Ethio Cycling Adventures, Addis Ababa

Levi Lawrence of Ethio Cycling Adventures writes:

We are a new outfit offering urban and rural bike rides in an around Addis Ababa, starting in October 2015. We will provide high quality bikes, hi-vis vests and helmets. Group sizes are limited to a maximum of 10 participants, with experienced leaders at the front and back of each group, who also act as tour guides. We also provide on-road repairs if needed. Our tours include city landmarks, suburban rides, mountain bike trails, day and overnight regional rides, giving riders not only an adventurous recreational experience, but also an up close opportunity to interact with the real Ethiopia.

For further details, contact ethiocyclingadventures@gmail.com or 0929 343987

March 2015 trip report

E&M writes:

This is a great resource that I so appreciated when I was researching our trip to Ethiopia. We spent 33 days in this amazingly beautiful country (Dec/Jan 15), and wanted to add my notes in the hopes it might help others.

Trans National Airlines (TNA) We did not fly w Ethiopian Airlines, so TNA was great for us. We flew on it twice $50 each way from Bahir Dar. The first flight saved us the 9 hour bus ride from Addis. The 2nd flight we drove from Lalibela to Bahir Dar and then flew from there back to Addis, saving us the 2 day bus ride from Lalibela. Make sure you confirm flight times, as our information was a 12pm flight, so a 5am departure from Lalibela to ensure we would get there on time. The actual flight time was 3pm.

Addis – Lots of construction, but when the light rail is finished it will be so much easier to get around the city. We were not there long enough to get a grasp of the buses and the taxis never seemed willing to go below 150 birr, so we did a lot of walking. The Caravan is a great place to stay for $50-60 US per night, and includes free airport shuttle. Fairly centrally located with great restaurants nearby, plus the hotel restaurant is quite good, too. The employees are great, each time we returned we felt like we were meeting old friends again. Addis Eats Walking Tour – great food tour that highlights 3 restaurants, 2 coffee shops and a juice bar. We did it on one of our last days in Ethiopia and wondered if it was worth the $s. It definitely is! We had a great time, and enjoyed the best Injero and Tibbs.

Ethio Travel andTours – Great company and great experience with them. We met with them the first day after exchanging emails earlier, spent @ 2hr firming up our itinerary. We only booked 2 tours with them – 4 day Simien trek and The Danakil, both were excellent. They offered great logistical suggestions, such as the TNA flights which saved us time and money. Several times we called them on our trip to arrange transport and we found them responsive and helpful.

Other suggestions ETT recommended included – starting the Simien trek at the waterfall and then hiking the first day to Gich. This allowed an extra night at Chenek, which we preferred over spending the first night at Sankabar. Also, scheduling a vehicle at Chenek and driving to Axum, rather than going back to Gondar. The drive to Axum is long with many switchbacks, but stunning scenery. After hiking in the Simiens, the drive allows you to look back up into the Mtns on this drive. We found everyone we dealt with at ETT professional and helpful.

ATMs – prior to arrival this was the most conflicting information. Perhaps we were just very lucky, but we never had a problem getting birr from the ATMs. We used them in Addis, Bahir Dar, Gondar, Axum, and Mekele. There was a 4000 birr max per transaction, but we could do multiple transactions. At the time of our ETT booking (Dec 5, 2014) they were not able to accept credit card payment. But they drove us to the Hilton in Addis and were able to get the birr for payment.

Bahir Dar – we really liked this pleasant tree lined city bordering Lake Tana. We only stayed 2 nights since we had committed to the Simien trek, but definitely would have stayed longer. Stayed at B&B The Annex – a small 4 room B&B with a beautiful little courtyard in the center where we ate breakfast and enjoyed the birds. A great restaurant on the South Shore of the lake, can not remember the name, but also had @ 100 beautiful pelicans nearby.

Gondar – enjoyed the castles. Three Girls restaurant – delicious food.

