0203 291 2907or click to email us
- Back to tourdust.com
North Ethiopia is studded with mountains. In a rough triangle forged by Gonder, Lalibella and Axsum lies a barren mountain range that has played host to kings, bandits, monks and freedom fighters.
The Simien Mountains National Park sits at its Southern edge and offers the most dramatic views and the loftiest peaks. Throughout the park runs a ridge trail that probably offers the greatest view to km ratio in the world. Through five days trekking we rarely strayed out of view of the terrifying 1000m drops to the lowlands below - Lowlands is a relative concept in Northern Ethiopia. The Simien Mountain National Park sits at an altitude between 3000 and 4500m, and the lowlands below are at an alpine 2000m.
The photographs below were captured during the dry season, if you visit in Sep - November after the rains, you can expect crisp greens and haze free views. The incredible wildlife is a feature year-round.
And now, I need at least three showers to wash off the dust...
The first of many incredible views.
Sunset at Sankaber Camp
We took coffee in Geech village, expecting the usual tourist exploitative photo opportunity we were amazed to be able to simply sit, drink coffee and attempt to communicate with the lovely family living in this simple hut. the family slept in the hut on a platform above their livestock, It didn't feel like anything had changed in over 500 years.
Our scout Adem, a friendly smile, an incredible story and a very old rifle!
One of many incredible sunsets
The birdlife is incredible, eagles, vultures and ravens soar over the peaks. this is a tawny eagle that watched over Geech Camp.
Gelada Baboons are unique to Ethiopia and common in the park.
A Wallia Ibex. Unique to the Ethiopian highlands. This Ibex strolled unperturbed through the final campsite at Cheneck. (the trail we took follows the ridge in the background)
At the peak of Mount Buahit at 4,437m
Few people have heard of Belmopan. In fact, ask most folk to name the capital of Belize and the chances are that they will say Belize City. There is an irony here in that if Belize City was indeed the capital of the country (as it was for many years) it would probably win the title of Ugliest Capital in the World without question, not so much for its aesthetic qualities (it does have some nice buildings) but for the rough and seedy welcome that anyone who has been there will be familiar with (as this post by Aygenlina in her Bacon is Magic blog illustrates).
No, Belize's modern capital was created in the 1960s when Belize City was hit by one too many hurricanes. Being a small country with a small population, a purpose-built capital was never going to be a grand one. But Belmopan's biggest tragedy was that it was dreamt up and built during the darkest, most unimaginative and architecturally inept period in building design. As a result it's grey concrete buildings resemble a council estate in a mining village in south Wales more than they do a modern capital city.
It is truly drab, with the green spaces between the buildings the only saving grace. Even the Belize Tourist Office can't summon up any enthusiasm for its capital, with its most glowing endorsement being "what Belmopan lacks in size, it makes up for in strategic location". Wow. It's on the crossroads of two of the country's main roads.
But Belmopan is by no means alone. In recent years other countries have relocated their capitals and created purpose built administrative centres, often miles from anywhere. This excellent description of Burmese capital Naypyidaw by Lonely Planet's Robert Reid leaves the reader in no doubt that a visit to the city will probably leave the traveller scratching their head and asking 'why?' - thankfully, no-one would be there to see your look of bemusement.
Another capital that might challenge for this title is Ashgabat, the main city of Turkmenistan. Not that it's run-down or full of grey inconspicuous concrete. In fact it's quite the opposite. Ashgabat is perhaps one of the most ostentatious capitals in one of the world's poorest and most repressed states. Gold, marble and the ever-present image of their great leader can be found in ever corner of the capital. Can a city be described as chav? Perhaps Ashgabat stakes a claim to this dubious accolade. This blog by KF and Glen provides a first hand account of a stay in the city here.
What is the ugliest capital you've managed to visit? Have you arrived at a capital and it's been so ugly you've promptly got the next bus out? Let us know where you would nominate for this prestigious title!
If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe to the rest of the series via our RSS feed.
The view arriving in Ethiopia coming off the airplane is text book Africa, grass savannah broken up by hazy mountains in the distance, but Addis feels anything but African. Addis the de facto the diplomatic capital of Africa and is a surprisingly calm place to wonder around.
The big draws in Addis are the museums, with the highlight being Lucy, the oldest and most complete hominid found. Unfortunately she is on loan to the US at the moment so you will have to make do with a replica model and very good explanation of the the evolutionary process!
