Category Archives: wollo

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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Photos needed for the new Tesfa Calendar

Tesfa Calendar 2009 cover page

Tesfa Calendar 2009 cover page

Hi Folks – are there any Tesfa trekkers out there with photos from their trips that we could use in our new calendar (Wollo or Tigray)?

I am looking for some of your photos to include in the 2010 Eth Calendar (2017/8)… if you think you might have some please do get in touch with me – mark@tesfatours.com

Mark Chapman

For any photo included we will off course give a credit on the photo and a complimentary copy of the calendar will be sent to you!

Thanks

Mark

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The last week of Lent in Ethiopia is the most rigorous fasting of all

Priest holding traditional taper

Priest holding traditional taper

Yesterday (9th April) was Palm Sunday or Hosanna – the Sunday before Easter.  It is a very special day in the Orthodox church commemorating Jesus’s march into Jerusalem on a donkey with Palm fonds laid before him. It is marked with palms (worn by many worshippers on hands or head), processions and special services in the church.

Ethiopia is now in the last week of Great Lenten fast or Hudadi, this last week of Hudadi is commonly known as Holy Week, or the “Week of Pains” or the Himamat and is the strictest part of Lent. During Himamat no absolution is given, and during this week the fast becomes yet more rigorous. For some strict worshippers, having broken the fast after mass on Thursday they will not eat any food nor drink even a drop of water until Easter morning. So they totally abstain for all of Good Friday (or Sekelet) and Saturday, breaking this fast after the church service that goes through the night on Saturday, finishing at around 3am on Sunday morning. These three days are known as “Qanona”. The priests neither eat nor drink but remain in the churches singing and praying incessantly.

No other major religion has such penitential fasting. For the strict observers of the fast, the 55 days of Lent are very tough on the body. Fasting in Ethiopia not only means a vegan diet but also means many hours of no food or drink. Each fasting day the observer will not eat of drink anything from the time they wake up until after the mass in the middle of the day is finished in church for many that means 3-4pm. Two simple meals may then follow, a late ‘lunch’ or more properly ‘break-fast’, and a light supper in the evening. What is staggering is that there is no drinking – not water, not coffee, nothing – during those fasting hours.

On Easter Sunday chicken, cheep, goats and cattle are dispatched for the pot as the fasting comes to an end in no uncertain terms. Sunday sees piles of sheep skins on street corners, to be picked up by small dealers in trucks. For the days leading up to Easter flocks of sheep and goats as well as herds of oxen were driven by herders into the city, chickens were driven in trucks and pick ups. They are sold at impromptu markets all over the city to be slaughtered in back yards. Prices of livestock more than double for Easter. Sheep come to Addis with drovers bringing them across countryside from several hundred miles away, across Shoa and even as far as Wollo.

After Easter there is no fasting not even on Wednesdays and Fridays until after Pentecost on 4 June (Parakilitos). In the countryside the end of the fasting is celebrated in different ways. In Tigray priests are feted with parties held by different households from their parish. In Wollo I have seen the girls making swings from rope to hand off trees and play on them singing songs, while the boys have javelin contests. Its also a second wedding season as people like to get married before the rainy season and after the fasting. These are enjoyable times in the countryside, and if you have the chance to spend a week or so up in the countryside on a Tesfa Trek in Wollo, Tigray or the Simiens you will be a very welcome guest and participant at the celebrations.

 

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The Battle of Adwa – 121 years since the Ethiopian Army defeated the Italians

Painting depicting the Battle of Adwa

Painting depicting the Battle of Adwa

Today is Adwa day, an Ethiopian holiday that  the Ethiopian victory of the Battle of Adwa in 1896. This was the battle that ended Italian Colonial ambitions in Ethiopia (until Mussolini gave renewed energy to colonial aspirations).  What happened?

The Italian forces: some 18,000 soldiers, faced the Emperor Menelik’s mighty army of

Emperor Menelik II

Emperor Menelik II

around 100,000. The Ethiopian forces were lead by The Emperor Menelik and his wife the Empress Taitu, with Menelik leading Showan forces of some 28,000, and the Empress leading a force of some 3,600 from Simien/Gondar area. However important regional leaders meant the forces represented much of Ethiopia.  These included Ras Mekonnen leading 15,000 from Harar, Negus Tekle Haymanot leading 5,000 from Gojam, Ras Mikael commanded 11,000 Oromo and Wollo forces and a Tigrayan forces of about 12,000 commanded by Ras Alula and Ras Mengesha. There were also forces commanded by Fit’awrari Mangascià Atikim and Ras Oliè. [information taken from McLachlan, Sean (2011). Armies of the Adowa Campaign 1896. Osprey Puiblishing. p. 37].

