ROAD TRIP: Seven Days Trekking In Bale Mountains


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It’s a road trip through Ethiopian highlands, heightened by the magnificent picturesque landscape to an impressive destination. It’s a road trip unspooled series of treasured images, history and unique signatures of towns and villages studded along the way. It’s a road trip allured wanderlust via serendipity into the rhythm of enlightenment.

On the way to The Bale Mountains

road trip Bale mountains map

As the Great Rift Valley split the dome of Ethiopian Highlands, a journey to the Bale Mountains requires travelling through Ethiopian highlands which are divided in two portions by the main Ethiopian rift valley and this particular journey is towards the southeastern highland.

The Bale Mountains resides in the Oromia region – regional states of Ethiopia, covering 284,538 square kilometers. The Oromia region shares a boundary with every region of Ethiopia except for the Tigray region. Thus this journey required traveling through four zones of the Oromia region – East Shewa, Arsi, West Arsi and Bale.

The Bale Mountains are the lineal home of the Oromo – the largest single ethnic group in Africa. Pastoralist, farmers and famously known for their equestrian skills to name the few and which all can be witnessed while traveling through this full of character region.

A day before the actual seven days trekking started in the Bale Mountains, we drove from Addis Ababa early in the morning before the rush hour hits. There are two ways to reach Bale and we took the one which we haven’t done before to make the journey as interesting as the destination with an off the beaten path.

The other way of reaching bale from Addis Ababa – the one we trade to honor the off the beaten path– is via Shashemene and 40 km longer. It’s a pathway many travelers takes as it comes with driving through Ethiopia’s rift valley which dotted with plenty of beautiful rift valley lakes and definitely very interesting in spite of huge traffic. It’s a unique way of arriving to the Bale Mountains as it takes travelers through different kinds of major towns and small towns with their very own unique characters and unique landscape – from savanna portrayed with acacia trees to green forest and always topped with beautiful distant view of clustered hills or high mountains.

On this particular journey we embarked up on towards Bale via Asella, is 400 km from the capital city Addis Ababa to the head quarter of the Bale Mountains National Park which situated in one of Bale’s small village Dinsho.

It’s a journey which took us through different kinds of major towns and small villages with their very own interesting signature. Bishoftu (Debre Zeyit) with its crater lakes, Mojo with its lively but at times chaotic atmosphere as being transport hub and Adama with its locally famous gastronomic delight of delicious meat.

Once we reached Mojo, instead of going straight on the primary road which can take us straight to Shashemen, we rather diverted towards east via the expressway to Adama. After Adama we took the primary road which takes us straight to Asella.

As we continued, slowly the hustle and bustle of city life started to fade away and replaced by panoramic vista, serene village life and people. As always cracking a local tune goes very well on a road journey in Ethiopia or anywhere else for that matter as it’s going to end up being the soundtrack of a cherished journey.

Road trip and good company guarantees very lively journey and on our case, the universe assembled two Ethiopians and a Belgian on a road trip in Ethiopia. Endale with his cordial energy was the one behind the wheel and a very good family friend of the two passengers – myself as a traveler in her own country and my Belgian husband as wanderlust passionate.

While we were immersed in the liberating feeling which road trip provides for little while, one of the other characteristic of road trips presented itself – serendipitous. A scene which forced us to slow down and eventually to stop. Looking at this thrilling scene through the windows of the car was not enough, so we had to get out of the car and get closer.

The earth literally cracked open for almost a km long. We didn’t say much to each other we were just gazing with dropped jaw and trying to analyze the scene with our logical mind. We tried to capture the thrilling scene which the road trip provided not only with our lenses but with our mind.

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Obviously, once we are back into the car,  we couldn’t help to have one of those road trip conversations, which involved little bit too much of an imagination. And we couldn’t help talking about, that far-fetched it seemed topic which has been surfacing around the media for a little while now – The breakup of Africa into two land masses.

We don’t know for sure what we witnessed has got anything to do with that, but all we know that the scene cracked open our imagination and urged to entertain the idea – as an African and Ethiopian being separated from the continent in spite of the fact that geologists asserting that it takes millions of years for it to happen.