Simiens – Our understanding – the guides are randomly assigned by the Park Headquarters. We were very lucky to have Davey Yohannes assigned as our guide, and would recommend him. http://www.ambarasethiopiatours.com We are not clear whether you can request a specific guide ahead of time. This is a beautiful trek. Itinerary suggestions above. It is definitely cold, proper gear is essential. Mid Dec we woke up to ice/frost. We were traveling for too long to carry our own gear, but it would be a consideration for another time.

Axum – Africa House is a decent place to stay. Had our best spitz across the street from the Africa House.The small Archeological museum (at the Stella site) is nicely done, with very knowledgeable staff.

Loved the Tigray area – especially the Geralta Lodge. Well worth the splurge!

Mekele – probably the only non interesting town for us, but perhaps it was due to just spending 4 days in the Danakil. Atse Yohannes – upgrade and request the balcony – its old and tired, but ok for a quick stop before and after The Danakil and convenient to the ETT office in Mekele.

The Danakil – GO! It is amazing!!

Lalibela – lots already written – the churches are amazing. We had read lots of warnings on the hassle from the children. Someone has been working very hard to change that image – we were greeted with “welcome to Lailabela’. Yes, they would join you walking, but they did not hassle us.

Harar – a long 9 hour bus ride, stumbling into town at the edge of the massive market, arriving at a dumpy ‘recommend’ hotel (The Belayneh) that did not have water, and pretty filthy … The next morning, stumbling around in the old city, trying to locate the Cultural guesthouses. Finally asked someone and Sherif took us to the unmarked gray door – Zubeyda – to walk into a lovely courtroom with 3 rooms. It changed the entire dynamic of the city. Spent the next 2 days touring with Sherif, the camel market, the spice market, the cloth merchants. Highly recommend a guide to really enjoy the city. Just negotiate the daily charge ahead of time.

Ok, so that is a long post. Hope you find it helpful. We truly enjoyed our trip and definitely hope to return!

April 2015 Trip Report

Natalia writes:

Addis Ababa: Biruk Bed and Breakfast was excellent. Much better than expected, excellent owners and comfortable room.

Correction to the Bradt guide: if looking for Linda’s restaurant at the Juventus Club, it is important to go up the RIGHT hand steps on Meskel Square’s terrace (facing the terrace), NOT the left hand steps. We wandered for ages!

By road from Addis to Hossana via the Butajira road: beautiful, but a good 5 hours in private car because of the traffic in southeastern Addis. Lovely area.

Public bus ran from Hosaina to Awassa via Alaba Kulito, left when full around 9ish, 5 hours on a very pretty road through Angecha.

Hawassa: Lakeview Hotel is a new hotel that was fantastic value. Located next to the Oasis hotel, on the road to the Lewi. Very smart, new rooms (great beds, best bathroom in ET, fridge, spotty Wifi, balconies onto lake) start at US$22.

Yirga Alem: Excellent splashout with a stay at Aregash Lodge. This is a very special place, and while not cheap ($US70 for 1 person, $US80 for two, buffet meals perhaps 230 birr), it delivered on the value with very spacious, well appointed rooms, excellent bathrooms, extremely good service, and high quality food. I’ve been in lots of overhyped “ecolodges,” and this one truly delivered. Took the minibus from the bus station in Awassa to Yirgalem, and it’s easy to get a bajaj there up to the lodge or call the lodge. Bajaj may not be able to do the last 500m. Pretty isolated spot.

Skybus from Awassa to Addis was easy and smooth, if grubby. Booked one day ahead, 167 birr, booking in Awassa at the Alliance Building opposite Time Cafe. Seat maps bore no resemblance to actual bus, but at least there was just one seat per person. They gave out water on the bus, one bathroom stop in the bush. Departed Awassa about 6:40 am, were in Meskel Square by 12:15 pm.

Travellers cheques & ATMs

Christine writes:

I just returned from Ethiopia and want to pass on this information regarding traveller’s cheques. Traveller’s cheques are no longer cashable in Ethiopia. I had used them 5 years ago without any problems. Even banks outside Addis were able to cash them for me. However on this trip I was told that banks have not been cashing them for about 2 years. I was able to get cash advances on VISA at banks in Addis. I did not try to use ATMs outside the capital and I only used them inside banks in Addis. I was a bit leary of the ATMs outside banks. A friend was using one when the power went out and his card was stuck in the machine.

