Della Thomas from The Bahamas
” Ethiopia – why on earth are you going to Ethiopia ” was the response we got from friends and associates when we told them of our September vacation plans… The answer was simple! We look for a contrasting culture, a rich historical heritage and the opportunity to get in a car and travel for miles. Our reading suggested that Ethiopia would provide all of these things.
Leaving our home with some trepidation because of a hurricane with a projected path over Grand Bahama, we set off from Florida and traveled on Ethiopian Airlines from Newark , NJ . This airline is a good choice because by using it one gets a reduced rate when traveling on the Ethiopian domestic routes. After a short stop in Rome we eventually arrived in Addis Ababa to a warm welcome from not only Fest Ethiopia but also our prospective driver and guide. The following morning we began our journey to the south to discover the rich cultural heritage of the country, visiting the World Heritage site of Melkaquntre en route to Hossaina. Our driver was careful and did everything possible to make the journey along the dirt track roads safe and enjoyable. The guide who accompanied us conscientiously tried to make sure we saw everything of interest and understood the local customs and culture.
Whenever we travel we always stipulate that we do not want to stay in international hotel chains but prefer smaller hotels with more local character. We certainly had the opportunity to do this. Fest Ethiopia arranged accommodation in the best hotels in each town we visited which were always welcoming but sometimes, due to circumstances beyond everyone’s control, some had power outages and some had little or no hot water, This certainly helps one realize the difficulties of the Ethiopian economy, What we had not realized was that all meals were included in our program and we found the food excellent and very plentiful. During the day we were offered an endless supply of bottled water. The hotel at Arba Minch offered a wonderful panoramic view of the two lakes we would eventually visit – Abaya and Chamo. The crocodiles in the lake were impressive and the hippos and pelicans very photogenic.
Throughout the journey we encountered a wide variety of tribes, each with its own traditional way of dress from locally woven fabrics to leather garments trimmed with cowrie shells. Each day offered something new and interesting- Mursi women with clay disks in their lips, a lady using a sling shot to down birds, people walking many miles to take local produce to market. No part of the journey was dull and wherever we went we felt safe and welcome Mago National Park did not have the teeming wildlife one might expect but again this reflects the problems Ethiopia has encountered over the years and the struggle people have had to survive, The roads are often empty of traffic and the only vehicles are often four wheel drive. Each day the landscape was as varied as the temperature changes we encountered. We traveled through mountain and plains, through deserts and more temperate regions Since we vacationed for three weeks we were able to see not only the tribes of the south but after returning to Addis Ababa we flew to the north to see the historical sites. Bahir Dar we found disappointing since much of the water from the Blue Nile Falls has been diverted to provide hydro electric power. The monasteries on the lake were interesting but the boat ride we found too slow. One also has to remember that in some places women are not allowed. Lalibela and Axum were fascinating and an extended stay there would be worth while. My reading had left me with a wish to visit Harar, which had once been an important trading centre and centre of learning and Muslim scholarship as well as the home of Rimbaud, the French poet. The long overland journey there was well worth it – camel, trains, volcanoes and lava fields high mountains and hot desert plains. We did see the hyena man and did feed them with chicken scraps!
Because of the airline delays our stay in Addis itself was cut short but Fest Ethiopia went out of its way to make sure that we missed nothing. We have never been to any country and had a more caring, concerned and helpful tour company. They made us feel like family and we would highly recommend them as your travel agents of choice.