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  • Reviewed March 2019
    BARON-VAHL AMOS

    Out of breath

    Poor food, worse wine, fantastic scenery, friendly people, a plethora of birds, some unique endemic species of flora and fauna, some very dodgy hotel service and the worst Exodus arrivals procedure ever because the local Exodus guide is not allowed into the arrivals area!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Getting up close to Geladas without any sort of animosity/aggression being shown on their part was the best wildlife encounter. The iconic rock-hewn churches in Tigre provence came a close second and the cattle/camel market ranked with the walk through the everyday market with its vibrant colours and sometimes noisome smells and people watching both us and them reciprocating almost equally. The various churches and associated museums with priceless artifacts were everywhere. The unique history of the country and its relationship in the modern world made this trip superb. If there had not been the animal market visit it would have been better to have flown to Mekele instead of taking the road trip which became boring after a couple of hours and most people caught up on their sleeping.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Gebre was not there to pick us up at the airport on our arrival he only turned up about an hour after we had landed and this caused problems. I called the local office to find out where the guide was when I exited the arrivals area of the airport at just after 07:00. The office people told me the guide was on the way and was just minutes away, other people at the airport said there were two meeting points at the bottom of the stairs and at the end of the ramp. I waited at the bottom of the stairs until after 07:10 then went to see if the guide was at the other meeting point which was a couple of hundred feet away. At the other designated meeting point another person called the Magnolia hotel for me and the hotel staff said I should join their bus which was waiting for two Italians and come with them to the hotel. The bus waited until 08:40 and then departed for the hotel and after a ten minute check-in I was shown to my room. On returning to the hotel foyer to change money I found the rest of the Exodus group had arrived and they were being checked-in. I asked about the meet and greet meeting which I duly attended at which most of the information provide was changed throughout the course of the trip, some data given was happily changed later, where the hotels being used were important for location if not for facilities so said the guide. The information provided by the guide was that only the first hotel had been changed from what was in the original notes that turned out not to be true. The guide was capable but the English was a mite difficult to understand at times the odd turn of phrase needed to be interpreted and mostly he was understood. The restaurants we were taken to outside of the hotels all seemed to be of the same pattern with the same menus and on only two occasions did I see the guide put his hand in his pocket to pay for his own food or drink at lunch or dinner. The guides ability to steer us through potential hazards was not in any way detrimental to the trip. The offer of taking the road instead of the mule ride was not made until the departure day of the excursion and only mentioned in passing the previous night, the alternative was not mentioned in the trip notes. Getting out of the bus, the guide helped in chopping up a tree trunk that had fallen across the road on the very long journey to Mekele, which was only relieved by the camel market visit. The guide helped me with the purchase of stamps for my postcards none of which have arrived yet even though the first set was posted over two weeks ago this might be because the quantity might have not been sufficient for each card as each time the amount to be used for each card varied depending on the vendor of the stamps. Overall I have nothing bad to say about the guide he did his best and the driver was also very helpful to me personally by finding a drinkable wine and posting my cards at the post office.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you are likely to struggle at altitude it might be worth while getting some altitude sickness pills before going as some of the walking was at 3000 ft, I wheezed continuously. Buying give aways such as pens for the local children, some adults also wanted them, it is better to buy locally this puts money into the local economy and it is cheaper than buying at home and transporting to Ethiopia. A bic pen costs about 30 pence each here in the UK but for <£10 you can buy 50 locally. Ask what the Exodus supported charity would like to receive and perhaps purchase items locally. Shoes are a big item cost wise in Ethiopia taking a few old pairs for give aways to individuals might be useful, though embarrassing also. There are numerous stalls that sell plastic shoes beside the roadside ask the local charity if they would like a donation towards the purchase of shoes for the kids they sponsor at their school and or help towards the buying of materials for the school itself. Money is the practical item most appreciated at the charity since it takes a lot of determination and usable skills to become a volunteer on site. If you are not a pasta or pizza person normally then your diet is going to be assaulted by this food carbohydrate for most meals but better this and macaroni than the local fare, the indjera. The local wrap, Indjera, is made from the teff grain which seems to be endemic to Ethiopia its fermented for up to three days before being treated as floor and made into the slightly sour sponge-like and rubbery textured wrap called Indjera, an acquired taste which I hope I never acquire try it at least once! The fish is usually good and the meat overdone, western style dishes might be on the menu but they will not be a patch on the food you expect to get from the name. I'm not fond of larger but it was better than the local wine! Since the holiday does not include food other than breakfast a trip to the local supermarket is advisable perhaps a requirement if you have a delicate stomach and would prefer snacks to vast amounts of pasta or iffy local cuisine. The coffee and the frankincense are good purchases as are the basket work and cotton shawls, if you're looking for that t-shirt that says been there and done that, good luck, I tried but failed. Watch out for slippery floors in the hotels and the ironing scam where the price is exorbitant and the result questionable. In the major towns some of the wide boys will try to attach themselves to you with implausible stories about how they are looking after themselves their families and going to school all at the same time that people their age are at work or trying it on with the tourists! There are genuine cases of hardship but they are clearly visible and they are not the well dressed/heeled wide boys, the shoes and the condition of the clothes are the usual clear indicators of the scam artists. Do not be surprised by the casual cruelty meted out to the domestic beasts of burden and livestock in general, thrown rocks, lashes with sticks and fists or kicks are not unusual.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I mostly enjoyed the trip, my slip getting out of the shower and wrenched shoulder muscles as a result did not detract from the experience. Take your full first aid kit with you and remember the painkillers/diarrhoea/constipation prophylactics. Good shoes are a must even in the cities the wear and tear on your footwear will be high as the pavements are very uneven. help is always at hand but this might be unwelcome at times especially when going up the 60 degree climb the unbalanced grip on your elbow can be unhelpful. if you are able to use walking / hiking sticks then take them with you but only if you are adept at using them, as a new toy the would be a hindrance not an aid, they will be a boon along the rocky paths and uneven surfaces.

