horse riding adventure Ethiopia
horse riding holiday Ethiopia
horseback vacation Ethiopia
horseback adventure Ethiopia
exploring Ethiopia on horseback
horse riding Ethiopian mountains
Ethipoia holiday
Ethiopia trails on horseback
horse riding holiday Ethiopia
horse riding holiday Ethiopia

Discover the Ethiopian Highlands on this horseback vacation. Riding is in traditional style on local horses, ascending from a starting point of 2400m through various eco-systems and dramatic scenery. As the horseback trail climbs, the vegetation changes and gradually leaves behind the traditional villages that characterize the lower slopes. Visit the National Park which is inhabited by many rare endemic species of wildlife and traversed by the semi-nomadic Oromo people. Here, horseback riders can see the rare Abyssinian Wolf, Menelik's Bushbuck, Mountain Nyala and many more. Encounter nomadic Oromos with their herds of cattle, goats and sheep. Draped in capacious white shawls, they cross the vast horizon on their seemly inexhaustible horses. Slender and fine-featured, they were semi-nomadic pastoralists, traditionally horsemen who use their horses as mounts or as draft/pack animals.

To complete the visit of Ethiopia with we visit Lalibela, a religious treasure unique in the world, The site embraces several dozen churches cut into the rock, still frequented with fervor by Coptic Christians. This is an adventure of a lifetime for intermediate horseback riders  onwards.

Read a personal account of this trip by David LO Smith.

Read an article on the Ethiopian Highlands from Selamate Magazine
Read an article on the peoples of Ethiopia from Selamate Magazine

Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.

Review received from LV of Clifton on 17/12/2019

Ride Summary
The scenery was beautiful and I enjoyed being very remote. It was also interesting (and sad) to see how the local people lived.
What was your overall impression of the holiday
Overall impression
Unicorn Trails sales staff

Riding tour leader

Additional Comments
Hussen was excellent overall. Abdi was excellent.
Horses and Tack

Additional Comments
Apparently I had very bad luck with the horse assignments on this trip. All of mine were slow and most required whipping from behind by the horsemen to do anything more than walk.
Meals

Accommodation

Miscellaneous

Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
NO
Please give more details to explain your response:
The itinerary and "Final Details" needs updating. For example, we camped the second night instead of staying in a hotel as indicated on the itinerary. There was no opportunity to charge electronics in the van or take a shower in the mountain huts. No pelicans or flamingos to be seen at Shalla National Park from the chosen stopping points.
Was there anything you should have known and were not told? YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
See above
What could we do to improve this ride?
Find a way for the horsemen on the first 5 days of the trip to ride with us rather than walk behind us. I found this uncomfortable - like a privileged white princess riding while the natives walked behind. The last 3 days of the trip the horsemen rode with us instead of walked and this felt much better. Camping equipment also needs to be replaced and be suitable for below freezing conditions. My assigned tent was all mesh and very cold.
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
8
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
I would rate the last 3 days as an "8" because of unexpected downhill canters and fast riding over terrain covered in rodent holes. The guide on the last 3 days of the trip often rode out very far ahead of the group and never warned when we were about canter or gallop. I would rate the first 5 days as a "6" because of some very steep, rocky, and muddy inclines.
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
Please give more details to explain your response:
May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
YES
Unicorn comments: Thank you for your feedback. Glad you enjoyed the trip! :) We are updating the itinerary etc. accordingly. This is the nature of adventure trips of this level - level 4 states riders must be flexible, good humoured and fit.

Standard Itinerary

Day 1 - 17 November 2024

Fly from London to Addis Ababa, arrival in Addis Ababa the following morning.

Day 2 -   18 November 2024
Arrive in Addis Ababa in the morning to be met by a representative/guide and be transferred to Debre Damo Hotel (4*) or similar for check-in. After lunch there will be a half day of sight-seeing including the National Museum to see different archaeological findings, including "Lucy", the 3.5 million years old skeleton. The group will be driven to a panoramic viewpoint of the city from Entoto Mountain (3200m) before visiting "Mercato", one of the largest open-air markets in Africa. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 3 -  19 November 2024
This morning starts with a 6-hour drive through the Ethopian Great Rift valley, stopping en route at Lake Langano for lunch before continuing to Dodola. Overnight in Bale Mountain Motel (or similar)

