Trip report Jan-Feb 2014

Thanks to Michael Pinet for this wonderfully detailed and informative trip report:

We have read and studied the Bradt guide again and again to prepare our 2011 and 2014 trips to Ethiopia and it was the only guide we took with us. We like its thoroughness, accuracy and personal touch. However here is some updated detailed information I would have liked to find either in the latest edition or on the internet. I have also added some impressions about our own experience. I hope it will be valuable to people planning a visit to Ethiopia.

Bale trek
Goba is no longer the hub of the Bale area, Robe is. This the place where minibuses leave for and arrive from Shashemene. Bekele Mola hotel (250 birrs for 2 people in a single room with hot shower) is still fairly good value with its bungalows. As usual in Ethiopia, the bathroom is in poor condition.
The organization of a trek in the Bale mountains is not done through the park headquarters, dealing with civil servants , as in the Simiens but through the Nyala Guide Association next to it. So you need to be very clear and check twice what you really want as English is often misunderstood and they are keen to charge you for extra days, etc. The price are as follows :
– guide 300 birrs per day
– horse 120 birrs per day
– horse handler 170 birrs per day
– cook 400 birrs per day
– tent + sleeping bags 400 birrs per night (rented by a guide’s friend!), expensive but quite
decent equipment
– entrance fee 90 birrs per day / per person
– camping fee 40 birrs per night
If you do not walk back to your starting point, Dinsho, then you have to pay extra days for the horses and handlers. Logical. The same with the guide or cook unless they use your car or minibus to go back.
For a 5-day trek for 2 people you will need to add 1500 birrs (same amount in the Simiens 2 years ago) for the food which the cook will buy (you feed the whole group, of course as in the Simiens but you can tell the cook what you want to eat). He will also supply the cooking equipment.
You might need a car or minibus to pick you up at Sanetti Campsite, at the end of your trek to take you back to Robe, Goba or Dinsho. We paid 1900 birrs (a guide’s friend again). Expensive as usual, but it is the same all over Ethiopia and when you take into account the poor conditions of the roads it is acceptable.
We did the usual 5-day trek
– Dinsho – Sodota campsite (22k / 3100m to 3500m)
– Sodota – Keyrensa campsite (20k / 3750m)
– Keyrensa – Rafu campsite (17k + 4k to visit spectacular lava flow / 3990m)
– Rafu – Garba Guracha campsite (18k / 3950m)
– Garba Guracha – Mt Batu (4200m) – Sanetti campsite where a hired minibus picked us up
That was absolutely great! Not breathtaking as the Simiens was, due to the tracks often along the escarpment, but majestic because of the huge scopes of land and varied landscapes. No problem whatsoever with altitude, etc. and we are both over 65. Contrary to the Simiens there is no water at the campsites and there is a cold northerly wind (you can’t keep a T-shirt on as you would in the Simiens, you need warmer clothes and a woolly hat, especially the last 3 days!). The cook, Idris, was competent and nice and so was the guide, Awol.
They all expect tips as they would in Ethiopia. A day’s fee is the norm as I read in Bradt’s guide when we did the Simiens, so a day’s fee it was and they were pleased.
Wabe Shebelle hotel in Goba is nice, clean, with pleasant grounds (454birrs for a single room for 2, breakfast included).

Shalla hotel : good quality, clean, nice. 250birrs for a single room for 2 people. Not far from bus station

Midroc Zewed Village hotel (called Old Zewed Village now) is just as mentioned in Bradt guide. It is a haven of green, quiet and relaxing, thriving with wild life . We spent our late afternoons sitting by the lake and watching cormorants, Egyptian geese, egrets and kingfishers endlessly . The bungalows are roomy with still decent bathrooms. The manager told us he was planning to pull everything down and rebuild it. Let’s hope he will keep its unique atmosphere. A bungalow with a double bed is 414 birrs, breakfast included. The fish market is not to be missed and neither is the superb walk along the lake, full of life. Had a good meal at the Pinna hotel as mentioned in guide.

