Afroalpine Leas: Seven Days Trekking in Bale Mountains

Afroalpine Bale Mountains Ethiopia

Waking up within a small tent, surrounded by frosty ground, and in unbearably cold weather, was an instant reminder of being on the roof of Africa – which actuates you to venerate the warmth of sun as if it’s for the first time. We had coffee, scrambled egg, home baked bread with locally made honey for breakfast, before continuing our second day trail to go deep within the Afroalpine Leas.

Walking from the park headquarters Dinsho (Juniper woodlands) and slowly entering into the heart of the Bale Mountains – Sanetti plateau –, while passing through the Upper Web Valley, unfold impressive eye vistas.

The first few kilometers before entering into the Bale Mountain National Park, was walking through charismatic villages with bamboo fenced compounds complemented with full of character huts, villagers, cattle, horses and donkeys. Surrounded by rocky hills and beautiful mountain ranges as a backdrop of farm fields.

Village and farm field Bale Mountains EthiopiaLeaving village panorama behind, following the Web Valley track road, which parallel to the Web River, presented memorable moments of crossing the river and witnessing it superbly passing through beautiful valley and under naturally made stone bridge.

Upper Web Valley Bale Mountains Ethiopia

We stopped at the top of an Impressive gorge for our first sight of the endemic Rock Hyrax locally known as Osolee (in Afan Oromo) or Shikoko (in Amharic).

Rock Hyrax Bale Mountains Ethiopia

Rock Hyrax

Climbing steep hills and being rewarded by wide open spaces surrounded by astonishing mountain range started to take place. Clear beautiful sky, breezy but warm weather and sunny day brighten up the surrounding for more magnificent scenery. The tranquil energy brings out stillness from within.

The Bale Mountains are one of the best places to have exceptional birding experience in Ethiopia. According to the Bale Mountains National Park Traveller’s Guide book, it is rated by the African Bird Club as the number four birding site in Africa, and it is home to 310 species of birds.

The Moorland Chat (Alpine Chat), Thekla’s Lark, Chestnut – naped Francolin, Augur Buzzard, Tawny Eagle and Common Kestrel were birds we were fortunate enough to witness along the way.

Birds In Bale Mountains Ethiopia

Moorland chat and Thekla’s lark.

Even though the Finche Habera waterfall – which locally known as Woman’s urine – ,  was not at its peak due to the timing of the visit, but the swamp underneath was hosting the jewel of Bale Mountains – Blue winged goose – our first view of this captivating creature made the whole day trail worthy.

Blue Winged Goose Bale Mountains Ethiopia

Blue-winged goose – Endemic to Ethiopia.

While getting closer to the campsite, we are being able to spot the flagship of this impressive habitat from afar – Ethiopian Wolf.

Finch Habera waterfall Bale Mountains Ethiopia

The campsite in the wilderness seemed far away from everything and hallowed in serene aura. The temporary kitchen set up was where resourcefulness being tested. The tent was where the art of simplicity being expressed. The wilderness was where the spiritual practice of accepting what is and being one with life naturally applied.

Finch Habera Campsite Bale Mountains Ethiopia

Traditional handmade three lagged stools, decorated with colorful painting of the Mountain Nyala and Red Hot Poker plant – Signatures of the Bale Mountains – was a luxury in the wilderness. All these materials were carried by the people and the animals accompanied us, so every item which happened to be at the wilderness were venerated.

Towards the end of the day, the temperature dropped instantly to freezing, which made changing cloth a defying task. The darkness brings out not only bright stars but a feeling of surrender.

Day Three: From Finche Habera Campsite to Wassyma Campsite 

Frosty morning Bale Mountains EthiopiaWaking up early in the morning in a wild, covered by frost, started to become familiar. It was a holiday so our guide gave us an imaginative and much appreciated gift which brighten up our day – bouquet of everlasting flower.

While having breakfast and enjoying the sun, we were being able to spot the Ethiopian wolf preying from far away, which was another teaser of a spectacle of the Afroalpine meadow.

Every day and every step of the trail was taking us higher – from 3,000 m to 4,000 m above sea level.  Artemisia Afra pervaded a strong and sweet aroma in the wild which reminded me Guassa Grassland where the smell of wild thyme enlivening the overall experience of trekking in Ethiopia.

