Category Archives: Mountains

Treks that change lives!

Tesfa Community Treks providing income to local villagers, and open the eyes of the guests.

Enaf Tesfa village guesthouse in Tigray

An increasing number of discerning tourists are looking to the Tesfa Community Treks where villagers host the tourists and benefits flow directly to the local hosts. For while the Simien Mountains and Bale Mountains have been drawing tourists for decades, keen to trek in these Afro Alpine mountains with their unique wildlife the Tesfa treks also have wildlife and stunning views but at the same time tourists are giving a big something back, and experiencing the real Ethiopia of the highland farmers.

Since 2003 Tesfa treks have been hosting tourists in the

Mequat Mariam Scones for breakfast

mountains of North Wollo around Lalibela. Initially in Meket Woreda and more recently Gidan and Lasta woredas local villages have built 11 guesthouses organised as cooperatives to host small groups of walkers along the basalt escarpments that surround Lalibela. Included in this network of guesthouse are several on Mount Abuna Yoseph, a protected area around the highest peak in Ethiopia outside of the Simien and Bale Mountains at 4,288m.  The higher reaches of Abuna Yoseph are home to a pack of Ethiopian wolves, as well as troops of Gelada, leopards and many raptors.

Mequat Mariam guesthouse, N.Wollo

Since 2012 tourists have also been walking on the Tesfa treks in the Agame mountains around Adigrat in E.Tigray. There is a network of 7 village guesthouses with stunning walks between and a number of magnificent rock hewn churches that are rarely visited by tourists (other than those staying in the guesthouses). Again there are Geladas and amazing birds to see but as with the treks in Wollo, it is the host communities and the age-old farming life of the highlands that have the biggest impact on the visitors. The hospitality is humbling and simplicity of life prompts something to all of us coming from our cluttered and hectic lives.

Breakfast @Taga Mariam, Simiens

Now Tesfa is opening up new areas for community treks, with 3 simple village guesthouses to the south of the Simien National Park (Funded by African Wildlife Foundation) and 4 village guesthouses in North Shoa, in and around Wof Washa forest, just beyond Ankober. As with the village guesthouses in Wollo and Tigray, each guesthouse is owned and run by a community from the local village organised into a cooperative.

In each case 55% of the payment (around $34USD) goes to pay the village community and lunch (mostly provided by the village or another nearby provider), 25% goes towards local

The forest at Wof Washa, N.Shoa

guides and coordinators, and only 20% (+VAT) is kept by Tesfa Tours who provide the marketing and booking service. Each community provides not just accommodation, but food, hot drinks, and a pack animal. The cost per night also includes a guide, so all that remains is transport in and out and bottled drinks (sold by the community ) – beers, water, soft drinks and maybe some wine or gin and tonic!  Facilities include beds, with sheets and blankets, a simple sit down toilet, a dining room, and great views!

For more information contact info@tesfatours.com or pop by our Addis office.  We will also add more information on our

The view from Janamora Woreda to Ras Dashen

website in the near future.

Get out into the fresh air of the mountains and experience the Real Ethiopia!

 

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Visit the new Tesfa guesthouses – now open

photo of Ras Dashen while on a Tesfa Trek in Simiens, curtesy of Kevin Rushby

photo of Ras Dashen while on a Tesfa Trek in Simiens, by permission of Kevin Rushby (posted on Instagram)

If you have been on a Tesfa trek before then why not try something new?

We have opened new guesthouses in the Simien Mountains. They are situated to the south of the National Park, in a woreda called Janamora. To access this area, until the new service roads are built you drive through the National park past Sankober and Geech, and over the back of Bwahit mountain, then down to Mekhane Berhan. There are 3 guesthouses, Taga Mariam, Khalid Abo, and Timbala, and we suggest a minimum of 4 nights, including a visit to the market at Wossen on Thursdays and Saturdays.  On the final day we would suggest trekking back up towards the park and getting picked up just south of Bwahit to

Khalid Abo guesthouse

Khalid Abo guesthouses

either camp at Chenek or stay in one of the lodges in the park – Simien Mountain Lodge or Limalimo Lodge.

View of Seheta Guesthouse

View of Seheta Guesthouse

We have also opened a new guesthouse in Tigray in the midst of the trekking we offer in the Agame Massif. The new guesthouse at Seheta, is set just above several farms on the edge of the village and is a great base to use to explore the valleys and local churches. Again we would recommend spending several days at Seheta. At this time of year there are feasts held daily in the villages and you would be most welcome to join in. You can also link staying here with a stay in one of the other longer established guesthouses in the area.

 

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Simiens is normal for the Gelada and Ibex, but where are the tourists?

Gelada baboons, staring back at tourists

Gelada baboons, staring back at tourists

Life in the Simien Mountains this week:

Gelada baboons graze the Simien grasslands as they did last year: murmuring and mewing, with occasional shouts when bachelor males venture too close to family groups. They spend much of their time grooming each other in ritual social behaviour. The grazing consists of digging the grass with sharp strong fingers and pulling out the succulent roots to eat.

Gelada Family grooming in the Simiens

Gelada Family grooming in the Simiens

No sign that they are at all on edge or unduly worried by the bizarre travel advise given out by embassies that is limiting the numbers of tourists visiting their mountain home

Walia Ibex grazing steeper slopes, near the precipitous ledges. There numbers were down to a few hundred some decades back, but now there are over a thousand of these surefooted mountain antelope.

