(English) Bus-trekking Adventures

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Danakil Depression; the hottest place on earth, gopackup.com.

Ethiopia is an amazingly unique country, an absolute must on your African itinerary. Although the country is now embracing new developments and therefore also being a front-runner compared to the rest of Africa, it’s also one of the oldest countries in the world. In fact, historians even believe that Ethiopia might be the origin source of us humans. Quite some human fossils were discovered in Northern Ethopia, an area that also contains the most amazing historic/natural sights. Coincidental? Not sure… perhaps Ethopia is just incredibly well preserved. In case it is…. well prepare yourself for one hell of a journey. And yes, there’s a double meaning in that. Let’s just say that roads are not Ethopia’s strongest points.

As we speak Ethiopia is rapidly developing new railways along the country, which should eventually link with it’s neighbours. However, only one of these railways is now operational and therefore to travel around Ethiopia you should rely on the very comprehensive bus-network on the main roads. If you happen to arrive at Addis Ababa (not a city I recommend staying) you might want to experience the brand-new standard-gauge railway to Djibouti, perhaps with an intermediate stop at Dire Dawa for travel to Harar (described as the African ‘Mekka’ and known for “wild”-Hyena feeding by locals). An excellent starting point is the incredible city of Gondar. This city can also be easily reached from Khartoum, Sudan.

Gondar, the ancient capital of the Ethiopian Empire, is a very popular destination for tourists (I’d consider it a day trip). The city contains quite a few pretty castles/ruins and is also closely located to the amazing Simien Mountains (enter via the town ‘Debark’, quite some public busses from Gondar depart daily). It’s definitely worth hiking up the mountains for a couple of days if you have the time! Want to cool down after an intensive adventure? Then Lake Taha should be on your list as well, although preferably you’d rather do no want to swim in it (that’s a general advise for lakes in Africa.. “Hygene”). Do visit the monasteries around the lake! And if you’re lucky you might even spot a few hippo’s floating around. One of your next bus-stops along the way to Northern Ethopia should be Aksum. This place is an absolute outstanding historic gem to behold, also recognized by the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. When trying to go to Aksum from the Simien Mountains (via Shire) please take into account that must busses are completely filled with people departing from Gondar. Simply take your chances, try to arrange tickets in advance in Gondar, or find alternative transport. Next up in your list (literally.. up!) should be Debre Damo. Here one of the most amazing monasteries in Ethopia can be found… and it is only accessible by climbing up the mountain with a rope (and if you’re a male…)! You can walk around the area, try to communicate with the monks living there while enjoying the breathtaking views. Further along the itinerary… heat. Do you fancy sunbathing? Let’s try how long you will manage at the hottest place on earth! Danakil Depression is an area located in North-East Ethopia and has quite a few astonishing properties; as mentioned it’s the hottest place on earth, it’s also one of the most lowest places on earth and basically it doesn’t rain all year long. Oh! And there are some active vulcano’s there that you might want to visit.. (or not) ;). The most mindblowing part however… the way it looks. It’s almost as if you would walk on an alien planet, definitely something you have never seen before. The only (safe) way to visit this inhabitable place is to arrange a tour (might even call at an ‘expidition’) group in advance, starting in Mekele.

Oeff.. I can’t stop writing about Ethopia… there’s simply too much to see. While traveling south a must stop is the town of Lalibela. I won’t even start… I’ll probably never stop.. just google it. One extra aspect you might consider is the Omo Valley, in the south of Ethopia. There the local tribes still exist, which is best accessible from Arba Minch. It will take you weeks to experience all of this… and the most budget friendly way would be to do this with the public bus system (it will take a while to travel around). I would not recommend renting a car due to the state of the roads in Ethiopia, but that’s up to you to decide! By the way, from Khartoum there should be a biweekly direct bus to Gondar/Addis Ababa and otherwise you have daily options via Gaderef/Gallabat. Let’s hope that the extensive rail network that’s being build now in Ethopia will make travel easier. At least Mekele and Weldiya will soon be linked to the rail system (which makes it possible to vsit Danakil Depression and Lalibela more easily).

– The fare between Aswan and Wadi Halfa in “1st class” (sleeper) is 20 euro.
– The fare between Aswan and Wadi Halfa in “2nd class” (deck) is 10 euro.
– The fare between Khartoum and Wadi Halfa in “1st class” (sleeper) is 25 euro.
– The fare between Khartoum and Wadi Halfa in “1st class” (seat) is 15 euro.
– The fare between Khartoum and Wadi Halfa in “2nd class” (seat) is 10 euro.
– The fare between Addis Ababa and Khartoum in “2nd class” (seat) is 50 euro.
– The fare between Addis Ababa and Nairobi in “2nd class” (seat) is 30 euro.

Nile Steamer
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Aswan (Egypt) dep/arr 12:00 13:00
Wadi Halfa (Sudan) dep/arr 08:00 17:00 17:40 23:30
Abu Hamad dep 00:00 19:00
Berber dep 15:00 05:00
Atbara dep/arr 18:00 02:00
Ad-Damir dep 19:00 23:00
Shendi dep 04:00 17:00
Khartoum (Sudan) dep/arr 12:00 09:00 Morning Evening
Gondar (Ethiopia) arr Evening Evening
Gondar (Ethiopia) dep Morning Morning
Addis Ababa dep/arr Evening Morning Morning Afternoon
Shashamana arr Afternoon Evening
Shashaman dep Morning Morning
Moyale dep/arr Evening Morning Morning Evening
Nairobi (Kenya) dep/arr Evening Morning

Entering Ethiopia requires you to have a visa on forehand or buy one on arrival. A single-entry visa will cost around 40 euro’s. Do keep in mind that likely you can only buy a visa on arrival at Addis Ababa airport and not at land-border crossings.

It is highly advised to read all details at lonelyplanet.

Lalibela’s rock-cut churches, http://lalibelabc.com.


The amazing Simien Mountains near Gondar, wikipedia.org.


Debre Damo monastery, notesfromcamelidcountry.net.


A tribe located in the Omo Valley, ethiopia.travel.