Bye Auckland - Addis Ababa Here I Come

Thursday, December 11, 2014
Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
Another chapter or trip to add to life's overall journey.

When I was asked by different people "Where are you travelling to this year Bruce", I said "Ethiopia". With amazement and from some bewilderment, the next question was "Why Ethiopia?".

"Why not?" was my reply ....

Let's back up the bus ... 30 years ago Ethiopia came into prominence with Bob Geldof's Band Aid raising money for anti-poverty efforts and the release of the song "Do They Know It's Christmas?"

Then a few years ago, Ethiopia made it onto my travel bucket radar list.

Firstly because of TV travel programmes and newspaper travel articles plus several on my Myanmar trip had visited this country. What do I know about the country? Like many, not much? I suppose that I have this western impression of because it is just south of Sudan is famine, dryness then the more I read about it is a very historical country with in some ways the birth place of Christianity.

I expect seeing the eleven 13th-century 'New Jerusalem' medieval monolithic cave churches or below ground rock churches that will be one of the trip's highlight. They are unique and can't be seen anywhere else in the world. So for that alone is worth a trip.

Most people just do the historical northern circuit but I also wanted to see the less visited south and with the various local tribes.

Searching the various travel companies to find tours that fitted in with my window of travel was the first challenge and in the end G Adventures two trips fitted the bill nicely.

So first it is a 12 day southern trip. I have 3 spare days before my 15 day northern trip starts. Do I want to stay in Addis for these 3 days? What days trips are available? Many in fact but in the end I managed to arrange a private trip out east to the wall city of Harar.

Several local Addis travel companies suggested that I fly both ways but this option is so expensive. One company managed to suggest that they can also fit in a game drive of Awash National Park so that will hopefully be a bonus. No, I am not expecting to see the big 5 like I did in Kenya and Tanzania back in 2009 but this could be the only time on the trip that game will be encountered.

Oh yes .. it will also be my fifth in a row Christmas / New Year spent away from New Zealand. Again I am expecting a very different Christmas in a mainly Christian country.

With our small world getting both ever so smaller and continually changing, this month long journey to Ethiopia is to capture life of an enchanting country at a point of time (December 2014 and January 2015).

So it's off again on another of life's wee adventures. Back to Africa for the second time and I expect it will be for me a totally different experience this time than when I was last there back in 2009. Then I travelled 42 days overland with "Arcadia Africa" the 9,000+ kms from Nairobi, Kenya right through to Capetown, South Africa. This was followed by a week driving along the Garden Route.

When I mention that I was going to Africa, people immediately think of Ebola. Africa is so huge. The distance from West Africa where the outbreak is, to Ethiopia is twice the distance from West Africa to London and Europe.

Last night I googled "how much to pay to take photos (of the local tribes down south)" and read what I was to experience ahead of me. Body contact, being hassled ... In all of my photographer's life, I had never paid the subject. Always a first. Seems the going rate is 5 to 10 birr / NZ .30c to .60c a click / US .25 to .50c. Yes, every time I press the shutter the meter clicks and they are counting. If there is a group of people, then it's a payment for each person in the group. Let's hope that our local guide can negotiate a decent bulk unlimited rate for our group like some of the groups achieved in the articles that I read. But what amazing photos I saw.

Thursday 11 December – Leave Auckland 6.50 pm Qantas QF 8761.
Arrive Melbourne, AUSTRALIA 8.50 pm (4 hours)
Leave Melbourne 11.35 pm Qantas QF 9.

Friday 12 December - Arrive Dubai, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (UAE) 6.45 am (14 hours 10 minutes).
Leave Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), 10.30 am Emirates EK 723.
Arrive: Addis Ababa, ETHIOPIA 1.30 pm (4 hours).

Saturday 13 December – Day 1 Addis Ababa: Merkato or Central Market, National Museum, Mt Entoto, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kaffa Coffee House – group meeting. G Adventures tour "Ethiopia Discovery" Trip Code DES.
 
Sunday 14 December – Day 2: Arba Minch.
Estimated Travel Time: 10 hours. Approximate Distance: 450 km.

Monday 15 December - Day 3: Boat ride on Lake Chamo, Nechisar National Park. Guge Mountains, Dorze Tribe market, Dorze Village and spend the night with the Dorze people (dance).
Estimated Travel Time: 2 hours. Approximate Distance: 30 km.

