MAKDALA HILL : It’s not possible to obtain a letter of permission from the police station in Kombolcha. Nor at the Tourist Office in Dessie, which isn’t easy to find with the renovation of the roads and buildings. The man in charge of the office told us to go to Ajibar without a letter, and we asked him to inform the police authority of our coming. Once in Ajibar, the policemen had no instructions about the visit to the hill, but they accepted us after we made a phone-call to Dessie, and provided us with a police escort and a local “guide” from the municipality. The first was really interesting because he was born here and he knew very well the life of King Theodoros; the second, pseudo-guide, was zero, he came only because he was forced, and above all paid!
It is necessary to organize the trek in Tenta (12km from Ajibar) and park the car in the compound of the school. This hike is 17km long and 4 to 5 hours are necessary to go up on the hill, with a stop to drink Tella in the hamlet of Neguat Michael, near the church of the same name. In the past, the road was passable by car but the Kezkazea river has swept away a “bridge” and the road is impassable. Half a day is necessary to explore all the historic or scenic places on Makdala and Falla Giorgis Ambas, which are lovely and peaceful. It is possible to camp in the school of the village called Selange, or anywhere on the mountains. The big problem is the money, as in many parts of Ethiopia the prices have soared since the millennium. We paid each day Birr 150 for the policeman, Birr 100 for the “guide”, Birr 50 for a mule keeper, Birr 50 for a donkey or a mule and Birr 50 for entrance fee. After 6 weeks in Ethiopia, 5 hours of drive and 4 ½ hours under a hot sun, maybe, we didn’t bargain enough with the chief ?
In Ajibar, the Guesthouse and the Roman Hotel have clean and basic rooms with common cold shower, the toilet are dirtier in the evening than in the morning! The food in Roman was good. The price for local or tourist is the same: 20 Birrs.
ROAD FROM TENTA TO MUKATORI: it is one of the most scenic and quiet roads we discovered in Ethiopia (no travelers during two days) and very interesting all the way. Our guide took it without problem after the rainy season; maybe, he is a perfect 4×4 driver? On November, the road was good, and we’d rate it C or D codes, comparable to the road between Abi-Addi and Sekota on your maps.
It’s 140km between Dessie and Tenta, and 107km from Tenta to Gashena. The junction of Guguftu is 40km from Dessie and 100 from Tenta. From here (Guguftu) to the South, you cross successively Kabe (km14), Chesa (km46), Woreilu (km50), Meragna (km124), Alem Ketema (km175), then, you have 50km to Lemi and 55 more to Mukatori. We have no timings because we stopped many many times to admire the landscapes: deep gorges of Degolo, Gebre Gouragha and Atimo rivers, then the valley of Dar river on the border of Wollo and Shoa (km102 from Guguftu), after, Meragna, 3 important and wonderful valleys: Wenchi river, Gara river at the foot of the fantastic Rema Amba and Wonchit River. After Alem-Ketema, you have the valley of Jemma river as you describe in the Bradt.
It is possible to stop in Woreilu, which has a basic hotel with clean rooms, personal chamber-pot and common cold shower; there is no discrimination in the price and everybody pays 20 Birrs, there is a pleasant restaurant called Wanza where we ate delicious roasted ribs and good spaghettis. Or in Meragna, where we found a comfortable, modern and surprising accommodation called Africa Hotel, we didn’t spend the night and we forgot to ask the tariffs. The cook is good and the manager very friendly. This small village should be a good stay to discover on foot the marvelous gorges of Wenchi river and far away Gara river (about 25km).
The malaria is certainly present in some low places during and after the rainy season; the rivers are between 1200 and 1600 meters. The road is from 1200 to 3300 meters in altitude.
Yolande and Jacky BOTTINI