Get the bus ticket in advance (PM day before is fine). Gondar bus station at 5am is not a pretty sight nor is an enjoyable place. See above on how to get the best seat on the bus – very important for this bus ride. The baggage handlers may ask for Birr 10, but you give them Birr 1 per piece or nothing.
This is a very long and difficult bus ride particularly between Debark and Adi Arkay. The road is unpaved and winding and very often you’re only 15cm away from the edge of abyss. Allow for breakdowns and for breakdowns of other busses/trucks as you’d have to wait for those to get repaired before continuing your journey ie narrow road. It took us 14 hours to reach Shire and by that time we were exhausted. The landscapes are very beautiful, but this benefit is completely outweighed by the horrendous bus journey so my advice would be to take a plane if possible.
Shire – Axum
We stayed in Africa hotel in Shire (loud and infested by roaches, but otherwise OK) before proceeding to Axum the following day. The journey to Axum takes around 2 hours and the road is under re-construction – you’ll be 5-10cm up in the air regularly during this bus journey.
Goran Jovetic, London, UK