October 2019November 2019 December 2019

11/30 - Webb Camp - Day One - Part Four

We drove out again later to look for Nyalas. We walked back to the road, and we crossed the river. We forded a shallow section and then crossed again above the falls. It was still well before sunset, but there were nyalas about. We only walked about a bit, but we had some great spotting.

Another nyala

The plain

Gray stones and tones of green

Wide open sky

Orange growth on the rocks

If we hadn't been s tired, we would have wandered more.

A distant mountain

White flowers

Purple flowers


More scenery

The kind of rocks nyalas like

Late day light

Two nyalas, most likely a mother and child

Those two again

The river again, deep blue

Evening light back at camp

Keywords: ethiopia

11/29 - Webb Camp Arrival

It was a long day. First, there was the drive from Limalimo to Gondar. There was no hail this time. Then there was the flight to Addis Ababa, followed by another flight to Goba. One of our bags was lost in transit, and the airport at Goba only had flights three times a week. Luckily, we had redundancy in our packing. We'd have to do some improvising and share a toothbrush. Then came the drive from Goba to Robe to Dinsho at the entrance to Bale Mountain National Park. Finally, there was the drive to Webb Camp which, might also be Web Camp or Weyib Camp, depending on the transliteration of the name of the river.

Webb Camp really was a camp. We had to walk the last hundred meters or so, but there was our luxurious campsite with our sleeping tent, a dining tent, a cook tent and tents for the staff. Counting our guide and our driver, there were probably eight people working there so that we could explore in comfort. We've tried camping on our own before, decades ago. The air mattresses deflated, the tent blew away and our safety lantern ignited a small grass fire that was only suppressed thanks to quick action by more experienced campers at the site.

Did we mention the waterfall? Our campsite looked out over a waterfall. The dining tent had an excellent view of the waterfall. Then, exhausted from travel, we went to bed.

En route to our campsite

We were really tired, too tired to frame this picture properly. That's the doorframe of our car.

More open country at about 12,000 feet.

Canyon walls

Harsh high altitude light, either that or JJ Abrams was playing with lens flares

An eagle

In flight

A view from where we left the car

Our campsite

A local cat, not a house cat

The waterfall

Keywords: ethiopia

11/28 - Simien Mountains - Day Two - Part One

This was a less energetic day, but we traveled farther and higher. Again, we drove into the park and went well past the end of our previous days journey. Instead of climbing to something over 10,000 feet, we climbed to over 14,000 feet in search of ibex.

As we climbed, the country changed. It was grassland and drier. The views were spectacular. We even had a little adventure getting through a muddy patch. We walked a bit to lighten the load, That patch was a problem for others as well. Many people in Ethiopia get around by minibus, but, here, they had to stop, get out of the bus, take the baggage off the roof and help push the minibus through the mud.

We climbed even higher, and there they were, the ibex. They were huge antelope, and the males had dark beards and massive horns. The country was grassland, and dotted with lobelia, tall plants that look like some kind of palm tree. The ibex were calm, so we had some great views.

Dawn, from our hotel room

Two thick billed ravens

We passed many geladas en route

Drier country

A sign of high elevation, red hot poker plant in bloom

Lobelia grasslands

Mountain faces

An ibex

Another ibex

A classic high country pose

Yet another ibex

Two more ibex

Peeking out at us

Another one

Two more

Are those the same two?

A close up

Enjoying the high country

Rocks and lobelia

Keywords: ethiopia

11/27 - Simien Mountains - Day Two - Part Two

Here are some more pictures from the high country of Simien National Park. Yes, there are more ibex.

More high country

What happens when one doesn't drive carefully

Getting the minibus through the mud

A young ibex

More of the family

Under a lobelia

Chowing down

Ibex among the lobelia

More ibex

Eroded hills

A view down

Another view down - The haze offers a clue as to distance.


A small river


Lobelia forest

A stream

More grassland

Probably teff, a grain crop

Keywords: ethiopia

11/26 - Simien Mountains - Day Two - Part Three

On our way back down to Limalimo Lodge, we stopped to enjoy the views and admire some waterfalls.

