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Bibi Undercover - The Ethiopian Files


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Fantastic photographs @pault

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It is only 2 hours to Gondar (aka Gonder) now the road is newly-tarred from Debark. That is where the airport is so useful to know. We said our goodbyes after breakfast and were in Gondar by about 10. I won't write too much about Gondar itself as you can easily find out about it yourself but here are a few choice facts.


It's at 2100m above sea level so would work in helping to acclimatise yourself if you are planning to trek in the Simiens.

The buildings date from the 17th to 19th centuries, so somewhat later than other places and potentially less interesting for some. However, on the plus side the buildings are very well preserved, the history is clearer and a bit less disputed, and seeing castles in such a location is very interesting in itself.


Our guide was waiting for us at Debre Birhan Selassie Church, which is a "don't miss" for the paintings, even though they date from the 19th century.  Again our guide was again very good.


Outside of the church










And inside....







The ceiling is famous and indeed impressive





Our guide demonstrating the drums used at services - he did all the showing around here and the priest did not come in.




After that we went for lunch at the Three Sisters restaurant, which is used a lot by tourists and well-to-do locals. but is very nice and very good. The menu is extensive and the Ethiopian food good.


Bibi enjoys a coffee after lunch.




After lunch we went to the Gondar Castle complex, which is the principal reason for visiting - Gondar's real point of difference. I wasn't expecting much and I wouldn't go back but it is certainly worthwhile - although somewhere that I think a good guide can help you enjoy very much more.


There were a number of Ethiopian tourists there - as well as some tourists from other African countries. It was the first attraction at which Africans were the clear majority.







This castle was used by the Italians as an administrative headquarters I believe and they kind of did it up a bit, which is a shame. 




Lots of arches - some with Italian improvements, some restored by Ethiopians, and some as they were.








Originally the great hall for Ethiopian kings to entertain, rather restored by the Italians.



We spied some souvenir shops through an open gate - it turned out although the complex seemed to begin almost out of town, much of the town center was close.




After completing the tour of the castle complex we visited the shops but most of the stuff was just what you would find in Kenya. "This was made in Kenya I think." I pointed out to one of the sellers. "No. China. Insisted the seller." I resisted the temptation to buy.


Fasilides Bath was the last stop on our tour. It was of course not in use and we had to use our imaginations a bit here. Rather inessential but solid building and the big old fig trees growing over the walls are nice.






And that was it. We got to the airport much too early - 40 minutes before departure would have been plenty as it really is small - so had to sit around killing time a bit. The flight was smooth but arrival at Addis Adaba was less smooth for me as I wanted to see Mum to the car park to check she got her shuttle bus. Actually she had to call it as there is only a booth at international arrivals, which is some way away - and more importantly it is difficult to find the route there. So I was kind of stuck and was going to go back in and look for a way from inside the domestic terminal. In the end Mum asked the minibus driver if he would take me and he did, so me looking after Mum ended up as Mum looking after me!


The airport was very busy and quite chaotic but I made it through in the end. Certainly it was a nice guys finish last scenario at times so be warned to bring your entitled persona for the night flights.  Don't be whiny, although I think single women travelers may need to be very firm and rather less friendly than usual. Seem to be a lot of people looking a friend. Also, watch those gate changes!

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Thanks @pault. You brought back a few nice memories. Ok, our trip wasn't this long ago but a memorable one. Do you want to go back to Ethiopia one day?  

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congrats on climbing that high for the church! you did it. i would have given up a quarter way up.


awesome photos (as always) of the geladas, views in Simiens and the ibex. really sorry you had a bad out-of-sorts day - perhaps it was a combo of slight concussion, heatstroke and adjusting to the altitudes. but you got better, so that was important. 


Bibi looking very sweet and happy in the last photo of her sipping her coffee (or was it tea?) I hope she enjoyed herself. 


thanks for sharing such details of your trip, and taking time to put together the photos and text. as always, i've enjoyed it all. 

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A great trip report, wonderfully well written, I am starting to get used to your sense of humour, presumably you inherited it from Bibi, great lady.

Your images are superb, do you spend much time on PP, or are they straight out of the can? Regards.

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@Botswanadreams Yes I will be back. It is such an interesting country and I only visited a small part of it.


@Kitsafari Bibi had coffee. She did  really enjoy most of it but not her cold, which really slowed her down. That was a shame and why we hear less from her than usual.


@johnweir Thanks and I am glad you are acclimatising to my bad jokes! I use Lightroom and some other things -depends what the picture needs. Usually it should be subtle but sometimes I take a slightly more artistic approach to recreate a mood. I also often deliberately over or under expose landscapes or buildings so I have what I think I need to work with e.g. all the Gondar shots were over-exposed so I could bring up the shadows without losing too much of the natural color. That gives a natural look and many phone cameras would have an auto setting that would do the same, but I prefer by hand.



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@pault - If one has only 3 nights in total .... What do you recommend?


Can do two separate 3 night visits though ...... This is for Feb 2020.

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I'm not Pault but Godar 1 night and Simien 2 nights would be an option for such a short visit.

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2 minutes ago, madaboutcheetah said:

@pault - If one has only 3 nights in total .... What do you recommend?


Can do two separate 3 night visits though ...... This is for Feb 2020.


Assuming you want to see wildlife then straight to Simiens I think. Three nights would be fine for that. February is not the best for views but should be better than when I was there as less burning? Doesn't affect wildlife though.



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  • 3 weeks later...

“Pault untamed and Bibi unleashed”

“Ethiopia, where the impaled can be happier than the impalers.”

There were other interesting trip report titles lurking in your comments.  That first Bibi  photo explains the undercover title.

Only one camera?  I brought two, no problem this last trip, and three on the first trip.  What a disaster it would have been if officials had taken my cameras.  Unheard of.

What a start to your trip!

Those are some nifty walking sticks!

You did a fine job of photographing the Maryam Korkor cliffs (and hyrax) and not falling off of them.  Brave man!

Amazing religious procession and you did it justice with your photos.

Great job on the serval in challenging light, not to mention the gorgeous scenery and the stars of the show, the geladas.

Hoping your bump does not affect you for the whole trip and that Bibi’s illness did not approach the level of mine in Simien Mountains.  Oh dear, reading along, it seems there were some lingering effects for you. But you were able to shoot some lovely scenery.

I saw that same waterfall, sans rainbow.  Hope @michael-ibk appreciates your birds.

Oh no, your camera.  I am so very sorry.  Short of safety or health issues, a broken camera is right up there.  Still, your Wailia Ibex turned out really well and your photos showcase the environment.  I am sure you mum felt bad about the camera too.

Those first shots in post #50 are exquisite.

Bibi looks very pleased with lunch.  All is well that ends well.

You planned 4 nights in Simien, as I did.  It seems you made good use of every minute.  Do you recommend 4?

Thank you for sharing the ups and downs of Ethiopia (hey, there's another trip report title).  I felt I was right there with you and Bibi.


Edited by Atravelynn
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Sorry to arrive late for your wonderful report.

I loved the churches, the Gelada and the landscapes. The pre dawn gathering for the religious ceremony was fascinating with superb photos , particularly the black and white. Really enjoyed your writing.


You were very brave climbing up to the church (reminds me of your trip with Zarek!).

Sorry to hear of your illness and of the damage to your camera and card.

Have you tried "RescuePro"? We get it free with SanDisk cards - well free for a year. We managed to rescue photos from a failed card using it. (I think it is cheaper to buy a new card and get the free one year subscription than it is to buy the soft ware)

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Another of epic trip reports, @pault, filled with interesting stories and excellent photography. Thank You for bringing Ethiopia to our homes (OK, screens).

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