It was another warm sunny day and the bottled water we were carrying with us stayed cold and pleasant to drink, which reminded me the opposite experience that I had in the Danakil Depression , where the bottled water stayed warm – experiencing two extremes within a country beautifully diverse in so many ways – Ethiopia.

Spectacular landscape with magnificent mountain range and unique Afroalpine vegetation kept unfolding before us. Here and there colorful lichen-clad rocks, as a reminder of trekking in Bale Mountains, breathing clean air.  Walking through magnificent valley and next to impressive rock zenith pervades a sense of humbleness.

Afroalpine Trekking in Bale mountains Ethiopia

Somewhere on a rocky hill, we took a lunch break and we were surprised by the gracious Bearded Vaulter (Lammergeyer) flying over us, hovering around the hills preying. To witness this memorable spectacle up on the blue sky of the Bale Mountains, we stopped eating the savory avocado sandwich which we were carrying with us prepared by our cook Idris for a moment.

Birds In Bale Mountains Ethiopia2

Augurd bazzard, Tawny eagle and Common Kestrel.

Chestnut-naped Francolin Bale Mountains Ethiopia

Chestnut-naped francolin – Endemic to Ethiopia and Northern Somalia.

We continued our trail and within an impressive Wassyma Valley we spotted a Giant Lobelia plant, which signaled that we were getting closer to the Sanetti Plateau. The Wassyma Mountain, locally known as the mountain which attracts wind started to unveil itself from afar. Crossing frosty streams and seeing snow way on the top of the hills were all indications of ascending higher.  

Afroalpine Trekking in Bale mountains Ethiopia2Mount Wassyma Bale Mountains Ethiopia

The crew already reached the destination and set up the kitchen within a naturally created space on one of the hills and our tent was on another smaller hill where  Wassyma Mountain was a backdrop – we were actually within the view, living it.

Wassyma Campsite Bale Mountains EthiopiaAnother cold night appeared but ironically it was soul warming – as gathering around a campfire with strangers whom wanderlust brought together in the wilderness and celebrating a holiday somewhere on the roof of Africa is a sacred experience.


Posted in Adventure, Africa, Ethiopiia, Nature, The Bale Mountains, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Hidar: Annual Feast of The Archangel St. Michael

Annual Feast Of Archangel Saint Michael. Ethiopia 1

Hidar is the third month of a yearly Ethiopian calendar which contains thirteen months.  It’s a month when the spirit of new beginning celebration gives away to the anticipation and preparation of the coming big events and celebrations – Genna (Ethiopian Christmas), Wedding Season and Timket (Ethiopian Epiphany) to name the few.

It’s that time of year, when the memorable seasonal flowers fading ways. mud replaced by dust, rainy days replaced by strong sun, fountains clearing up and start reducing.

In Ethiopia religion is the soul and religious celebration is culture. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church dedicates each day of the month to particular saints, angels, martyrs, apostles and to the Lord.

Even though the scope of these celebrations varies, it definitely kindles a unique vibe almost every day. These less known religious celebrations which seem reserved for locals, interestingly puzzles tourists who follows guide books fervently, makes a day of a tourist who’s tour guide is serendipity for unique experience practiced by locals, makes some getting used to for expats because of early morning prayers sounded from the church and unexpected traffic, reminds a particular date for locals (devotees or not) and for the Ethiopian orthodox religion devotees these days mean more obviously.

From an early morning Divine Liturgy sounded from the churches to devotees flocks to the church wearing white. Colorfully decorated churches with flags and goods being sold outside the church – from candles to fresh cut grass – all are the eloquent details which makes up a unique scene of this kind of religious celebrations. It’s more pronounced for the annual celebrations of a particular date which can happen twice a year.

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The twelfth day of each Ethiopian month is dedicated by The Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church to commemorate the Archangel St. Michael. The Annual celebration takes place On Hidar 12 (November 21) and Sene 12 (June 19).

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According to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, feast days remembers a particular event from the holy bible or other written books with miracles performed by a particular angel or saint. Thus the annual feast of The Archangel St. Michael on Hidar 12 (November 21) is specifically in remembrance of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt with the help of the angel according to the church.