One of the views

Another view

A green canyon

Looking far

A small waterfall.


A close up of a waterfall


An eagle in flight below us

Silhouette framed view

Down to greener country

More flowers

Yet another view

Shadowed mountain

A view from near the edge

Keywords: ethiopia

11/25 - Simien Mountains - Day One - Part One

Limalimo Lodge was wonderfully comfortable. It had the best food of any of the places we stayed. We started every day with avocado toast and for lunch and dinner enjoyed the lamb shoulder, fool, meatballs in tomato sauce, chicken stew with peanuts and a version of sweet and sour fried cauliflower that reminded us of General Tso's chicken. The power was intermittent, but they ran the generator around mealtimes. We made a point of taking a shower early since they had solar heated water.

We set off for the national park. We stopped by the office in Debark to pay our admission fee. Our guide knew everyone there, and they knew him. We drove to the park entrance where we picked up our guard, armed with an AK-47. We climbed higher into the park and had teasing views of one of the escarpments, a canyon wall, surprisingly green.

We took a good long walk. Our plan of working our way up from Addis Ababa at around 8000 feet to the Simien Mountains at 10000 to 12000 feet meant we were comfortable enough with the thin air for hiking. As we walked, we were surrounded by a familiar scent. We looked down. We were walking on wild thyme, a common ground cover.

We wandered a fair ways, across fields, into wooded valleys. We had spectacular views of the escarpment and the valley below. Then, there were geladas. There was an entire field of them. They didn't seem to be bothered by us, so we watched as they whole troupe ate and groomed and did the usual primate things. There were horribly cute babies and rambunctious teenagers. We felt right at home in the Simien Mountains.


The morning scene

Across the fields

Wild thyme

One of the birds

A bit of a view

Wild trees

A melon like fruit

A thick billed raven

More green fields


In the distance, geladas

They were totally unperturbed.

A baby leaping off of mom's back

Some of the gang

One of the old males

They're sometimes called lion monkeys.

Another view of the group

Mainly eating

Keywords: ethiopia

11/24 - Simen Mountains - Day One - Part Two

We walked further down the trail and, following a section of the road, we ran into another group of geladas. They were heading along the trail. Most took the easy route, but some of the younger ones preferred to scramble up an eroding section of the hillside, sometimes slipping and sliding.

We headed on, and there were even more spectacular views. The Simien Mountains are canyon country, but there is a lot of rainfall. Everything is lush and green, all but the steepest canyon walls.


Another old male gelada

Scrambling up the eroded cliff

Mom and baby

Another ride

Green country

Ground cover in bloom

One of the views

A view off the edge

Another view

A green tangle


Another view

More scenery

The trail

A teasing view

Yet more of the trail - We covered a fair bit of ground.

Another look

More ground cover

Keywords: ethiopia

11/23 - Simien Mountains - Day One - Part Three

We drove back to the lodge through Debark. There was a farmers' market in progress, but it was hard to photograph much of it. Still, the streets were busy with people and livestock and stores and stands selling just about everything.

Back out the lodge, we spotted an eagle perched on a tree. He or she was most cooperative, so we have a few good photographs including one in flight.

Then, we heard some commotion outside. We had visitors. A group of geladas were right outside our room. Geladas like to sleep at the base of canyons to discourage birds of prey. These were heading down and paid a call while passing our perch.

Debark, a market town

Fussball is surprisingly popular with young men in Ethiopia.

A poor photo of the farmers' market

The view waiting for us back at our room

That eagle

That eagle again

That eagle in flight


On the retaining wall

In the trees

Heading down the hill - There's a reflection of another primate there.



Keywords: ethiopia

11/22 - Simien Mountain - Sunrise

We woke up to an impressive sunrise at Limalimo in the Simien Mountains.

Morning color

More color


You can see a bit of the escarpment

Good morning!

Keywords: ethiopia

11/21 - Simien Mountains - On to Limalimo

We landed in Gondar and drove into town for lunch. It was a buffet serving traditional Ethiopian food and catering to tourists. Since we were tourists and hungry, we greatly enjoyed it. We had injera with wonderful beef tibs and tried the lentils and beets. There were just too many dishes for us to try many of them.