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    We would like to thank Baron-Vahl for his feedback. Whilst we are pleased that he enjoyed a number of aspects of the trip we are very sorry that he found the arrival set-up to not be as expected. It is true that no tour leaders from any organisation are allowed to enter the terminal hall, however, they will meet members of the group at either of the two meeting spots outside the terminal; we have confirmed that the tour leader was there and picked up all other members of the group who arrived on the group flight so we are sincerely sorry that Baron-Vahl and the leader missed each other. We have passed the feedback on to the local team in the hopes they can make the meeting spot more obvious in the future.

    John Penge - Product Manager for Ethiopia

  • Reviewed January 2019
    Wing Chan

    Amazing experience but challenging conditions

    This was a busy and varied trip through northern Ethiopia. I had a great time and met lots of friendly, interesting and kind people. We bonded as a group and with our guide, which made it really special. The Simien Mountains are stunning and we got to see them from the national park, during the long drives and on the mule trek and climb up to a church in Lalibela. Our guide let us stop frequently on the long drives to take pictures, which broke up the journey and made it interesting. The unique paintings in the monastery churches in Lake Tana were breathtaking when we first saw them and the rock hewn churches in Lalibela were a true wonder. When we were there, the Ethiopians celebrated their Christmas and we experienced the pilgrimage that thousands of people make to Lalibela for the Christmas Day service. On Christmas Eve, we went up to the church in the Simiens by mule and on foot, which was dangerous and crowded coming down, but which was an amazing and unforgettable experience. We managed because of paid helpers who were mostly young lads trying to earn money for their education and I did not begrudge this at all. Also, the Ethiopians were kind, understanding and allowed us to pass safely, amazed that foreigners were there at all. In the evening, at 10 pm, some of us went to the rock hewn church of St Mary and joined thousands of pilgrims who were spending the night there, some holding candle wicks and watching the night time service. It was really atmospheric. Thankfully, we went back to the hotel to sleep. Others got up at 7 am to make it to the Christmas Day service itself and were seen in the crowd on Ethiopian tv! The accommodation was varied, some ok and some below standard. The wifi is unreliable and weak, even if the hotels say that it is available. The functionality of the plumbing, general cleanliness and availability of hot water is varied amongst all the hotels where we stayed and were the main problems. The availability of clean and functional toilets outside the hotels during the day was sparse. Be prepared to tolerate all of this when you go on this trip.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The mule trek and hike to the church in the Simien Mountains and the hike down was one of the highlights. The other was Christmas Eve and being amongst the pilgrims at night time as they slept/waited for Christmas Day.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Gebre was fantastic. He is very knowledgeable, friendly and was pleased to answer any questions that we had. He made sure that we got to see everything, negotiating with locals and sorting out any problems with accommodation. He went out of his way to ensure that we got the most out of our trip.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared to put up with poor toilets (generally everywhere), plumbing that does not work (no hot water in some hotels and toilets that do not flush well), lack of cleanliness, loose electrical wires and lack of functionality of mundane items (tv, hair dryer - if there is one) in some of the accommodation (in Lalibela, the seals on the shower cubicle had gaps in them and so the room was flooded each time we had a shower, but there was hot water). There is unreliable wifi, which is frustrating when the hotels say that it is available. In Lake Tana and Gondar, the hotel staff opened our windows during the day time, which let the insects and mosquitoes in and the mosquito nets in the windows had holes in them. Good walking boots are essential for most days. The steps to/ground around the churches are all uneven and sometimes steep, even in Lalibela. Some of the trip is exceptionally dusty, which is why the showering issue becomes important. There are early starts and long days in order to travel to see everything described. This is is a rewarding holiday but definitely not 'relaxing'. Read the trip notes. They are fairly accurate.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Our driver, Tegen, was also great. He was very skilled at driving us through the most challenging of 'roads', manoeuvring us through chaotic traffic jams and making the van do things that we did not think were possible. We were completely safe with him. 11/12 of us became ill at some point of the trip, all of us suffering from upset stomach and not feeling well. It lasted a day or two and did not spoil the trip.
  • Reviewed October 2018
    Paul Bacon

