr / room/ night with private bathroom). I am sceptical about how long the hotel will stay in good condition as some material in the bathroom seems a little flimsy.

 

Mekele – Woldia (Weldiya)

I ended up having to take several minibuses to get here, although I think it is possible to get bigger buses directly if you arrive in time at the bus station (big bus leaves at 6am)

Mekele – Mohia: 45birr, about 2hrs

Mohia – Alamata: 20birr, about 1hr

Alamata – Woldia: about30birr, about 2hrs

Woldia is quite a nice but plain small town – I enjoyed climbing one of the hills for a very nice view of the town, although I would have preferred to have headed straight onto Lalibela (unfortunately I missed the last buses)

Jordanos hotel – Clean, nice. Didn’t have hot water but think I was just unlucky with a broken boiler.

 

Woldia – Lalibela and Lalibela – Bahir Dar

Woldia – Gashena then Gashena – Lalibela

 

Buses between these destinations tend to overcharge farenji. On my return trip Gashena – Lalibela I was asked to pay 70 birr, the locals paid 40. On my trip from Gashena to Bahir Dar, I was asked to pay 200birr, negotiated this to 150 birr, however the locals only paid 80birr.

 

Bahir Dar & the Blue Nile Falls

I had heard that a lot of people were disappointed with the Blue Nile Falls because of lack of water (due to a hydropower plant) however I went in mid September at the end of the rainy season and thought that they were really superb.

 

ADDIS ABABA

Minibuses around Addis

Prices are more expensive later at night. It is difficult to get the minibuses after 9.30pm. They don’t tend to overcharge farenji. For some idea of prices:

 

Stadium – Haya Hulet: 4 birr

Haya Hulet – Arat Kilo: 4 birr

Stadium – Global (Kira direction): 6 birr

Arat Kilo – Bole: 3 birr

Arat Kilo – Shiro Meda: 3 birr

Arat Kilo – Piazza: 1.5 birr

Arat Kilo – Meganegna: 3 birr

Arat Kilo – Stadium: 3 birr

Stadium – Kaliti bus station: 10 birr

 

 

BISHOFTU

Many people like this place, I did not. I found the lakes very dirty, with lots of rubbish, except if you are in a lodge or restaurant on the side of the lake, and my travel partner and I got harassed quite a bit.

Kaliti bus station to Bishoftu: 12-15 birr

 

Public transport

- Try to leave in the morning. Often I found buses would leave at 6am, and you would have to arrive earlier to take tickets.

- Make sure you aren’t in a hurry, the buses can sometimes take quite some time to fill up (Often they fill up fairly quickly, but it isn’t always the case)

- Often they will charge you more for luggage (but not always)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andreas writes:

From Dessie the trip to Makdala via Tenta should take six hours altogether.

To get to Tenta from Dessie, you must follow the road to Wegel Tena for about 70 km (not 95 km as indicated in the Bradt Guide). You pass the village of Kutaber (ca. 20 km northwest of Dessie) and then you descend in the valley of the Beshlo River. The 50 km stretch of road from Kutaber to the junction to Tenta is very scenic, but also in a very bad condition. In fact parts of the road and a bridge over the Beshlo are washed away, so you have to drive for some km in the river bed! You can handle this road in a 4×4 only during the dry season, and probably not at all in the rainy season. When I took this road alone in my Nissan Navara the 15th of April 2013, I didn’t meet a single car for ca. 70 km, so it is definitely not for the fainthearted!

After about 70 km, when the road leaves the river to ascend to Wegel Tena, you must turn left to Tenta. There is no sign, but the road to Tenta is clearly visible. This gravel road was recently completed and is in an excellent condition (comparable to the road from Gashena to Lalibela). After about 30 km you will reach Tenta. At the main square of Tenta (if you like to call it a square), signposted by the equestrian statue of Ras Mikael and the Tenta branch of the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, you turn right and you will see a sign “Bon voyage to Makdala”. Follow this road for 17 km and you will arrive on Makdala Hill.

The road from Tenta to Makdala is was under construction in April 2013. The first part is already completed, the second part is still at least in some parts in a very bad condition, but you can handle it with a 4×4 without problems. Above all, you don’t need anymore a permission from the police station in Ajibar or a police escort!

At Makdala you will be asked a “negotiable” entrance fee. Originally I was asked 100 birr, but I negotiated it down to 50 birr.You can pitch a tent close to the so-called “lodge” and sleep there overnight, as I did. “Sebastopol”, the famous cannon, is not directly situated on Makdala Hill, but at the feet of another small pinnacle, called “Selassie” and separated from Makdala by a small saddle. Anyway you can reach it also by road and the locals, living on Makdala, are generally very helpful. And don’t forget to visit the local “tella-beth”, really a unique experience!