Though what we witnessed, might not be created by tectonic movement, rather by erosion of soil beneath the surface due to heavy rain, it induced a conversation about how it can affect the life of local people who lives around and hoping for more disclosure to be inspected in order to regulate preventable damages from seismic hazards.

As we continued, eye grabbing wide farm fields kept stretching before us as the lower slopes of hill sides have good fertile soil. Thus the area largely inhabited by farming people, most of the land of the region has been transformed to agriculture and mostly Barley – which signaled us we are in an area locally known as the source of Ethiopian local beer.

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It was a delight to witness one of the ingredients of Ethiopian local beer out in the field at a particular time of harvesting. Bundled up straw drying out under the sweltering sun of Africa after good harvest in a golden stubble field crowned with the highest point in Arsi – Mount Chilalo with an elevation of 4036 meters above sea level – as a beautiful backdrop was a feast for the eyes.

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While seemingly endless golden stubble field kept stretching before us, we kept talking about Barley and its special connection with this particular region. The Arsi highland is home to many long distance runners and Olympic medalist of Ethiopian athletes, so we raised an insider in our road trip conversation – that locally it is assumed, the secrets for the strength of these long distance runners, from this particular area, is Barley.

The beauty of road trip is providing an opportunity of tasting a regional delight as people are selling along the road or in small shops in one of the villages or towns studded along the way. Talking about Barley, we were hoping to come across roasted Barley snack (Kolo) in which one of Bale’s villages Dinsho is known for.

We continued on a smooth and quiet ride to the southeastern highland of Ethiopia decorated with impressive landscape which makes any journey as interesting if not better than the destination –typical road trip anywhere in Ethiopia.

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After 100 km from Adama, the journey curtain opened to reveal Arsi’s major town which lies at 2400 m altitude. Asella was the capital of Arsi Province before relegated to the Oromia region, however Asella still maintains being an administrative center of Arsi zone. Asella is also a special place which strongly associated with the incomparable, Ethiopia’s very own and Olympic medalist Haile Gebresillasie as Asella is his birth place.

Once again we are back to the bustling city life scene – building, the white and blue tuk tuk bajajs, minivan taxis, shops, hotels and restaurants. Asella town was once an overnight stopover to explore the Bale Mountains – way before the paved road all the way to Goba (Another Bale’s town) and comfortable express bus service from Addis Ababa introduced. However, Asella still can be an overnight stopover for travelers with plenty of time and interested in the off the beaten path.

As Asella is obviously perfect lunch or coffee stopover for the particular journey like we were on, we wanted to have lunch, feel the ground and hoping to grasp Arsi’s spirit. We picked a hotel owned and goes by the name of another Long distance – runner and Olympic Medalist Athlete Derartu Tulu herself – who is one of Ethiopia’s treasures the Arsi highland gave birth to. Besides the obvious connection we were glad to have lunch at this spacious and clean hotel restaurant with friendly staff and good food.

We continued our journey and the city vibe faded away quickly on a smooth quiet journey which took us to Arsi’s small town lies at an altitude of 2,800 m above sea level and 56 km from Asella.

road trip Bale mountains 6Bekoji – a name bigger than what the village appeared to be as it equally shares locally famous signature of being the birth place of many long – distance runners and Olympic medalist who put Ethiopia on the spot light with their victory in an international arena – Derartu Tulu, Fatuma Roba, Tirunesh Dibaba and Kenenisa Bekele.

One of the most memorable scene of this small town is colorfully embellished horses galloped by the skilled horsemen swaddled in warm shawl on an evocative frosty moorland. It was one of the thrilling reminders of being in an Oromia region.

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The next small town which welcomed us, is where the Shashemene and Asella road converge in West Arsi zone. Dodola set an elevation of 2,400 m covered with Afromontane forest and afro alpine moorland. Dodola is the northwestern extension of the Bale Mountains which its magnificent mountainous forest and beautiful trees signaled the Bale Mountains as we were getting closer.

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The Dodola road swiftly took us through the West Arsi zone in to the other Oromia Region zone where The Bale Mountains resides – Bale. As the road traverse one of the five habitats of the Bale mountain national park – Gaysay Grassland – driving slowly required with all the signs of animals along the road signaling that we might encounter the animals crossing the paved road to the other side of their habitat.

