Ethiopia Stories and Tips

Debark (Simien trek)

Simien Mountains Photo, Ethiopia, Africa


The 5:30am bus from Shire (Inda Selassie)left at 7am, passed many wrecked tanks and artillery pieces -- somebody got their ass kicked here good. After a stop in Adi Agat for tibs, the bus enters the mountains and spectacular scenery as we switchback up and down, ridge after ridge. Got to Debark around noon. Got a 20 birr room at the Simien Hotel -- an absolute dive, no water -- should’ve gone to the Simien Park Hotel for 30 birr.

Park Office opens at 2pm, and everything is arranged. It would’ve been nicer to have more people along to share the costs. I wanted to go for four nights/five days and spend two nights at Geech, so I would have time to visit Imet Gogo and hike around the area. Most people spend one night at Geech and have to rush back the next day, but I enjoyed my extra day to explore the area.

Ended up with a staff of four: guide, scout, horseman, cook. Even though they are supposed to provide their own food, it generally runs out after two days and I’m not going to eat a nice meal in front of four hungry people. So I headed into the market and bought food for five. [I remember being in Geech and listening to another tourist ranting at their staff, "What do you mean you have no food -- you’re supposed to bring your own food! We only have food for the two of us!"]

Here are my costs [no bank in Debark so have cash on hand!]:

  • 150 b- entrance fee (50 b per 48 hours)
  • 60 b- camping fee (20 b per 48 hours)
  • 150 b- scout (30b for 5 days)
  • 375 b- guide (75b x 5 days)
  • 100 b- horse (20b x 5)
  • 100 b- horseman (20b x 5)
  • 125 b- tent (25b x 5)
  • 150 b- cooking gear (30b x 5) includes: chopping board, knife, kerosene stove, teapot, tin cups (2), plates (2), bowls (2), forks (2), spoons (2), pots (2)
  • 35b- foam sleeping pad (7b x 5) (I brought my own sleeping bag)
  • 200 b- cook (40b x 5)

Despite what both guidebooks say, I found plenty of food in the market to eat. I went with my guide to the market, and here’s what we bought: 8 tins sardines (80b), 2 jars jam (24b), 4 packages of spaghetti (20b), 2 litres cooking oil (18b), 4 litres kerosene (16b), 3 ropes (3b), 2kg sugar (12b), 2 packages of tea (6b), 15 bread buns (20b), 12 tins tomato paste (24b), 1 bar of soap (3b), onions (5b), pepper (1b), salt (2b), matches (2b), 4 candles (4b), bag of macaroni (15b), a strainer for the tea (3b), 3kg oranges (21b), a sack (3b). Also bought eggs and garlic from villages in the park.

Total cost, including 300b of tips I paid out at the end, was 1830b (~US$215), or 365b (~US$43) per day. Expensive, but worth it! And if I could’ve found another couple of tourists to share the cost, it would have been much less.

Every morning, the cook, horse, and horseman would go directly to out camp that night, while my guide, scout and I would take the scenic route along the ridge. At one point, we saw about a hundred Gelada baboons sitting in a field digging up and eating roots. First and fourth nights were at Sankaber Camp, 3200m. Second and third nights were at Geech Camp, 3600m. Freezing cold at night, glad I packed my long johns and brought my own sleeping bag.

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