Coffee is alleged to originate in Ethiopia and whilst I'm not really a coffee buff, I can assure you I've never tasted better coffee than in Ethiopia.
The Central mercado in Addis is the largest in Africa. Unfortunately it isn't quite what it used to be, as much is undergoing modernisation. Still, you can pick up souvenirs, AK47s, cows and trucks if you know where to look (not all in the same shop I hasten to add).
Injurra, the typical food of Ethiopia is a slightly sour pancake that serves as plate, spoon and accompaniment to most meals in Ethiopia. It is served here with a variety of vegetable stews.
There are many great resources that help a traveller decide on the the right gear for their big travel adventure. Packing lists help ensure that the most important little items are not forgotten in those chaotic pre-departure days (a good list was recently featured on the RTW Flights blog). But what about those things that we never question; the items that are either the first in pack for all of us, or that for some of us are precious home comforts that we wouldn't want to venture far without?
Here are just a few of those items most commonly found in the many packing lists of travellers. You may nod your head knowingly at some and scoff at others. Yet for many of us a journey to foreign places begins by making sure that we have a set of possessions with us that will make us feel in some way connected to our homes. Travelling without our must-have items would indeed feel as if we were travelling naked.
Rolf Potts took part in a well-publicised Round the World with No Luggage challenge last year. But even in his minimalist state he still managed to fit many of the so-called essentials into his sponsored fancy jacket.
Every traveller would provide a different list of their essential packing items - the things they can't do without. Here are just a few of what are some of the most inclusions on those lists:
2. Laptop or other internet accessing device
3. i-pod or other music bearing device
4. Chocolate/sweets from home
5. Personal toiletries (including our favourite brand of toilet roll)
6. Guide book
7. Book (other than guide book)
8. Waterproof clothing
9. Extra warm weather fleece or jacket, just in case
10. Spare footwear (beyond what you wear to the airport)
Which items could you not think of travelling without - could you venture to another country without your trusted iPod or your camera? Or is it in the area of hygiene that you don't want to experiment when stuck in a strange hotel? (Some of those cheap rolls of toilet roll can test the best of travellers). Or are you someone who can't spend a night away from home without your favourite cuddly toy?
I read an excellent article this week about encountering behaviour or opinions on the road that we might find objectionable. In the post on his Finding the Universe blog the author, Laurence Norah tells of his campfire conversation with an Australian couple who casually made an overtly offensive racist remark relating to the Aborigine people. In this case the author was so stunned that he did not know how to react and chose, as most of us would, to leave the conversation and the company of the offender as quickly as possible.
The post left me wondering how we should respond to such objectionable behaviour? I know that I would react in the same way as Laurence did here. Not being someone who enjoys any form of conflict I would make my excuses and leave at the first opportunity. But in doing so are we missing an opportunity to highlight the bad behaviour of the individual concerned? And does it make a difference whether the incident occurs in the offender's homeland or in our own? (The comments in Laurence's post form a good intelligent debate on the topic).
Racism is a bad thing and while in many countries it is prevalent, mainstream and socially acceptable to make derogatory remarks about other races, no intelligent person will surely attempt to defend racism in any way. But what about other actions that may be objectionable to us, yet are an integral part of a host culture? Do we have a moral responsibility to speak up if we see something that we consider wrong, or should we accept that 'things are done differently here'.
A few years ago we stayed with an eagle hunter in Kyrgyzstan and our group were shown a pit in which he was keeping two wolf cubs. Pacing unhappily in a small dug out encased with wire meshing, they would be taken the following week to a tournament in neighbouring Kazakhstan to be used as bait for the eagles. We were all saddened by the plight of these cubs but could do nothing, knowing that this hunting skill was the only method by which this family had survived for several generations.
And what about where customs directly injure, maim or even kill other humans? Examples of this may be female genital mutilation, child slavery and honour killings. What is our duty as visitors passing through and being made aware in whatever way of these customs? Do we impose our own beliefs and values on the host cultures and challenge these practices, many of which are a cornerstone of centuries-old tradition? Or do we walk away in acceptance that it is not our place to judge another culture and the values by which they live their lives? And if we do pass by as tourists doing no more than shaking our heads in private, are we complicit in any way in the survival of these barbaric actions?
It is perhaps one of the hardest moral dilemmas that many travellers face. It would be interesting to hear how others have faced such situations and any advice they can offer.