I have waited long time to go to Ethiopia. I had seen many pictures of the place both the north and the south and sincerely I was fascinated by everything you could see there. So, after a long research for information through internet, forums, and different guide books, I could arrange a route with up to six people to this surprising and fascinating country.
Again Johan, Arnau and Anabel joined the adventure, old companions from Senegal. And two new ones, Jose and Rita. A wonderful six people group, passionate about the place , trips and photography. In addition we collected a great ammount of money from friends and family to purchase school supplies and clothes that we would delivered within different villages and hamlets that we might encounter along the way and where we considered that the aid was necessary.
We arrived in the early hours of 1st of May at 00.15 at Addis Ababa airport where, as in any other African airport, we had to wait long queues to get the visa to enter into the country. Once passed this part, our guide Johanis and our driver, Alex, picked us up outside the building and we departed direction the hotel to sleep. Next morning, we had breakfast and went out direction Dahir Bahar. We had an entire road day ahead by car. I’m not talking about four-lane highway, but county, dust filled road without any signs , where the main circulation code is that there is no code. If you believe that the rules work here, you’ll end up hitting by other car eventually. Welcome to Africa.
Throughout our journey we were stopping at some villages to chat with the locals and take some pictures. It was our first contact with the country. One of the things that draws your attention as soon as you arrive in Ethiopia is the landscape which has nothing to do with the typical African postcards we see every day. Steppes, plains, deserts, and sand are replaced here by big green mountain chains with abundant vegetation and wide agricultural fields enormously fertile where agriculture, livestock and grazing are the main source of income, and is the way of life prevalent all over the country.
Northern Ethiopian is mainly famous for its ancient history. Throughout the route we can see on both road sides many Orthodox monasteries, priests dressed in all kinds of colorful clothes and multitudes of locals believers on their way to church in order to enjoy mass time
On our second day we visited Lake Tana. The main attraction of this place is its 37 islands supporting each different religious monasteries in which there are stored and protected a wonderful set of old Orthodox Christian paintings. Why these are here dates back to centuries ago when due to the constant internal wars between ethnics and religions, it was decided to create these interesting monasteries on islands within the lake because of it would serve as protector against external invasions. We had a good time taking pictures of the local people, priests and monasteries as well where the use of the tripod was a must. The good thing about going on a photography trip is that we can spend hours taking pictures that no one of the group will complain.
Above: Paintings of a monastery within Tana Lake.
Above: Rita and Johan taking photos within the monastery.
During the afternoon of the same day we drove 35 miles by car and another half hour walking to reach the Blue Nile Falls. I must admit that at that time and due to the dry season in which we were the flow of the waterfall was not that big but enough to make some interesting pictures. Here, the use of tripods and filters to get the silky effect was necessary. I can assure we had a great time.
Above: Johan posing at the Blue Nile Waterfall.
The following morning of our third day we enjoyed a few hours of free time which we used to take a tour of the city being in contact with local people photographing their daily lives. We visited a fishing port where small and large boats deposit all collected fish during the day. Later, we ended up at a nearby church which also contained a school. Here we spent about 3 hours chatting with one of the teachers which has an incredible energy. Also she works for the local orphanage so we took advantage and with her directly we bought with the money we collected before our departure, a lot of clothes and school supplies that were delivered within this orphanage.
Above: Delivering the clothes in the orphanage.
It was a very enriching morning and we had a really great time. That afternoon, we left for direction Gondar where we would visit the “Castle of Gondar” and where we had our hotel for the night. Here, it so happened that a wedding was been celebrated here and we could enjoy Ethiopian music during all the evening. The typical country dance consists mainly moving the shoulders to the beat of the music, as you can see in the video below.
Above: Tipical music and Ethiopian dance.
We started our fourth day, towards the “Semien Mountains” national park , which is a real sight to behold and a must see for all photography landscapes enthusiast. The landscape is composed by separated valleys and peaks rising 4,000 meters above sea level. The highest point is Mount Ras with 4543 meters the highest mountain in Ethiopia and the fourth highest of Africa.
The main activity of the day was a trekking around the mountains for about 4 hours following a path set by our guide and escorted at all times by a guard equipped with his Kalashnikov, a weapon of war that still retain the Ethiopian military and private security members. Throughout the hike we were taking pictures of the landscape, which is absolutely stunning.
