Trip report (useful South Omo info) Jan-Mar 2016

Bryan & Judy Pready write

First part (days 1 to 16, to Gonder) pre­booked through Tesfa Tours http://www.tesfatours.com/ ; after that independent travel, mainly using local buses.

A selection of our photos can be seen here:­

https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B1pd3zAKtirpZGJ6S2tTVjNrLVE&usp=sharing

12 17 Jan Axum Ye Yared Zema Hotel: Stellae
13 18 Jan Axum Ye Yared Zema Hotel. Stellae and church.
14 19 Jan Gondar Flight to Gondar: Fasil Lodge; visited castle. Procession in afternoon. Tesfa guide: Tamerat
15 20 Jan Gondar Fasil Lodge; Timket celebrations from very early morning
16 21 Jan Gondar Fasil Lodge; planning our own itinerary
17 22 Jan Bahir Dahr Minibus to Bahir Dahr. Blue Nile Hotel, booked via

Booking.com (USD35 inc breakfast).

18 23 Jan Bahir Dahr Blue Nile Hotel: Boat trip to islands, peninsula and monasteries.
19 24 Jan Bahir Dahr B&B The Annexe; (USD45 inc breakfast) This B&B only has 3 rooms and is often fully booked. Quiet residential area. Originally was holiday home of Swiss­Ethiopian family, who live in Lausanne. Bookings by email are handled by them in Switzerland and the B&B is run by family members who live in Bahir Dahr. Attractive garden with lots of birds. Excellent breakfasts.
20 25 Jan Bahir Dahr B&B The Annexe: Blue Nile Falls
21 26 Jan Bahir Dahr B&B The Annexe. Walked to Derg Memorial, saw hippos in river near bridge. In Bahir Dahr, we enjoyed several good fish meals at the Lakeshore Resort. Good food, excellent location and pleasant service.
22 27 Jan Lalibela Minibus (ETB300 each), then shared 4×4 (ETB300), to Lalibela. Lalibela Hotel booked via Booking.com (USD37 inc breakfast)
23 28 Jan Lalibela Lalibela Hotel; rock churches
24 29 Jan Lalibela Lalibela Hotel; more rock churches
25 30 Jan Lalibela Lalibela Hotel; mule ride to St Mary’s Church (arranged through hotel) Manager of Lalibela Hotel, Indie, was very helpful with advice, arranging mule ride, and helping to get a very good deal for our Danakil trip.
26 31 Jan Makele Private transfer to Makele, arranged through ETT as part of Danakil package. Yohannes Hotel  ETT Manager in Makele, Abeba, is very efficient, pleasant and helpful.

 

27 1 Feb Erte Ale ETT Tour: Makele ­­ Dodom ­­ Erte Ale volcano (camp) Large group with only one guide and an assistant. Not impressed with guide on trek to volcano; he went off quite fast, leaving lots of stragglers behind. On the other hand, drivers and police escort were pleasant and helpful. Volcano was impressive ­­ well worth it.
28 2 Feb Abaala Dodom ­­ Abaala (ETT guesthouse)
29 3 Feb Hamdela Abaala ­­ Behthale ­­ Hamedela (camp): Salt lake at sunset.
30 4 Feb Makele Ragad (Asebo) mine ­­ Dallol, Lake Assal (Absolutely stunning landscapes; can’t imagine there is anywhere else on earth quite like this) ­­ Makele, Yohannes Hotel
32 5 Feb Addis Free transfer to airport by ETT. Flight to Addis; Zeist Lodge. Aladin Restaurant ­­ went because we could walk there from Zeist Lodge but not impressed.
32 6 Feb Addis Zeist Lodge: La Mandoline Restaurant ­­ certainly the best restaurant we visited in Ethiopia. Decided to visit again.
33 7 Feb Addis Zeist Lodge Booked bus to Bale Robe for following day from Mercato, assisted by taxi driver, without whom we’d have never found the right place to buy the ticket.
34 8 Feb Bale Robe Early morning bus to Bale Robe. Got on wrong bus at Mercato but then helped by another passenger to find the right one; not easy in complete darkness. Bekele Molla Hotel. Moved after 1 night. Hotel very run down. Broken furniture, no running water, smelly bathroom. (ETB 250, breakfast not included)
35 9 Feb Bale Robe Siko Mendo Hotel. Clean, modern 3­storey hotel, hot water shower. Dusty because of airport construction traffic using dirt road in front of hotel. (ETB 400, including breakfast.)  Walking tour with guide from National Park HQ, Abubakar Adem mountain nyala, reedbuck and warthog. No alcohol at hotel so went to restaurant near roundabout where we received a warm welcome, good traditional food and cold beer.
36 10

Feb

Bale Robe Siko Mende Hotel. Tour with minibus and NP guide, Abubeker Adem, to Sanetti Plateau and beyond. Ethiopian wolves and colobus monkeys.
37 11

Feb

Hawassa Minibus and bus, via Shashemene to Hawassa, Lake View Hotel. First night in first floor room above bar. Very noisy until late so moved to second floor on other side of hotel; much quieter. Large, comfortable rooms with pleasant balconies.