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St. Michael (Kidus Mikael in Amharic) is believed to be the head of heavenly host, who stands beside the throne of God, guardian of the soul of saints and martyrs and interceding on behalf of human.

The paintings of St. Michael in the Orthodox churches of Ethiopia, portrays the angel beautifully as the commander of angels wearing graceful worrier attire with sparkling long sword on his hand.


In addition to the Holy Bible, there is a holy book which contains the miracles of St. Michael which devotees revere fervently and believe the continuation of these kinds of miracles to happen in their own life because of the interceding.

On the annual feast of the archangel St. Michael a special mass held at the Ethiopian Orthodox Church dedicated by the angels name. The replica of Ark of the Covenant taken from the Holy of Holies and presented to the procession inside the church compound. Mentioning the miracles The Archangel St. Michael operated in prayers, sermons and hymns which inspires women’s joyous and celebratory ululate.

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There is a common ritual practiced by the devotees in order to commemorate, worship and give thanks. Ethiopian traditional home baked round bread – Difo Dabo, roasted barley – Kolo and traditional home brewed beer- Tella in the name of St. Michael are being prepared and shared with family, loved ones and even with fellow devotees in the church as an offer that can’t be refused as it is consider to be sharing a blessing.

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annual Feast Of Archangel Saint Michael. Ethiopia 8

The other ritual is neighbors getting together forming a group in the name of a particular angel or saint in commemorating together. The ritual involves the group to come together in one of the group’s house for the feast in rotation.

This particular group formed to commemorate and share the feast together locally known as Ye Tswa Mahber which includes collections of miniatures as a movable shrine – paintings of a particular angel or saint they choose to commemorate specifically and the Holy Trinity and St. Mary.

A traditional small clay pot and straw weaved basket, covered with colorful costume. The clay pot contains Tella (home brewed beer) and the basket contains pieces of bread as a representation of the holly blood and flesh.  The collection of miniatures moves from one household to the other. The next host receives it and keeps it at the household until the next month get together in celebration to commemorate.

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Where religion and tradition intertwined, witnessing and being mesmerized by unique practices of particular society is a guarantee. These rituals are more than compilation of mundane details, rather the electrifying energy around it is powerful enough to shine a light on the opaqueness of everything is connected and permeate with the universe.

Happy Celebration!

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Gaysay Grassland: Seven Days Trekking In Bale Mountains

One of the five distinctive habitats of the Bale national park, Gaysay Grassland is a suitable home to one of the distinctive animals and only the land of Ethiopia can flaunt to the world – the Mountain Nyala. Traversed by the Dodola road, surrounded by clustered of hills, embracing a magnificent mountain and bonding the two major rivers of the Bale Mountains. Gaysay grassland is the paradise of exotically wild aromatic herbs and colorful everlasting wild flowers, which not only attracts wildlife but humans as well for soul replenishment.


Gaysay Grassland Bale Mountains 1

Trekking Day 1

After spending the night and had breakfast the next morning at one of Bale’s small town Robe, we got picked by a blue and white minivan taxi from the guest house we were staying by our tour operator. Armaye is a young and an aspiring tour operator whom we have been planning our trip with via email few weeks before the actual trip.

Meeting with Armaye in person was a great pleasure as he was very welcoming and humble and of course actual human interaction is sacred in every way. While having getting to know each other and the overall brief picture of our seven days trekking in the Bale Mountains conversation, we drove back to Dinsho where the head quarter of the park located for formalities. The head quarter located in a very nice woodland covered with different kinds of beautiful trees and where we camped before continuing to the second day trekking.

We got introduced to our tour guide – Mohammed. He is born and raised in Bale, very passionate about his home turf, nature and conservation. We got introduce with our cook as well, Idris whom appeared to be introvert but someone whom might open up slowly along the way.

Right after the introduction, Idris asked us what we want to have for lunch even though the options were limited which we knew and prepared ourselves for. We agreed with one typical dish of trekking in wilderness in Ethiopia – Maccaroni with canned tuna cooked in tomato sauce.