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At this point our curiosity raised up. After few meters drive, we were welcomed by one of the animals lives in Gaysay Grassland – the olive baboons. Our excitement to see the olive baboons quickly replaced by puzzled curiosity, as the baboons aggressively run towards the car almost to bang the window as if they are looking for something and even jumped on the car as if to stop it, then we all got hit by some kind of awareness right away as we realized and finally conformed from our tour guide the next day the sad truth.

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The animals unconsciously conditioned by some irresponsible people in spite of signs and common sense throwing food to the animals, as a result the animals keep doing this every time a car pass by. This particular unexpected incident actuated a heated conversation about awareness in conservation and how we humans play a role.

Finally we reached the mountainous village which locally famous for one of gastronomic delights of Bale – Dinsho kolo (roasted Barely snack) – perfect for road trip and trekking in bale mountains. Our Destination Dinsho lies at 3,100 m altitude and it is a village where the head quarter of The Bale Mountains National Park resides.

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In the honor of Road Trips!

Posted in Africa, Ethiopia, Road Trip, The Bale Mountains, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Oscar Wilde: Inspiration From My Trip To Ireland


oscar wilde Dublinoscar wilde Dublin 2

Be Inspired!

Posted in Historical Travel, Inspiration, Photo Essay, Quote, Quote of the day, Travel, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tsome Kudade: Ethiopian Lent Offering Season


It’s a season, when body and soul merge for sacred duality, when conscious living pervades and when vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes honored more than ever.

It’s a season, when fifty something days before every Fasika (Ethiopian Easter) becomes challenging, soul purifying but memorable for many Orthodox religion devotees of Ethiopia.

Lent Offering Ethiopia church 2

Tsome Kudade is a season usually welcomed with a ritual locally known as Kibela – the last weekend before lent offering officially starts, when family and friends gather to feast on foods which they are going to be abstained from – meat and all dairy products. It’s a weekend when Siga Bet – butcher shops with restaurant and bar, which usually serves raw meat and stir fried meat with local beers – overly occupied for the ritual as most butcher shops would be closed during lent offering.

It’s a season rhythm and rhyme with Zelesegna – meditating traditional tune emanates from exotic traditional musical instrument known as Begena. It’s when the overall vibe of the country hugged by a sense of composure, when big music concerts, weddings and other events postponed as celebration and food are very much intertwined in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Traditional Musical Instrument Begena

It’s a season when the usual, an early morning church service moved to mid-day until 3 in the afternoon. Thus, it becomes a season with a rare scene – clothed in white pilgrim flocking to the church at the middle of the day, the ringing of bell and the meditating melody vibrating from the church as a constant reminder of conscious living.

It’s a season when vegetables and fruits outshine meat, when certain types of dishes appeared as once a year treats like Siljo. It’s when Beyaynetu – an assortment of fasting dishes – becomes the king of all dishes instead of only on Wednesdays and Fridays – Fasting days of the Ethiopian orthodox devotees.

Ethiopian Fasting Dishes Beyaynetu

It’s a season when vegetable shops with juice bar takes over the spotlight. It’s when  colorfully layered Spriss juice, avocado juice and a hearty salad of vegetables and fruit becomes rich gastronomic delight.

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“One of the more seductive ways that Life attempts to woo us each month is with seasonal foods.” Sarah Ban Breathnach – Romancing the ordinary

Local market Ethiopia

It’s a season when cafés switch from the famous foamy layered delight of Macchiato to the fasting version – usually Soya replacing Milk. It’s when Black tea becomes a café sensation – heavenly paired of spiced black tea with dairy free pastries like Teff Muffin, Baklava or Teff Biscuits.

Ethiopian Fasting Dishes

It’s a season which seem gastronomic deprivation but rather it’s a season to nourish body and soul by conscious living, contemplating, praying and worshiping for many Ethiopian orthodox devotees.

“Amazing grace, it appears, is bestowed not on the perpetually sighted, but on those who ‘once were blind but now can see’. Rebecca McClanahan

Lent Offering Ethiopia 2

Romancing the season!

