Most tourists travel Ethiopia through pre-arranged tours. The lack of infrastructure, like reliable public transport, good roads and often the sheer impossibility to make a reservation from abroad are real shortcomings. Add eMails that bounce back, incorrect phone numbers and few people who speak English!
Tours do not come cheaply, but Gonder was pure extortion. Several companies asked for 100 dollars for the 40 kilometer ride to Koseye and a two hour hike through the outskirts of the Simean Mountains!
We finally booked with Red Fox Tours that offered it for 1.100 Birr / 60 USD, about 40 % less. An entire mini-bus just for the two of us pulled up in front of our hotel early morning, with a driver and a completely ignorant guide who chose not to speak with us.
Once at the view point, a local scout popped up at the scene. We knew what was coming so we immediately told the “guide” that he would have to pay for the scout. Well, the local turned out to be the only asset on this tour. He took us to most scenic viewpoints in this short time and knew where to find the Gelada Baboons, an endemic species of the Simean Mountains.
Of course, upon leaving nobody handled the local’s pay, so we decided to tip him as well, being angry with the tour operator and with ourselves. Considering his immense input, he got so little out of the deal, whereas the tour company pocketed a 60 US for a useless guide and an oversized transport. Though a nice excursion, we would definitely do it differently now – take a bus towards Axum for about 40 minutes and get off at the view point. There are always guides waiting.
The Gonder – Axum road is simply horrid. Traveling in a dust bowl best describes it. Every passing truck or bus trails long and big clouds of sand that even penetrates closed windows. Once we had to follow a truck that was going too fast to be overtaken. All we saw was sand, nothing else. To travel like this for 10 hours seemed a real turn off, so we opted for a 40 minute plane ride.