Above: Anabel impressed by the stunning landscape views.
Above: Group portrait within the Simien Mountains National Park.
Above: Johan taking landscape pictures..Photo by Arnau Perez.
Above: Our security guard during our trekking.Photo by Arnau Perez.
Once we finish the trek we came back to Dehbar where our hotel was. It is very close to the National Park entrance. We spent all that afternoon walking and strolling through this crowded little town that has not too much to offer rather than its people and their lifestyle.
Above: Johan buying drinks and some food in Debark.Photo by Arnau Perez
Above: House Facade in Debark.Photo by Arnau Perez
Above: Street at the sunrise in Debark.Photo by Arnau Perez
Our fifth day started very soon in order to depart towards the historic town of Lalibela. We had ahead again almost 500km of road. About 10 hours. We could find many drawbacks to this route, but thanks to many hours on the road, enjoying the scenery and the people, we could really see how the country is beyond the touristic areas.
Above. New construction building that are coming up around all the country.Photo by Arnau Perez.
Above: Taking the donkey for a walk.Photo by Arnau Perez
Above: Ethiopian people dont like too much the pictures.Photo by Arnau Perez.
Lalibela is one of the most important holy cities of the Country besides being an important pilgrimage center for the vast majority of Ethiopian Orthodox Christian believers. The city has a set of churches and monasteries dug and built in the rock making it something almost unique in the world. And, of course, it is the most important tourist spot of the country. The first day in Lalibela we visited the three set of churches and monasteries located relatively close to each other however these are somehow architecturally different from each other. For my personal taste the one I liked most was the set number two because of its churches and for its route through the rocks. But as I said this is a personal taste. Others enjoy more set number three in which clearly stands Saint George’s Church.
Above: Saint George’s Church.
Above: priest entering one of the churches.
Above: photography trip members with theis cameras, within Lalibela Historical Center.
Above: Anabel and Arnau.
Above: No one pose as Jose.
Above: One of the monasteries within set number three.Photo by Arnau Perez
Our second day in Lalibela, we did something totally different from what is usually done in this kind of travels. We realized that besides us those days we stayed in the city also would be there the NGO “Revive” primarily formed by doctors (surgeons, dentists, gynecologists …) almost all of them from Belgium. Its role there was to do all kinds of medical forecasts besides carrying out different types of surgical operations. So, we decided to spend the day with them at the hospital, taking pictures so the NGO can use these as promotion and dissemination of their work. I can not share these pictures with you here because of the agreement that was reached with the hospital in order to let us taking pictures there.
The next day would be our last one in the city of Lalibela and the tenth of our trip. The energy dicreased in all of us and it was showed in all our faces. So we decided to visit the outskirts of the city, making a trekking a couple of hours that took us to a monastery carved into a mountain. Besides how interesting was the place itself, the way to reach it was full of interesting anecdotes. We enjoyed a family cooking Enyera, a school for future priests and the constant company of Ethiopians all the way. This was one of the reasons why we wanted to leave the city center. To spend as much time as possible with local people learning from their daily lives.
Above: Woman toasting.Photo by Arnau Perez
Above: Ethiopian family.Photo by Arnau Perez
Above: Myself, kneading the grain.Photo by Arnau Perez
Above: Monastery in the rock.– Photo by Arnau Perez
After this last day in Lalibela, we started driving back to Addis Ababa, where we would spend one day especially buying gifts and souvenirs and visiting the town that has not too much to offer. Just, his famous “Merkato”, the greatest of all Africa. The last hours were spent in a coffee shop where we bought Ethiopian great local coffee at a great price. And with these last pictures, I finish the summary of our photo trip to Ethiopia. I hope you liked it.
Arriba: Coffe shop in Addis Ababa. – Photo by Arnau Perez.
Above: The last coffe. – Photo by Arnau Perez
You can see more pictures within the folk’s website who have come to the trip.
Any comments are welcome.[ninja-inline id=54174][:]
Soy Victor Gonzalo y me dedico profesionalmente a la fotografia de viajes, comercial y retratos. Además, imparto talleres fotográficos por todo el mundo. Mi pasión por la fotografia y los viajes me ha llevado a experimentar emocionantes aventuras y creacion de grandes proyectos para compartir. Actualmente resido en la ciudad de Munich, sin embargo, podrías encontrarme en cualquier parte del mundo.