 

38 12

Feb

Hawassa Lake View Hotel Explored along lakeside
39 13

Feb

Hawassa Lake View Hotel: Fish market (ETB 40 entrance, ETB 100 guide, separate receipts issued by fishermen’s and

guides’ associations)

40 14

Feb

Hawassa Lake View Hotel: Eating:­ Dolce Vita didn’t impress, most items on the menu weren’t available. Venezia: went

twice, first time good but the second time the boss messed up our order and then tried to blame the kitchen staff! “What a Burger” ­­ good new burger place, run by a young Ethiopian who has lived in the USA. New Italian

ice cream place, also started serving pasta on the day we left, diagonally across from Dolce Vita.

41 15

Feb

Dilla Bus to Dilla: Delight Hotel
42 16

Feb

Dilla Delight Hotel Prehistoric rock carvings and villages, Wechemo district, tour by bus and on foot with local guide, Abrahalign Mengesha, from Gedeo Zone tourism office.
43 17

Feb

Dilla Delight Hotel Quiet day, after minor injury previous evening for which I received treatment at Unity Medium Clinic, a short walk from the hotel.
44 18

Feb

Dilla Delight Hotel Stellae; tour by bus and on foot with

Abrahalign Mengesha.

45 19

Feb

Yabello Bus to Yabello. Tried Green Hotel (now “Pension”) but only rooms with shared showers and toilet so went across road to Yabello Hawi Hotel (ETB300 en­suite with

“instant” shower) Evening meals at Yabello Motel.

46 20

Feb

Yabello Yabello Hawi Hotel
47 21

Feb

Konso Bus to Konso. Not easy to find, doesn’t go from bus station. Were told it left every day at 8 a.m. so went at

7:30. Bus eventually came at 9:15 and finally left Yabello at 11:15. New Konso Edget Hotel (No restaurant; ate at Konso Edget Hotel. No internet cafe and no WiFi, used internet cafe at Konso Development Association)

48 22

Feb

Konso New Konso Edget Hotel: Museum, local market and visit to Konso village without official guide. We were invited in and guided round by a local man who teaches physics in a local secondary school, a really good experience.

 

49 23

Feb

Konso New Konso Edget Hotel. Tour to local villages by bajaj with guide from Konso Tourism Office but wasn’t as good as yesterday’s unofficial guide.
50 24

Feb

Arbore Tour by minibus to south, with local guide Bereket Tekel. Walked to see fishing. Camped in village (tent, mattresses and bedding hired from community) Camping ETB200 per person, plus ETB100 for guard.
51 25

Feb

Turmi Mango community camp site (Tent and bedding provided by guide) Camping ETB150 per person. Hamer village visit on foot from camp site with local guide, Oïta, at sunset.  Excellent visit; relaxed; welcomed into homes.
52 26

Feb

Turmi Omerate in morning by minibus. Visited Sambura village (Dasenach). Expensive for very short visit! (ETB 1300 in total) and not very interesting. Afternoon; tried to see bull­jumping in village near Turmi. Saw preliminaries but ceremony rained off by heavy thunderstorm. Mango community camp site. Had to wade across river which had been completely dry when we left.  Used double bedroom, with en­suite shower because our tent had been flattened by the thunderstorm! Very impressed with Mango ­­ it’s well looked after and the people there are extremely

helpful and welcoming.

53 27

Feb

Konso Original plan had been to go to Jinka but we decided to spend the morning drying out our clothes and around the the camp site before returning to Konso. Kanta Lodge (No power or water at New Edget Hotel)
54 28

Feb

Arba Minch Zebib Pension Recommended by our guide, Bereket Tekel. An excellent choice. Weather was warm, so we chose a room in the block facing the courtyard, which had a window at the front and door onto a small balcony at the back, rather than in the block behind, where rooms only have a door and window at the front. (BTB700) Lunch at Tourist Hotel ­ pleasant gardens, including tame dik­dik, cold draught beer. Evening meal at Swayne’s Lodge ­­ not good, fish cooked to cinder.
55 29

Feb

Arba Minch Zebib Pension Boat tour full day (ETB2500 for two, inc NP entry, boat, guide, bajaj, scout)  Hippos, crocs, zebra, gazelles, baboons, fish eagles, pelicans, goliath heron. Evening to Paradise Lodge by bajaj (road tarmaced all the way now) in search of working ATM. Place very quiet, beautiful views from restaurant terrace.

 

56 1 Mar Arba Minch Zebib Pension Dorze by bus (ETB20) Met by local guide, Freo (he’d been tipped off by phone that two farangi were coming!) who made sure that we got off at the right place. Very interesting tour, especially seeing how false banana is prepared and eaten, Bajaj to market at Chencha. Late lunch back at Tourist Hotel. Better evening meal at Swaynes, possibly because they had a group staying..
57 2 Mar Arba Minch Zebib Pension Sunrise then breakfast at Swaynes, while watching a family of baboons and three warthogs. Bekele Mola for lunch and dinner, which has better terrace, food and service than Swayne’s. More popular with locals.
58 3 Mar Ziway 6 a.m. bus to Shashemene, then minibus. Haile Resort
59 4 Mar Ziway Haile Resort Lake trip to island. Interesting village but church closed because priest away for bishop’s funeral.
60 5 Mar Ziway Haile Resort Good lunch, with bottle of Rift Valley Merlot at the winery restaurant.
61 6 Mar Ziway Haile Resort Another lazy day, sorting travel and bookings, and another lunch at the winery restaurant.
62 7 Mar Addis Minibus to Addis; left without being full! Long delay because of accident involving 3 trucks. Ye­Afoli International Hotel New hotel (opened late in 2015). Went here on recommendation of Zeist Lodge, because they were full. Good value; booked USD75 room though Booking.com and were upgraded to a larger USD100 room. Good location ­­ nearer to Bole Road than Zeist Lodge. Large, comfortable, well­equipped room and bathroom. Only place in Ethiopia where we saw kettle, cups and teabags provided,
63 8 Mar Harar Free transfer from hotel to Selam bus to Harar. Winta