Wail Ibex above Chenek Camp

Walia Ibex above Chenek Camp, beside Giant Lobelia plant

They glance curiously at the camera touting tourists who were lucky enough to see this rare animal, and then go back to their grass, or take a break in the shade of a Giant Lobelia plant.  Maybe they wonder why there are fewer tourists this year.

Trekkers are passing through, enjoying the sunny days, the golden gwassa grass, azure blue skies with lammergeyers, eagles and vultures, soaring across the scene and the unique wildlife of the park on view.  But less than in recent years.

Walia Ibex looking down on passing tourists

Walia Ibex looking down on passing tourists

That makes the experience for the visitors better, but spare a thought for the local people who depend on tourists to pay for their goods and services. They cannot understand the reason why foreign governments are telling tourists to stay away. Tourists were never targeted in the unrest that spread to some of the towns several months ago. And that unrest ended. But still the foreign governments advise their nationals to stay away!

If you haven’t been already then come, if you have been then come back to Ethiopia!

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Have your tried the Prickly Pear?

Hailay (Tesfa Tours driver) peeling a prickly Pear - Beles fruit!

Hailay (Tesfa Tours driver) peeling a prickly Pear – Beles fruit!

As Baloo sings in the Jungle Book –

 

Now when you pick a pawpaw

Or a prickly pear

And you prick a raw paw

Next time beware

Don’t pick the prickly pear by the paw

When you pick a pear Try to use the claw

But you don’t need to use the claw

When you pick a pear of the big pawpaw.

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The peeled Beles fruit – no more prickles!

The season for these tasty fruit starts in May, but you are best advised to let someone who knows how to peel it (as you do not have Baloo’s claws!). So why not come up after Fasika (Ethiopian Easter) and walk through the beautiful Agame mountains around Adigrat, famed for their tasty ‘Beles’ fruits.

It is also the season of priest parties (for two weeks after Fasika)- when householders entertain their local priests to congratulate them on getting through the rigours of another fasting season. Local beer and spicy ‘Teh’lo’

Tehlo ceremony in Tigray

Tehlo ceremony in Tigray

(meat in red sauce with balls of barley) is served and everyone celebrates the season.  You will undoubtably be invited in as a guest of honour.

So come and be a guest of the local villagers in the Agame mountains this May.

 

 

 

The Cactus in flower in the Agame mountains

The Cactus in flower in the Agame mountains,

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Stunning photos and wonderful blog – Trek in Tigray

Tash McCarroll photo - Cloud gathering around the mountains near Erar

Tash McCarroll photo – Cloud gathering around the mountains near Erar

A few friends and I spent a four day weekend at the end of May trekking in Tigray organised by Tesfa Tours. It was a few days that felt like weeks away from the bustle of Addis and work and we were treated to hiking in some of the most stunning landscape I have ever seen.” Tash McCarroll. Read this account of a trek in Tigray, illustrated with some of the most fabulous photos. (You will see some in the up coming Tesfa Calendar)

Curtesy of Tash McCarroll, portrait of a girl in Shimbrety.

Curtesy of Tash McCarroll, portrait of a girl in Shimbrety.

Curtesy of Tash McCarroll, Low cloud around Erar, on a Tesfa Trek

Curtesy of Tash McCarroll, Low cloud around Erar, on a Tesfa Trek

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Journey in the Mountains of Tigray on the May Day weekend

Book a trip now while places are available for the May day weekend (1-5 May)

View from Enaf Community Guest house

View from Enaf Community Guest house

Experience the beauty and serenity of the Mountains of Eastern Tigray. Explore the Agame massif, a much less visited mountain block just north of Gheralta.  Walk along the sandstone ridges enjoying spectacular views and through the intensely farmed  valleys. Among the wildlife you can see are  Gelada baboons, birds of prey (Lammergeyers, Batteleur Eagles, Marshal Eagles and more) soaring on the thermals, many many smaller birds (Bee eaters, sunbirds, chats, cordon bleu and many more) and Rock hyraxes. You will be hosted by the local people,  a people who still use age-old farming practices and live life with a fierce pride in their own special history and culture.

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Farmhouse (Hedemo) in Agame Mountains

On the walks you will come across several lovely rock hewn churches (there is also a built up church in the style of Debre Damo on a ledge in the cliff), and rock tunnel excavated through the mountain to connect farmers to the west with the church to the east. End your trip with a night at one of the beautiful lodges in the area and see a couple of the more visited rock churches of Tigray before returning to the hussle and bussle of Addis Ababa!

Price for 2 people (sharing a room) $700 USD per person (payable in birr, Euro, Sterling or USD).

 

Includes Local flight (based on clients providing a valid Ethiopian Resident or ID card); three nights at Tesfa Community Guest houses with the fully catered trek & one night at Gheralta or Agoro Lodge; transport in 4WD from Mekele A/P to trek, from trek to Lodge & to explore churches & on last day back to Mekele A/P; a guide on each day, full board on the Tesfa trek and breakfast at the Lodge.

Excludes church entry fees and any arrangements in Addis Ababa. Meals (other than breakfast at the Lodge) when not on the trek, bottled drinks on & off trek.

Email Mayday@tesfatours.com for more details and to check availability

RockChurch AbYemGoh web

Ceiling frescoe at Abuna Yemata Goh (Gheralta Massif)

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