Then we headed on to the Simien Mountains. Our road quickly took us out to the countryside. We headed into the hills and quickly gained elevation. The skies turned gray. We kept on our way, through towns and through countryside. Then, as we neared Limalimo Lodge, where we would be staying, the rain burst into hail. It clattered on our windshield. The driver turned up the heat in our car.

Our lodge was welcoming. We arrived late, in time for the sunset light and the dramatic moonrise.

The restaurant in Gondar

A woman roasting coffee at the restaurant

The buffet

The darkening skies - in a rather dark picture

The view from our car

Terraced fields

A town scene

A mosque

Traffic jam


Evening light

The view from our room at Limalomo Lodge


Our welcoming lodge


Keywords: ethiopia

11/20 - Lalibella - St. Neakuto Leab Monastery

On our way to the airport to catch our flight from Lalibella to Gondar, we stopped at a church known, depending on which map, guidebook, search engine, one uses, as St. Neakuto Leab Monastery or the Nakutolab Church. Again, we headed up a canyon with no sign of a building above ground, but as we descended the hillside we could see a cave ahead, a cave with a waterfall. Here was our goal, and it was here that we attended a service.

There was already a bit of a crowd at the church. One of the priests showed us a wonderful illuminated manuscript that was one of the church's treasures. Then, we joined the drummers and singers, all men. The women were in another area outside. This was a less monumental church than some of the others we had visited, but it too was carved into the earth and away from the world.

The cave ahead

Rock formations

More caves

The church entrance

The church bells

Inside the church


Another view

Outside the church

Saint George and the dragon

Mother and child



The singers

Teachers carried ceremonial sticks

The church procession

Revealing one of the paintings

Looking out

A look back

Keywords: ethiopia

11/19 - Lalibella - Morning Drive

We drove out from Lalibella to Yemrehanna Kristos. It was a pretty drive.

The valley


Morning light

More scenery

Mountain haze

More pretty

Terraced fields


One of the birds - a hoopoe

Keywords: ethiopia

11/18 - Lalibella - Yemrehanna Kristos

Our drive took us up a canyon to a bustling village. Here we parked and made our way up and into the canyon. The greenery was lush. There was a waterfall and a cave at the end of our trail. The cinderblock wall sort of destroyed the look, but we understood the need for security. We had to use our imaginations a bit.

Inside the cave was a church carved from the rock and intricately decorated. There was a group of mumies in the cave behind the church. We didn't spend long there. The church itself was beautiful, a hidden jewel cached in a unexpected setting.

The path into the canyon

The village below - There was a funeral procession that day.

Colorful umbrellas

Further up the canyon

The cave entrance with its waterfall

Yemrehanna Kristos

Artwork on the walls

The waterfall from inside the cave

More of the church

Another view

A window

More windows

Light and dark

The decorated ceiling

More of the interior

More ceiling decoration

Detailed artwork

More above

A corridor

Keywords: ethiopia

11/17 - Lalibella - Church of Saint George

In the afternoon we returned to the churches of Lalibella. Taking a different route we walked through the brush. Ahead was a what appeared to be a cross carved from the ground. Only as we approached could we see how deep the carving was. Our guide teased us. He told us we would have to descend using ropes. It was a serious drop, and neither of us was into mountaineering. As it turned out, there was a perfectly reasonable stairway down to the church floor.

Through the brush

Another great bird

The church

A view offering a better sense of the depth

The stairway down

Ground level below ground


A view from below

The church entrance

Old doorways

More of ground level


Interior artwork

Another doorway

Another view

Keywords: ethiopia

11/16 - Lalibella - Further Explorations

There was more to see. We descended to lower levels and crossed canyons on high bridges. We made our way through a long dark passageway, guided only by touch and sound. The entire complex is a labyrinth of passages connecting ground level, the churches and another world below and isolated from our own.

A view from a bridge

A doorway

Another view from a passage

Mother and child

A priest and the holy cross

Another saint

Another passage

Yet more of the other world

Modern protection

A stairway

Deep passage

Light from above

More artwork

Daniel in the lion's den

Another scene

Another church

Another view

An entrance

A passage

Keywords: ethiopia

11/15 - Lalibella - Just A Few More

Just a few more pictures here.