Be careful with the freshly appointed civil servant called Astbeha at the Tigrai tourist commission in Wukro. He blatantly overcharged us and is unknowledgable . He offered to be our guide for 275 birrs a day, which we found reasonable , yet it turned out to be the fee per person! (Our fault, I assume for not making things clear at the beginning!). However he proved to have no knowledge whatsoever about the churches we visited and made us miss the opportunity to visit Debre Tsion through lack of information.
It is important to know that you need a guide from the Gheralda Guide Association in Hawzien to visit the churches nearest Hawzien, namely Mariam Korkor and Abuna guebre Mikael as far as we were concerned. We were pleased to get rid of our “guide” for a proper one .
We used Wukro as a base for our 3 day visit and used a minibus (1500 birrs a day) with a competent, nice, responsible driver (Sishay Degu 09 14 49 07 06). Here again it sounds expensive yet the distances are important and the roads are just tracks most of the time. What’s more the driver accompanied us in all the visits and was a good help in discouraging the usual kids and teens .
Day 1 : Mikael Imba and Medhane Alem Adi Kasho
Day2 : Abreha We Atsbeha and Yohannis Maikudi (Debre Tsion could have been done!)
Day3 : Maryam Korkor and Abuna Gebre Mikael
Each church charges 150birrs per person and a receipt is given . Most of the priests do not ask for a tip and all have been very pleasant, sharing some injera and wot with us on two occasions.
Tigrai is not to be missed for the churches of course but also for the landscape and the walks which can be just as good as the churches themselves (the walk to Mariam Korkor in particuliar).
Lwam hotel is clean and pleasant (300birrs for a single room for 2)

Wenchi crater from Ambo
Abebech Matafaria hotel in Ambo is clean, very nice with welcoming grounds (285birrs for a single room for 2 with a good hot shower)
We paid 1100 birrs for a minibus to take us to Wenchi crater and back, a 1.5 hour drive each way on a bumpy track, leaving at 8.30 and coming back at 4.30. A good price negotiated through the hotel receptionist. It should have been 1500 birrs.
Did a superb 5-hour walk down to the lake, across to the island of Deber by boat , then to Immogil point by boat again , then along the Dawala hot spring valley with its watermills, back up to the park headquarters.
– car park fee :30 birrs
– entrance fee : 50 birrs per person
– guide : 200 birrs
– boat : 50 birrs per person
– horse and handler = 50 birrs (we hired them to contribute to the local economy but we didn’t
really need them and hardly used them )
A very scenic place with a nice and clean village and friendly people.
2 hours by minibus from Addis from Asco bus station or Mercato .

Some frustrations
– No maps or guide available anymore (Bale mountains national park, Wenchi crater, Tigrai

– Dallas hotel in Mekele is dirty, smelly, not worth the 200birrs for a single room for 2. And we are
not fussy people in the least! The small Moringa hotel next door is much better with friendly staff
yet more expensive (300 birrs)

Sky buses are still efficient with friendly staff in their ticket offices but the buses are deteriorating
fast and drivers do not seem as cautious as they were. We saw a huge difference in 2 years’ time
and not for the better (cockroaches in one, worn out clutch and creaking gears in another)!

Janine’s trip report

Hi, have just returned from a 10 day trip to Ethiopia in November and I wanted to say that I am hooked. We only had time to see a fraction of the country and had to stay at altitude because for medical reasons we needed to avoid malarial areas.

Highlight of the trip for me was Wenchi Crater (outside of Ambo) which is heartachingly beautiful. We had a guide and hired horses to get round, although in hindsight we would have been better off walking as we could have just done it at a slow pace and spent longer in the lush valley. The walk back up from the valley is very steep and dusty and due to the altitude we did struggle, the horses only took us part way up (probably because we are a bit on the fat side!) but we would have made it ok at a very slow pace on our own even though we are quite unfit and unused to the altitude. We paid for the hire and gave the horsemen a tip of 10 birr each on top but they were obviously thinking they would get more from us and were not happy, which sort of spoilt it a bit at the end. Is is hard to know what to give as we are seen as rich foreigners, but we were on a tight budget. My sister who is living in Ethiopia said we should have asked for the tip back if they werent happy and tha t it is a reasonable sum in terms of local salaries. Who knows.

On the way to Ambo we turned off the road to visit Gefersa Reservoir to look for birds, which was mentioned in the guidebook. We had some trouble finding it as it isnt signposted. Once we got there it was fenced off and we tried to find a way in. We met one person at a gate who seemed very bemused anyone would want to visit the place and said we needed to get permits from Addis, I think just to get rid of us. We then found another entrance and the chap there let us in to have a wander along the path. We were then accosted by someone else who escorted us off the premises! I think they take security of the reservoir very seriously so I wouldnt really recommend you try to go there. Although the ‘birder’ amongst us did get to see some endemic bird species so he was happy.

