Off-the-beaten-track trip report

Ondřej writes:

 

Hello, I have backpacked through Ethiopia for three months from the beginning of March to the end of May. Thanks a lot for all the great tips and information in your book, I would have missed so many interesting things without it! And sometimes, it is even very fun to read🙂

Now I would like to contribute some updates for some parts of the book. I numbered them by page as they appear in the seventh edition.

 

225 – Fang Waterfall – is now paid. I have no idea where he came from, but an old man suddenly appeared and asked for money before I could approach the waterfall. He actually issued tickets, but he couldn’t read or write, so he asked me to write one hundred into the receipt. I wrote 30, the kids started laughing, told him what happened and he got a little angry but was laughing at my trick as well a little bit, just accepted the money (although he wasn’t really satisfied) and went his way again.

 

251 – The Gorgora road is mostly finished by now.

 

273 – Simien Mountains

 

All in all, the Semiens are a very hostile place to low-budget tourists these days. Unless you just hand out money all the time, you’re trash for them (same as everywhere in Tigrai, Hawassa and the other tourist hotspots).

 

The people at the NP HQ are real jerks and spread many lies, as well as the various barters and wannabe guides around. I arranged at the HQ that I would cut the first two days into one (directly from Debark to Gich) and then go day by day and try to make it to Dashen if the weather will allow for it. They told me it is OK and that I can pay only for 4 days, and then pay more when I come back, should it be neccessary. In the end, it took me 4 days to walk to Ras Dashen, and another full day to ride back (details later) so I came back to pay the extra day, and they asked me to pay 9 days because that is how long it usually takes for tourists. They couldn’t provide any kind of proof that there is a rule for this. Again some people supported me, but the HQ manager was against me, and wasn’t willing to give up. I was trying to make it a fair deal, but it led nowhere and after an hour I just gave up and went true aggro-mode, started shouting and stomping and banging my fist on the counter and finally they gave up. It was very sad though, that I actually had to use “force” to reach justice.

 

A big new thing is that an asphalt road is now running through Bwahit pass directly to Chiroleba (and further a few km to a village unimportant for tourists), a bus runs pretty much daily back and forth, and several trucks each day. The people claim it is illegal to use either, and will ask for ridiculous prices for taking you. I was friendly and got some locals on my side, which ultimately guaranteed a place for me and my scout all the way from Chiroleba back to Debark for 250 ETB (locals pay 60 each, so I only overpaid twice). The lowest I could get the truck driver was 1000 and he wouldn’t go lower if my new temporary friends didn’t intervene (they just took my money, stuffed in his pocket and told me to get on haha).

 

A dirt road is also running from Ambiko all the way up to the pass directly below Ras Dashen, leading somewhere far away south in the Semiens. But most probably it also connects to the new asphalt road somehow through the way of Arkwasiye. So, theoretically, in a private car, you can pretty much drive all the way up to Ras Dashen (with 1 hour left of walking in the end or so). But this needs to be checked.

 

Also, my scout was a jerk, he was complaining all the time that his feet hurt, that it’s raining too much, was always begging for money and when I didn’t give any, he just halted and refused to go on. In general, the NP staff is very corrupted and unprofessional.

 

375 – Maryam Qiat – A bus runs to Rahya daily for 11 ETB from Adigrat. There seem to be more buses every day, but very irregular. I got stuck overnight, but I was offered to sleep at one of the local shop/restaurant/pub places for 50 ETB in an OK bed in a private room (guest room of the family). The priest’s number in Qiat is 0927773168. He doesn’t speak English though, I was lucky enough to meet a local student who helped me locate him and translated stuff for me. He claimed there are long tunnels leading from the church into other sacred chambers, but of course, these are only accessible for the priests, so they can’t prove it. The nature and scenery around Rahya is also among the most breathtaking in Tigrai, for me at least, definitely worth mentioning!

 

376 – Gunda Gundo

 

The walk to Gunda Gundo was an unbelievable and unforgettable trip. It is possible to find it alone, the people are very friendly to tourists and will show the way. Just ask every single person you meet. Also, believe them, even if it looks like they are sending you in the wrong direction, because the road is really zig-zag and sometimes not very easy to find. One more thing worth mentioning, watch out for dogs at the point where you descend into a canyon at one point, before climbing over a small hill and continuing the descent again. The ones I encountered were all tied by chains, or watched after by their masters, but it could be risky. Have stones ready.