Keywords: ethiopia

11/14 - Lalibella - Day One - Part One

The area around Lalibella was greener and lacked the exposed rock outcrops of Tigray. We drove from the airport, settled in to our hotel, Mezena Lodge, and then went straight into town to explore the complex of churches carved into a prominent hill top. Unlike European cathedrals which tower over their surroundings, the churches of Lalibella are underground, carved into the earth and surrounded by man made canyon walls, many of which have churches carved into them.

It is hard to capture the sense of surprise and mystery at Lalibella with just a bunch of photographs. One looks down from ground level and below there is a church of church complex. Descending, one enters another world where the sky is only visible in part. The light is different. Trees grow from the ground above. The buildings are the size of cathedrals and connected by passageways.

Our guide led us around from church to church and complex to complex. We only saw part of everything. Inside each church there were murals, painted ceilings, rich fabrics, paintings and sacred artifacts. The pictures in this post and other posts from Lalibella only give a sense of what we saw.

Greener country on the road from the airport

We are not in TIgray anymore

The view from our hotel patio

Descending to the complex of churches which are protected from weathering by a modern roof

A bit of the descent

Looking down

Looking up

Down below

Rock work

Another view, more windows

A mankala board

Inside view with curtains

Another view

A priest showing us one of the crosses

Paintings on display

Natural light

Another view from the carved canyon

More church windows

Yet another view

Keywords: ethiopia

11/13 - Lalibella - Day One - Part Two

We explored another part of the complex. Again, we were below ground level. Many church buildings had been cut into the rock creating an entire isolated world.

A smaller church building

Carved windows

The trees grow above

Church light

Curtains and paintings

A cross carved in the ceiling

A heavily decorated ceiling

Sacred paintings, full of symbolism

More of the decorated ceiling

Another below grade view

More of the ceiling

Yet more above

Natural light here

Fascinating artwork above

Storage area

Another below grade view

Worshippers draped in white outside the church

Keywords: ethiopia

11/12 - Lalibella - Day One - Passages

With the complex carved into the earth, the architects control one's view. This post is just pictures of doorways and passages.

Another wall of windows

A doorway

Another door

A view through

Another passage with varying light

A view down

Another passage

Darker stone

Another view

Yet another

A pigeon at home

A darker passageway

A smaller church

The ceiling inside

The view from our hotel in the evening

Another passageway and natural light

An entryway

Keywords: ethiopia

11/11 - Tigray - The Road to Axum

Ethiopia is a big country, so things are far apart. The roads aren't great for long distance travel, so the best way to get from region to region in limited time is by Ethiopian Airlines. Unfortunately, the flight schedule is limited. Some cities only have flights on certain days, and while there are many flights to and from Addis Ababa, flights between second tier cities only run on certain days.

We had flown into Tigray at Mekele, but to get to Lalibella, we flew out of Axum. That meant getting up at dawn and seeing more of Tigray, if only out of our car window.

Dawn at Korkor Lodge

A bit later

Even later

The sun has risen.

A view from the car window

Fields of grain

Stone construction

Two small stores in a small town

The road through the hills

A shrine?

Another view

Flowering bushes

A larger town with a dress shop - Click the image to zoom in for a better view of the mannikins.

An long crested eagle

Sunny fields

Keywords: ethiopia

11/10 - Tigray - Abrahem Atsebena

We woke up early in Tigray and watched the bright equatorial sun rise swiftly. We spent the morning exploring Abrahem Atsebena, a church named after the Axumite kings Abreha and Atsbeha who ruled in the fourth century and established Christianity as the state religion. The church itself was carved into the earth.

It took us a while to get used to artistic style, but our guide pointed out illustrations of the story of Adam and Eve and, a common theme in Ethiopian religious art, St. George slaying the dragon. It is hard for the photographs to show just how high the ceilings are and the haunting sense of age and solidity in the interior.

