Most Inspirational Moment
Getting up close to Geladas without any sort of animosity/aggression being shown on their part was the best wildlife encounter. The iconic rock-hewn churches in Tigre provence came a close second and the cattle/camel market ranked with the walk through the everyday market with its vibrant colours and sometimes noisome smells and people watching both us and them reciprocating almost equally. The various churches and associated museums with priceless artifacts were everywhere. The unique history of the country and its relationship in the modern world made this trip superb. If there had not been the animal market visit it would have been better to have flown to Mekele instead of taking the road trip which became boring after a couple of hours and most people caught up on their sleeping.
Thoughts on Group Leader
Gebre was not there to pick us up at the airport on our arrival he only turned up about an hour after we had landed and this caused problems. I called the local office to find out where the guide was when I exited the arrivals area of the airport at just after 07:00. The office people told me the guide was on the way and was just minutes away, other people at the airport said there were two meeting points at the bottom of the stairs and at the end of the ramp. I waited at the bottom of the stairs until after 07:10 then went to see if the guide was at the other meeting point which was a couple of hundred feet away. At the other designated meeting point another person called the Magnolia hotel for me and the hotel staff said I should join their bus which was waiting for two Italians and come with them to the hotel. The bus waited until 08:40 and then departed for the hotel and after a ten minute check-in I was shown to my room. On returning to the hotel foyer to change money I found the rest of the Exodus group had arrived and they were being checked-in. I asked about the meet and greet meeting which I duly attended at which most of the information provide was changed throughout the course of the trip, some data given was happily changed later, where the hotels being used were important for location if not for facilities so said the guide. The information provided by the guide was that only the first hotel had been changed from what was in the original notes that turned out not to be true.
The guide was capable but the English was a mite difficult to understand at times the odd turn of phrase needed to be interpreted and mostly he was understood.
The restaurants we were taken to outside of the hotels all seemed to be of the same pattern with the same menus and on only two occasions did I see the guide put his hand in his pocket to pay for his own food or drink at lunch or dinner.
The guides ability to steer us through potential hazards was not in any way detrimental to the trip.
The offer of taking the road instead of the mule ride was not made until the departure day of the excursion and only mentioned in passing the previous night, the alternative was not mentioned in the trip notes. Getting out of the bus, the guide helped in chopping up a tree trunk that had fallen across the road on the very long journey to Mekele, which was only relieved by the camel market visit.
The guide helped me with the purchase of stamps for my postcards none of which have arrived yet even though the first set was posted over two weeks ago this might be because the quantity might have not been sufficient for each card as each time the amount to be used for each card varied depending on the vendor of the stamps.
Overall I have nothing bad to say about the guide he did his best and the driver was also very helpful to me personally by finding a drinkable wine and posting my cards at the post office.
Advice for Potential Travellers
If you are likely to struggle at altitude it might be worth while getting some altitude sickness pills before going as some of the walking was at 3000 ft, I wheezed continuously.
Buying give aways such as pens for the local children, some adults also wanted them, it is better to buy locally this puts money into the local economy and it is cheaper than buying at home and transporting to Ethiopia. A bic pen costs about 30 pence each here in the UK but for <£10 you can buy 50 locally. Ask what the Exodus supported charity would like to receive and perhaps purchase items locally.
Shoes are a big item cost wise in Ethiopia taking a few old pairs for give aways to individuals might be useful, though embarrassing also. There are numerous stalls that sell plastic shoes beside the roadside ask the local charity if they would like a donation towards the purchase of shoes for the kids they sponsor at their school and or help towards the buying of materials for the school itself. Money is the practical item most appreciated at the charity since it takes a lot of determination and usable skills to become a volunteer on site.
If you are not a pasta or pizza person normally then your diet is going to be assaulted by this food carbohydrate for most meals but better this and macaroni than the local fare, the indjera. The local wrap, Indjera, is made from the teff grain which seems to be endemic to Ethiopia its fermented for up to three days before being treated as floor and made into the slightly sour sponge-like and rubbery textured wrap called Indjera, an acquired taste which I hope I never acquire try it at least once!
The fish is usually good and the meat overdone, western style dishes might be on the menu but they will not be a patch on the food you expect to get from the name.
I'm not fond of larger but it was better than the local wine!
Since the holiday does not include food other than breakfast a trip to the local supermarket is advisable perhaps a requirement if you have a delicate stomach and would prefer snacks to vast amounts of pasta or iffy local cuisine.
The coffee and the frankincense are good purchases as are the basket work and cotton shawls, if you're looking for that t-shirt that says been there and done that, good luck, I tried but failed.
Watch out for slippery floors in the hotels and the ironing scam where the price is exorbitant and the result questionable.
In the major towns some of the wide boys will try to attach themselves to you with implausible stories about how they are looking after themselves their families and going to school all at the same time that people their age are at work or trying it on with the tourists! There are genuine cases of hardship but they are clearly visible and they are not the well dressed/heeled wide boys, the shoes and the condition of the clothes are the usual clear indicators of the scam artists.
Do not be surprised by the casual cruelty meted out to the domestic beasts of burden and livestock in general, thrown rocks, lashes with sticks and fists or kicks are not unusual.
I mostly enjoyed the trip, my slip getting out of the shower and wrenched shoulder muscles as a result did not detract from the experience.
Take your full first aid kit with you and remember the painkillers/diarrhoea/constipation prophylactics.
Good shoes are a must even in the cities the wear and tear on your footwear will be high as the pavements are very uneven.
help is always at hand but this might be unwelcome at times especially when going up the 60 degree climb the unbalanced grip on your elbow can be unhelpful.
if you are able to use walking / hiking sticks then take them with you but only if you are adept at using them, as a new toy the would be a hindrance not an aid, they will be a boon along the rocky paths and uneven surfaces.
We would like to thank Baron-Vahl for his feedback. Whilst we are pleased that he enjoyed a number of aspects of the trip we are very sorry that he found the arrival set-up to not be as expected. It is true that no tour leaders from any organisation are allowed to enter the terminal hall, however, they will meet members of the group at either of the two meeting spots outside the terminal; we have confirmed that the tour leader was there and picked up all other members of the group who arrived on the group flight so we are sincerely sorry that Baron-Vahl and the leader missed each other. We have passed the feedback on to the local team in the hopes they can make the meeting spot more obvious in the future.
John Penge – Product Manager for Ethiopia