Tuesday 16 December - Day 4: Konso local museum, Konso Village, Konso chief's compound - family graveyard and house of mummies. Konso.
Estimated Travel Time: 3 hours. Approximate Distance: 85 km.

Wednesday 17 December - Day 5: South Omo Research Centre, Jinka, Ari Village. Mursi Campsite in Mago National Park.
Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours. Approximate Distance: 205 km.

Thursday 18 December - Day 6: Key Afar cattle and weekly market, Jinka. Mursi, Benna, Ari and Tsemai people. Hamer campsite near Turmi - camp for the next 3 nights.
Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours. Approximate Distance: 115 km.

Friday 19 December - Day 7: Karo village called Kolcho. Hamer village. Turmi.
Estimated Travel Time: 7 hours. Approximate Distance: 110 km.

Saturday 20 December - Day 8: Dimeka market. Turmi. Bull jumping ceremony
Estimated Travel Time: 2 hours. Approximate Distance: Day 8: 60 km.

Sunday 21 December - Day 9: Dassanech people. Omorate, Konso.
Estimated Travel Time: 6 hours. Approximate Distance: 197 km.

Monday 22 December - Day 10: Camel market, Borena village and Yabelo National Park. Yabelo.
Estimated Travel Time: Day 10: 2 hours. Approximate Distance: 105 km.

Tuesday 23 December - Day 11: Yirgalem.
Estimated Travel Time: 8 hours. Approximate Distance: 255 km.

Wednesday 24 December - Day 12: Lake Ziway. Visit Tiya stele yard.  Addis Ababa.
Estimated Travel Time: 8 hours. Approximate Distance: 354 km.

Thursday 25 December – Addis to Awash National Park.

Friday 26 December – Awash National Park to Harar.

Saturday 27 December – Harar to Kulubi, Addis.
Day 1 Group meeting – G Adventures tour "Highlights of Ethiopia" Trip Code DEHE.
 
Sunday 28 December - Day 2: Early morning flight to Bahir Dar. Blue Nile Falls. Bahir Dar.
Estimated Travel Time: about 1 hour flight. Approximate Distance: 565 km.

Monday 29 December – Day 3: Two monasteries on Lake Tana: Debre Maryam & Ura Kidane Mihret. Gondar.
Estimated Travel Time: 3-4 hours. Approximate Distance: 180 km.

Tuesday 30 December - Day 4: "Fasiladas" Castle, Gondar market, Emperor Fasiladas' bath, Debre Berhan Salassie Church. Gondar.

Wednesday 31 December - Day 5: Debark, Simien Lodge, Simien Mountains National Park.
Estimated Travel Time: 4-5 hours. Approximate Distance: 130 km.

Thursday 1 January 2015 - Day 6: Sankaber campsite, Jinbar waterfalls. Simien Lodge. Simien Mountains National Park.

Friday 2 January - Day 7: Ploughshare Women Crafts Training Centre in a Falasha village. Kusquam Church, Mentewab's Palace. Gondar.
Estimated Travel Time: 5 hours. Approximate Distance: 130 km.

Saturday 3 January - Day 8: Amhara Village Lalibela.

Sunday 4 January - Day 9: Lalibela's first group of churches (northwestern), Ashetan Maryam Monastery. Lalibela.

Monday 5 January - Day 10: Yemrehana Kristos church, Lalibela's second (southeastern) group of churches. Lalibela.

Tuesday 6 January - Day 11: Mekele.
Estimated Travel Time: 9- 10 hrs. Approximate Distance: 409 km.

Wednesday 7 January - Day 12: Mekele, Abraha We Atsbera, Giyorgis Maikado Church. Hawzien.

Thursday 8 January - Days 13: Yeha, Axum.

Friday 9 January - Day 14: Axum historical site: main stelae field, Church of Tsion Maryam (St. Mary of Zion), Ezana Stone Inscription, Kaleb's Palace, Queen of Sheba's bath and palace. Axum.

Saturday 10 January - Day 15: Fly back to Addis Ababa. Tour finishes.
Leave Addis Ababa, 4.15 pm Emirates Flight EK 724.
Arrive Dubai, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (UAE) 9.20 pm (4 hours 5 minutes).

Sunday 11 January - Depart: Dubai, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (UAE) 9.55 am Flight Qantas QF 2.

Monday 12 January – Arrive Sydney AUSTRALIA 6.55 am (14 hours).
Leave Sydney 8.45 am Qantas QF 8764.
Arrive: Auckland 2 pm (3 hours 15 minutes)
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2021-11-29