The view from our room at Korkor Lodge

Morning light on the rocks across the valley

More morning light

Plant life

A long crested eagle

An old tree

A hornbill

The scene

The church entrance

A visitor

Inside the church

Highly decorated

More wall paintings

More bible stories

Adam and Eve are on the left

High ceilings

Wonderful light

A market outside the church

The church on a hill

Keywords: ethiopia

11/09 - Tigray - Iglesia Johannes makata or perhaps Maryam Bahera

One of the problems with having a tour guide is that one doesn't have to focus on the mechanics of one's journey. There's no checking maps, arguing with the GPS, figuring out routes and times and working out logistics. Those are the guide's job. This means it is easy to not be 100% sure of exactly where things are and what places one has visited. This is worse in Ethiopia which doesn't have a lot of tourist maps, and many tourist attractions have little or no online presence.

Consider this afternoon in Tigray. We have a GPS track of our visit to a wonderful rock hewn church, but which one? Following the GPS track and zooming in on the map reveals a landmark called Iglesia Johannes makata. Google has THREE hits on that three word sequence and about 98 if the order of the words doesn't matter. None of the links is particularly informative.

We do know, from the GPS track, that the church was north of Hawzen as are many churches in Tigray. According to the Bradt Guide, one easily accessible church - about our speed - in the area is Maryam Bahera which is noted for having as one of its treasures "an ancient Ge’ez scripture". The priest did show us a fascinating, heavily illustrated and ancient religious book written in Ge'ez, the writing system used in this part of Ethiopia, and the exterior of the church did have a picture of Mary, or Maryam.

It probably doesn't matter exactly which church we visited. It was both amazing and fascinating, an ancient space carved from living rock. One can feel both the sacredness of the space and the sense of time, neither of which can be captured all that well by a digital camera.

A rock formation visible across the fields

Thee countryside

Dry country

Rock formations - Those are the stone bells in the cleft.

A mother and baby hyrax

A more distant view of those hyraxes (or is it hyrices) - Ethiopia is full of mysteries.

Trees towards the church

The gateway to the church grounds

An ancient manuscript with St. George killing the dragon

The priest showing us one of the treasured crosses

Church paintings

Light from above

The exterior of the church with the portrait of Mary visible

A biblical looking dove

Another bird we have to look up

Harvest fields - wheat, barley, teff

Gathering clouds

More drama

Blue sky

Keywords: ethiopia

11/08 - Tigray - The Road From Mekele

We took an early flight from Addis Ababa north to Mekele. Airline security in Ethiopia is a bit different from that in the US. One must show a ticket or passport to enter the airport terminal and then there is primary security even before getting to the checkin area. Then, there is another round of security before one gets to the gate. It was definitely worth getting up bright and early to catch our flight.

There was a long drive from the airport to Gheralta. It was farm country and relatively dry. Various cactus like plants were cultivated as natural fences. The harvest was in. There were great stacks of grain and grain laid out for threshing. We pulled off the main road down towards what looked like nowhere. We approached a hill and were soon exploring a church, Wukro Chrikos, carved from the rock in a hillside.

The church grounds were green and peaceful. Inside the church there was a quiet sense of age. The carved walls were painted. There were signs of the fire damage from when the church was burned by Judith the Falasha and her armies. We could only peek past the curtains into the holy of holies, the most sacred part of the church. Ethiopian Christianity is one of the oldest branches of the religion and shares much with the Coptic church and, as we later learned, Jewish tradition.

We also stopped at the mosque in Negash. It was a place of refuge early in the history of Islam. The prophet sent twelve men and five women, one his daughter, to seek refuge in Ethiopia during the hegira. The mosque has endured, and has recently been remodeled with funds from the Turkish government.

Our drive was not yet over. We had a way to go, but we were already getting a sense of Tigray and of Ethiopia.

Tigray - Like most of Ethiopia, there was excellent cell phone coverage.

Harvest fields

Grain ready for threshing

Wukro Churkos as we approached

Old walls inside

The church was carved from the hillside.

The holy of holies

Another interior view

Looking out

The church yard

Another view of the church yard

Close up of one of the trees

The Negash Mosque, a place of refuge

The grounds of the mosque

A sign of life

Another view of the mosque

More of the grounds

Our drive continued.

