Gwyneth Deakins’s updates

Many thanks for the usual thorough and reliable Bradt guide. I did a tour of the main tourist highlights earlier this month with Voyages Jules Verne. Just a few comments which probably reflect what other people will say:
– the reliability of internal flights has apparently improved with the recent purchase of new aeroplanes (though delays are still possible!)
– however the strict security at airports means you usually have to take off shoes, belts, watches, etc. not once but twice and it takes a lot of time – independent travellers who don’t have a guide to warn them should leave enough time to get through all this;
– the Hotel Yeha in Axum is pretty shoddy for what it is supposed to be – as you rightly point out.
– however the Ghion hotel in Addis was nicer than your rather grudging review suggested. If one is there at weekends the many wedding parties in the park opposite are a really wonderful spectacle. However someone said that there were plans for the whole area, garden and hotel, to be redeveloped as a new hotel – that would be a terrible shame.
– the hike up to the top of Asheton Maryam from Lalibela surely takes more than 2 hours. We went up by mule and it tokk longer than that; we could see hikers taking it more slowly.
– in general it would be good if the guide could say more about the geological history of the area one is visiting – the area around the Devil’s Nose (very spectacular!) between Gonder and Bahir Dar is a case in point.
– the Blue Nile falls were pretty amazing even if they were only 30% of what they used to be, and well worth visiting. But we found that the souvenir sellers there were quite aggressive (along the path to the falls), much more so than anywhere else we visited.
– apart from the Falls area, Bahir Dar was not at all good for souvenirs.
– Addis airport is horribly expensive even by western standards and the souvenirs there rubbish compared with what you get in Axum, Lalibela, etc.
– I think you should be less disparaging about the shoe men in Lalibela; we had one with our party who was enormously helpful not only with shoes but in helping the several members of our group who were struggling with the stairs, tunnels, etc. He may have been expecting generous tips but we felt he was genuinely keen to assist.
– finaly, I think the photo in the Guide (between pp 310-311) which says it is Bet Maryam is actually Bet Mikael.
Keep up the good work, and thanks again.

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