 

In Gunda Gundo itself, the people are completely different. As all the Christian officials everywhere in Tigrai, they only care about money. I was not allowed to enter the monastery, because I didn’t have a permission from some the office in Wukro. They were willing to overlook the fact for 500 ETB, which I refused to pay. The people are real jerks, abusing women and children to do all the work in and around the monastery and leeching on money from tourists. The only thing they do is brew their own beer, and even buy bottled beer from a pair of guys who make a living by running a beer-donkey-caravan back and forth between Idaga Hamus and GG. On the other hand, I also met a really nice nun there, who was very kind and fair to me, and was the only thing that saved my sanity in this god-forsaken place. She arranged a place for me to sleep in, which kinda saved my life.

 

The experience and the walk was still absolutely worth it. The point of my story is – bring a permission from the office in Wukro, otherwise you are in trouble.

 

427 – Lake Afrera 

 

A minibus runs daily to Afrera from Logiya (not Semera), starts loading people around 5:30 AM, be there in time as it seems to get full quickly and there aren’t more for the day. Also, it doesn’t run from the bus station, but from another place closer to the center of town, so ask the day before, or get up early enough to figure it out. The price was some 110 ETB if I recall correctly. The ride is breathtaking and really smooth along a nice new asphalt road, very fast too.

 

Afrera is safe to visit even for solitary backpackers – I even accidentaly walked into a military area (don’t go looking for a view of the village to the hill with a gazebo west of the salt-extractors colony). I was probed for an hour or so by the soldiers, but again my friendliness and limited Amharic vocabulary saved me. First they said (one of them knew some english) that it is a big problem to come there alone, and that I am the first faranji to go there alone without a guide and that they need to call the local government because I don’t have a permit. But in the end a tourist visa was enough to satisfy them and they even gave me their phone number to call if anything were to happen to me.

 

There are at least two sets of hot springs around the town (and probably many more I haven’t found). The bigger, touristic ones where it is easy to bath, and then I found another set of them along the shore immediately east of the colony (here). There is noone around unless the people are working and they are maybe even more scenic than the touristic ones. It is not possible to bath in them though, they are too hot. You have to pay 70 ETB to bath in the touristic ones now, but they even give a receipt if you insist on it.

 

The remains of a small volcano immediately north above the touristic springs are pretty awesome, with breathtaking sunset views of the landscape and ruins of some kind of old stone building (I guess and abandoned local refuge, or some kind of war remnant).

 

Minibuses run on to the next town along the road to Erebti, one daily around 11AM. There you can change to another one to Abala, which is already well connected to Mek’ele. I haven’t taken the minibuses so I don’t know the prices and times after Afdera as I hitchhiked on a truck directly to Mek’ele. The whole stretch of the road is amazing quality asphalt with good bridges and should you get stuck anywhere, Afdera, Erebti and Abala all have stringshoe accomodation (outside sleeping, but it doesn’t mater as it is 40°C anyway).

 

P.S.: Wear good shoes. I encountered a huuuge, bright orange coloured huntsman spider running after me.

 

485 – Dire Sheikh Hussein

 

It is possible to get to Dire on public transport. A bus runs to Dire from Jara. To Jara, you can get from Ginnir / Delo en route from Sof Omar (unpredictable), or directly from Robe easily. The bus from Jara is very hard to predict. I waited for more than a day and in the end went with some guy on a motorbike instead. The buses are tied to the market days in Jara (Saturday, Tuesday) and Mechara, but it is not a 100% safe rule. On the other hand, if the demand is high enough, there is even more than one bus. They start late afternoon from Jara and go through the night to arrive in Mechara in the morning and vice-versa. Price is 150 ETB, but you can also go on the back of a truck for the same price if you arrange it, which is definitely more adventurous and you get amazing freedom of looking around (the gorge is breathtaking even during a night without any moon). I have also seen one bus arrive to Dire from Jara only (not going further) but I have no clue how that runs.

 

In Dire itself, ask to be taken to the petrified praying chamber. It is in the side of one of the Wabe Shebelle cliffs, and it is a small grotto enclosed by petrified roots of ancient trees, covered in crystals. It is very small, but probably one of the most amazing things I have ever seen in my life.

 

 

Dec 2015 trip report

Garth Thomson writes:

Our General Travel report in Ethiopia! We were traveling for 21 days in Ethiopia. To the North part and south part of Ethiopia.
Our first lovely night started in Addis at traditional club where a lot local people were having Tej and doing shoulder dance was fascinating night.

