: I was in Ethiopia for six weeks. Sounds like a long time, but I barely scratched the surface. I spent four days in Lalibela, three days in Axum, five days trekking in the Simiens, three days in Gonder, four days in Bahar Dar, two days in Harer, four days doing a horseback trek out of Dodola, and about 11 days total in Addis, since that was my main transport hub and I wanted to be there for the music festival and Timkat. The remaining time was spent travelling, mostly on buses. Two points I want to make: (1) it takes time to see the country, and (2) I barely scratched the surface -- six weeks there does not make me an expert of all things Ethiopia. But these notes will hopefully assist others who wish to visit.
- Lalibela: rock-cut churches, the hike to Maryam Asheton, drinking téj in the Helen Hotel listening to the asmaris and learning to dance iskista;
- trekking in the Simiens,
- horseback trek out of Dodola (see www.baletrek.com ),
- Gonder: Debre Berhan Selassie church, the castles, the "kék bét" (cake shops) where you can get a fruit juice, macchiato, and pastry; Christmas party
- EthioSonic Big Band in Addis but any music event will do
- the birdlife
- great food and beers (St. George, Castel, Dashen, Bedele, Bati, Meta but avoid Harer Beer)
: It would have been nice to get down into the South like Arba Minch and the Omo, but there was no time left. Met quite a few people who went into the South and they all said it was great. There seems to be two ways of going south -– humping it down by public transport and hitching when that ends (takes 2-3 weeks), or getting a group together in Addis and renting a jeep for over $120/day. I met quite a few people while passing through Addis who were waiting around trying to get a group together, spending more time waiting than travelling, and eventually running out of time. The travel agents always optimistically promised that they’d get a group the next day, but the day never arrived. Me, I’d give it a couple of days while you see the sights of Addis, then jump on the bus. I also met a guy who put a message into the Lonely Planet Thorntree and got a group together before he even arrived in Addis! Smart idea!
: I met a guy who worked at an electrical power plant, who proudly showed me his resumé. Did maintenance in the plant, a good solid job, and earns 600 birr per month. That’s about 20 birr per day! So when a tourist guide complains that 50 birr isn’t enough, tell him to get a real job. Sometimes we don’t realize how "tourist prices" can distort the local economy. At the same time, I don’t want to begrudge somebody a few extra birr -– the safety net here is very thin.
: I was in Ethiopia for 6 weeks. During this time I spent US$1020. Of this amount, $215 was spent on a 5-day trek in the Simien Mountains (I wish I could've found other tourists to share the costs), $80 was spent on a 4-day horse trek in the Dodola area, and $150 was spent on souvenirs (mostly 10 cd's and 25 cassettes of music). The remainder, $575, (works out to around $100/week) was for all other costs: hotel, beer, food, beer, transport, beer, fees & admission charges, and maybe some beer. This doesn't include my internal flight Addis to Lalibela to Axum, which I paid back in Canada and cost about US$200.
: I saw internet places in Gonder, Bahar Dar, and Harer (all 0.60 birr per minute). Addis has many places, the going rate is 0.50 birr/minute.
: I was able to purchase bottled water in all the towns visited. The only times I needed to purify my own water were on the treks (Simien & Bale-Dodola). On the Simien trek, the campsites were near streams where I could fill my water bottle. On the Bale-Dodola horse trek, water was available from an urn at each guesthouse. While it is possible to boil the water, I prefer to save fuel and use chemical purification. My choice at the moment is called "Pristine" in Canada, and "AquaMira" in the US - it consists of 2 bottles, one of Chlorine Dioxide and the other of Phosphoric acid. Works great, leaves no bad taste in the water.