    Amazing views but hard work

    A great trip through the Simien mountains, with spectacular views

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing the baboons in their natural habitat as you walk past, you can watch them for hours they're so fascinating

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Messi and Suzie were great, and kept our spirits up even during the thunderstorms

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you bring waterproof liners for the kitbag. They arent very waterproof and when the rains hit, you know about it. Alot of our kit got soaked on the mules Also if on the group flight then try and fly out the night before and have an extra night before meeting the group. Due to flight times you land around 7am with little sleep on the plane, and the first few days are quite hectic. Alot of our group were tired from the flight. I know i would have appreciated a night before meeting the group to catch up on sleep

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The views are some of the best ive seen anywhere in the world. Its good to go after the rainy season as the fields are green and there is more plant life
  • Reviewed June 2018
    Graham Ritchie

    Great trip!

    A mostly enjoyable trip. Gebre was a great leader, very knowledgeable of his country and kept us away from trouble when there had been rioting on the road to Axum. He also managed not to lose any of his clients during the chaos surrounding Timkat!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The devotion of the participants in the Timkat festival. Whilst I appreciate Christine's comments re the locals being "shut out", many tourists would simply not go if they were prevented from observing the ceremony. I do however think that that overcrowding during and after the ceremony is an accident waiting to happen.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Excellent, knowledgeable, efficient, etc etc

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    don't travel if you are over 5' 9" - seriously the bus was too small and the group was too big (18 people plus leader, driver and assistant and luggage in a 23 seater).

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I would have liked a bit more physical activity, (maybe not as much as the Simien Mountain trek!)

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    We would like to thank Graham for his feedback. We were pleased to read that he had a great trip overall but we are very sorry that he found the bus to be too small. We appreciate that with a full group, the bus may have felt compact, but it is considered to be the best vehicle currently available for the tour. We have, however, decided to reduce the maximum group size down to 16 people to ensure that there is more space in the vehicle. John Penge – Product Manager

  • Reviewed February 2018
    Anonymous user

    Ethiopia in Depth

    Overall it was an excellent trip for those who enjoy exploring history, current culture, scenery and wild life and who are happy to spend at times many hours riding in mini buses sometimes over dirt roads. Welcome from local people was genuine, some begging, some bartering but never felt under pressure to buy or give money. Mountain scenery was amazing, historic churches and pre christian sites were fabulous and with relative few visitors competing for space, views and photos. Local food was interesting and European particularly Italian options were available for those less adventurous. Tour description of climbs to some of the Rock churches and mountain walks under-estimated the toughness but were worth the challenge for those who were fit enough. Hotels generally pretty good except in Harar and there were more cash machines available than tour description suggested. We saw no sign of political unrest although aware of difficulties due to government cutting off wi-fi as several points in the holiday.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    No one highlight. Walking in the Simien mountains, seeing the monasteries at Lake Tana, seeing the Stellae at Axum, seeing the castles at Gondar. Attending the camel market on route to Lalibela. Seeing the Lalibela rock churches.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Both leaders were good, in particular the overall leader who was very experienced and supported the group throughout the trip. Young leader in Harar was patient and new local area intimately. Given more opportunities he could eventually become an overall tour leader.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you are happy to take each day at a time you will have a wonderful trip. Debatable if best to travel between Axum and Lalibela by flight or by 12 hour mini bus ride?

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    18 in the group was really too large just in terms of the logistics but the group were all committed to punctuality and mixing so it was manageable. Ideally groups could be reduced to a max of 14 even if this meant increasing cost of the holiday.
  • Reviewed February 2018
    GRAHAM CLARKE

    ETHIOPIA IN DEPTH

    Kipling wrote of Burma to the effect that it was like no other country you have seen. Had he visited Ethiopia, and there is no evidence that he did, he might well have come to a similar conclusion; I did. Overall we had a very comprehensive insight into the country; taking in the fabulous and varied scenery, the religious settlements, the wildlife, food, markets and the way people live.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There was a WOW factor to most days even the 12 hour drive between Mekele and Lalibela which was punctuated with stops for photos and a visit to a camel market. We passed through some fabulous scenery at 11,500 feet. The trip on Lake Tana to visit monasteries, the walk amongst baboons in the Simiens. The rock churches of Lalibela were just amazing particularly when you consider when they were done and how. The mule trek up to Ashatan Maryam. We were a happy group: everyone got on with everyone else.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Gabre was excellent. A font of knowledge. He was communicative, patient, very much a people's person. Not forgetting our bus driver. I don't remember his name, but in addition to his excellent and safe driving skills ( he took the bus to places I would think twice about in a 4x4 ) he was similarly cheerful and communicative.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Get your visa either before you set off: the queues were long an slow. Do your homework. Read up as much as you can before you go on the various rock churches and other places of interest, you may find it difficult to absorb so much new information. I did and was glad I did. Take home some coffee.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    It was a great and memorable trip.
  • Reviewed February 2018
    Suzanne Thorne