Posted in Addis Ababa, Africa, Culture and Tradition, Culture Festival, Easter, Ethiopia, Food, Food Travel, Religous Holiday, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

NATURE: Endemic Animals Of Ethiopia


In honoring the realm of nature, I decided to pair some of my favorite nuggets of wisdom about nature from a book called Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle, with pictures of the three endemic animals of Ethiopia from among many, which I’m blessed to witness and capture, from my wonderful trips in my own country – Ethiopia.

Enjoy and be inspired!

“To bring your attention to a stone, a tree, or an animal does not mean to think about it, but simply to perceive it, to hold it in your awareness.

Something of its essence then transmits itself to you. You can sense how still it is, and in doing so the same stillness arises within you. You sense how deeply it rests in Being – completely at one with it is and where it is. In realizing this, you too come to a place of rest deep within yourself.”

Gelada Baboon

The Gelada Baboon from Simien Mountains.

“When walking or resting in nature, honor that realm by being there fully. Be still. Look. Listen. See how every animal and every plant is completely itself. Unlike humans, they have not split themselves in two. They do not live through mental images of themselves, so they do not need to be concerned with trying to protect and enhance those images. The deer is itself. The daffodil is itself.

All things in nature are not only one with themselves but also one with the totality. They haven’t removed themselves from the fabric of the whole by claiming a separate existence: “me” and the rest of the universe.

The contemplation of nature can free you of that “me,” the great troublemaker.”       

The Ethiopian Wolf

The Ethiopian Wolf from Bale Mountains.

“Watch an animal, a flower, a tree, and see how it rests in Being. It is itself. It has enormous dignity, innocence, and holiness. However, for you to see that, you need to go beyond the mental habit of naming and labeling. The moment you look beyond mental labels, you feel that ineffable dimension of nature that cannot be understood by thought or perceived through the senses. It is a harmony, a sacredness that permeates not only the whole of nature but is also within you.”   

Mountain Niyala

The Mountain Nyala from Bale Mountains.

Let’s learn from nature.

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Introduction: Seven Days Trekking In The Bale Mountains


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It’s a journey which started somewhere from deep inside of a longing soul to go back home and to check off a bucket list – The Bale Mountains. Actual path which involved crossing the world from Brussels to Addis Ababa – home turf. Elongated to the southeastern Ethiopia, 375 km Southeast of Addis Ababa to the Bale Mountains, via Assela, of a five-hour drive to the headquarter – Dinsho. which took seven days, camping in the wilderness, of an exciting and sometimes challenging attempt, to capture the soul of The Bale Mountains.

It’s a journey which soared way up to the roof of Africa, to one of the Earth’s eight biogeographic realms – Afrotropical – to witness Lava outflow and glaciation magical invention of the soul enlivening Bale Mountains.

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It’s a journey interestingly specified to Ethiopia’s hidden gem, universally recognized, biodiversity paradise and to the heart of The Bale Mountains – The Bale National park. To a park which naturally and uniquely divide in five habitats, to see the wonder of nature by the most scenic drive on the highest all – weather road in Africa, crossing a plateau, one of a kind animal watching and sacred mountain trekking and pony – trekking.

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It’s a journey studded with a memorable experience of a Park with many unique universes of its own. Witnessing one by one via a thrilling, remarkable and challenging journey started from 3000 m high, ascending to 4000 m and descending to 2000 m from a plateau along an escarpment into a forest.

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It’s a journey distinctively cascaded through Gaysay Grasslands with its rivers, swamp, unique fauna and flora and home to the endemic Mountain Nyala and other animals. Juniper Woodlands with its beautiful African tree Hagenia Abyssinica and other trees. Afroalpine Leas and Upper Web valley with its rich Afroalpine vegetation to create a unique world of its own. With its very own unique spectacle of animal watching only Ethiopia can provide – the endemic Ethiopian wolf hunting another endemic giant mole rat on a unique landscape. With its Impressive rock formation, magnificent valley and home to the second tallest mountain in Ethiopia –Tulu Dimtu (4,377 m). Erica Belt as Descending down from Sanetti plateau along the Harenna Escarpment to enter into a fairytale like forest – Erica trees beautifully, impressively and extremely clothed with moss. Harenna Forest the largest cloud forest in the country which encompassing bamboo forest within and being home to another endemic – The Bale monkey.

