From Dessie the trip to Makdala via Tenta should take six hours altogether.
To get to Tenta from Dessie, you must follow the road to Wegel Tena for about 70 km (not 95 km as indicated in the Bradt Guide). You pass the village of Kutaber (ca. 20 km northwest of Dessie) and then you descend in the valley of the Beshlo River. The 50 km stretch of road from Kutaber to the junction to Tenta is very scenic, but also in a very bad condition. In fact parts of the road and a bridge over the Beshlo are washed away, so you have to drive for some km in the river bed! You can handle this road in a 4×4 only during the dry season, and probably not at all in the rainy season. When I took this road alone in my Nissan Navara the 15th of April 2013, I didn’t meet a single car for ca. 70 km, so it is definitely not for the fainthearted!
After about 70 km, when the road leaves the river to ascend to Wegel Tena, you must turn left to Tenta. There is no sign, but the road to Tenta is clearly visible. This gravel road was recently completed and is in an excellent condition (comparable to the road from Gashena to Lalibela). After about 30 km you will reach Tenta. At the main square of Tenta (if you like to call it a square), signposted by the equestrian statue of Ras Mikael and the Tenta branch of the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, you turn right and you will see a sign “Bon voyage to Makdala”. Follow this road for 17 km and you will arrive on Makdala Hill.
The road from Tenta to Makdala is was under construction in April 2013. The first part is already completed, the second part is still at least in some parts in a very bad condition, but you can handle it with a 4×4 without problems. Above all, you don’t need anymore a permission from the police station in Ajibar or a police escort!
At Makdala you will be asked a “negotiable” entrance fee. Originally I was asked 100 birr, but I negotiated it down to 50 birr.You can pitch a tent close to the so-called “lodge” and sleep there overnight, as I did. “Sebastopol”, the famous cannon, is not directly situated on Makdala Hill, but at the feet of another small pinnacle, called “Selassie” and separated from Makdala by a small saddle. Anyway you can reach it also by road and the locals, living on Makdala, are generally very helpful. And don’t forget to visit the local “tella-beth”, really a unique experience!
From Tenta you drive back to the Beshlo River on the new gravel road. After crossing the river over a new bridge, the road starts ascending to Wegel Tena. After ca. 30 km (from Tenta) you will reach the mentioned T-junction. Take the left turn to Wegel Tena (reccommended), which you will reach ascending after about 25 km. The right turn leads back to Dessie.
If you want to continue from Wegel Tema to Lalibela or Woldia, you must take the road to Gashena (74 km). This road is also under construction and some parts are in quite bad condition, too, but it is easily passable in a 4×4, and should not take more than 2.5 to 3 hours. When you reach the main road from Bahir Dar/Gonder to Woldia you can go straight on for another 64 km to Lalibela or turn right for another 112 km to Woldia.