    Ethiopia in depth

    This was the most amazing holiday. Our guide Gabre was excellent. Scenery was beautiful. We had a very good driver who negotiated some terrible roads with great care. Hotels were good considering it is such a poor country,pot luck sometimes . People were so friendly, which made the holiday for us. It is cool in the evening, jacket needed.Good strong trainers or walking shoes for very uneven surfaces around churches. Ethiopian airways were excellent. Ethiopian food is an acquired taste. !! One of our most memorable holidays.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The camel market ,the churches, the galada baboons and many more.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Excellent.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you have all jabs. Protect yourself against food Bourne illnesses. Take good shoes a WALKING stick. Jacket for the evening.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This was a memorable holiday in every way. Ethiopia has everything, I wish the country well in the future.
  • Reviewed February 2018
    hanna woskoboinik

    Ethiopia

    the trip was well organize and the tour leader was very good. I understand that u contract a local tour operator and I wished u would have checked the hotel before. I understand it is not a luxury trip and this is my 4 trip with Exodus but i must say theta i was very disappointed with the some of the accommodation. Lake Tana is beautiful but the hotel is the worst I ever stay and I travel the world. the hotel had mold wholes in the walls could not wait to get out of the place. you should check the hotels before u accept a tour operator. even in Ethiopia there are better hotels. some of the hotel did not have hot water like in Gondar and when i complain the Luke warm water was for them hot water after a day of travelling one wants a shower not a cold one. I wish u would have given the option to fly to lailibela as it was a waist of a day in horrible conditions. i will have to think hard if i will take another trip with Exodus.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    the churches

    What did you think of your group leader?

    excellent

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    We would like to thank Hanna for her feedback, however we regret that she was disappointed with the accommodation in Ethiopia. We do mention in the trip notes that Ethiopia is a developing country and that there may occasionally be no hot water. While we endeavour to manage expectations that the accommodation may be basic in places on this tour, at the beginning of each season we use client and staff feedback to review each property with our local manager; if any concerns are raised by clients throughout the year these will be addressed and dealt with accordingly. We have discussed Hanna’s concerns with our local manager and will keep an eye on feedback.

    John Penge – Product Manager for Ethiopia

     

  • Reviewed February 2018
    Christine Glossop

    Ethiopia in Depth Timkat Festival

    An incredible country: its history, geography and people!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Mule trek up the mountain to monastery, with highly skilled and patient individual guide ,stopped me falling several times. Views all around were amazing. met some lovely local people.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Gebre: Fantastic. Extensive knowledge in many different areas, well read, intelligent, and clear interesting presentations and discussions on a wide range of topics. Took first class and courteous care of us, and dealt calmly and professionally with all problems that arose whether small or large.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If anyone has doubts about taking the mule trek on the final day, with the steep slippery paths to deal with when walking, the guides who lead the mules are also there to help tourists on the walks. Each tourist can have their own individual guide to literally hold your hand, arm, or whatever help you need. They are expert, gentle, and watch you all the time to make sure you are safe [see above]. Well worth the few dollars payment. Before the holiday I was really unsure whether I could cope with this trek. Had I known about the guides I would have had no hesitation, and it proved to be the highlight of the holiday.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Timkat Baptism festival was extraordinary. But some of us felt uncomfortable that the tourists were given the only/ best seating to watch the whole event, while all the local people were not allowed to enter the arena and had to stand behind a wall so could not see what was happening. This is their festival and has significant religious meaning for them, while for the tourists it is just a show. Even our guide was not allowed in as he did not have the necessary badge. I did feel the locals got their own back on the tourists in the end, as we all got sprayed +++ by water! However on balance I feel that the local people should take priority over tourists, even if it means we don't get to see it. Also, re mule trek [see above]. Please add in the trip notes the availability of individual guides to help with the walking as well as with the mules. Woul.d have saved a lot of worry!
  • Reviewed February 2018
    Seema Aggarwal

    Ethiopia Timkat

    Excellent guide Reasonable accommodation Coach could have been better

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Our guide’s knowledge and patience The friendliness of the Ethiopian people

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Excellent

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Excellent trip covering all areas of Ethiopia

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Transport was too basic. 18 was too large a group.
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