As we planned, the first day of seven day trekking started by walking to the Gaysay Grassland, a 20 – minute walk from Dinsho head quarter. It was a walk on an asphalted road through the small montane village Dinsho characterize by white and blue tuk tuk and minivan taxis, little shops, eateries and coffee places along each side of the road enliven with people and with unique and beautiful trees as backdrop.

We had our intro conversation with our tour guide for the next seven days trekking in Bale Mountains. We learned that Mohamed speaks three languages –Amharic (My native language which is in sematic language group), English and French and Afaan Oromo (Cushitic language group) being his native language.

We picked right away that we were in treat of a very rich experience with him. This is one of interesting details of traveling in my own country, which is a melting pot of different ethnic group, which makes a very rich and interesting journey in Ethiopia even for a native traveler.

The first word Mohamed taught us was how to say hello to the local people and we were so happy to say it as it was not that difficult even for my Belgian husband. Akkam is the one word which was strong enough to spark a smile and an eye contact with the locals when every time they heard us saying it to them along the journey through the Bale Mountains for seven days.

After the paved road we stepped in Gaysay Grassland.

Gaysay Grassland Bale Mountains 2

It’s a tract of grassland on upper land of an altitude range from 3000 m – 3500 m above sea level, near to timberline for a splendid panoramic view and experience.

Its wide open space colored with the flora and fauna of gleaming golden grass, silvery grey Gold Cape ( Helichrysum Splendidum) and greenish Artmesia Afra ( African Wormwood). It’s decorated with fringe of greenish hills dotted with red from the flower of Hagenia abyssinica (African redwood). It’s a procreative landscape to induce powerful energy to rise from within.

Walking in Gaysay Grassland induces an intense feeling of how much little space we occupy in this world as it was hard not to contemplate the vast space and the magnificent hills we were surrounded by. Gaysay Grassland is a home to mount Gaysay (3,543m).

The sound of our footsteps on dry grass and bushes, wind and stream were more intensified for our sense of hearing. Sense of smell heightened by the aroma of different kinds of everlasting wild flowers and herbs.

As it’s a December trip in Bale Mountains, the one seasonal thing which was missing was the spectacular scene of Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia) plant which flowers from March – November. Red Hot Poker plant is the colorful signature of Gaysay Grassland and Bale Mountain regarding wildflower.

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Red Hot Poker in Guassa Grassland

Every moment is different indeed as it would have created a different vibe and color of its own. Even though I had a beautiful experience to witness this colorful and exotic plant at Guassa Grassland where hills can be completely covered with the Red Hot Poker plant with colorful blossom at a certain time of year.

The Bale Mountains National Park is beautifully supports five different kinds of habitats, thus more than 1,300 species of flowering plants have been excavated in which 160 being Ethiopian endemic species and 23 which are distinctive to the park. One of more than 10 species of everlasting flower found in Bale.

The aromatic Artmesia Afra and the silvery Cape Gold lead us to the very handsome and endemic animal as being staple for the Mountain Nyala.

Gaysay Grassland Bale Mountains 4

Gaysay Grassland is suitable home to this distinctive and unfortunately endangered animal which was the last to be found in 1970. It’s a place which provides a close up look of Mountain Nyala as close as 50 m.

Gaysay Grassland Bale Mountains 5

Calves with their beautiful mother nurturing and grazing, young male with growing horn and spine mane fighting, and an older male –with notable white side spots, fully grown gracious horns and spine mane –usually alone browsing, are mesmerizing scenes to be witnessed at Gaysay Grassland.

Gaysay Grassland Bale Mountains 6

The Bale Mountains is home to different kinds of animals like the endemic Menelik’s Bushbuck, Grey Duiker, Serval and Common Jackal which all can be viewed in Gaysay Grassland and we were fortunate enough to spot other animals which also lives in Gaysay Grassland –Bohor reedbuck, Warthog, Herd of Olive Baboon and Spotted Hyena.

Gaysay Grassland Bale Mountains 7

Gaysay Grassland not only meddle to bring human and nature, it bridges two Bale rivers – Web River (Weyib River) and Danka River –on an impressive landscape. Besides being an eye vista, it provides an unusual experience of fly fishing of Brown and Rainbow Trout which travelled with British and being stocked in Kenya in the early 1900s and later found another African habitat in Ethiopia by being stocked in three of the Bale Mountains National Park’s rivers in 1960.

