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.

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.

South Omo visit

Georgen Reeves writes:

Here is my report about our great trip in South Ethiopia and just took a trip to the Omo Valley in Ethiopia to photograph the tribes in the Omo Valley.

After arriving in Addis Ababa ,the first 3 days are driving days. You might think we went a long way since we drove for 3 days but you would be mistaken. The roads are dirt/gravel and the cows and goats have the right of way. If the map I looked at was correct we traveled about 400 miles over the 3 days and we went from early morning to late afternoon/dusk every day. We honked our way along and made a few quick stops for photos but it was just slow driving.

We stayed in hotels on the travel days but we were on the non-tourist west side of the Omo River. The first hotel was on the nicer side (for a developing country) but the second left a bit (lot!) to be desired. The shower didn’t work at all in 2 of the rooms, 1 room didn’t have hot water and the 4th room did but it ran out when the first person was half finished showering. They did have flush toilets with TP, dirty sheets, doors that barely locked, windows that didn’t shut and they did have mosquito netting for the bed. The beer was cold and the food was good.

The 3rd night we arrived at our first village where we camped. We were quickly surrounded by children as we would be everywhere we went. Robel was pretty good about making sure we weren’t too mobbed and shooed the kids away after the initial meet and greet.

We met with the chief of the tribe and our trip leader, Piper, made financial arrangements to photo some of the people. I’m told that regular tourists pay 1 or 2 birr per click of the camera. We aren’t as good a photographers as they are and it takes us many clicks to get an image we are happy with so we made an arrangement for group rates. Usually it was 10 birr per photographer per subject (I’ll refer to them as models to make it easier). So if all 4 of us photographed one model, that model received 40 birr. This arrangement worked well for the first couple of tribes but towards the end of the trip the same arrangements were made but the models wanted more money. Each of us would choose our model and take photos and pay. Sometimes the model would then want to argue. Sometimes I would keep the money and just walk away and later the model would approach me with their hand out and accept the same amount I offered in the first place. Sometimes the model would follow me around (cussing me out, probably) and then I would call for our guide, Robel, or the translator. We picked up a translator/guide before we went into any village so any problems could be worked out. Sometimes some of us would leave in one vehicle and leave the guides there still arguing with the tribes people. (lots of sometimes in there. sorry!)

I am glad that I visited one of the most fascinating tribes in Africa, which are found in the Lower Omo valley, South Ethiopia. This trip was organized by Leola Ethiopian Tour. The manager, Samson Ferede, is responsive to our emails, flexible and understand our concerns… Their vehicles are new and luxurious off road 4×4’s ….We highly recommend this company for anyone who wishes travel in Ethiopia ….www.leolaethiopiantour.com

New bridge at Kangatan, South Omo

Gilli writes:

South Omo. The new Bridge at Kangatan [aka Kangata or Kangate] across the Omo is open! We crossed it on the second day after it opened on Sunday 15th February 2015. However, there are barriers both ends of the bridge with police guards who went off for lunch around 1pm and shut the barriers leaving us trapped in Kangatan until they were finished! Also problem with our local guide who was charging us for the hire of a boat across the Omo which of course we didn’t need. It took an hour to sort this out as our Addis guide felt it was a point of principle not to pay for something we didn’t do.
On the bright side, we were able to drive further the other side of the river than we would have been able to do if visiting by boat and walking so went into a Nyangatom village completely unused to tourists.
This new bridge has also made a vast difference to those visiting West Omo. The French beat us to it and crossed the bridge earlier in the day before us. They had been camping in West Omo and instead of the long trip back via Mago were able to shorten their journey considerably.
Hope this helps.

If only there was a good map! I read too late that you can get the National Geographic one in Addis though not online [even for members] but we did find that the Timeless Travel map [be careful not to get the Polish addition!] was pretty good and much better than the International Travel Map at least for South Omo.

South Omo & Lalibela trip report

Eric R writes:

I’m from Seattle, Washington and just came back from a 2 week trip to the Omo Valley and a 2 day side trip to Lalibela in the https://bradtethiopiaupdate.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php#north of Ethiopia.

