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.

New upmarket lodges in Gondar and Bale Mountains

Simon writes:

My wife and I are just back from Ethiopia. Your guide was invaluable both in planning our trip and while we were there – packed with interesting information of all sorts, and pleasantly unafraid to express an opinion.

We stayed in two new places (Mayleko Lodge in Gondar and Bale Mountain Lodge just south of the Sanetti Plateau) and I thought it might be helpful to give you some feedback about both.

Mayleko Lodge opened earlier this year. The rooms, in individual traditional style cabins with their own verandas, are very spacious and stylish. Warm-hued stone floors, bamboo ceilings and traditional wooden furniture provide lots of Ethiopian character. The enormous bed was very comfortable. The bathroom, with its walk-in shower, was the best we saw on our trip. We went to Mayleko after two days trekking with TESFA, and then again after two nights in the Simiens (including camping). The luxury the Mayleko offers was exactly what was needed after rougher conditions. The Mayleko’s food was good, and relatively good value for an upmarket place (for example the wine was priced much lower than in other locations). The swimming pool was a pleasure in the heat of the day, and all the staff were exceptionally helpful and welcoming. The location on the edge of Gondar is just a few minutes from the airport so very convenient if you are flying back to Addis.
Bale Mountain Lodge opened this year, providing for the first time a comfortable base to explore two of the most unique habitats in Ethiopia – the extraordinary Sanetti Plateau with its Abyssinian wolves, endemic birds, giant lobelias and mole rats, and the Harena cloud forest in which the lodge is located. The spacious high ceilinged central lodge building with its two tier fireplaces is a welcoming place with great views of the mountains. The bedrooms are housed in separate huts from many of which you cannot see the others – just the beautiful views. They are very comfortable, with tons of room, large beds and walk-in showers. The food is excellent and for people who drink like I do, the all-in price is extremely appealing. The English owners Guy and Yvonne Levene have invested immense effort in developing the lodge (including designing and building a spectacular small scale in-river hydro-electric plant which is a tourist attraction in itself) and are warm and solicitous hosts. The lodge has been designed to have a minimal environmental impact, and provides a base for scientific researchers (including James, the resident Kenyan naturalist, who is one of the most knowledgeable ornithologists and most expert bird ringers that I have met). It also has an important positive impact on the local economy, employing and training local people, and running education scholarship schemes.

Your list of books about and/or set in Ethiopia was really useful guidance for filling up my Kindle before we went. The one you missed is Flashman on the March, the last in George MacDonald Fraser’s series when Flashman gets involved in Napier’s expedition. Like all the series, it is completely politically incorrect but great fun – and I have to say that most of the fiction set in Ethiopia I found rather disappointing.

Thank you for such a brilliant guidebook – it really made a difference to our trip to a spectacular country.

Gondar hotels

Elena, Teresa & Jaime write

We are a group of three travelling in the north area of Ethiopia!! We arrived yesterday night at Gondar & started looking for a good hotel to spend the night! We visited the Hibret Hotel (in the Bradt guide), but they treat to cheat as asking for 600 birr for a small twin dirty room! Afterwards we visited the Merkuriaw Alemaya Hotel, it still has very good prices (120\150 birr), not so good looking nor so clean, but not bad for the price.

Finally, by chance, we found the Michael Hotel (near to the L-Shape hotel). This hotel really merits your attention!!! Is really really clean, good looking, with white clean sheets and a well equipped bathroom with hot water and hydromassage shower and this twin room cost on ly 300 birr!!!! As we are three we are paying 350 birr for sharing the room, also because one of the beds is big enough. The staff is really friendly and they have free WiFi in all the floors!!

Our experience was so good, that we decided to Michael Hotel to your readers!

The latest on domestic flights

I’ve been trying to seek clarity on the situation with domestic fares since Ethiopian Airlines announced a 40% reduction in May (see

So far as I can ascertain it, the full fare for most domestic flights, for instance booked through the website, remains about the same as it was before, typically around US$130 per leg.

However, it seems this fare has been vastly reduced (by more than 50%) to passengers who have booked their international flight to Addis Ababa with Ethiopia Airlines. In this case, the fare is typically around US$55-60 per leg!

So far as I understand it, to take advantage of this massive discount, you must first book, pay and be ticketed fir your international flights. With that ticket number, you or any operator can then book the domestic flights at any Ethiopian Airlines ticket office.

Of course, what happens in theory and in practice aren’t always quite the same thing, so feedback from anybody who tries this would be much appreciated!






Help required with updating next edition

I’ll be making two trips to Ethiopia later in the year to to the ground research for a revamped 7th edition of Bradt Ethiopia. I’ll be doing most of the ground work myself but would ideally want to find somebody based locally with some travel experience & reasonable writing skills to cover some of the more out-of-the-way areas in the second half of this year. If you are interested, please don’t respond below, but rather email me at phil [at] & philari [at] & we can take things from there. Thanks, Philip

Oromo People

Inge Huver writes:

I just returned from my visit to Ethiopia and really liked the guidebook, in fact, my Ethiopian friends also liked it and I gave it to them as a present. Although, while reading we also saw one thing is completely wrong, and because it is a bit of a danger to use it in Ethiopia I’ll write it here. In the introduction, you write that hte Oromo people are also callad “Galla”. This is now a forbidden name, originally given to the people by their enemies. So using this name can give some problems.