First of all, thanks for the quality of your web page.. I follow it regularly, and found much interesting information before scheduling our trip.. so now, to render thanks, I wanted to share our experience, with hope that it could help someone else. (And sorry if my English level is low).
We are 2 French friends of about 35 years, I speak on behalf of both of us.
I have a very good Ethiopian friend, now living in Dubai, who made me dream about his country. I wanted to go for a long time and this was the right moment.
On previous holidays in Europe, America or even Asia, we went without planning anything beforehand and doing it there from day to day; but this time, I felt that Ethiopia needed a more organised approach to better understand a country that I expected to be as rich and diverse as its landscapes.
So we decided to work with an agency; and taking profit of my friend’s Ethiopian network we contacted Tsega’ab GETACHEW ADANE who runs Sunny Land Ethiopian Tours ( +251 91 207 7746; https://www.sunnylandethiopiatours.com).
This is less expensive than working through a European Tour Organizer since an intermediary is skipped ; but even if it were equivalent in price, as a principle, we far prefer to inject our money directly in the Ethiopian economy.
That was definitely the best decision of our trip! We stayed with the same person (our driver Alazar, 40 years old) for 15 days (except in the Danakil or Simien, where we joined specialised operators), and established a real relationship. Alazar (as with many other Ethiopian professional drivers I guess), is a bundle of joy; smiling every morning and very talkative about his country. Just by that, he beautified our journey.
Our agency had planned a special guide for each monastery, castle we visited. Those moments were significant and highly interesting, but being with Alazar added much information about the daily life: politics, people’s hopes & fears, school system, family organization and so on..
He also taught us small Amharic sentences (insisting in the good pronounciation as far as possible for our throats!); which is, as everywhere i guess, very appreciated by local people !
He also helped us during our purchases.. since Ethiopians are strong in bargaining! We met some of his friends in Mekele; and so on and so on..
Maybe some travellers want more freedom; we just loved that way of traveling.
He was everyday in contact with Tsega’ab; who wanted to be sure everything was ok for us. We never felt in danger during the trip. We were a bit worried about the armed guys compulsory in some places (Danakil and Simien), but honestly we now think that it’s more a way to provide them a job rather than a real security issue.
I think the main danger there is the road : even if professional drivers are careful (every driver we had was); the roads are sometimes really bad, with many holes, and very busy (used a lot by trucks, but also people and animals), so we never know..
As for the country, it was beyond my expectations. As far as we can generalize, people is easy access and welcoming, even in the street; mostly if you speak some Amharic words! They are also generally good at English, not only in Addis.
We traveled in december, time of farming harvests.. delightful for our European senses, all road long. “Land of Extremes” is not a fallacious expression over there, from Simien to Danakil..
The food is mainly Injera, which is a sour dish.. Since we also love sweet, we brought some chocolate in our luggage; and bought many fruits everywhere.
To finish, some warning points however :
– watch the distances you plan ! We did the classical tour : Addis – Bahir Dar – Gondar – Simien – Mekele – Danakil – Lalibela -Konbotcha – Addis ; all by car..
For instance, from Addis to Bahir Dar, it’s a full day road (bad mainly). It’s nice to see landscapes around; but really exhausting. I would recommend to do it by plane. The rest can be done by car.
– You should not be reluctant to use minimalist campsites (included natural WC) if you want to visit Simien Moutains or Danakil ; and also to cold showers in general
– Many children ask for (money or) a pen.. we would have brought many pens if we had known.. As Alazar said, the most useful is still to stop in a school, and give them to a teacher who will share them properly
– You’d better have cash at the airport : they barely accept cards as a payment, and it’s quite difficult to withdraw out of Addis.
ENJOY, it’s an appropriate place to do so 🙂