Here are my recommendations for South Omo:

1) In the Omo Valley, the roads are poor south of Arba Minch. Be prepared for a lot of road dust, animals on the road, and slow travel. 2) Malaria is very real here. Bring malaria pills and take a mosquito net. Not all hotels have mosquito nets. 3) Don’t expect great accommodations in any of the towns south of Arba Minch. However, the Kanta Lodge in Konso was very good and the Buska Lodge in Turmi was also decent. Other hotels were dumps. 4) Food is very cheap here. $3-5 for a good dinner. Buy your local guide a meal, if you can afford it. Most local guides are very poor. 5) Bring something to give back to the locals. Polaroid images, pens, etc… I made animal balloons for the local kids. They loved it. Balloons are easy to carry and fun to give out. 6) Electricity is out often. WiFi internet connections are very poor. Cell coverage is better if you need internet connectivity. 7) I used a guide from Addis Ababa for my trip. Got his name from a fellow photographer, Eric Lafforgue, who lives in Toulouse, France. My guide, Solomon Berhanu, speaks many of the languages of the tribes in the Omo Valley, including the language of the Mursi. That made the trip very rewarding as I was able to interact with the local tribes through Solomon. I had no aggressive problems with any of the tribes, including the Mursi. You can Google Solomon’s name on Youtube and see a video of him explaining Bull Jumping by the Hamar Tribe. 8) Expect to pay fees in the Omo Valley. These people are dirt poor. That’s how they make some money. Don’t complain, just enjoy the experience. If you don’t want to pay the fees, don’t visit.

 

Lalibela is worth a visit. But I do have an issue with where the $50 entrance fee goes. I’m not convinced the money goes back to the local community. The churches belong to the local people of Lalibela and the people of Ethiopia, not the fee collectors at the churches. If you visit Lalibela, ask your guide and the fee collectors where the money goes. At $50 per person, they collect enough money to help the local people– who desperately need it. With enough people asking, we all can make a difference in the lives of the people in Lalibela.

South Omo trip report

Erik Lönnroth writes:

I just got back from a 9 day trip to Omo and would like to provide a few updates. All in all, I would not recommend this as a travel destination, with the possible exception of researchers looking for a case study in tourism mismanagement. The Bradt 2012 guide mentions that this is a “once in a lifetime experience”, but these days for all the wrong reasons. I would go one step further: it is questionable whether a visit to this region should be recommended at all – and that goes for both organised tours and independent travel. As someone who has lived in Ethiopia and several other African countries, I assumed I would be able to use basic Amharic and street smarts to sidestep the herds and discover my own, more authentic, experience of Omo. I was wrong. No matter how noble your intentions, you’ll find it nigh-on impossible to avoid the prescribed itineraries forced on you by the guide associations that guard the gates of every attraction like a local mafia. The prices quoted in the 2012 guide are also out of date – as a rule of thumb I would say that in July 2014 they were 50-100% higher – that goes for food, hotels, guides, and village fees.

As mentioned in the Guide, several of the tribes have developed an obsession with getting money from photos. For the Mursi and Dassanech, this behaviour now verges on OCD, with some variation of “photo”/”5 birr”/”you take a picture” constituting 100% of interactions with the villagers. One gets the sense that the tribes people harbour few warm feelings towards foreigners, and with every right; their villages have been transformed into human zoos, with no area – including the insides of their huts – off limits to snapping cameras. With the exception of very young children who have yet to be corrupted by the faranji hysteria, you are unlikely to establish much of a human connection during your visits. An exception to this rule was the Evangadi dance, put on one evening by a Hamer village near Turmi, in which we danced and sang with the people in what felt like a genuinely upbeat and friendly experience.

