Category Archives: tigray

What’s happening in Ethiopia now?

Community celebrate at Festival in Meket

Community celebrate at Festival in Meket

Of course people planning to visit Ethiopia are asking us what is happening now in Ethiopia. There were a spate of news articles as a result of the declaration of the State of Emergency a few weeks back, but as so often with news around the world, interest dries up as fast as it comes and now there is ‘no story’ to report.

This is because there is no more violence, no roads blocked, no strikes, in fact no reason not to come and visit Ethiopia.

Tesfa Tours Landcruiser by salt canyons in Danakil Depression

Tesfa Tours Landcruiser by salt canyons in Danakil Depression

Tesfa Tours has two minibuses with clients coming back from a trip to the north. They drove up to Dessie and Lalibela via a Tesfa trek in Meket.  They then continued from Lalibela to Mekele, visited the Danakil and some places in Tigray before returning.

On 1st November we have 3 landcruisers picking up clients in Gondar and taking them to the Simiens, and on to Tigray. After visits in Axum and Gheralta they will drive back south the Lalibela, spend a few days on a Tesfa trek in Meket, and visit Bahir Dar, before flying to Addis.

The Mountain Nyala only found in Bale Mountains

Mountain Nyala, Bale, Ethiopia

Another group of tourists have just returned from a trek in the Bale Mountains – this was the texted feedback:-

“Got there and back safely. Nyala,  warthog, wolf , golden eagle, fox they were all there. Rain, sunshine, hail, cold, and much more rain and cold. Absolutely no problems. Great trip. Got the blisters to prove it. Thanx for all your help and advice mate. Next stop Siemens with Tesfa.”

Other clients from UK just finished a trek in Meket and a visit to Lalibela and said on Facebook: “Holiday of a lifetime, highly recommended. Don’t be put off by The Foreign & Commonwealth Office.” (see this quote and their photos on Tesfa Tours’ Facebook page).

Villages below the Meket Escarpment

Villages below the Meket Escarpment

We agree – don’t be put off Ethiopia by the media coverage and travel advisories. Tourism earns much needed money for Ethiopia, money that is driven directly to small businesses and local employees, and in the case of the Tesfa community treks, a big chunk goes straight into the heart of the rural countryside, with villagers earning money by hosting their guests. That could be you.

In the words of one of the guests of the Meket community this month: “Truly the most exhilarating and humbling experience. Inspirational people, fabulous hospitality,stunning views. Magical memories! Thank you for this amazing opportunity.”

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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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Spend a few days walking with the Tesfa villagers in Wollo or Tigray.

Tigray offers great walking with wonderful views

Tigray offers great walking with wonderful views

What are your plans for the school break at the end of May? How about a few days walking as a guest of the communities in Wollo or Tigray.

The rains are far less as you travel north and in Tigray the soil is sandy so there is no mud. Most rain happens in the evening if at all. But the little that has fallen has greened up the landscape a bit. In Tigray it is also the start of the Prickly Pear season.

 

Tehlo ceremony in Tigray

Tehlo ceremony in Tigray, a common celebration meal at the priest parties

So why not come along and let the villagers show you how life is in the countryside and blow the Addis cobwebs out of the system. You will return with batteries fully recharged!

A 3 night walking holiday for a family of 4 people (2 adults, 1 teenager  and 1 child under 12) will cost $635.00 USD including meal, guide and local drinks.

Transport in Tigray in a good condition 4WD from airport (Axum or Mekele) to trek and back to airport will cost $225 USD. On the way in and out why not take in a rock church- one of the

Kids enjoy riding (& feeding) horses on the trek

Kids enjoy riding (& feeding) horses on the trek

many in Tigray.

In Wollo transport from and back to Lalibela airport or town will cost up to $150USD depending on the trekking route (using a minibus).

While up in Lalibela or Tigray why not add a day to see the sites. We can make arrangements for hotels, lodges and guides.

 

Mequat Mariam Scones for breakfast

Mequat Mariam Scones for breakfast

 

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The rainy season in Addis

Rain in Tigray“A veritable monsoon!” Is how I often describe it, and it is. Its cause is the same weather patterns that cause the monsoon to sweep up through India – monsoon is the Indian word for their rainy season and kremt is the Amharic word.

And rather like the monsoon in India it does not rain all day, but rather heavy downpours roll through, skies darken, the wind picks up and torrential rain, often with hail follows. Later on or next morning the skies are clear and the sun shines brightly for some hours.  Its not a bad time to be in Addis or in Ethiopia. Pack an umbrella, put on the some boots, and head off to explore. If your visiting, just be ready to dive into a coffee shop and sit out the rain.

