Flag of Ethiopia

As I write this, I am sitting in the garden of the Lammergeyer Hotel in Gonder at the end of our four-week trip around northern Ethiopia.  I have just been editing some of the more than 6000 photos I have taken during that time and am now thinking about the blogposts I want to write.  I’ve decided to start with an overview of the whole trip.  I will then go back and write individual posts about some of the things that we have seen and done.  It’s been an amazing experience – I only hope I can find the words to do it justice.


Bob Geldof and Birhan Woldu

When most of us in the west think of Ethiopia (and I include my pre-trip self in this), we think of famine and war and nothing else.  For those of us of a certain age, our awareness and knowledge of the country comes from those dreadful images of starving people brought to us via news reports in the mid-1980s.  Those horrific pictures, especially the ones of dying children, haunt us to this day and, at the time we first saw them, they galvanised us into action, donating money to Live Aid and buying the iconic ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ single.  In the years that followed, our perception of Ethiopia was formed by more news images, this time of war with Eritrea.  For the 20th anniversary Live 8 in 2005, we were presented with a glimmer of hope in the form of Birhan Woldu, the little girl who was photographed when she was minutes from death in 1984 and whose plight had touched all of our hearts.  She appeared on stage with Bob Geldof as a beautiful and healthy young woman and he told us that what we had done all those years previously had worked, we had succeeded … BUT it wasn’t enough.  The fight had to continue.  People were still dying from lack of food and medicine.  We must carry on helping wherever and whenever we could.  If anything, the idea of Ethiopia as a famine-ridden, war-torn country was strengthened.


So, it was with some trepidation that we started planning our trip.  I was heartened, however, to read in the Lonely Planet guidebook to Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somaliland that Ethiopia is ‘one of the few countries left in the world that has the capacity to make you go ‘wow’ every day!’  And so it has proved!!

Our route around northern Ethiopia


Lucy




We began our trip with a few days in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa.  Here, we were wowed by the taste of Ethiopian coffee, which has to be the best in the world, and by meeting our ancestor ‘Lucy’ in the place where she was found.  It also gave us our first experience of the amazing ‘shoulder dancing’ we were to see time and again on our journey.








From Addis, we moved on to Bahir Dar where we marvelled at the vivid colours of the 17th century murals in the churches on the Zege Peninsula and gasped at the sight of hippos swimming in Lake Tana.  Whilst staying in Bahir Dar, we also trekked to the Blue Nile Falls, which, even in the dry season, took our breath away in more ways than one! 

A vivid mural of Mary and Jesus 

Hippo in Lake Tana

Blue Nile Falls

Our next stop was Lalibela where we were wowed by the spectacular view from our hotel room window and by the indescribable feat of human ingenuity in hewing beautiful churches from pure rock.  We then travelled to Aksum via Mekele.  In Aksum, we were stunned to see the stelae fields and hear the story behind them.  From there, we made our way heavenwards into the Simien Mountains National Park.  At every turn in the road and at every step of the way, we were blown away by the stunning scenery.  We really were saying ‘wow’ far more than we ever had before!

The final stop of our trip was in Gonder.  Here, we were surprised by the majesty of the royal castles and by the frenetic activity at the market.

St. George’s church, Lalibela

Stelae field, Aksum

One of Gonder’s splendid castles

Throughout our entire journey, Ethiopia never failed to wow us and our associations with famine and war were soon replaced by images of vibrant colours, wonderful music, friendly people and breathtaking landscapes.  Mark and I have vowed to return before too long to explore the rest of this magnificent country.

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