Hotel (Tried to book Harar Ras Hotel by phone but was

told it was full) Further from walled town but very pleasant atmosphere at this family­run hotel. The Manager, Daniel Berhe, is very helpful. Excellent breakfasts; most evening meals at Harar Ras

64 9 Mar Harar Winta Hotel Tour of walled city on foot with local guide, Solomon. Feeding Hyenas after sunset.
65 10

Mar

Harar Winta Hotel Trip in Peugeot 404 taxi to camel market at

Babile, “valley of marvels” and Koromi village.

66 11

Mar

Harar Winta Hotel Explored more of old town. Offered beers on house by Daniel when he saw us playing Scrabble downstairs.

 

67 12

Mar

Addis Selam bus to Addis. Lunch stop: thought we’d ordered pasta but got roast chicken and chips. Really excellent! Shame we didn’t have time to properly relax and enjoy it! Ye­Afoli International Hotel  Same room, at same price as previous visit. La Mandoline restaurant for birthday treat.
68 13

Mar

Addis Ye­Afoli International Hotel Cathedral museum (good), then went to Ethnographic Museum but was closed for refurbishment; not sure for how long.
69 14

Mar

Addis Ye­Afoli International Hotel Red Martyrs Museum, interesting ­­ reminded us of Cambodia, then shopping for gifts. Hotel restaurant is good ­­ appears to be used by locals as well as hotel guests. Talked to hotel owner, who is also its architect about the hotel and some of the ideas he’s got from working in other countries.
70 15

Mar

Free transfer from hotel to airport. Return flight to London

Notes

Buses

We used local buses and minibuses most of the time. Information in the Bradt guide is generally accurate and helpful, though it was useful to check out the detail the day before, and to buy tickets, where possible for early morning departures, which tend to leave soon after dawn. Later in the day, they generally wait until they are full before leaving. Unlike in some other countries, there never seemed to be any competition between buses going to the same destination; one would fill up and leave, and then another would take over. Some towns (e.g. Shashemene) have more than one bus station, and, in one place, Yabello, the bus didn’t leave from the “bus station” that is marked on the map in the Bradt guide (a yard next to the stadium).

Because buses only leave when they are full it is often extremely difficult to board a bus anywhere along its route. Buses are not allowed to carry standing passengers, a rule that is enforced by traffic police who lurk along the main roads. It is noticeable that buses do pile on extra passengers once they turn off onto side roads where the drivers know that there is little chance of being caught.

Road accidents are common, though we didn’t see any involving buses. We did see the aftermath of a head­on collision between a minibus and a truck, which must have been fatal for the front seat passengers of the minibus.

Bus stations are usually very large yards which appear disorganised but the buses or minibuses for each destination gather in the same spot. We found it useful to check this out the day before, when we weren’t burdened with our bags. Young men often hang around bus stations, offering their services as porters, guides and “seat bookers”. We usually declined their offers but, once or twice we did use them to track down a ticket office or help us find the right bus.

Local guides

We used a lot of local guides along the way, starting with the young lad who showed the the area around Gheralta Lodge. He was the son of two of the Lodge staff and knew the area and its people very well. Just the sort of guide we like ­­ not necessarily an expert but someone who is interested in local wildlife, able to introduce you to local people, show you how they live, point out interesting sights and respond to your questions.

Most of the guides that we found were good. Some were able to organise longer trips and transport. The best of these was Bereket Tekel who we used for our trip to the south from Konso. He came to find us at our hotel, having been tipped of by the receptionist, and we must admit that we were, at first, quite wary. There’s no mention in the Bradt guide of being able to arrange such a trip from Konso and the lack of an internet connection there meant we had no other way of checking out what he was telling us.

Having mulled it over for a couple of days while we visited the villages around Konso, we accepted his proposal and are very glad we did. We had an enjoyable time travelling by minibus, and walking and camping in the villages. Bereket, the driver, Yaziallam, and his assistant, Tesfalla, made a great team and the local guide in Turmi from the Hamar community, OÏta, was also excellent.

Finding local guides isn’t usually a problem, though deciding whether to use them can be. In some places, you have no option, and in these places you don’t have a choice either, you take whoever’s turn it is. This was the case in Omorate, where we had our worst

experience. The guy showed no real interest, he just wanted to do it as quickly as possible. He didn’t respond to any of our questions. The whole thing was very expensive but I doubt if much of the money went to either the villagers or the boatmen. We expressed our concerns to Bereket but he obviously felt powerless to do anything about it.

Museums

Of the museums that we visited, we enjoyed:

●   The Ethnological Museum in Addis. We’d hoped to go back for a second visit but we were told it was closed for refurbishment.

●   The National Museum in Addis ­­ basement is excellent, rest is hardly worth looking at.

●   Red Terror Museum in Addis ­­ brought back memories of Phnom Penh and the

Khmer Rouge.

●   The Cathedral Museum in Addis ­­ perhaps the best display of church artifacts that we saw.

●   The museum in Lalibela which is part of the the community centre, just along the road from the Lalibela Hotel. Two large rooms, the first about the churches, based on recent archeological work. The second is a very good ethnological museum. It’s unfortunate that this museum appears to get few visitors; it really is worth visiting.

●   The museum at Ura Kidane Mehret monastery on the Zege peninsula in Lake Tana

has a very good display of church artifacts.

●   Konso museum, across the road from the Kanta Lodge. Again, this museum doesn’t appear to be on the main tourist trail; plenty stay at the Kanta Lodge but I didn’t see anyone walking across there or even being brought over in their 4x4s.

Finally, the one we wouldn’t recommend is the church museum in Axum. Dismal. Dusty objects behind dirty glass, including a lot of ancient books but you can only look at their covers. And it’s more expensive and most other museums.

ATMs and money

Ethiopia has a good network of ATMs. The only town where we didn’t see one was Yabello but we weren’t really looking. Biggest network is Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) followed by Dashen Bank, both of which allow you to withdraw ETB4,000. For some others e.g. NIB, Awash, the limit is ETB2,000. Some banks, e.g. Abyssinia, don’t accept foreign cards.

Machines can be found outside some of the major (usually expensive!) hotels and afew tourist attractions, e.g. Lalibela churches, Addis Ethnological Museum.

You can withdraw money from bank branches using a foreign card. Dashen charges a fee of 2.5% for this service but at CBE it’s free. Two advantages of withdrawing money in branches are that you can take out a larger amount (up to the limit set by your own bank) and you can ask for the money in smaller denominations than the ETB100 notes that you usually get from ATMs. We did this in Konso before heading off to the South.

You can’t rely on ATMs working all the time so it is wise to always have enough money for the next few days. Occasionally bank branches may also be out of action because of power cuts or problems with phone connections. There appear to be times, at the end of each month, when CBE branches are besieged by large numbers of students and government employees trying to withdraw money.

About Us

We are in our late sixties. This is the fifth long winter trip that we’ve done since we retired. The previous ones were in Indochina, India and Latin America.

Hotels in Robe (Bale)

Bryan writes:

I wouldn’t recommend Bekelle Molla. Paid 250 birr for ensuite double but no runnig water and room gloomy and smelly. (Breakfast not included)

Moved after one night to Siko Mendo. Much better – 400 birr including breakfast. Only current drawback are dust clouds from heavy construction lorries building new airport. When that’s finished, and, hopefully, airport road is tarmaced, will definitely be best place in town.

December 2015 trip report (Hawassa, Bale, Awash, Guassa)

Many thanks to Ray and Joyce for this very detailed trip report from their 9th (!) trip to Ethiopia, using the new 7th edition of the Bradt Guide

 

Addis Ababa

Caravan hotel; good hotel with shuttle bus pickup service from the airport

 

Hawassa

Lake View Hotel had no room available when we arrived at 20:00 in spite of our booking.

Oasis hotel; okay for 733 birr for a large room incl breakfast and wifi

 

Hawassa – Aposte – Negele Borena

Take the road from Hawassa further south and take the junction at Aposte direction Negele. Till Aposte there is roadconstruction going on, after Aposte till Negele is a very good new asphalt road with beautiful scenery.

Saturday market in Bore.

Bongo: best tibbs ever, restaurant on the right side with a small butcher shop attached.

 

Negele Borena

Turaco hotel was fully booked.

Maereg hotel; room for 805 birr, no breakfast available, incl wifi, no water to flush the toilet, shower oké, staff not friendly.

Gooshi restaurant is the place to be.

a little bit further than Gooshi are very nice and busy breakfast restaurants (we were there at 7:30) seating outside.

 

Dola Mena

Bassufigaad hotel; 90 birr for clean room, nice staff, cold water shower, no toilet in room. Diner/breakfast available.

Breakfast; direction Bale Mountains, at the end of the town, on the left side of the road, you find the best ambesha (local bread) we found during our trip. Just ask around. It is behind a metal plated fence.

 

Bale Mountain lodge

Beautiful but expensive lodge. The rate in high season is $ 290 + 10 (park bed levy) per person per night and not per room, so for 2 persons it wil be $ 600 for a night, incl guide, food and drinks. When you haven’t made a reservation you can always ask for a last minute rate.

Made a 2 hour walk to Mt Gushuralle with a wide view, 1,25 hour walk back to the lodge.

 

Goba

Wabe Shebelle hotel; the rates are higher then published in the 7th edition. We paid $ 40 after negotiation, they first asked $ 45. I noticed no difference to the rooms from our first visit in 2006………..

Restaurant; Baltina, ask for directions, it is of the mainroad.

Nice horse riding excursion from Dinsho to the Web Valley, 7 hours incl rest.

Walk excursion from Dinsho to the Gaysay grasslands with close encounters with Mountain Nyala’s, warthogs, wattled ibis, klipspringers etc.

 

Goba – Goro – Sof Omar – Ginnir

Road was bad but at the moment road construction is going on.

Sof Omar; entrance fee of 300 birr pp, we argued and walked away (we have been there before), then were allowed for 150 pp excl 50 birr for the guide.

Ginner; decided to overnight in Ginner because the trip took longer than expected.

Bale Tourist hotel; truckers hotel, 100 birr, incl wifi, lot of chat chewing going on, no toilet, shower full with mosquito’s.

 

Ginnir – Sheik Hussein – Wabe Shebelle Gorge – Asbe Teferi = 366 km

Long road, preferably overnight at Sheik Hussein

Sheik Hussein; 80 birr entrance fee pp + 150 birr for a English speaking guide (former teacher).

 

Wabe Shebelle Gorge; Beautiful scenery

see for more information:   http://balemountains.org/multi-day-driving-itineraries/

from Sheik Hussein to Hawi Gudina we there was no traffick, but we saw several people and small settlements.

Sheik Hussein – bridge 1         7 km

Bridge 1 – bridge 2                  27 km

Bridge 2 – bridge 3                  26 km

Bridge 3 – Hawi Gudina          17 km

Hawi Gudina – Mechera          68 km

Mechera – Gelemso                 35 km

Gelemso – Bedesa – Asbe Teferi         73 km

 

Asbe Teferi

Burka hotel, 200 birr, rundown room, bathroom with toilet and warm shower.

 

Awash

Hotel Buffet d’Aouache, new well maintained annex, very nice room for 308 birr. Restaurant is in the old building (walkingdistance across the railway).

 

Awash – Doho lodge – Duleche – Ankober

This route is described in the 7th Edition, from north to south. We did the route the other way and had a hard time finding the startingpoint of the route and ended up at the new Doho lodge. The manager new the road we had to take: back to the asphalt road, turn left direction sugar factory. Ask there for the right turn to Duleche.

The route was harder to travel than expected, especially when we came across junctions and had no clue which one to take. It’s Afar territory and they don’t have a good reputation, but we found the Afar very helpful. It’s a beautiful trip but think twice before going with only one car and without a guide.

 

Ankober

Ankober Palace Hotel; the first night we were the only guests, $ 65 for single, $ 85 for 2 persons, incl breakfast. Beautiful rooms with warm shower and spectacular views.

Sometimes no electricity, no generator. Excursions expensive.

Very nice Thursday market in Aliyu Amba.

 

Debre Birhan

Eva hotel has a new name, telephonenumber and owner:

Getva hotel                  Tel.nr: 011-6375040

Rates new wing: single 629, king 834, twin 1047

Rates old wing: single 335, twin 587

 

Debre Birhan – Tarmabir – Guessa plateau -Mehal Meda

The road from Tabernat to Mehal Meda is bad, near Mehal Meda it is under construction.

Guassa Community Lodge; 300 birr pp + 100 entrance fee for park pp. Nice rooms with common shower/toilet.

They are building 2 tukuls with private bathroom, will be ready in a few months.

Aryam Hotel in Mehal Meda is closed at the moment. The other hotels in Mehal Meda are very basic.

The new road to Ataye is open en a very recommended scenic drive.

 

 

 

Alternative routes to Lalibela, Bale Mountains & Guassa

Jacky and Yolande write:

An alternative road from Addis-Ababa to Lalibela :

This route is certainly the most beautiful to join Addis-Ababa to Lalibela but not the shorter in time. We travelled it from Magdala Hills to the South on 2009 and now on November 2015 from the South to the North. It crossed many beautiful landscapes far from the tourism rush, the first time, we met no tourist, the second, it was the same. There are 610 km including detours of 5 to 10 km and about 20 hours with many stops to take photos and to contemplate. We drove during 2 days but it seems to be better to take 3. There is petrol in Mukatori, Fetera, Alem-Ketema, Worelu, Tanta, Gashena ….. and anywhere near the residents but the price is a little bit higher !

The first day : Addis-Ababa to Mukatori by the main road (km 78), to Katcha (km 102), to Robi (km 114), to Lemi (km 120) via splendid Jemma valley, bridge on the Jemma river (km 134), Fetera (km 162), Alem-Ketema (km 178), Wenchit and Bisolo Rivers at the foot of the sumptuous Amba Weremo (km 194), Meragna (km 225), Degolo (km 263) and Worelu (km293) where we stay in the good and clean Gumitt Hotel (160 birrs for a double or twin and 90 for a single with toilets en suite).

The second day : Worelu to Segnogebeya (km 308), to Kabe at the foot of the marvellous Yewel Mountains (km 326), to Guguftu (km 326) where we join the road to Mekane-Selam on the left, to Segnogimba (km 350) then Tulawilia (km 367) where you turn right to Tenta (km 415) near for a visit of Magdala Hills, to Beshilo (km 445), to Wengel-Tena (km 473), Jita River (km 498), to Changoma (km 504) where you have to turn right, to Kone (km 537) and Gashena (km 549), then you follow the North road under construction to Lalibela (km 610).

 

An alternative road from Bale Mountains to Addis-Ababa :

After 5 days (October 25th) in the Bale Mountains NP, we decided to set out the 4×4 day excursion from Robe to the Wabe Shebelle Gorge as described in the Bradt, before our return to Adama via Asela, the day after. The first km on the Dinsho road are asphalted but afterwards, it began very difficult because the heavy rains. The panorama over the escarpment is just 1 or 2 km North of Gasera, it is a fantastic view on a large valley and a deep gorge. The descent is difficult and in bad condition because of the rainy season but very sumptuous during 16 km from the top to the bridge over the river. In this place, it is possible to walk along the Wabe Shebelle upstream or downstream. The people, Oromo and Somali, living in this area not accustomed to the tourism, are friendly and disinterested. They told us that the road to Adama is opened but they didn’t know the distance and the difficulties! So, we decided to set out this route. Gasera is at 55 km, the bridge at 71 km, the other side after a long and very beautiful ascent is at 107 km (we saw geladas in the cliffs 3 times). Then, we drive on a plateau with the Arsi Mountains in the distance on the left crossing Indetu (km 114), Sedika (km 136), Gena (km 153), Robi (km 170), Bulale (km 187), Diksis (km 195), Aribgebeya (km 213), Huruta (km 229), Dera on the Asela asphalt road (km 248) and Adama center (km 276). The drive was 9 hours with many stops on the two slopes of the gorge (3 hours as far as the river, then 6 hours from the river), including a puncture in the descent and a repairing in Robi (1 hour for these operations). The landscape after Indetu was not really interesting, except some sections around valleys above all near the Kalata and Wadicha rivers near Huruta. There is not tyre-repair or station before Robi (km 170).

 

Leaving Guassa Plateau :

After an interesting stay in Guassa Plateau, we’d like to follow our trip but we didn’t want back to the same way to Termabir. On the Bradt (6th edition) page 171 and on certain maps, there is a road from Mehal-Meda to Dessie, certainly via Worelu in the North direction and to Alem-Ketema in the West direction. Before our departure, I couldn’t find them on Google earth or Tracks 4 Africa and even on place with the local people thinking it is not possible by car. The first don’t exist and the second is only a project for the future, there are only improbable tracks for the farmers and their livestock for these directions. But it exists an interesting new gravel tracks (under construction in 2009 and now just open on October to the traffic) to join the main asphalt road in the town of Ataya North of Efeson. The surface is not easy, above all in the beginning after heavy rains, so it is necessary to have a 4×4 and drive carefully.

On the way between Guassa Community Lodge and Mehale-Meda, there is a branching cross-road on the right side, just near a small hill with a hut on the top and a piece of water at the foot. On October 12th, there is a fence but the guard opened it for us. At the beginning the road is narrow with an impressive and long descent (the views are very magnificent) crossing the villages of Kilkil, Segnogebeya, Zengadamidir and so on. No tourists in this area so the farmers are very very friendly and the children only surprised to meet white people, a real joy to travel in Ethiopia like in the past. There are 2 hours and a half to 3 hours including stops and 43 km from the high and impressive cliffs of Guassa Plateau to Ataya on the asphalt road.

 

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.

Bale Mountains Feb 2015 trip report

Jo writes:
Having just returned from a trip to the Bale Mountains (February 2015) with a couple of friends, I want everyone to be able to get there – it’s just fantastic! So…here’s what we did!
 
We went by public transport from Addis which is perfectly possible…you just need to allow time. We left Bole at 7am on a Sunday, caught a bus to Meskel Square where we got a bus to Kality. We had to wait a long time at Kality for a bus to Shashemene to fill up, so didn’t leave until 9.15 and unfortunately picked a slow bus that stopped for 30mins in Ziway. Made it to Shashemene around 2pm and got straight on a bus to Dinsho – arrived at 4.30pm. Total cost, c. 200 Birr per person. Ask the Dinsho bus to let you off at the park headquarters – this means going through the town of Dinsho, and start heading up the hill out of town. You’ll quickly see a sign on your right for the National Park. Get off here, and walk up the road to the right. As you turn the corner you’ll see the HQ Office. We paid 890 Birr to the Park HQ for three days in the park with one tent. 
 
We stayed the night at Dinsho Lodge which is like a Bunkhouse. Basic but a fine base before you start trekking. It’s $20 for a dorm room – this doesn’t include breakfast which I think they should change. The power was off while we were there (freezing showers and no light, power or heating) and they’d claimed to have run out of fire wood to make a fire, so we asked for breakfast and dinner (tibs and shiro) to be free. After some negotiating, they agreed. 
 
Our guide was called Awol – would highly recommend him. He met us at the Park HQ when we arrived, talked us through everything, organised a pan and stove so we could cook while camping as well as the horses, horse men and water for the trek. He met us 9 am the next morning ready to trek and did a fantastic three day route (Monday am – Wednesday 2pm) which we loved. Scenery is spectacular. It’s very cold at night, so wrap up warm, and the camp sites don’t have facilities other than a long drop toilet. Awol was very knowledgeable and made the trek good fun. We took our own food for the three days. Horses carry everything apart from your day pack. Our trek ended back in Dinsho town where we could get a bus to Robe.
 
We flew back to Addis from Robe-Goba airport on the Wednesday afternoon (c.50 mins to get there from Dinsho by bus and then bhajaj), but think we were on the last flight for a couple of years as the airport closes to be tarmacked – it’s a runway in a field at the moment! Alternatives could be to head on to Robe or Goba for a night at the end of your trek, where you can then travel onwards or back to Addis. The trek (excluding transport there and back and tips) for three of us was c.4300 Birr. This included 18 litres of water and hiring the pan and stove.
 
Would recommend everyone goes if you can – it was beautifully peaceful, we didn’t see another tourist the whole length of the trek and saw Ethiopian wolves, eagles, hyena, nyala, warthogs, kestrels, buzzards and beautiful scenery.

Detailed trip report Jul-Sep 2014

Charlotte writes:

I was in Ethiopia for 2 and a half months for research from mid July 2014 – end September 2014, but also did some travelling. I did a lot in public transport, for which information is sometimes scarce so I have added some info here, though it is usually quite easy to get information by asking around a bit. Note that the prices that I have put here is what I was charged in Summer 2014, however prices are variable depending e.g. on market days, type of bus taken for transport, prices also vary for peak/off peak seasons, e.g. for hotels , I was there in the off-season.

 

GENERAL INFORMATION

Sky bus

Their office on Meskel square in Addis does exist but is hard to find, and we found the man bad tempered and unhelpful…maybe it just wasn’t his day…and told us that there were no tickets left on the bus, however we went to the office at Itegue Taitu hotel in Piassa and the lady was very helpful and got us tickets for the bus we wanted.

Took Skybus from Addis – Hawassa and back, a good bus service that leaves on time and is a good price, though there is constantly noise from film/music/standup comedy that they play for the whole bus, so earplugs are worthwhile if you want some quiet. For toilet breaks, the bus just stops on the side of the road somewhere quiet. Also receive a small snack & drink.

They are also very flexible, we had almost illegible tickets (through water destruction) for a Friday, we had tried changing the date, however no-one was around in the Hawasa office and on the phone they just told us to turn up at the busstop at 6am on the Sunday, the day we wanted to leave. After we explained the situation, they accepted our ruined tickets for the wrong day and allowed us to travel! Great!

 

Selam bus

I took it from Bahir Dar – Addis, same comments as Sky bus.

 

Theft

Generally speaking, if you are careful, there should not be a problem, but there are the odd people that will try to take things from you. In 10 weeks, only 2 attempts were made to take my things (luckily both failed!). In Addis a group of boys distracted me on one side while one of them puts their hands into your pockets on the other side. Even so I continued to keep e.g. phone in my pocket throughout my travels, but I was careful. In minibuses & public transport, if you have bags with you, keep an eye on them (or if you travel with big bags/rucksacks, just avoid keeping important things in them, or if you must, then put them in the least accessible places). I had a small rucksack that I had put by my feet in a minibus, and later caught a man’s hand in it! Luckily I had tied up the inside opening well and he couldn’t access anything, but it is better to keep smaller bags on your lap.

Another friend had his phone stolen by a group of men in a bajaj, clearly they were working together with the driver. He only realised after.

 

Other

– Tea and coffee in local places almost always comes automatically with sugar already in the drink, although some places more used to foreigners will put sugar aside.

– In hotels, if you like hot showers, one of the 1st things you should do is turn the boiler on as it often takes some time for the water to heat up.

– Cappuccinos don’t have coffee – it is hot milk with a little cocoa powder

 

SHASHEMENE AND HAWASSA

Hawassa

I enjoyed Hawassa, it is a nice, clean town, and the lake is beautiful.

Paradise hotel – Great location near to the minibus station, good for early starts. It is a nice place but the bar next door is very (very) loud, but otherwise is good value for money

 

Hawassa to Shashemene and back

10 birr, 20-30min

NOTE – in Shashemene there are 2 bus stations. The minibus from Hawassa goes to the Old bus station

 

 

BALE MOUNTAINS

The rainy season is not the best time to go – we were there in mid-August & it rained every afternoon.

 

Shashemene to Dinsho/Robe and back

100 birr in minibus – if you go to Dinsho, you still must pay the price for Robe. It takes 2h30 from Shashamane – Dinsho.

The buses between Shashamane and Robe arrive and leave from the New bus station.

 

Dinsho 

This is where the Bale Park forest office is, and also where you can get guides. It is at the end of the town (Robe side). It is possible to stay in the Dinsho lodge, but we did not do this as we had heard that it wasn’t great and that it was expensive. From the outside it looks okay so maybe things have changed.

Tuesday is a market day

 

Dinsho – Robe

11 birr in minibus, 20-30min (15 birr on market day)

 

Robe

We decided to stay in Robe instead of Dinsho as a point de depart for the Bale Mountains.

Public transport between Dinsho & Robe is easy, although we once had difficulty getting a minibus back to Robe at 4pm, although that may be due to the market that there was in Dinsho. It can sometimes be easier picking up a minibus on the side of the road instead of from the bus station in Dinsho.

Thursday is a market day in Robe.

– Abdama hotel – 300/night for 2 single beds (they call it a double). It is fairly clean & comfortable, but shower isn’t great (there is hot water, but not much water comes out of showerhead at a time) & they don’t give much toilet paper. Note: They lock the gate so if you must leave before 7am someone must come and open for you. Good location near the bus station.

– Hanni café is nice, as is the Harar bar and restaurant opposite which seems popular for tibs BUT be careful in Robe asking for tibs, as you may be presented instead with a plate of chips!

 

Sanetti plateau

The park management advise against using public transport for the Sanetti plateau, and from experience, I will agree with them, unless you have time or plan it well! Getting there was easy however returning was a problem.

From Robe you must go to Goba (5 birr, minibus, 15 min). Sometimes there can be very long queues so if you are continuing to Sanetti, then it is best to leave early (I would suggest about 7am, as we were there at 9am it was far too late).

From Goba, take a bus direction Dolo Mena, and get off at Sanetti campsite (your guide will know it; 60 birr in a public bus, about 1.5hrs; we had 50birr for luggage). It is standard to pay the price of the whole trip to Dolo Mena. Try to leave as early as possible, it took a long time for our bus to fill up, but I don’t think it was the 1st bus that left.

For the return from Sanetti to Robe/Goba – you must wait on the side of the road and wait for a passing bus/truck/car that is willing to take you. We waited all afternoon once and had nothing, and were forced to spend an extra night on the plateau. The afternoon is a bad time for getting transport here although you may get lucky. It is easier to get transport in the morning, we ended up getting picked up by a truck (we were 3 people, 2 travellers and 1 guide).

 

NORTHERN CIRCUIT (MEKELE-WOLDIA-LALIBELA-BAHIR DAR)

Mekele

Diana hotel – Near the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia. Decent place, but price variable (100birr for a man & woman to share, 150birr for two of the same sex to share). The shower & toilet are shared, but are clean enough.The manager Tesfay is friendly and helpful and can help you out with problems.

Merkeb hotel – We paid 130birr (although according to another couple we met, they paid 100….maybe it was because we were 2 females).Cleanish but I prefered the Diana hotel, which is better for a very similar price, however you can’t beat Merkeb’s location next to the bus station (for southerly destinations), and close to Selam bus stop, particularly useful for early travellers.

 

Mekele to Hawzen & back (via Wukro)

40birr

Take bajaj in Mekele to the Lachi bus station & can get a minibus from there

To return: it is difficult to get a minibus back after 3pm

 

Hawzen

Good base for visiting rock hewn churches (of which Abuna Yemata & Debre Maryam Korkor are definately worth visiting, particularly if you also enjoy hiking a bit, the views are wonderful!). It is also possible to arrange longer hiking trips over several days (or even weeks I think) to less accessible churches.

Gheralta lodge – it is by far the nicest place to stay, and worth it (1300birr/ night for a room with 3 single beds, private bathroom, and includes a great breakfast)

Vision hotel – Recently opened (end of August 2014) and is nice and clean, the manager is friendly and speaks good English. No running water, but this was a problem in the whole village at that particular moment (130birr / room/ night with private bathroom). I am sceptical about how long the hotel will stay in good condition as some material in the bathroom seems a little flimsy.

 

Mekele – Woldia (Weldiya)

I ended up having to take several minibuses to get here, although I think it is possible to get bigger buses directly if you arrive in time at the bus station (big bus leaves at 6am)

Mekele – Mohia: 45birr, about 2hrs

Mohia – Alamata: 20birr, about 1hr

Alamata – Woldia: about30birr, about 2hrs

Woldia is quite a nice but plain small town – I enjoyed climbing one of the hills for a very nice view of the town, although I would have preferred to have headed straight onto Lalibela (unfortunately I missed the last buses)

Jordanos hotel – Clean, nice. Didn’t have hot water but think I was just unlucky with a broken boiler.

 

Woldia – Lalibela and Lalibela – Bahir Dar

Woldia – Gashena then Gashena – Lalibela

 

Buses between these destinations tend to overcharge farenji. On my return trip Gashena – Lalibela I was asked to pay 70 birr, the locals paid 40. On my trip from Gashena to Bahir Dar, I was asked to pay 200birr, negotiated this to 150 birr, however the locals only paid 80birr.

 

Bahir Dar & the Blue Nile Falls

I had heard that a lot of people were disappointed with the Blue Nile Falls because of lack of water (due to a hydropower plant) however I went in mid September at the end of the rainy season and thought that they were really superb.

 

ADDIS ABABA

Minibuses around Addis

Prices are more expensive later at night. It is difficult to get the minibuses after 9.30pm. They don’t tend to overcharge farenji. For some idea of prices:

 

Stadium – Haya Hulet: 4 birr

Haya Hulet – Arat Kilo: 4 birr

Stadium – Global (Kira direction): 6 birr

Arat Kilo – Bole: 3 birr

Arat Kilo – Shiro Meda: 3 birr

Arat Kilo – Piazza: 1.5 birr

Arat Kilo – Meganegna: 3 birr

Arat Kilo – Stadium: 3 birr

Stadium – Kaliti bus station: 10 birr

 

 

BISHOFTU

Many people like this place, I did not. I found the lakes very dirty, with lots of rubbish, except if you are in a lodge or restaurant on the side of the lake, and my travel partner and I got harassed quite a bit.

Kaliti bus station to Bishoftu: 12-15 birr

 

Public transport

– Try to leave in the morning. Often I found buses would leave at 6am, and you would have to arrive earlier to take tickets.

– Make sure you aren’t in a hurry, the buses can sometimes take quite some time to fill up (Often they fill up fairly quickly, but it isn’t always the case)

– Often they will charge you more for luggage (but not always)