Apart from Wenchi we also went to Debre Libanos which was an interesting church and the compulsory guide was one of the friendliest persons you could meet and was well informed and spoke good English. There are some nice stained glass windows and religious artworks and you are allowed to take photos. There is a fairly short climb up to the cave which to be honest isnt all that to look at but seems religiously very significant for people. We had an armed guard to escort us and not sure why he was armed, but it probably meant we were less hassled by people asking for money along the way. On the drive back up from the church we saw gelada baboons by the side of the road and we got out of the car and watched them for a bit and they did not run away from us. We stopped at the german/ethiopian hotel near the portugese bridge and had excellent Ethiopian food, although my sister said it was very expensive. We also had a look at the rooms and they are great, lovely and cool with large beds and ensuite bathrooms with amazing views over the valley. I would guess at night the stars must be incredible. We couldnt stay there unfortunately as we had to get back to Addis. It isnt cheap but I think it is reasonable value as it is high quality and you pay for the view so I think it is worth it.

On our last day it was the Ethiopian Great Run in Addis. If you want to watch 30 odd thousand people run/walk a 10km race I would recommend it, there is such a good atmosphere. Even better if you can take part but be warned it is very hilly and at altitude as well. Also there is no free water given out as my brother-in-law who was running it found out. He was very pleased to finish in a reasonable time though.

During our time we also managed to walk up to the hills above Addis and see the ruined rock-hewn church. I had to pay 30 birr to the guide but locals get in cheaper. You are also supposed to pay per photo I found out afterwards but he didnt charge us. It was interesting as a ruin but I would also like to visit an intact church. After the church we went and had a picnic on the top of the hill overlooking the city. It was quite a long walk up to the church and hilltop but well worth it for the view. Also it was so peaceful after the noise of the city. I would also recommend the Ethnographical museum at the University in Addis as a good place to visit for several hours. Take some ID like your passport to get in the gate. I didnt have any but luckily I was let in anyway, but they do check. Also at the Museum of Ethiopia they will search your bags on entry.

We stayed at the Yonnas hotel in Addis which was basic, but clean with hot water, and the staff are very helpful and friendly. Double room worked out about 200 birr per night. Be warned that it seems double beds are a bit smaller than our usual sizes so if you are on the large side you may want to stay somewhere with ‘queen’ sized beds which are more like our doubles. Also take ear plugs if you dont want to be woken by the 5am call to prayer, which I thought was great as it made the trip seem more exotic but I realise not everyone would appreciate it. Most serious danger is the traffic and the condition of the vehicles, plus the exhaust fumes and dust would be hard for someone with any sort of breathing difficulty. However generally I felt very safe walking about the main streets and getting line taxis (the blue and white toyota hiace people carriers). There are lots of cafes and shops about and everyone I came across was really helpful even though I only just about managed to say thankyou in amharic and could almost manage some numbers. I felt a bit conspicuous being blond haired and very fair skinned, and I kept very covered up so as not to offend people but also to avoid getting burnt. You do get stared at a bit out of curiousity but it isnt threatening. In summary I had the trip of a lifetime and it has only made me more determined to go back for a longer visit and see more of this amazing country.


Wenchi & Jimma


Negash Lodge in Woliso now charges 506 birr and above for their rooms, it seems that the place has been privatised and the prices almost tripled from what you mention in your guidebook


 did an overnight trip to Wenchi. It is really beautiful. I stayed in

Ambo at the Abebech Matafaria Hotel and paid 140 birr for a single (with a queen size bed). Full breakfast at the hotel was 25 birr.

The hotel is also building at lodge at the entrance to the Wenchi crater lake. Looks like it should be finished before the end of the year.

Gudar falls charge 10 birr entrance for foreigners and 10 birr for the camera. 3 birr for Ethiopians.


In Jimma I stayed at the SYF hotel (the only place with a room, as it was graduation weekend), very much overpriced at 200 birr, water only occasionaly, mostly bucket showers, electricity only every other day (like most places in Ethiopa at the moment) There is nice juice in Jimma, but I (with my verymuch africanised intestines) still caught some bug and was pretty sick for about 24 hours. The restaurant at Syf has good national dishes (excellent shiro tagamino) and decent pasta (a bit greasy, but tasty), but it sharges more if you order from the English menu.


I almost missed my plane in Jimma on the way back, as there was a schedule change (and the flight lest 1 hour earlier than planned). I never got the call (what with the network being really bad, it is no wonder). I would suggest that even if you are told in Addis that your return has been confirmed, you should check with the EA the day of your flight, or the night before. 

Liza Debevec