Trekking in North Wollo

IMG_2441.JPG Wollo is one of the ancient provinces in Ethiopia. It has had its own identity for many centuries, as the most north easterly province of the Amhara people (now Amhara region).  In modern times it was divided into two administrative zone: south Wollo with its main centre at Dessie, and North Wollo in which Lalibela and the surrounding area sits.  Lalibela is Ethiopia’s principle tourist attractions with its complex of underground, rockhewn churches and passageways.

North Wollo consists of both highland areas and lowland plains. The highlands start in the north east with Mount Abuna Yoseph [LINK] (4,284m) and swings round in a horse shoe to the south and then the west to join a similar highland area based around the largest mountain in South Gondar zone called Mount Guna. The east west section of the highland area forms the watershed between the Blue Nile river system to the south and the Tekeze to the north. It is along this highland area on the western edge of North Wollo that the Tesfa Community Tourism was born.

We now refer to this area as Western Meket [LINK], and it is home to the community guest houses at Mequat Mariam, Wajela, Aterow and Yadukulay. (LINKS] This is the easiest walking developed by Tesfa, with an altitude of 2,800-3,000 meters and most of the trails more or less on the flat.

From Mequat to Aterow the trail often follows the edge of the escarpment, both the south side (around Mequat) and the north side, but at times cuts across the fields on the top. There are some Gelada baboons along the way, especially around Aterow. The troops elsewhere can be hard to see during the crop growing season (Oct-Dec).

Its also a great area for birds with various big birds of prey including the Lammergeyer  as well as smaller field birds, birds flitting around the cliffs and wading birds (herons, ibis and the like) when there is water about.

All Community Guest Houses consist of at least 3 bedrooms, with two beds in each (at least one is a double). There is also a dining tukul, an eco-toilets at all sites, and simple washing facilities.

At the Guest House you will receive a snack on arrival – with a cup of tea. Dinner will consist of European style dishes made with local vegetables. It is mostly vegetarian, and based around rice or pasta. Often the communities will give you a bowl of soup to start with. It is possible to buy a sheep or goat to be slaughtered and to eat, but only during the non-fasting times. Your guide can help you with this.

A coffee ceremony will also be prepared for those who like the traditional coffee, or wish to see the ceremony.  There should also be a choice of drinks – Ethiopian bottled beer (lager), wine (possibly Ethiopian too) and maybe a whiskey or gin and tonic, as well as a selection of soft drinks.

Breakfast will include tea &/or coffee, local bread with honey when available, scrambled eggs (these local free range eggs are to me the best in the world), and possibly pancakes instead of the eggs.

Lunch is on the trail, and in West Meket there are community run lunch stops along the way that will serve you local vegetarian dishes on enjara (the sour pancake that is the staple food of this part of Ethiopia). Drinks are available and coffee and/or tea will be prepared.

On your trip you will be guided by specially trained and motivated guides whose own business is based in Lalibela (although they are NOT the church guides in Lalibela). They will accompany you from Lalibela or if you are coming from elsewhere they will meet you at the start of the trek (a small fee to cover their transport will be charged). These guides speak great English and will be responsible for your trip, making sure you get the most out of it. Please discuss with them about what you want from your trip, and they will do their best.

IMG_0478.JPG Also accompanying you will be donkeys and local guides/ donkey handlers. They each belong to one or other of the host communities that own the guest houses, and they will take you from one lunch point to another (or trail heads). Each donkey can carry up to 40kgs, and there will be 1 donkey for every 2 adults. Please use soft bags – hold alls, as these are easiest to load and best for the donkey.


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