Waterfalls and streams induced a conversation about the fact that The Bale Mountains being the source of existence for over 12 million of people in the southeast Ethiopia even crossing the border to Northern Kenya and Somalia by proving water which rises from the Bale massif. 40 rivers rise in the Bale Mountain National park which empties into major rivers like Wabi Shabeelle and Jubba.

The local people has special and intimate connection with Gaysay Grassland as they revere the wild flowers and herbs for their medicinal value and the natural remedial water springs locally named as Hora. As we learned local people travel a long way to come here so that their cattle have a seep for overall good health and milk production.

Gaysay Grassland Bale Mountains 8

As it is a dry season trip in the Bale Mountains which is from November – February, the average temperature of Gaysay Grassland during the day is 20 C. It was a warm and sunny day with extremely beautiful clear blue sky, so it was picture perfect to start the seven day trekking in Bale Mountains.

While heading back, we witnessed the upper land pushing the timberline via strangely but beautiful trees appearing here and there.

Gaysay Grassland Bale Mountains 9

Back to the head quarter which is part of another Bale Mountain Habitat the woodland we, decide to spend sometime in the forest. During dry season the animals move from the Grassland to the woodland, so we get the chance to see the same animals back in the woodland which provided another beautiful scene.

The grassy forest bed within the woodland pave the way with the warming herbal aroma of the fallen leaf of the Hagenia Abyssinica tree which is another signature of the Bale Mountains. We were in treat as December and January is when the red spray of flowers of the tree blooms. Locally known as Koso, a mixture of dried flower of the tree traditionally used as remedy to combat tapeworm as Ethiopians love to eat raw meat.

Gaysay Grassland Bale Mountains 10

It’s in this woodland the indigenous African rose –Rosa Abyssinica –can be found but unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to witness as it was not the right time of year.

St. John’s worth (Hypericum Perforatum) with its beautiful yellow flowers, attracting wildlife and supporting traditional beehives for a delicious Bale’s Honey is a throughout the year scenery. The short but sweet Dinsho trail with in the woodland topped with spectacular view over the mountainous village of Dinsho, Gaysay Grassland from afar and cluster of hills.

Gaysay Grassland Bale Mountains 11

First Day Camping On The Roof Of Africa

We set up our tent on a ground which rises 3000 m above sea level, in the woodland hugged with trees and enliven with animal visits.

Gaysay Grassland Bale Mountains 12

The temperature in Bale Mountains varies as its different kinds of habitats. Spending the night on the roof of Africa is part of the adventure and it’s where the weather can be one of the eloquent details of the backdrop – Sleeping in the clouds during wet season (April – October).

The lowest temperature recorded in Dinsho is – 6 c. During dry season (November – March) the days are warm, sunny and with clear blue sky as we witnessed but it can be very cold at night in which temperature can drop to – 15 c and usually with frosty grounds above 3000 m.

When the sun start to set in, we felt we were traveling through seasons – from Summer to Winter – and the transition was instant.

Very Cold!

Posted in Adventure, Africa, Ethiopia, Nature, The Bale Mountains, Travel, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

ROAD TRIP: Seven Days Trekking In Bale Mountains

road trip Bale mountains 1

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.

Bekoji – 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.


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.


In the honor of Road Trips!

Posted in Africa, Ethiopia, Road Trip, The Bale Mountains, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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.

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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!

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Introduction: Seven Days Trekking In The Bale Mountains

The Bale Mountains 1

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 Grassland 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 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, it was also the base of the 13-th century Arabian Missionary Sheikh Hussein who left a still existing legacy of his shrine. 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 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…

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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 Gastronomic Journey in Belgium I

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Food is a key to open the gate, on a delicious path way into another culture. My Ethiopian wanderlust takes me to a whole new world, yet again to explore and learn. Belgium is the destination and food is the tour guide into this rich culture and history.

To be specific and to take on my food adventure one detail at a time, FLEMISH REGIONAL DELIGHTS and CLASSICS which usually can be found on many local restaurant menus, gave me an exciting direction to start.