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It’s a unique journey which delivered a rare and exciting chance of trekking on a flat land in the ether and a picturesque drive through clouds on a roof of Africa. Experiencing mountain air and ruthless cold, encountering very interesting people along the way, losing oneself in wide open spaces but ironically finding true self, gathering around campfire and having heated conversations with strangers.

It’s a journey which lend an actual opportunity to live a profound quote “To travel in ignorance of a region’s history leaves you unable to understand the “why” of anything or anyone” Dervla Murphy, from the book which accompanied me on this particular journey and one of travel books I deeply cherish – The Tao of Travel by Paul Theroux

It’s a journey inspired to mug up on a particular history. Bale Mountains named after a formerly high powered Muslim State, that was discovered in Bale during the 11-th century. Bale is the original state of Muslim. Bale was the base of the 13-th century Arabian Missionary Sheikh Hussein who left a still existing legacy of his shrine – The Sof Omar Caves. Thus, these historical facts answered the “why” induced by roadside authentic everyday life spectacles – the local unique way of living, clothing and bamboo fenced small colorful mosques dotted here and there.

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It’s a journey which incorporated gastronomic experience of a particular culture – Taste Of Bale. Golden barley farm fields, was not only an eye vista as Barley appeared on a plate as one of Oromia’s delicious delicacies famously known as Chechebsa. From the farm fields, potato ended up being deliciously warming companion in a very cold evening out on the mountains. Traditional beehives, on one of unique trees of Bale, magically appeared as traditional mild mead – Birze. Fresh picked from a garden and steamed Collard Green which locally known as Gomen with home baked bread, distinctively unique delicacies of Bale from Harenna forest village Rira, and seasonally harvested wild forest coffee from Harenna forest in a cup for a soul.

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It’s a journey with its own miss out and rewards of seasonal offerings of The Bale Mountains. Bale during January means, missing out flowers which only blossoms during August – November like the colorful Red –hot poker, excessively and beautifully covered Erica trees with moss, rainy, muddy and misty but warmer journey. In spite of being the coldest time of year for the Bale Mountains, it was a journey blissfully rewarded with clear blue sky, once a year seasonally harvested wild coffee, the flowering of a distinctive African tree – Hagenia Abyssinica and many other beauties of its own.

It’s a journey which rhymed with another profound quote about Travelling in a Time of Trouble again from The Tao Of Travel book “A national crisis, a political convulsion, is an opportunity, a gift to the traveler; nothing is more revealing of a place to a stranger than trouble. Even if the crises is incomprehensible, as it usually is, it lends drama to the day and transforms the traveler into an eyewitness.” Ghost Train to the Eastern Star.  However, for someone who is a traveler in her own country, it has a slightly different take – an emotionally charged connection. Peace and Love to Ethiopia!

It’s a journey which induced feelings, emotions, thoughts, conversations and insights about nature, security, freedom, true self, home, wilderness and so on.

All in all, it’s a journey which provided a once in a life time experience on the roof of Africa – beautifully diverse, exotically distinctive and excruciatingly cold.

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To Be Continued…

Posted in Adventure, Africa, Ethiopia, Nature, Photography, Quote of the day, Travel, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

ETHIOPIA: EXPLORING THE ROOF OF AFRICA


It is always good to go back HOME – ETHIOPIA.

Coming soon is – My seven days trekking in The Bale Mountains travel memoir.

Bale Mountains 1

There is no place like HOME!

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Ethiopian Epiphany: Timket And Gondar


“Supreme spiritual delight is a guarantee for all travelers around the world while visiting the cradle of humanity – Ethiopia. The sacredness of visiting Ethiopia lies on coming back Home – visiting the grandmother of all humanity – and being able to reconnect with source in the holiest place of Africa.”  

The above quote is from my published article which entitled ETHIOPIA: Historical And Spiritual Tradition For The Soul  on The global S.E.E Africa Magazine by Afro Tourism about Timket Celebration and Gondar – which I strongly suggest you read if you want to know more about this colorful celebration.

And here is a photo essay to commemorate Timket!

Timket Ethiopian Epiphany 1

Timket Ethiopian Epiphany 2

Timket Ethiopian Epiphany 3

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Timket Ethiopian Epiphany 12

Happy Holidays!

Posted in Culture and Tradition, Ethiopiia, Festival, Gondar, Religous Holiday, Timket, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments