Debre Libanos, view at the Jema Valley
Ethiopia has much variety in landscapes. The first hours, after we left Addis Abeba, heading north, we were very surprised to see very green fields, hills and mountains. Sometimes the fields and mountains looked European like the Alps, sometimes Asian like the Mongolian fields. We saw a lot of herds and agricultural fields.
At the mountainslopes we saw laurels. They told us, that these trees stimulate the erosion, so it was not a good choice to plant so much laurels.
From the side-road to Debre Libanos we had the first breathtaking views at the Jema Valley. The Jema is one of the upper branches of the Blue Nile.
Debre Libanos is 110 Km north of Addis Abeba
Debre Libanos, monastery
The monastery of Debre Libanos is founded in the 13th century and one of Ethiopia's most holy sites. No trace of the ancient monastery remains, but the present church, built in 1961, has an impressive location beneath a cliff at the edge of e gorge. I really enjoyed the route to the church.
At the moment of our visit, there was a long row of people, sitting in front of the church, waiting for a bread. Not the church, but private persons dsitributed this food.
To enter the church you have to pay 20 Birr entrance fee and 50 Birr for the use of your camera. It's forbidden to enter the church within 48 hours after having sexual intercourse or during the menstruation period.
Debre Libanos is 110 KM north of Addis Abeba, about 4 KM east of the main road.
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Lake Langano is surrounded by the Arsi Mountains. The lake has a peculiar brown colour, like a cup of tea with milk, but the water is clean and bilharzia-free. So it's a nice place to swim.
During the weekends a lot of visitors from Addis Abeba will visit the lake and it can be rather crowdy and noisy.
We arrived at monday afternoon, so it could be a peaceful stay, we thought. But there was a weddingparty with loud music till after midnight. The bride and groom and most of their guests spent the night here. So there was a lot of laughter and a screaming woman (the bride?) deep in the night.
Lake Langano lies about 200 KM south of Addis Abeba
Debre Libanos, local market
Not far from the monastery of Debre Libanos was a local market in the shade of an enormous tree.
We stopped to have a look. The people were selling all kind of herbs, vegetables, beans, cereals and fruits, but also mysterious things, we couldn't recognize.
At the market were a lot of donkeys for transporting the goods. It was my first local market I visited in Ethiopia and I really enjoyed it to walk and look around. The local people were very friendly, as we found out later, everywhere in the countryside .
Debre Libanos lies 110 KM north of Addis Abeba
How to see the real MERKATO in Addis Ababa
Merkato is a tricky place. Most foreigners visit it for a morning well escorted by a local guide. It´s an option, given the sheer avalanche of people and dubious characters. Also, bear in mind IT IS NOT a market, rather one big, chaotic and sprawled commercial area.
Still, I ended up inventing a new technique to visit my favourite area in Addis alone and with no hassles at all. Saves you the price and dependency of a guide too. How? I call it Dressing Up Style.
You see, Ethiopians give a lot of importance to clothing. Dressing with cacky trousers and a t-shirts labels you as a wealthy and dumb tourist (sad but true), so you must find ways to get over this. Instead, put some nice trousers and a plain long-sleeve shirt on, tucked in as if you went to a job interview, and even hang a couple of pens on your chest pocket. Also, carry a bundle of papers. Oh, and don´t forget the smart and well polished shoes, plenty of shoe-shine kids to help you with that.
This dressing will automatically put you in a different category for the Merkato plongers... you are no longer a tourist but a business man who is here to... do business. No fussing around, and if they do, you can simply look at them coldy and carry on.
I know it sounds a weird idea, it is. But believe me, I noticed hassles go down by 75% o 80%. Try it, it´s fun!
CHATS, leaves that you put in your mouth and chew, you can chew with peanut and have a coke or beer, it is so popular in Ethiopia. It is said that it makes you awake or high. I went into a small house (it was like a room or a store), chewing and gossiping with the locals for over 4 hours. It costed 75 Bir.
Ambo - Mount Wenchi
A nice short trip from Addis Ababa (allow at least 3 days - 2 nights) is Ambo. Minibuses or regular buses from Merkato leave daily, both at 6.00 am and as late as 11.00 am. The ride take some 4 to 6 hours and I do recommend regular bus as the road get rough at the end and the minibuses struggle. Both cost around 30 birr.
Ambo is unremarkable, usual one street Ethiopian town. But you can hitch an early morning start up to Mount Wnechi from both hotels (there are only two in town, and its a small town so you won't miss them). A ride up to Wenchi will cost another 15-20 birr, which leaves you half way. The other half you must walk, a very nice one indeed. Having lived in Ethiopia for a year and travelled extensively, I feel sure to say it´s the nicest view in the country. Simply spectacular!
If you want to take the kids horseback riding or just spend a sunday out of the city, then Menagesha stables is a place to go. They have beautiful horses with really excellent equipment. You can even book the weekend. If you just want to stay a few hours there is a place where you can purchase drinks but bring snacks for the kids.
- Horse Riding
A big bird
A big bird was sitting in top of a lamp post outside my hotel window.
Is it a vulture? I don't know, but it looks like it.
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