This year in Addis the Kremt is giving us a lot of sun and glorious weather, with much of the rain in the night. This is worrying, as the rain that comes to Addis is far more than the rain that goes to many other regions of Ethiopia, all of which depend on the Kremt to start off their crops, allow the meadows to grow hay, refill the water table so springs are replenished, refill reservoirs to generate electricity. If the rains intensify now that would be good, and they need to be strong through into late September. The official date for the end of the Kremt is Meskerem 25th which this year falls on 6th October, but already by the Meskal holiday (Meskerem 17 or 28th September) the rains will usually become far less frequent and the signs will be there that the dry season is coming.

A reminder for anyone looking to do some trekking. Tigray is fantastic for walking at this time of year. It does not rain much there, mostly at night, and the sun will be out in the morning. Let us know if you would like to make a trek and we can organise it.

 

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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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Escape the rain: take a break in Tigray – with local flights $645 p/person

Rainbow comes out over the mountains in Tigray

Rainbow comes out over the mountains in Tigray

The Kremt rains (as the season is called) officially begins on Senay 26 ( 3rd July) according to the old church calendar and runs till Meskerem 25 (this year that will be 6th October). For those new to Addis it does not rain all day every day, but by mid August it will begin to feel like it has! For those hankering for a bit of sun, it does not rain all over the country, and certainly other parts of Ethiopia are not as wet as Addis. The Rift valley gets more frequent showers and some sweeping rain, but when the sun comes out its a good deal warmer, but up north in Tigray it stays bright.  Most mornings dawn with a blue sky and cloud does not roll in till later on in the afternoon. With the sandy soil keeping the paths more dry, we keep the community treks open all through the Kremt.

Prickly Pear - the Beles fruit, from the Cactus

Prickly Pear – the Beles fruit, from the Cactus

So why not make a long weekend trip and come on up to Tigray? The Prickly Pears (Cactus fruit called ‘Beles’) ripen and can be eaten along the way, the mountains green up and it is very beautiful. If you would like to end with a night at Gheralta Lodge, there are special low season prices to make it more attractive.

A 3 night trip, with 2 nights at the community guest houses and one night at Gheralta Lodge will cost $645 per person including local flights (with Ethiopian ID or resident card), and 4 WD transport. Excludes church entry. For full details see  Journey in the mountains of Tigray

 

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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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Tesfa Tours New Calendars are ready

Every year we produce a calendar showcasing the Tigray and the Wollo communities. They start in September and end in August. This years calendar is now ready.

2007 Calendar promo.jpg  If you have not seen it before it is a must for anyone living or working here, or interested to visit Ethiopia.

1/ See how the Ethiopian Calendar is so different from the western Calendar. The Ethiopian dates are clearly marked in red along side the western dates.

2/ The major Saints days are shown – you will see there is a saints day almost every day of the month (and I only show the major ones that I chose to show!) If living in Addis you will know why large crowds of people are congregating in white gabis around a church area.

3/ The Annual saints day festivals are noted too – such as Hedar Mikael on the 21st Nov (the major St Michaels day) when rubbish is burned across the country. These are very big celebrations and in many cases the tabots will come out of the church with great celebration and procession. Use these big festivals when planning your holiday –

4/ Know in advance the Ethiopian holidays: Meskal, Gena (Ethiopian Christmas), Timkat (Celebrates the Baptism of Jesus 0f a really big festival), Orthodox Easter (often different dates to western Easter) etc.

5/ Know the fasts seasons in Ethiopia – when they start and end, and see the explanation of the fast in some cases. If you are vegetarian and visiting Ethiopia fasting times mean plenty of vegan food (those fasting refrain from eating any animal produce! except in some cases fish).

6/ Read the commentary on the bottom of each month and understand a little more about why, what , when etc.

7/ Enjoy the fabulous photographs – all taken from community tourism treks in Wollo and Tigray – 11 photos from guests this year – thanks to all who contributed. This should entice you book a trek if you have not already done so.

8/ Support the community tourism development with your contribution. We are suggesting 200 etb per calendar this year

Copies are available from our offices in front of Sandford School and a number of distribution points across the city. We will also post abroad if you can cover the postage cost.  Please let us know if you are interested to receive a calendar – calendars@tesfatours.com

 

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