As mentioned, Omo prices have increased substantially since 2012. Several experiences feel like complete rip-offs, particularly the charges imposed by guide associations, who typically demand 200-300 birr for activities that last an hour or two. As each attraction is controlled by a separate association, a new guide is required – and thus a new charge – at each stop. The “guiding” element tends to be non-existent – these young men typically exhibit an air of disdain for both faranjis and the tribes, and seem thoroughly uninterested/incapable of explaining anything but the most banal facts (“this is the hut where the people sleep”, “they wear clothes of animal skin”). After collecting their fees the guides return to chewing chat and drinking beer, waiting for the next busload of tourists. Haggling is impossible – fees are supposedly set by government and a receipt is duly presented. Where the money actually goes – other than to beer and chat – is anybody’s guess.

Here is an update on pricing at each of the attractions I visited (bear in mind that July is supposedly low season):
Key Afer market – Guide: 200 birr. Parking: 36 birr.
Dimeka market – Guide: 200 birr.
Mursi village – Guide: 200 birr. Village: 200 birr per person. Photos 5 birr per portrait.
Dassanech village – Guide: 300 birr. Boat 150 birr. Parking 36 birr. Village: 200 birr per person. (Note that this ends up being roughly triple the price quoted in the Guide. The Dassanech are also the worst of all the tribes when it comes to asking for photos – we literally had to flee the scene when we refused to take our cameras out. A bridge across the Omorate river is due to open in a few months, which will make it possible to avoid the jacked-up boat fee, and possibly reach more remote villages. However, it will probably be a matter of only weeks or months until those villages become just as corrupted by faranji fever).
Evangadi dance (Hamer tribe) – Guide: 200 birr. Dance: 200 birr per person.

Budget hotels in Konso, Jinka, Turmi, and Dimeka typically charge 250-300 per room with cold shower, although one one or two occasions we were able to haggle it down to 200 (due to it being low season).

You’ll easily end up spending $50 per day on accommodation, food, and activities, and that’s not counting the driver and 4×4, typically $120-$150 per day. Total expense for a trip: Minimum $1,500 but more likely $2,000+. There simply is no way to do Omo on a shoestring – the government, guide assocations, and tribes have made this literally impossible.

All in all, I can think of much more enjoyable and less exploitative ways of spending that kind of cash, in Ethiopia and beyond.

Thanks for reading!

Overland Ethiopia Tours

Alan Friedlob (Bellingham, Washington) & Mariann Kocsis (Baltimore, Maryland) write:

This April, we were fortunate to have spent about three weeks traveling with Overland Ethiopia Tours (http://www.overlandethiopiatours.com ). (Haileab Seyoum Beyene and his support staff)– in a private tour of the Northern Circuit, Rift Valley, South Omo, and the Bale Mountains. What impressed us is the social network Haileab and his guys have across the country. Everywhere we went—from Gonder to Yabello, warm greetings were exchanged through chance encounters with acquaintances of friends, and Haileab’s seamless connections with local guides opened doors to a better understanding of the cultural diversity that is Ethiopia. Haileab speaks Amharic, Oromaic, and Tigrinya; any of which may come in handy in helping guests bridge the challenges of Ethiopian travel. . As a guide, he listened to what we wanted to do—stopping at an unexpected market, listening to music, or finding high quality crafts and high grade coffee. He and his colleagues did everything possible to accommodate us. Haileab’s itinerary and accommodations were exactly as we had agreed. In one instance where he could not secure the hotel on our itinerary, he compensated us with three nights’ of meals at our next location.

Regarding our itinerary, I would like to suggest that you consider not visiting the Mursi people, or if you go, clarifying what your visit will entail, and then decide. As you are probably aware, the people of the South Omo Region expect to be paid for all photos. In the case of the Mursi, this practice has become extreme. It will be extremely difficult for a tourist to learn about Mursi ways as “photo,photo” will dominate the experience. Many world renown photographers like McCullin and McCurdy have captured the Mursi. Perhaps better to buy their books than contribute to the tribe’s self- exploitation. A difficult decision for some tourists.

Thankfully this is not the case for other people that you are likely to visit, even though similar pressures will be found. For example, the Key Afer and Dimeka markets are “must dos” but there are many other markets where you would be the only outsider. Haileab patiently negotiated the landscape with us, and we learned.

Again, if you are planning to visit, please check out Overland Ethiopia Tours. You won’t be disappointed.