I have extensively – I think – travelled, but the excursion to the monastery of Gunda Gundo will remain as one of my toughest and most rewarding experiences.
The starting town Idaga Hamus being standing at 2.700m, as is the village called Mikael Gebinen/Gebret (the real walking start), that implies a gruelling descent of almost 2.000m. The terrain is really rocky, if not technically difficult; the unstable stones require an every instant attention and knees absorb every step down. The path looks clearly indicated though I preferred to hire a local guide/porter. As for the climb back up, it was OK if left at dawn, especially if instead of the monastery you prefer to sleep at the real base village of Mekarabur. On morning, half of the way is shadowed.
Once at Gunda Gundo, I had to bargain the entry with the main priest. The price eventually felt from 500 birrs to 100 birrs ; no receipt provided and note that I had been asking a permission letter from Mekele (Tigrai Commission of Tourism). The monastery itself looked to me quite beautiful, but the whole trip was worth for the final scenery, incredible, made felt myself at the end of the known human world. Wish I were able to stay around one day more.
The houses of the Irob people stand out : an improved version of the already beautiful average Tigrai house. Irob cut stones so thin than they could be called ‘ardoises’. They imaginated a complex system of irrigation that afforded myself to taste their oranges, so rare nationally.
As for the sleeping, the monks gently provided the dinner and the breakfast (for both : pastas and fresh coffees), and the bed – mattress with a sheet as blanket, the night being so warm, under a covered terrace from where I have been able to star the stars. Their welcomeness sense really was fantastic.
All in all one more unforgettable experience in Ethiopia, Land of Secrets.
8.00 – Left Idaga Hamus by foot, 25 flat km to Mikael Gebinen/Gebret.
12.00 – Arrival at Gebret. After 30 minutes more by foot, the steep descent starts.
14.00 – Nayloweyti and its small river.
16.00 – End of the descent at Mekarabur.
17.00 – Arrival at the monastery of Gunda Gundo.
8.00 – Left the monastery.
9.00 – Mekarabur, the steep ascent starts.
10.30 – Nayloweyti – I believe have found a shortcut !
11.45 – Rest time invited by a family for coffees and local snack.
13.00 – End of rest and final ascent.
14.30 – Victory ! : Mikael Gebinen/Gebret, bus to Idaga Hamus and so on.