Ethiopia (November-December 2013)

Trek from Korem to Tenta via Muja and Magdala, Rock-Hewn Churches of Tigray, Monday Market in Bati, Gambela

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My main goal for this trip was a two-week trek from Korem (a town located on the road between Addis Ababa and Mekele, just south of Lake Hashenge) to Tenta, via the small town of Muja and the historical site of Magdala (see first map below).

 

Prior to this trek I visited four rock-hewn churches in Tigray near the town of Wukro, north of Tigray′s capital Mekele: Mikael Imba, Mikael Melehayzenghi, Abuna Yemata Guh, and Debre Maryam Korkor (see second map below). I had already visited the later two in 1973 (see here) and it is interesting to compare the photos taken during those two 40-year-apart trips

 

Following the trek I stopped in Bati, a small town located at the junction between the Ethiopian highlands and the Afar depression (Danakil desert), in order to see the Monday market. This ethnically diverse and vibrant market attracts Afars (Danakils) from the east, Oromos from the south, and Amharas from the west (Ethiopian highlands). Then I returned to Addis Ababa and flew to Gambela in western Ethiopia, near the border with South Sudan, for a short visit.

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Trek from Korem to Tenta via Muja and Magdala:

The map on the right shows 41 waypoints along the trek between Korem and Tenta. These waypoints indicate the locations of our 12 campsites, as well as of other features (villages, markets, river crossings, ...).

 

Click here to see the waypoints in Google Earth.

 

Click the links below to see photos of the various parts of the trek:

-             Korem to Camp 2

-             Camp 2 to Camp 4 (Muja)

-             Camp 4 (Muja) to Camp 6

-             Camp 6 to Camp 9

-             Camp 9 to Camp 10

-             Camp 10 to Magdala

-             Magdala to Tenta

 

 

 

 

A car arranged by Solomon Berhe (see below) drove me from Tenta to Bati. On the way we stopped at Gishen Maryam (also called Gishen Debre Kerbe), one of the most revered monasteries in Ethiopia (waypoint 42 in the map). It is the site of a major religious festival (Meskel, Finding of the True Cross) at the end of September. A legend says that it hides a piece of the cross on which Jesus was crucified. An actual fact, however, is that the monastery has been built on top of a cross-shaped amba (flat-topped mountain), as can be seen in the aerial picture below.

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Rock-Hewn Churches of Tigray:

The map on the right shows the location of the four rock-hewn churches that I visited during this trip: Mikael Imba, Mikael Melehayzenghi, Abuna Yemata Guh, and Debre Maryam Korkor.

 

When I traveled in this region in 1973, there were very few roads and I had to hike all the way from Wukro to Abuna Yemata Guh. Now, access to most churches requires no or little hiking. On this trip, however, I chose to hike from Abuna Yemata Guh to Debre Maryam Korkor. This is a very pleasant 3-hour hike with gorgeous views over the Gheralta mountain and a short rock-climbing challenge (a couple of hard moves, perhaps 5.7, without protection) along the way.

 

Click the links below to see photos of the churches and their surroundings:

-      Mikael Imba and Mikael Melehayzenghi

-      Abuna Yemata Guh and Maryam Korkor

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Monday Market in Bati:

Click the links below to see photos of the market:

-      People and camels

-      Market scenes

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Gambela:

Click the link below to see photos of the Gambela area:

-         Gambela

 

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Solomon Berhe:

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Solomon Berhe did arrange most of the logistics for this trip (transportation, support team). He also provided a considerable amount of information about the trek itinerary. Solomon had already helped me for two previous trips in April-May 2012 and in March 2013. He provides superior services, not only on key issues (such as reliability and punctuality), but also on all kinds of small details that make me comfortable. For example, following his instructions, his drivers never exceed 80km/h, even (especially?) on asphalted roads. This is much appreciated in a country where roads are notoriously dangerous. Even more important, Solomon is not just a tour company owner and manager. As a bird watcher himself, he travels extensively across all regions of Ethiopia, where he develops numerous local connections. So, he has first-hand experience of the joy and sometimes hardship of outdoor adventures.

 

Support team during the trek:

The support team arranged by Solomon for the trek consisted of Gebru, Gebrehiwet, and Dirar. All of them are from northern Tigray: Gebru and Gebrehiwet are from Adwa and Dirar from Axum. Gebru (Solomon′s brother) was the team leader and Gebrehiwet was the cook. Dirar was the only member of the team to speak English.

 

Gebru and Gebrehiwet had already trekked with me for one month in April 2012. Although they do not speak English and I do not speak Amharic, we understand each other quite well, and a genuine friendship has developed between us.

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Gebru

Gebrehiwet

Dirar

 

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