• Wibke

Ethiopia–Why to Go NOW? 5. Reason: You can stay with the locals


​​I spend most of my time making films of machines which can harvest a lot of grain in a very short time. So obviously it was fascinating for me to see how harvesting works in Ethiopia:

The grain is cut with a sickle and then carefully carried to a threshing place, where it is threshed - trampled on - by ox and donkey. Then the straw is thrown into the air to separate wheat from chaff, which then needs to be collected and cleaned.

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I am not exaggerating when I say that a modern harvesting machine, e.g. an S-Series combine from John Deere, could do the job for one of the fields that we saw in 5 seconds flat. Our guide Mesfin was a bit surprised, I think, by our fairly unusual request – tourists who want to get out of the car and watch more closely what’s going on in an ordinary field??

The village head was called to ask permission, and he came along with a gun on his back and showed us around. His strikingly beautiful wife, who had tattoos in her face, even asked us in for a coffee.

The Ethiopian coffee ceremony is world famous – as is the coffee. It is not as simple as pressing a button on a machine and then drink it on the go … which is abominable in any place of the world, in my opinion. Oh no, here the time coffee is prepared is the time you'll ask your neighbors over for a break and a chat. And there’s no need to hurry the conversation, because first the beans are roasted in a flat pan, then ground with a mortar and then brewed with boiling water. All done with the help of a log fire. In the meantime, we were served homemade popcorn, with chickens around our feet picking up anything we dropped and the kids watching us with just as much interest as we observed them. We all tried to communicate with hands and feet and ended up rolling with laughter when Mesfin translated what each side wanted to say.

The village chief has a separate hut for animals and people, but a lot of people still share their shelter in the night with the animals, as there are leopards and hyenas around. That’s also the reason, we were told, why the guy is wearing a gun … but there may be a bit of machoism involved as well, Mesfin admitted in a low voice. By the time we left our friendly hosts, the setting sun was bathing the rural landscape in golden colors. We climbed up the steep hill and were breathing hard doing so, unlike our local companions. Our target was the Degosach Eco Lodge, situated at an altitude of 3800 metres, so the last incline in the dark required a bit of an effort.

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Don't expect a posh lodge like in touristy areas such as Kenia or Tanzania. This place is quite simple. There are no showers, no ensuite bathrooms, but clean little round, reed-covered huts with comfortable beds. The toilets are – as often in Ethiopia – a bit rough, but OK. The most amazing part is when you lift your gaze up into the sky to see the myriads of stars, which don't have to compete with any electrical light sources up here. As the lodge is situated on top of a hill the nocturnal panoply of stars stretches all around you – simply amazing!

There is a communal hut in which all tourists meet for dinner around a fire. Ethiopian tradition is for the hosts to wash the feet of their guests before giving them food and then offering them their beds to sleep. Everyone followed this tradition, only that nobody had to leave their beds for us. After dinner the locals started dancing around the fire, inviting us to join – some tourists did, but I preferred to watch …

Most of the people staying up here hike to the Abune Yusuf National Park, which is a roundtrip of about 10 hours. There are more homestays in the park, most more rustic than the Degosach Eco Lodge. My advice is to use hand disinfectant before every meal (wherever you are in the country) and only eat stuff which was cooked or which you can peel – that way we didn't have the slightest problem throughout our trip.

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​​As we had limited time and wanted to be back for the orthodox Christmas celebrations in Lalibela the next day we only walked to the viewpoint called Chebertay (3900m), from where you have a spectacular view of Mount Abune Yousef and the track which was just recently built to an observatory – since the night before I know why …

My advice would be to take the car up to this point and start hiking from there to enjoy more time in the National Park. The area around is beautiful and the view to the land below is stunning, but you are still in the middle of rural countryside and Abune Yousef is supposed to be quite wild …

After lunch at the Lodge – Injera with the most breathtaking view ever – we descended four hours down the mountain to visit Yimrhannekirstos, which predates the Lalibela churches and was built using a completely different style of construction involving marble and wood. It is built inside a cave, which you reach through a gate. It was already full of pilgrims receiving their blessing before continuing on their way – like us – to Lalibela. Luckily we didn't have to walk, but were picked up by a car. It was our first glimpse of all the pilgrims in their traditional clothes walking through the church, praying, chatting, taking photos … and slowly we were getting really excited about our highlight of the trip: Christmas in Lalibela!

You can book the Degosach Eco Lodge directly here online.

I will write about all our adventures in a separate blogpost - but I am afraid I will need more time for that …

To shorten the waiting time you can watch a short Video here:

I didn't really film - I was too occupied to take pictures of all the beautiful things going on around me, but as I had the drone with me, and as I sometimes pressed the record button on my camera as well, I had a few (very shaky, sorry) clips, that I edited into a short clip. I hope you enjoy watching it …

How to get there:

Ethiopian Airlines flies daily (at least from Frankfurt) directly to Addis Abeba. If you book with them, you get a discount on the inland flights, which you will probably need, as the roads are very bumpy and dusty …

Package:

We arranged everything through Lalibela Eco Trekking. Molla Kassaw - the owner - organized our whole trip and everything worked perfectly. We didn't have a single guide, but always different local guides, who showed us their town/hike. That way we got to know a lot of different people, who knew their local attractions best.

In the separate blogs I will recommend places and restaurants we visited or have seen, alongside any other comments we had about the various places and the what-to-dos.

#Ethiopia #hiking #homestay