Of course for many people including me, the two world’s best treats jump to mind at the mention of Belgium: Chocolate and Beer. Obviously my gastronomic journey in Belgium instantly made me to realize that there is more to it.

Little local eateries where locals hangout is always my first choice to taste authenticity. For certain dishes, I was blessed enough to experience home cooking at typical Flemish household – Belgian food cooked with passion and love by a lovely family. I don’t know if I can get any closer to this rich culture than this.

As much as I believe Traveling expands your horizon, I am also an avid advocate that you don’t really need to actually go anywhere to learn about another culture. As I also love being transported into another world through travel books, cook books and travel shows.

While learning about another culture through food, ironically it seem, but I discover more about myself and the culture I grew up in. Ethiopian dishes are more inclined towards legumes, grains, certain vegetables and spices. Usually the spicier and the hotter the better for many Ethiopian taste palate.

As an Ethiopian, my taste bud is accustomed to earthy, spicy, sourish and very hot rather than very rich and creamy which I am actually experiencing here in Europe and which can be overwhelming at times. Obviously certain dishes I can’t really try like Chicory Ham Roll, because as an Ethiopian Orthodox religion devotee, Pork is not allowed to eat.

Of course when opportunities present themselves like this – actually be in Belgium in this case – I grab it fervently and try to be as present as possible to let the experience pass through me, leaving it’s cherished mark behind so I can always carry it with me and sharing it with the world in honoring my passion.

As a lover of caressing divine details, I couldn’t resist the temptation of visiting the chocolate museum in Brugge. The mesmerizing details and history behind this world’s delicious treat – from cacao beans to chocolate – nourished my soul as much as an extremely good Belgian Chocolate would.

Another museum also dedicated to another gastronomic symbol of Belgium – Frites. Many of us knows this particular treat as French Fries, however the general idea which the name possibly indicates can be changed instantly after an authentic experience in Belgium – a land from where it is claimed to be originated.

After visiting Friet Museum in Brugge, which beautifully caress the details and the origin of Belgian French Fries. After being at one of the local friture, which usually occupied by the locals and of course after savoring twice fried, perfectly crisp, full of flavor, comforting and aromatic friets cut into the size of lady finger and smothered with rich homemade mayonnaise as Belgians would… I couldn’t help to believe that Belgians owns it indeed.

Sea Food is also an important part of Belgian cuisine as Belgium borders the sea. As an Ethiopian Sea Food is a whole new world to discover, it is not only because Ethiopia has been a landlocked country for the past 26 years, but also Ethiopian cuisine doesn’t really incorporate sea food except certain kind of fish usually Telapia from its great rift valley lakes dotted along the southern part of the country, Lake Tana and other lakes scattered around the country.

So on top of indulging my curiosity with Rick Stein’s Seafood Odyssey, I happily seized the opportunity to immerse myself on the sea food culture in Belgium.

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Mussels and prawns are popular and I was fortunate enough to enlighten my taste palate with home cooked hearty mussels by my Belgian husband. It made me feel like, I tasted the sea. The white wine in which the mussels cooked in and the parsley gave it another dimension.

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I learn different kinds of sauces are integral parts of Belgian cuisines. The green sauce that Belgians are known for is on top of my favorite list. What makes it even more interesting is the 12 herbs it is made of and the story behind it.

Paling in ‘t Groen (Eels in Green Sauce) is one of Flemish regional delights. Legend has it, this was one of the favorite dishes of Emperor Charles V. The very devout catholic Emperor insisted that 12 different kind of herbs being used in preparing this dish, 12 herbs representing each apostle.

The combination of different kinds of herbs – Mint, Parsley, springs of tarragon, Basil, Sage, Watercress, Chervil, Lemon balm, Sorrel, Bay leaf, Savory and Nettle (now replaced by Spinach) – gives it deep green color.

The smooth texture, greenish and earthy flavor in combination with perfectly cooked Eels, was divinely delicious.


Smakelijk! And Dank uwel! – are two words, a traveler in a gastronomic journey in Belgium would quickly pick up.

To Be Continued…

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FILSETA: Ethiopian Feast Of Saint Mary The Virgin

Flseta Ethiopian Assumption Day 1

Ethiopian Orthodox religion devotees, commemorates a day which worldwide known as Assumption day, by fasting for 15 days (August 7 -21) which locally know as Tsome Filseta.