From Tenta you drive back to the Beshlo River on the new gravel road. After crossing the river over a new bridge, the road starts ascending to Wegel Tena. After ca. 30 km (from Tenta) you will reach the mentioned T-junction. Take the left turn to Wegel Tena (reccommended), which you will reach ascending after about 25 km. The right turn leads back to Dessie.

If you want to continue from Wegel Tema to Lalibela or Woldia, you must take the road to Gashena (74 km). This road is also under construction and some parts are in quite bad condition, too, but it is easily passable in a 4×4, and should not take more than 2.5 to 3 hours. When you reach the main road from Bahir Dar/Gonder to Woldia you can go straight on for another 64 km to Lalibela or turn right for another 112 km to Woldia.

Addis Ababa:

We stayed at the Ankober guest house in Piazza area (right next door to Baru) and were more than happy with the choice. The staff there were always friendly and the owner, Mesfin, went out of his way on a number of occasions to give us invaluable help sorting out our flights and bus trips. We stayed there on three occasions during our trip and the rooms are simple but clean and they had hot water which we found out is not something you can take for granted while traveling through the country. There is also a Dashen Bank and ATM a hundred metres away which was very handy. The restaurant at the Wutma hotel opposite served good food and there were great little places for breakfast further up the street.

Gonder:
Belegez Pension was perfectly adequate, I had a single room with a bathroom for 175 birr, though the hot water didn’t work. It did work though in the communal bathroom! Not far is the Four Sisters Restaurant which has a nice setting and serves a tasty injera though we were not impressed with an evening meal we had which was supposed to be a combination of dishes served with rice, but which we found pretty tasteless; I’d stick to the normal dishes, rather than a mixed grill or whatever it was they called it. They did, however, put on a nice impromptu dance performance for us (our group of six were the only guests) which they even got us to join in, so I now know the basics of the very entertaining shoulder dance!

Simien Mountain Trek:

I had earlier arranged to go on a four day trek. Our group consisted of four people and initially we were going to hire a 4X4 to drive us to the Park and later (after our trek) accompany us to Axum and through Tigrai to Lalibela. Our guide then asked if we wouldn’t mind having a German couple join us for the trek and for the ride to Axum. He added that we would have the use of a minibus instead which reduced the costs per person and proved adequate and comfortable, though it meant we would not be able to drive through the short cut roads I had initially planned on a rougher surface through Tigrai (going via Sekota for instance).
In the event, the trek was great, well organized and with good food and we all got on well and the drive from Debark to Axum was one of the highlights of the trip for me. We got a good massage, as our driver Alex called it, as the road was gravel from Debark to Shire and under repair some of the way, being widened and improved. From Shire to Axum, it was smooth asphalt. The original road was built by the Italians in the 1930s and is now being repaired by a Chinese company. The views were stunning which made the eight or so hours ride more tolerable. Not much traffic along the road though we were pleasantly surprised to round one bend and to be met head on by a convoy of camels with their riders making their slow and graceful way up the mountain road.

Our guide’s details:

The guide who organized all this for us and who accompanied us on our trek was Birhan Asmamaw who I can happily recommend for his integrity and helpfulness, and his reasonable prices. I read about him online and had heard good things about him, which I can confirm. His email is: birhan_asmamaw@yahoo.com

He speaks very good English and also arranged for us to have a competent and friendly driver accompany us all the way to Lalibela, his name was Alex and he also spoke good English. Birhan can organize hotels for you along your way too if you wish according to whatever your budget might be. He would ring our driver every evening after he left us, just to check how we were getting on.
Axum: Africa Hotel, simple but perfectly ok.

Axum through Tigrai by road:

From Axum we followed the road to Adigrat along lovely rolling hills and through Adwa, where the Ethiopian emperor won an important battle against the Italians at the end of the 19th century. From there through Adigrat and then south on a smooth asphalt road through stunning countryside and roads rising to above 3000 metres.
We stopped off to visit the Petros and Paulos rock hewn church in Teka Tesfai which involved clambering up a rickety looking but perfectly solid ladder, followed by the ubiquitous local children up to a lovely small church which the priest’s wife opened for us, for a fee of course.
I cannot remember if we stopped for lunch at a small restaurant called Mother restaurant on the high stree (right hand side) in Teka Tesfai or a bit further on in Wukro. I mention it because it was a place which served very good meals (one injera and four spaghettis with side salads, 3 beers, 2 cokes and 5 coffees came to 160 birr, not bad)
After visiting Wukro Chirkos church we turned off the main road and made our way towards Hawzien on a gravel road and stopped to visit the beautiful church Abreha we Atsbeha in the late afternoon before traveling for another hour to reach the first (and only) „fancy“ hotel during our trip, the Gheralta Lodge. What I initially thought to be a light mist seemed to cover the whole area around the Gheralta plains. The next morning however I saw it was still there and believe it was more a light layer of white looking dust which seemed to pervade everywhere there, giving the immediate vicinity a slightly other worldly aspect. Clean room, hot water, good food, beautiful natural setting and decor, what more could one want?

Gheralta and Abuma Yemata Guh

Next day, the four of us (middle aged ladies I might add) drove to Abuma Yemata Guh and trekked up to the base of the perpendicular rock (about 50 mins walk) where we all managed to successfully clamber (rather than climb) up to the little jewel of a rock hewn church perched a third of the way up. The last stretch along a narrow ledge with a two hundred metre drop to one side proved almost too much for one of my friends who was tearful by the time she reached the church door, tearful but delighted. Beautifully maintained 15th century murals and an ancient hand painted bible were the main attractions there, though the view from the church was equally stunning. Making our way down proved to be as exciting (terrifying) as making our way up. The whole venture was done in good humour and with the eager help of the scouts who, I suspect, would drag you up or down if you let them.
The only minus side to this excursion was the 250 bir we had to pay for our group of four as guide’s fees. The young guide who approached us as we made our way towards the church insisted this was a new rule (supposedly in agreement with the Gheralta Lodge which annoyed us somewhat) and after some argument, he took us to the little tourist office in the village and gave us a receipt after showing previous samples of receipts. On top of this we of course had to each pay 100 bir to see the church and the tips we paid the scouts for helping as well as the priest for opening the door. All in all, quite a steep cost. I am not sure if anyone else has encountered this new rule. The 250 bir for our group did admittedly include a visit to the Maryam Korkor (but as some of our group were feeling the strain after visiting Abuma Yemata Guh and it was approaching the hottest part of the day, we gave that a miss and instead visited the less known Hawzien Tekle Haymanot).

We did wonder if this 250 bir fee applied only to the guests from Gheralta Lodge and aimed to ask the Italian owner about it, but he wasn’t around when we returned so we were not able to confirm this information. I would recommend you ask at the Lodge if this special fee is standard.

From there we made our way to Lalibela via Woldia where we stayed the night at the Lal hotel, get a room at the back if you don’t want to be kept awake by the disco music from nearby. The road from Wukro to the turnoff for Lalibela at Weldya is good quality asphalt and goes through some lovely and varying landscape, from dry and arid plains to alpine-like hills with coniferous trees growing by the roadside. From Weldiya you leave this road and travel on gravel up across undulating hills until you reach the airport near Lalibela where you hit asphalt once more. The journey from Woldia to Lalibela took us some four hours. We met some people who had followed the same route that day by local bus, when it took more like nearly eight hours.

At Lalibela we stayed at the very pleasant Asheten Hotel and there is a great small place to eat directly across the street.

I am ashamed to say I cannot remember the name of the little monastery church we visited up the mountain just behind Lalibela. We took a path from behind the Asheten hotel and it took us nearly two hours to reach the church. I’d be grateful if someone could remind me the name.

Addis to Harar:

From Addis we caught the early morning bus to Harar (Selam 260 birr one way). It is pretty nippy at 5am in the morning so dress warmly; the bus turned up nearly an hour late and you have to wait on the street. The perfectly comfortable journey (they hand out small cartons with juice and a sweet biscuit).

At Harar, we were hoping to stay at the Zubdeyda Waber Guest House but the remaining sister (one of them passed away recently) stood firm in her price of 350 birr per bed (small double beds) of which there were two in a room. We were hoping to negotiate a better price (the hotel was empty) as we wanted a bed each and the 700 birr per room she charged (one of the rooms was en suite, the other wasn’t, both at 700 birr) was too steep for us. So we ended up going to the perfectly comfortable Belayneth Hotel, just outside the old city walls and with acceptable food from the restaurant from which there was a wonderful view into the old city and a great place to take photos from.

 

Paininka (see also piaregan.wordpress.com for more details and pics)

Roads west of Woldia

Posted: May 1, 2011 in Debre Sina, Lalibela, Woldia
The road from Woldia to Lalibela is 284 kilometers long and 47 kilometers is on gravel.
We saw many gelada monkeys between Woldia and Debre Sina (new Chinese road).
Jan