April 2015 Trip Report

Natalia writes:

Addis Ababa: Biruk Bed and Breakfast was excellent. Much better than expected, excellent owners and comfortable room.

Correction to the Bradt guide: if looking for Linda’s restaurant at the Juventus Club, it is important to go up the RIGHT hand steps on Meskel Square’s terrace (facing the terrace), NOT the left hand steps. We wandered for ages!

By road from Addis to Hossana via the Butajira road: beautiful, but a good 5 hours in private car because of the traffic in southeastern Addis. Lovely area.

Public bus ran from Hosaina to Awassa via Alaba Kulito, left when full around 9ish, 5 hours on a very pretty road through Angecha.

Hawassa: Lakeview Hotel is a new hotel that was fantastic value. Located next to the Oasis hotel, on the road to the Lewi. Very smart, new rooms (great beds, best bathroom in ET, fridge, spotty Wifi, balconies onto lake) start at US$22.

Yirga Alem: Excellent splashout with a stay at Aregash Lodge. This is a very special place, and while not cheap ($US70 for 1 person, $US80 for two, buffet meals perhaps 230 birr), it delivered on the value with very spacious, well appointed rooms, excellent bathrooms, extremely good service, and high quality food. I’ve been in lots of overhyped “ecolodges,” and this one truly delivered. Took the minibus from the bus station in Awassa to Yirgalem, and it’s easy to get a bajaj there up to the lodge or call the lodge. Bajaj may not be able to do the last 500m. Pretty isolated spot.

Skybus from Awassa to Addis was easy and smooth, if grubby. Booked one day ahead, 167 birr, booking in Awassa at the Alliance Building opposite Time Cafe. Seat maps bore no resemblance to actual bus, but at least there was just one seat per person. They gave out water on the bus, one bathroom stop in the bush. Departed Awassa about 6:40 am, were in Meskel Square by 12:15 pm.

Lalibela and Yirga Alem

airport transfer now costs 70birr one way
single room at the Seven Olives hotel is 24$
the standard approved guide for the Lalibela churches seems to be 350birr for one person
entrance to the churches: 350 birr

Also a small comment on the VAT and service charges which are charged almost everywhere in restaurants and often aren’t included in the price lists so can be misleading.

I also stayed at Aregash Lodge in Yirga Alem, where the prices are now 50$ per night inc. breakfast for a one room tukul.

Helen Cibinda Ntal

Liza D’s updates

I recently travelled for a few days to the north and south, while my mother was visiting me.
Here is the report of the parts of the trip that I was on:

Gondar: stayed at the new part of Quara hotel (a triple was 695 birr). Food at Quara was OK, but nothing to write home about. Sofa juice charged my mum and her friend 30 birr per juice (for a really big glass) but still, what a rip off.

Bahir Dar: we stayed at Kuriftu Tana resort, as I am a member and had 25% discount, and while the setting is beautiful and the waiters were really sweet, there are so many little flaws that can drive one crazy (for 150 dollars a night, you get the same crap soap as you would get in a roadside motel, no showercap etc- it took them 5 hours to bring me a bathrobe, and they wanted to charge me 500 birr extra to stay in the room an hour after check-out, while the hotel was half empty, and only after speaking to the owner, they agreed to give us an hour, so we could wash after coming from the boat trip). Do not book your boat trip through the hotel, as they will charge you VAT on top of everything else.
Just opposite the resort, there is the lovely Wude coffee/buna (similar style to Yeshi buna in Addis that serves excellent coffee and one of the best shiro tegabino in the country)
The plane from Bahir Dar left half an hour before schedule, and no one ever called to inform us. We were there on time, but it seems ridiculous to have a schedule and then leave early)

Arba Minch I flew there with Ethiopian Airlines, it is now one of the few local flights you cannot collect miles for (despite costing about the same as the other local flights). I paid about 670 birr with the resident card.
Bekele Mola hotel is no longer a place to go and stay, there is almost never any water or electricity. (and I used to love it, it has the best view of the lakes, and one of my favourite views in Ethiopia), but the lunch was still good, steamed fish with vegetables.
Paradise lodge was closed, or open only to US marines (or sth of the sort). We stayed in a recently opened Pension (I don’t think it had a name, other than Tourist Pension Arba Minch), lots of rooms, clean and proper, but often water problems, and they charge 400 birr for single or double and refused to give me resident price (though they charged local price to the driver and the guide). And they don’t have a restaurant yet, so we had breakfast at the Tourist hotel in Arba Minch, which had nice breakfast, but extremely slow service.
Soma was apparently charging double prices again, so we went for dinner at LemLem hotel which still charged a lot by local standards, but not as bad as Soma and the grilled fish was delicious.

Konso- we paid 50 birr per person for the village entrance plus 100 birr for the guide.

Yabello – we stayed at the Yabello motel which as it says in the latest Bradt guide charges inflated farenji prices for food and room. A twin goes at 500 birr (sic!) but it is clean, hot water, two very comfortable beds, you even get a shower cap, razor, soaps and a comb. I managed to get a resident price for a single at 180 birr (still very expensive), but even my skills in reading the menu posted in Amharic on the wall of the restaurant didn’t spare me from paying farenji price for my food (rice with vegetables 23 on a tourist menu, 12 on the Amharic menu) – and they even charged our driver and guide tourist prices (they tried to argue, but failed to achieve anything). And the food was bad (except for the shiro tegabino, which was fine), chips were almost cremated, steak was burned, the vegetables in the rice were tasteless.

Despite this, I found Yabello to have a a lot of charm, the light, the climate, great for photos, for birdwatching, and people watching. The town is calm and peaceful, or so it seems after spending an afternoon there. It has the similar feel as Dire Dawa and Harrar (without the farenji hassle), with lovely hills surrounding it.

Yirgalem- Aregash lodge – what a charming place. Double rooms – for single and double occupancy go for 50 dollars including breakfast, VAT and service charge, Quadruple rooms – for 3-4 people cost 75 dollars for B&B.
Dinner was 150 birr per person, which is not cheap for Ethiopia, but it was lovely, minestrone soup and a lovely buffet for vegetable dishes, some meat and a fruit salad at the end.
When you arrive to the lodge they serve you a welcome drink, fresh papaya and mango juice.
We went for a walk to the local Sidamo villages and were given a demonstration of enset (false banana) preparation and even served coffee and enset pancakes. A small tip to the family and to the guide, which seemed totally appropriate.
If you call in advance they can also organise horses for taking a ride through the country side.
We saw lots of birds (hornbill was my favourite), two types of monkeys, hyena (while having a coffee ceremony at sunset)
I cannot wait to go again

Liza D


Yerga Alem accommodation

Near Yerga Alem, we had to wait a day to get into Aregash Lodge (an overbooking issue).  Our local guides arranged for us to stay at Furra Institute of Developmental Studies for that night, about 4 km from Aregash (sorry I can’t be more specific about the location).  Our accomodations seemed to be a dormitory of some sort, but were clean. comfortable and modern.  At Birr 115 per night, many Western travelers will greatly appreciate the accomodations at Furra, if they are available to the general public.

Jim Pellegrini