The next day we fly to Bahir Dar and we drove by our driver and our knowledgable guide Eyosi about 35 km south of Bahirdar to see the Blue Nile falls. The road was really gravel road need to repair. Our guide told us they call it “African massage” was bumpy but the falls and the bridge was great we also spotted many different kind of birds. In the After noon we had boat trip over Lake Tana to see the monasteries over the islands. We visited two of them kibran Gebriel and Ura Kidanemeheret.

On the 2nd day we drove to Gondar which is paved and took us 4 hours we made a lot of stops on the way driving to see the unique landscape was marvellous. Gondar is also nice with good temperature we visit the medieval castle enclosure and the Church of Debre Berhan Selassie with its unique murals. We stayed at Goha hotel very nice view over the town and great staff. We carried on the Simien Mountains for the following 4 days to get close to more wild fauna and flora. The gelada Baboon was really friendly we had a chance to see them like half a km distance and their social life are fascinating. The landscape at Imetgogo are breathtaking you shouldn’t miss Imetgogo if you ever travel in the Simien mountains You can reach there in three days but we made up to Chennek we saw the walia ibex and we saw Imetgogo in different angle still beautiful. On the fourth day we picked up at Chenek and drove back to Debark where the nearest town for the mountains. In the morning we heading to Axum through the lowland part of the Simien Mountains. After 40 km gravel road It was paved road the view through is impressive. The town has a lot to visit Archeological Museum, tombs,steale, Churches which believed to be where ark of the covenant live.

After one full day tour we exceeded to Hawzen via Adigrat on the way we visited Ethiopia’s earliest known capital city of Yeha which is considered as the birthplace of the country’s earliest civilization. Its single most remarkable antiquity is the well-preserved walls of the 12m-high stone temple of the moon that is thought to be over 2500 years old.

There was Another possible excursion called Debre Damo monastery (only accessible for men). We missed it but we heard it is very interesting. We stayed the only lodge which is in a good standard and has a nice view from the room.

We visited 2 Churches which is the most beautiful out of many of them. The most impressive are Abuna Yemata Guh, Debre Maryam Korkor /Abreha we Atsheba church/.Abune Yemata Was our favor church and need rock climbing a bit scary once you are on the church has great view. So, take good walking shoes if you go there. In the next day we drove to Mekelle And visit the 17th century palace-museum of Emperor Yohannes IV. Overnight we stayed in Axum Hotel.

In the morning drive to Lalibela to visit Lalibela and its rock-hewn church are thought, to date the 12th and 13th century during King Lalibela reign. The churches are remarkable since they are entirely freed from the rock, refined and concentrated in small land. we stayed in Mountain View hotel. We had 2 nights there to visit the Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela, so called “the eight wonder of world “start to visit the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela which are clustered in to visit the three group of churches. We stayed at Mountain View Hotel we found it great. The next day we Continued sightseeing around Made excursion to visit Asheton Mariam by mule also possible drive and walk up hill. Nice monasteries on the top of the mountains and nice view down to the town. In the morning fly from Lalibela to Addis Ababa. After staying one night in Addis drove to Addis to Arbaminch on the way we stop to see The Steles in Tiya Dated back to 12th century AD. One of the World heritage sites. We stayed the night at Bekele Mola Hotel in Arbaminch which is an old hotel and the staff are very good.

In Arbaminch we had Boat excursion on lake Chamo to spot the Corocodile and Hippos. In the after noon we went to Dorze tribes and their villages to see their thatched house and handcrafts.

On the 2nd day of our southern tour we traveled to Turmi: visit the Konso and Aribore village. We stayed in Turmi lodge was good but possible to camping we were happy staying at the lodge. On the next day at Turmi: Visit the famous Hamer tribes’ market and their villages. Thay are famous with their hair style but unfortunately we didn’t see the bull jump which is taken for wedding ceremony.

After two night in Turmi carried on to Jinka: Visit includes the Benna and Ari tribes en route. We stayed Orit hotel which we didn’t like it hot shower didn’t work.

The next Day we had one day trip to Mago National Park and the Popular Mursi tribes and their villages they are very famous cutting their lip and put clay their small hut with tiny date looks you step on it. Stayed at jinka Resort which is the nice place to stay in the whole town. Recommended.

Then we drove back to Arbaminch: En route visit of the Tsemay tribes and their villages. We had another night at Bekele Mola Hotel.Finally we fly from Arba Minch to Addis our trip end up.

We had outstanding holiday there which we didn’t expect it.

I highly recommend to do this tour if you get three weeks holiday. I wanted to recommend Eyosi Worede / Tiftu/ as tour organiser and tour guide! He made our trip in Ethiopia memorable and pleasant he is extremely knowledgeable guide who has a passion for sharing beauty of his country and his region with visitors highly recommended as organiser
& guide.  tiftu_2010@hotmail.com, +251912658734.

March 2016 trip report

Nicole Wilhelm writes:

Visa: As the Ethiopian Embassy in Switzerland was running out of visa stickers, we had to apply visa on arrival, which we have received within 10 Minutes and without any hassles at all. So if you’re flight one of the earliest in the morning, its cheaper and easier to get the visa on spot.

The tram in Addis is working great; its clean, cheap and worth to use… just do not try to enter at rush hour; it’s almost impossible to squeeze in….!

We stayed at Kefetew Guest House, which is a bit out of the city center, but within walking distance to a tram station. Great breakfast and on request Ganet is also cooking dinner …and she is very helpful and is going an extra mile for her guests!

In Bahir Dar we used Delano Hotel; free airport shuttle, very nice, spacious rooms, good staff, extremly good value for money …and of course beds do have mosquito net!

Simien Mountains: We have done a 10-day Trekking with Ethiopia Eco Tour and Trek (Addis Yimer). The trip was very well organized by Addis, we had an excellent guide and I believe the best team with us; the cook prepared daily delicious meals (dinner with soup, min. 3-4 different vegetables, rice or pasta and sometimes even with meat)… and in awareness of the “faranji stomach” they have only used cooked water to wash vegetables etc! Really highly recommendable Touroperator for Simien!!

Bahir Dar, Gondar, Lalibela: it was not a problem to walk arround alone; beggers were very few and the street boys were OK… of course the asked for money, pen etc … but mostly they just wanted to practice their english.

To vist Awash National Park and Abyiatta Shalla, we have used ETT Travel (Ethio Travel and Tours)… This was the only “downpoint” of the whole trip…. We have booked (and confirmed as well) Camping in Awash N.P including Cook and cooking materials, water for washing etc., all meals and 2 nights 10’000 Flamingo Lodge, driver, car etc. However, camping then turned out to be 2 nights without meals and without washing water; we had to organize to eat at the nearby Awash Falls Lodge. Driver was always coming 30 Minutes to 1 hour late. And the driver nor ETT did know where 10,000 Flamingo Lodge is situated… and this after having had over 5 weeks time in advance to check on this… In all the years travelling in Africa I have never experienced such a bad Touroperator.
The location of the 10,000 Flamingos Lodge is mind blowing! Staff very kind, all rooms have great views. Time to relax, walk and see flamingos. In my opinon the only place in Abiyatta Shalla National Park, which is really worth to visit!

Ethiopia is certainly a special country and well worth to visit!

Feb 2016 trip report

Andrew writes:

Just back from an Ethiopian tour (Feb 2016) and really enjoyed the context provided by this book!

A couple of updates/plugs from my trip:

VISA ON ARRIVAL
It was difficult to find up-to-date information on the requirements for getting a visa at Bole airport. Note that you do NOT need passport photos. They have modern webcams that take your picture there on the spot. Also, to clear up one point I found confusing, you can pay the fee in a variety of major currencies, not just US dollars. I paid 50 euros and even got change in euros! There is a foreign exchange office pre-visa if you get really stuck.

SIMIEN MOUNTAINS
As there are sooo many guide and tour options for the Simien mountains, I wanted to put in a plug for our super-organized, super friendly local guide Gismu Syum with Ethiopia Trek (http://www.ethiopiatrek.com/). He’s incredibly responsive over e-mail (rare indeed!) and a very good choice for budget conscious travelers, particularly those organizing their Ethiopia tour independently and just needing a guide for the Simiens and/or Gondar. Personally, I cannot even imagine trying to go through all the red tape to organize a trip myself in the Simiens to save a few bucks when you could go with someone who knows the ropes and won’t charge too much for bringing you through it, like Gismu!

I would also note that Chennek camp was a highlight and I strongly recommend doing at least a three-night trek in order to get at least that far.