2015 trip report

Ian and Les write:

Going South:

  • One night on Lake Langano at Bishangari Lodge was memorable both from the point of view of location and birds. However, one has to suffer the 30 minute journey from the main road, much of it on a track, to get there. It was worth the suffering.
  • Then the drive from Lake Langano to Bale Mountain National Park, up over the Sanetti Plateau and down to Bale Mountain Lodge was probably the best one day road trip I have taken. Your description of it was apt. A bonus for me were the pipits and larks on the farmed plateau between Shashemene and Goba.
  • We decided to splurge on a 3 night stay at Bale Mountain Lodge even though it was way over what we would normally pay for accommodation. It was helped a discount Guy Levene offered us. He was not there by we met Yvonne on the last night and she said you were there 3 weeks previously. It was worth the money both because of the location, between the plateau and the dry lowlands, and for the warmth and care provided by the people who work there.
  • We did a day trip down to the area around Dola Mena and I could not believe how prolific the birdlife it there. I am not a top birder by any means but we must have seen 50 species there in 4 hours of which 14 were ‘lifers’ for me. And camels to boot. That said, I can understand it when Yvonne said that some people come back from this trip disappointed as it is the birding which makes it really special.

Going North, we took a tourist package as we only had three days for this part of our trip and chose to go to Bahir Dar.

  • We selected the Abay Minch Hotel, partly based on the Bradt Guide advice. But were very disappointed not to be on the lake and your description needs to be amended as the wording something like ‘in a quiet corner of the lake’ is misleading. So we decided to move – with Abey Minch not giving us a refund – and stayed at the Lake Tana Blue Nile Resort. It is such a great location, particularly for birding, and we really liked the atmosphere there. The food was better than we expected and Les and I decided they only needed to do one thing: fix the bathrooms.
  • The Deset Lodge, on the bay opposite the Lake Tana resort hotel is a great place for evening drinks and dinner. We went there with people staying in Bahir Dar who are in the know.
  • We took a day trip on Lake Tana to the monasteries with the one on Dek Island being the highlight: beautiful, quiet and spiritual.
  • The trip to see the Blue Nile Falls trickle was disappointing and I would not recommend it. We knew there was no water but were not prepared for the horrible bumpy 37 km journey there and the pressure to buy curios every step of the way. Also the birding was disappointing.

Back in Addis and the Akaki Wetlands

  • While I was working for the first week in Addis I stayed at the Ghion Hotel, which was just OK, made worthwhile by the setting. But on passing through on the way back we wanted the feel of smart Bole Road and stayed in the KZ hotel which was nice and good value.
  • Based on what you had written about the Akaki Wetlands, we took a half day trip out there. But, as I presume you have found yourself, the wetlands are gone. It seems as if they have been drained for agriculture and/or for the construction of the freeway, railway and pipeline between the town and what must have been the wetlands. In some ways this is a metaphor for what is happening in Ethiopia: development at an unbelievable pace with the wilderness paying a price for this.

Public transport in Addis Ababa

Addis Advisor writes:

Addis MINIBUS TAXIS, price drop, location changes.

. PRICES

Due to world oil thing prices have been cut thus….these are for trips of different length starting with shortest

SHORT 1.50 birr down to 1.25…………In Amharic………and birr k haya amist

MEDIUM 3.00 birr down to 2.50 eg Arat Kilo to Megananya..

LONG 4-00 birr down to ???? not sure if 3.50 or 3,25………eg Bole to Piazza,

Stadium to Kaliti Bus Station 12 km out to southern outskirts of Addis is still 10 birr…(for those busing south)

2. As the Addis Light Rail system nears completion many minibus starting points are back to normal…..ie as in Bradt Guide 6th edition maps. BUT many also still different……..especially on eastern section of the Metro Rail between Maskal Square and Megananya…..which has many hotels…. LOCALS will always be most helpful in telling you where a particular route currently starts.

3. For those aiming to save money by using minibuses…….see relevant page on how to use Addis minibus taxis in Bradt (6th edition only).

Addis Light Rail network will open later this year……..