It is on the 16th day (August 22,2017), devotees break the fasting by a traditional feast with family and friends in the morning  after attending a soul nourishing and mesmerizing church service usually held throughout the night revering Saint Mary The Virgin.


The day is also celebrated by unique Ethiopian tradition known as Ashenda.

Happy Holidays!


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Bird Watching In Ethiopia I

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The landscape of Ethiopia is surprisingly diverse as being one of the countries from the horn of Africa.

The land of Ethiopia hosts from lush grass land, savanna, forest to desert. This diversity brings out abundance in bird life and made Ethiopia one of the 10 places for birding from Africa.

Ethiopia supports 850 spices and 37 endemic and near endemic birds which puts Ethiopia in the second place succeeding South Africa.

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The roof top of Africa –Ethiopia – is home to the highest mountain range in the continent. This magnificent creation of nature is not only feast for the eye, but also a convenient arena for the skillful, gracious and bearded vulture (Gypaetus Barbatus), also known as The Lammergeier.

A soul enticing spectacle Ethiopia hosts by The Lammergeier  – hovering above spectacular mountain range, patiently waiting for the scavengers clean out the bone, picking the bone swiftly, flying so high, looking for the sharpest rock, drop the bone, crush into pieces, softly landing and picking out the bone marrow.

Sundering the mountains is the great rift valley cuts through Ethiopia starting from Turkey is dotted with beautiful lakes like lake Hawassa, Zway, Shala and Langano to name the few.

Lakes which most supports different kinds of birds and indeed beautiful spots to witness outstanding spectacle of water birds in Ethiopia and the harmonies co-existence between animals and human.

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The capital city of Africa – Addis Ababa – still hosts quite a bit of birds in spite of the fact slowly turning into concrete jungle. Mingling with ordinary pigeons, The White – collared Pigeon – one of the beautiful endemic birds, which can only be spotted in Ethiopia and Eriteria. Either for an enthusiast birders or nature lovers, this particular bird most probably raise the curtain for the most fascinating bird life show in Ethiopia, on your first arrival in Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia is a unique place where you can go back in time – where donkeys are beloved means of transportation, camels are desert ships, salt is being mined traditionally, fields are plowed by oxen, cattle are part of a family, and homes being constructed by plants collected from nearby so does bird’s nest – soul enlightening scene.

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Ethiopia is a warm vacation place for Palearctic migrants coming from all parts of the world – Asia north of Himalayas, Europe, Northern Arabia, and Africa north of Sahara: Old world Holarctic. While boreal winter pervades other parts of the world, the sun keeps shining in Ethiopia to make it the best time of year for birders and nature enthusiast alike.

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Ethiopia is the land of beauty. It is not only the landscape, the diversity, culture, history and the people that screams out beauty, it’s also proud owner of extremely beautiful, the world’s most sought after bird – The Spectacular Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco.

When it comes to birding, Ethiopia is considered one of the most convenient places in the world to easily see many species of birds. The beautiful Arabian Bustard (Jacques Erard), Von der Decken’s Hornbill – one of many northeast African endemics, The Lammergeier and so many more.

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For further information about Bird watching in Ethiopia and horn of Africa, I suggest the following three books.

Birding Ethiopia: I must say this particular book is more than a birding guide book for people who are planning to visit Ethiopia, it is also beautifully and thoughtfully designed to people who just want to be transported into another place from the comfort of their home.


Where to Watch Birds in Ethiopia: Another detailed guide book to the best birding sites in Ethiopia. One of the authors being an Ethiopian – Merid Gabremichael – is a definite plus as it gives an interesting feeling of being guided by a local.


Birds of the Horn of Africa: This book is for birders and ornithologists alike and covers not only Ethiopia but the horn of Africa.



As the first installment, this particular post is only a welcoming entry into The Bird Paradise – Ethiopia – which leads to a closer look at the Endemics and near endemics which I am blessed to witness, coming up on the next installment of Bird Watching in Ethiopia II.

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For the love of Birds!

Posted in Addis Ababa, Africa, Birds, Book, Ethiopia, Photo Essay, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments