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.

 

Horseback tourism in Bale NP & Guassa Plateau

Yves Marie Stranger of Equus Ethiopia writes:
We have just finished training sessions with the horse providers in the Bale National Park, which covered the humane treatment of equines, improving tack and horse training. This took place three weeks ago and should be an ongoing process in the next couple of years.
Also, just last week, Equus finished a training session with the Guassa Community Conservation Area north of Debre Berhan, where there is a conservation effort which is spearheaded by the Frankfurt Zoological Society but firmly rooted in age long conservation practices of the local community. This is one of the best places in Ethiopia to see Ethiopian wolves, and being there was a pleasure for us. The mules are hardy beasts that are far superior in many ways to many horses in Ethiopia and we heartily recommend the experience. The fact that Menz is quite isolated – yet easy to reach from Addis – and the friendly welcome of the local people really make this an unique highland experience.
Your readers can see the post I wrote about this experience on Uthiopia.com and see the picture album on the Equus Ethiopia Facebook page.
Meanwhile, back on the ranch… Equus Ethiopia has new riding packages available for residents, is going to start its new Zara Yacob Trail venture with guests this year, and besides offering 2 and 4 day horse treks in combination with extensions offered by Tesfa, is also now offering camping on its beautiful grounds just 30 minutes from Addis Ababa.