Note that the entire village of Geech has agreed to a government proposal to relocate and will begin moving out of the park boundaries in March 2016. While this will definitely have a positive impact on the wildlife in the region by restoring the heavily farmed land, it does remove one of the few reliable village stops in the early stages of the Simiens route.

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!

Detailed Gondar, Debark and Simien updates

Many thanks to Mulu Gelaye of Mulu Ethiopia Tours (www.muluethiopiatours.com or www.ethiopiasimientours.com) for the following updates:

Gondar

Entrance fee for the castle is now 200 birr per person. Optional guide fee is 350 birr per day
Some new recommended hotels:
1. Sona Hotel, open on October 2013
– Bedrooms SGL 9, DBL 2, Twin 5, TRP 1(total 17)
And have wifi Acess and price single ETB 280 and Twin/Double: 330 birr
2. Hotel Jasemin
– 27 bedrooms, it’s price 100-200 birr for Ethiopian & 160-250 foreigner
And have Internet cafe and have jenerator.
3. Hotel unique landscape
– conference hall for 200-300
– DSTV, Generator, pool bar and barber shop.
Debark
There are now three banks that give ATM service.
Also there is now a Simien Mountain Village Tour? You will see the following:
1. Hair dressing
2. Black smith
3. Coffee ceremony( it is definitely cultural)
4. injera beaking and how to make local beer.
To see more information you can visit their Facebook made by (JICA) www.facebook.com/discoversimien.com
Simien Mountains
The new fee structure is as follows:
1. Enterancefee for foreign 90 birr plus 10 birr for camping per day.
2. Guide fees, 1-5 person 300birr
                        6-10 >>. 350 birr
                         11-20 >>, 450 birr
                          > 21>>, 700 birr which is they will take 2 guides
3. Game scout.   150 birr per day
4. Cook, 1-3 person – 300 birr
               4-10 person- 450 birr
                > 11 person – 600 birr
5. Mule, 120 birr per day per mule and mule man also 120 birr per day per.

Trip report Dec/Jan 2013/4

Matthew Birt writes:

I enjoyed reading and made good use of everyone else’s information, so I thought I ought to contribute:

 

Dec/Jan 2014

Travelled solo, independently using local transport

 

Bradt Guidebook excellent

 

General

 

Generally felt very safe and welcome

Quite a lot of hassle from kids, beggars, tourist touts, blokes in the street – quite consistent, but not that persistant and certainly not threatening in any way. Groups of kids are a right royal pain in the ____ .

 

Transport pretty good. People always really helpful – and I always got to where I was heading, even if I’m not sure how. Roads generally good and traffic free – all the driver has to worry about are the people standing in the middle of it and the aimlessly wandering livestock

Cheap tuk-tuks just about everywhere – seem to have replaced garis in most places

Mobile phone coverage generally good – cheap and quick to get sim (need photocopy of passport and photo)

 

Everything seemed very inexpensive – accomm, transport, food, etc

Easy to change cash in banks/airport

ATMs in a lot of places – Dashen and Commercial Bank worked for me

 

Forgotten how noisy Africa is, especially at night – or at least it was where I slept. Every night. My top tip – take the finest ear plugs money can buy. As well as eye drops (for the dust) and lip balm (for the sun).

 

Budget hotels – apart from in Harar – always provided towel, toilet paper and soap.

 

Weather – always sunny and hot during day – 25-30 C. No rain. In some towns, pretty cold early morning and night and required two fleeces (e.g. Debark, Debre Birhan, Abese Teferi)

 

Bole Airport

 

Arrived 2am, and stayed in there until morning flight to Axum. Felt safe, although pretty cold. Nowhere nice to sleep, try and get into domestic terminal departures asap where there are comfortable loungers.

 

 

 

Axum

 

Hotel reps waiting at airport with free transport

Africa House – fine – 175B en suite single

Thought Tsion Maryam complex at 200B a rip-off, considering much of it closed and under refurbishment

Really enjoyed walk out to Debre Liqanos Monastry

 

Shire

 

Africa Hotel – fine – 150B – adjacent restaurant good but noisy at night

Nice just to be in a normal town, without the tourist ‘nonsense’

Good to walk out of town into countryside to see ‘real’ Ethiopia

 

Debark

 

Bus from Shire didn’t leave until after 7, even though told to be there at 5. Awful road. Wonderful Simien scenery for 10 hours or so!

Simien Park Hotel – good – 250B en suite single

Unique Landscape next door also looked good, but slightly more expensive.