More signs of harvest

Keywords: ethiopia

11/07 - Tigray - First Afternoon

We arrived at Korkor Lodge in Gheralta and settled in to our room. Tigray was at an elevation of over 7000', but we were still worried about mosquitos. Most of our trip to Ethiopia was to areas 8000' up or higher, so, for us, Tigray was the insect ridden low land. To be honest, we saw two mosquitos on our entire trip. One was already dead, and the other may or may not have been an actual mosquito. Still, we were worried and put up a mosquito net over the open window of our room.

This part of Tigray has great red rock formations, eroded and fascinating and evocative of America's southwest. Still, everything was different, the plants, the birds, the fields and the place. Korkor Lodge was beautiful and a labor of love. We settled in comfortably.

After lunch, we set out down another country road and walked across fields towards the higher region at the edge of the valley. Here was another church carved into the hillside, Maryam Papaseit Church. This was a darker church and beautifully decorated with murals. It was too dark for many photographs, but there was a powerful sense of being within the earth.

Rock formations in the distance

A farm

More rock formations

The view from our room

Exploring that afternoon

Rocky hillsides

In the distance

Another rock formation

A hyrax

Inside the church

Another view

A view from the church

Another view

Tree light

More fields and rock formations

Keywords: ethiopia

11/06 - Tigray - Birds of the First Day

We photographed a number of birds on our very first day in Tigray. Most of them were unfamiliar. We'll provide some names and captions as we can.

We're not sure what birds these are.

Pale batis

We have no idea.

No birds, just pretty flowers

Greater blue eared starling

European woodpecker ???

Probably a blue winged goose

A hornbill

That may or may not be a bird towards the edge of the moon.

Keywords: birds, ethiopia

11/05 - Welcome to Addis Ababa

We arrived late at night, and despite the reports of chaos at Bole International Airport, our entry to Ethiopia went smoothly. Our passports were in order, our e-Visas accepted, our checked bags waiting, and our ride to the hotel was waiting for us.

We're staying at the Sheraton which is sort of a halfway house for people who want to immerse in Africa slowly. It is a first rate international hotel and a favorite with governments, NGOs and businesses. Unlike many luxury hotels around the world, everything works. We are able to make our room cold, dark and quiet, so we can sleep as much as our jet lag allows.

The grounds are wonderfully landscaped. The pools are at the center of a beach club popular with the international community. There is a playground and children's village. There are restaurants, bars, lounges, meeting rooms, an executive club that brews fantastic coffee, gift shops, a bank and just about any amenity that one might want without leaving the grounds.

We have managed to walk two laps of the little jogging track that runs around the grounds. The elevation is over 8000 feet, but most of our trip is higher, so we'll have to get used to the thin air as well as the eleven hour - thank you, daylight savings time - time difference. En route, we flew over the Canadian Rockies. Most of those snow capped peaks topped out near the lobby level of our hotel.

There is a lot of construction in Addis Ababa, as framed by Sheraton landscaping.


More landscaping

Yes, gnomes are a problem in Ethiopia too.

The playground

Flame trees?

A typical hallway

More landscaping near the pool

One of the many local birds

Another local bird

Definitely a pigeon

Keywords: birds, ethiopia

11/04 - Why are we in Vancouver?

We are in Vancouver, BC, because it is our first stop on our way to Ethiopia. We arrived a day early so we don't have to worry about missing our flight.

There aren't a lot of flights to Addis Ababa from this hemisphere, and some of them only run every other day. We wanted a minimal number of stops and to avoid flying out of our way, for example, via Dubai. We chose Lufthansa which code shares its Ethiopian flights with Air Canada, United Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines and several others. It's ten plus hours to Frankfort via the polar route, then another seven hours or so to Addis Ababa, so stay tuned.

The view en route to Vancouver

Vancouver, BC

Some kind of steampunk festival? Eh?

Hotel window view

From Stanley Park, past the Lion's Gate Bridge

Another Stanley Park view

A cormorant

A wood duck

Great blue heron

Keywords: ethiopia, flying, vancouver

October 2019November 2019 December 2019