I never had a chance to thank you properly in person while in Addis, so I am writing now. I was amazed by your
kindness and hospitality, and how much you went out of your way to help me.
My trip to Ethiopia was seamless even before I got there, thanks to Eskinder, who was
very prompt and responsive to my myriad queries during the planning process.
I was only to be there for ten days, for a wedding and then to fulfill my dream of going to the
rock-cut churches of Lalibela (National Geographic dreams).
I usually travel alone and without a guide, but given the short time, and the miles I
wanted to cover, I decided it would be wise to find a tour operator. My hunt for one began and ended with
I was naturally wary about hiring a tour company online, but took a chance, and I
lucked out. I outlined my budget, the places I wanted to go, and I was given a custom itinerary that fitted it
all in, at a fairly reasonable price.
At the last minute, about a week before departure, I had to suddenly shorten my
itinerary, and Eskinder gave me an even better deal -- and still fitted in the key places I wanted to visit,
though I had to cut out Bahir Dar.
Addis is a beautiful city, green, and quiet, and safe. It has a genteel sprawl, with
the exception of its busy city centre, market places and its religious events.
From there, Eskinder delivered me to the airport at Axum, where I was collected by his
guide Teddy - a cheeky, fun guide, with whom I had an interesting afternoon seeing the stelae, tombs, palaces,
and of course, the centrepiece, the church of the Ark of the Covenant.
I peppered him with questions, and he was very well-informed. He was also very prompt,
arriving before our scheduled meeting times, and helpful (took me shopping to this amazing little curiosity
shop run by an old man, who was very kind).
The next day, I was deposited back at the airport and had one of the most spectacular
flights of my life (I do not exaggerate here) to Lalibela.
Again, here, I didn't have to wait, as my guide Mario and driver Alex were already
waiting. Mario was the substitute guide, but I had no complaints -- he is a gem of a person.
Mario was very educated on the history and culture of the area and interested to
discuss cultural synchronicities between India (where I am from) and Ethiopia.
He was a fun, gentle person to spend the day with clambering around slippery rocks,
thanks to the early rainy season. Lalibela is breathtaking -- words often fail you while you are there, and
even after, to recall it.
From Lalibela, I flew to Gonder, where again, my guide Sema, who runs tours around the
Gonder region, had a car pick me up, even though he couldn't make it.
Gonder is a very energetic place -- small, but buzzing, and a great stopping point
before heading into the Simien Mountains. I'm a bit of a culture vulture, so I really ate up the medieval
sites, although it isn't everyone's cup of tea.
It was just so uncanny to see medieval Portuguese castles in the middle of Ethiopia. I
stayed at the Lodge Fasil, a new cozy little hotel just behind the palace complex, with great management and
running hot water.
I was headed into the mountains the next day, and Sema came to meet me, prepared me
thoroughly on the schedule, and was right on time the next morning. This was the only leg of my trip on which I
wasn't the only tourist, which I didn't mind at all - Eskinder had let me know that there would be one other
person in advance.
Sema and his team were great (I may be overusing the word, but with good reason) -- we
were caught in the mountains in torrential rain, the van kept sliding back down, we had to abandon our camping
plans for bunks in a lodge.
But they handled it all with so much equanimity. And we had a fun dinner, breaking
injera together with nothing but our flashlights in the dark African night.
Sema knew all the good spots to go to (he's seasoned), and we hiked up to some
waterfalls, which fell from the crevice of a rock hundreds of feet high, into a ravine, beyond which were pale
blue mountains. We stood higher than the birds that circled below us.
A couple days later, I returned to Addis, in a tearing hurry to buy some traditional
clothes to attend the traditional part of this wedding I was there for. Eskinder picked me up from the airport,
and brought a companion (his accountant!) with him because he had kindly agreed to take me shopping.
This was not part of the package I had paid for. :-) His companion was assigned to help
me bargain, and we did good for a drive-by-shop. They then patiently waited until I was ready, having offered
to drop me to the wedding venue, and Eskinder beamed like a proud father when he saw me in traditional
This time, I stayed at a great hotel called the Mimosa Hotel near Bole Road. Not the
most convenient place to sightsee, but a great place for long stays - has a family run feel to it, free
laundry, and huge rooms.
I don't believe I had a single negative experience while I was there. Yes, there were
tiresome solicitations from strangers because I was a single female travelling, but nothing but professionalism
from the tour guides.
And fun - we got stuck in the mountains twice, and we all had to throw a shoulder into
the van while standing in 6-inch deep mud slicks to get it out. But it was all part of the very, very,
I would also like to say that if there's anyone looking for more detailed
recommendations, I would be more than happy to personally email or speak with them about your company. I hope
to be back again in the next 2 years, to explore the southern part of Ethiopia, and with at least a month on my
Ethiopia is situated in North Eastern Africa. Its capital Addis Ababa enjoys a healthy climate
at 8000 feet above sea level.
Ethiopia, the diplomatic capital of Africa, has an independence that dates back before the birth
of Christ. The current flag of Ethiopia was officially adopted on February 6, 1996.
The flag comprises the Pan-African colors of green, symbolic of Ethiopia's land, yellow the color of peace and
love and red the color of strength. The centered gold star on a blue shield represents unity.
Ethiopia is bordered by Sudan to the north and north west. Eritrea lies to the north and north east with
Djibouti to the east.
Somalia is to the east and south east and to the south lies Kenya.
A distinctive attraction on an Ethiopian tour is the northern part of the Great Rift Valley.
The valley runs the entire length of the country in a northeast-southwest direction.
In the centre of the country is a high plateau region.
Ethiopia is bordered by steep slopes on the northwest and the lowlands are hot and arid. The semi-desert region
of the Ogaden, covers the entire southeastern region of the country.
In the north, the Danakil Desert reaches to the Red Sea and the coastal foothills of Eritrea.
Ethiopia's largest lake is Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile River.
This river winds around in a great arc before merging with the White Nile in the Sudan.
It travels through great canyons that reach depths of more than 4,000 ft.
Ethiopia is also home to nearly a hundred different tribes, each with its own language.
On an Ethiopian tour you will experience an astonishing array of animals and birds, many of them unique to the
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