General Oreste Baratieri

General Oreste Baratieri

The story goes that the Italian commander General Oreste Baratieri, knew that the massive Ethiopian force was living off the land and was running critically low of supplies, but that political pressure from Rome and on the urgent advise of his commanders, in the early hours of the morning of 1st March he ordered his army forward in three divisions to engage the superior Ethiopian forces in battle. Anyone who has been to Adwa will know it is a mountainous area with many steep peaks. The Ethiopians had occupied the high ground and the Italian divisions got confused in the dark and separated. Each division was roundly beaten and by noon the remains of the Italian army was in retreat. 7,000 of the Italian army were killed, with others wounded and taken prisoner. Two brigadiers were killed and a third captured, and many rifles and all their artillery was captured. As such  their fighting force was dessimated. From the Ethiopian side some 4-5,000 were killed, but the fighting force remained in tact.

However Menelik decided not to advance into Eritrea and totally annihilate the remains of the Italian army.  Despite the Ethiopian army being in tact, many solders had been on campaign for a long time, and the country was just recovering from a severe famine. Some believe that Menelik, perhaps rightly, that such a move would drive the Italian public to push for another campaign against Ethiopia. In point of fact the battle lead directly to the signing in October 1896 of the Treaty of Addis Ababa which ended the war between Italy and Ethiopia and in which the Italian’s recognised Ethiopia as an independent country.

The whole war came about because of the preceding treaty of Wuchale signed in 1899. Article 17 of the treaty in the Italian version stated that Ethiopia must conduct its dealign with foreign powers though Italy thus to be in effect a protectorate of Italy, but the Amharic version stated that Ethiopia could use the good offices of Italy in its foreign dealings. Now Menelik had achieved the goal of maintaining Ethiopian independence in an age in which colonial powers over-ran every other country in Africa (only Liberia was independently ruled). This left Ethiopia as the emblem and point of pride for other Africans dreaming of self governance. It is not a coincidence the the AU, formerly the Organisation of African Unity, has its home in Addis Ababa today.

 

 

 

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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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Latest Feedback – a great Tesfa Trek near Lalibela

“My 19 year old son and I did a three day trek west of Lalibela and absolutely loved it. The walking wasn’t too challenging which was a good thing as we are not used to the altitude. The scenary is stunning, the communities we lodged with welcoming, the food was varied and always delicious. We were really well cared for and deeply touched to be alowed to visit peoples homes, to see how they live, cook and care for their animals. I particularly loved the watching the chickens climb up to roost on a purpose built mud shelf above the cooking area! We were delighted to find a family of Gelada baboons digging for breakfast beside us as we set off one morning. I would recommend this tour to anyone wanting to see the pastural face of Africa and come up close to its wonderfully rich wild life. Thank you Tesfa.” 27 May 2015

Thanks Rachel – we are thrilled you both had such a great trip. Come after the rainy season and it will look less pastoral and more agricultural as you will see crops everywhere.

Photo taken inside a tukul near Mequat Mariam in Meket

Photo taken inside a tukul near Mequat Mariam in Meket

Mequatfarmer&view

Male Gelada baboons running by the escarpment in Meket

Male Gelada baboons running by the escarpment in Meket

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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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Community Trekking in Ethiopia

As the Ethiopian New Year approaches, its time to book up your trek. The community trekking is getting booked up over the holidays periods -the last two weeks of October and over Christmas and New Year.

There is no better way to see the Ethiopian countryside than a Tesfa Trek. Whether you are looking for a challenging trek or an amble through the countryside a Tesfa trek is best way to see the Real Ethiopia!

I just stumbled across a good link to the article that Machan Magan wrote for the Irish Times in 2009 . Of course now there are more communities hosting guests – eleven in North

Wollo and four in Tigray, and there are other communities providing lunch.  But the experience is still the same!

Trekking in Tigray, flowering Aloe

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Community sites opening

Tesfa are opening new community sites in Tigray and Wollo near Lalibela. (May 2011)

DSCN9219.JPGIn Tigray, near Adigrat, three new sites are opening that will allow guest to trek north from the existing sites to a place called Amba Fekada. At Amba Fekada there are the ruins of an old temple that goes back to Axumite or even pre-Axumite times. There is also a rock panting – that although small and simple is interesting in that it shows oxen ploughing a field.DSCN9240.JPG

These oxen have no humps – which dates the painting to the early Axumite period.

AbunaYoseph1.jpgIn Wollo, on mount Abuna Yoseph, Frankfurt Zoological Society have almost finished a mountain hut that will open up this Afro alpine mountain – a refuge for Ethiopian Wolves – to trekkers of more modest fitness. Previously you had to be tough to do a 40km + trek in one day. Now this trek will be divided in two.

Also in Wollo, in Gidan Woreda, there is a new community keen to start serving guests at a beautiful remote site called Kurtain Washa.

To all of you who have seen beautifully located sites – be ready to be knocked sideways. This place is magical, but it is set in high and rugged landscape.

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