If not trekking, negotiate hard and get a number of quotes for your day trip into the national park – tourist touts, argh!!!

 

Gondar

 

Queen Taitu Pension – 200B en suite single. Poor. No hot water, etc. Noisy.

Moved to  Belegez Pension, 200B, water still a problem, but quieter and nicer courtyard

Four Sisters Restaurant – great food and fantastic dancing. Before I left I didn’t think some contrived dance show for tourists would be a highlight of my trip. But it was. Go and see for yourself.

 

As solo, negotiated guide fee down to 100B (rather than 200) for castle complex

 

Kosoye also a highlight. Easy to get to (30-40 mins north of Gondar). Had a very nice breakfast at Befikir Ecolodge, which is visible from main road. Staff super friendly. Then great walk down into valley. Scout cost 100B, and worth every penny. Tough going.  Highly recommended.

 

Bahir Dar

 

Wudie Pension –  nice big room – 200B.

Ghion looked really run down to me, although good spot for meeting fellow tourists.

Tread carefully with the tourist touts in town. Both half day trips to the lake monastries and waterfall were shambolic and a rip-off. Average price paid seemed to be 200B/person, but I’m sure you can get for less. Get itinerary and any additional costs written down. You have been warned! Good for meeting other (equally hacked-off) tourists though!

Lucky with Blue Nile Falls – water was flowing – and another highlight.

 

Lalibela

 

There for Christmas, so very busy and accomm prices x2 or x3 normal rate

Hotel Lalibela, been refurbished and now rather swish. $45/double en suite

Private Roha – very basic, but felt safe – 400B/twin shared facilities

Recommend Unique Restarant opposite Asheton – cheap and good fun

Walk up to Asheton Maryam good, although hard

 

Used local guide  – Zewudu Melak – +251 (0) 913636414 – for churches – nice guy – only ‘guide’ I used that I can recommend

 

Lake Hayk

 

Logo Hayk Lodge (I think, maybe name changed, not sure)

This place could probably be very peaceful and relaxing, but not on Christmas Day with a huge party going on!

230B/hut ensuite for okayish room (150B if you’re Ethiopian!)

 

Debre Birhan

 

Akalu Hotel – reasonable place – 100B for ensuite

Really nice restaurant at Eva Hotel

 

Bishoftu

 

Alaf Hotel – bit noisy and water issues – 170B en suite. Great view of lake

 

Awash

 

Buffet D’Auoache – 150B/room – pretty nice and peaceful place. Dusty, nondescript town though

 

Managed to find a ‘guide’ to get me into Awash National Park by asking around at hotels. Hired a good minibus and driver for 1000B for the day (6am-6pm). Really enjoyed the reserve, it’s not the Serengeti, but saw quite a lot of game. Waterfalls fab. Awash Falls Lodge looked nice and was a good spot for lunch

 

Abese Teferi

 

Kebsch Int Lodge – decent room – 150B en suite; good restaurant attached

 

Got 6am bus direct to Kuni, found ‘guide’ quickly albeit using sign language and pointing to pictures in my Bradt Guide and visited Kuni Muktar Mountain Nyala Sanctuary. Not sure about ‘30-45 mins walk to river’. I got taken 2 hours up a bloody mountain, then 2 hours back down it. Not my ideal start to the day at 7 am. Fantastic though. Saw plenty of (skittish) nyala, warthogs, reedbuck and hyena.

 

Harar

 

Everyone I met moaned about the hotels in this place – except for those in the cultural guesthouses. The only town where I found that hotels were full

Trawfik Sharif Hotel – bit grim – bucket shower – 150B

Tewodros – 160B ensuite – okayish – despite stinking communal bathrooms at entrance

Belayneh – only offering doubles for 300B and water issues

Heritage Plaza looked more run down and mismanaged than guidebook suggests

Harar Ras – looked best bet – been refurbished – cheapest room 230B – good restaurant serving absolutely wonderful pizzas

Fresh Touch Restaurant – good, but expensive (for Ethiopia)

Hyena feeding cost me 100B – the greatest concentration of tourists I saw in one place throughout my 4 weeks in the country

 

Addis Ababa

 

Almaz Pension – 200B shared bathroom – clean, friendly, quiet, safe

Yod Abyssinia – good fun, if expensive – don’t go alone, sit at the front and be of above average height, otherwise you are liable to get dragged up on stage to dance – much to the amusement of the local crowd. This can lead to embarrassing flashbacks.

 

Have a good trip.