Day 4 - 20 November 2024
From Dodola, drive 30km to the Changiti forest edge  (2400m) where the horses are waiting. Start the trail in the forest, surrounded by exotic bird sounds and colobus monkeys jumping from tree to tree. When reaching the Tarura Plain  there is a chance to gallop The Ethiopian horses are not used to the same signals as European horses, however it is not difficult to control them. En-route stop at Wahoro hut for a brief break before reaching Angafu Via Tulu tute at 3750m to be rewarded with an astounding view. In the afternoon there is a short walk along the ridge to Delume. Overnight at the Angafu Eco-hut (or similar).
5hrs riding.

Day 5 - 21 November 2024
After breakfast the group starts the 5-6 hour ride to Mololicho hut traveling through various terrains. Plants that may be considerd shrubs in Europe, grow into towering trees in this environment. At 3400m the route leaves the forest and becomes the great afro-alpine humid meadows,with its undulating territory spiked with wild hyacinth and giant Lobelias looking oddly like palms. These thrive at 3100 to 4300 metres and can reach 2 or 3 metres in height. This sometimes 'lunar landscape'  is reminicent of the tundra with its cushions of lichen and its lava flows.  A multitude of rodent species live here - a bonus for many kinds of predators, including eagles, buzzards, falcons and Abyssinian wolves, the rarest canines in the world. About 600 survive here in the Bale plateau. November is the whelping season for Abyssinian wolves. Overnight at the Mololicho refuge hut. (6hrs riding)

Day 6 - 22 November 2024
Today's ride takes around seven hours through mainly Erica vegetation. Carpets of yellow flowers make the riding extremely attractive and offers wonerdul views. On your way to Duro, riders cross the Meribo river and walk the final stretch to Meribo (the trails are not suitable for horses). Take a late afternoon walk along the ridge and become immersed in the scenery before dinner. This is a chance to meet the villagers and witness their traditional coffee ceremony. Overnight Duro refuge.

Day 7 - 23 November 2024
Today heads to Morba (3750m) on a full-day ride through different heathers and vast plains. Along the way, riders may be lucky enough to spot the fawn coloured Abyssinian wolves (harmless to people). The Berenda ridge falls away abruptly from an altitude of 3600m.Take a break at the Habera waterfall before continuing to Moroba. Today is the longest day with 8 hrs of riding in total. Overnight Anjenje Refuge.

Day 8 - 24 November 2024
The ride now continues within the Bale Mountain National Park. Skirting spectacular lava flows, cross the last pass to the wide Morobawa Valley with its infinite views. 5:30hr riding.

Day 9 - 25 November 2024  Ride along the river valley, ideal for the occaisional gallop. Pass small groups of Oromo families on the way to the market, or moving their cattle. Overnight camping at Sodota in a valley dotted with lobelias, an excellent site for observing the Abyssinian wolves. 5hr riding.

Day 10 - 26 November 2024
Leave the Wasem river valley which is inhabited by troops of baboons, before riding up into more canyons that form a giant amphitheatre before heading onto the basaltic plateaus at 4000 m. A  valley leads to the wild mountains, the highest land mass in the area.  Camp overnight at Wasama. 6hr riding.

Day 11 - 27 November 2024
This morning the trail leads to Gebre Guracha (Black Lake), home of many endemic bird species, particularly water birds such as Pelican and White Collared Pigeon. Ride to the Saneti Plateau, also known as the island in the air. Prepare for the cold as Saneti is at an altitude of 4000m and is often shrouded in fog with a rare sparking blue-sky. Keep a look out for red fox and warthog. Pass through a forest of hagenias and African junipers, on path bordered by yellow flowers and bright red Kniphobias which cover the slopes of the hills. This is the edge of the Bale mountains. At 4000m the air is fresh and clear, and weather permitting, riders have unrestricted 360 degree views, the most spectacular being toward the South where the Herenna escarpment plunges more than 2000m towards a vast tropical forest extending all the way to Kenya.  Overnight camping at Saneti. 7hr riding.

Day 12 - 28 November 2024
4WD cars will transport riders via Goba and Dinsho, the headquarters of the Bale National Park, then to Shashemene. Arrive late afternoon at the hotel at Lake Langano and a swim in the mineral waters.

Day 13 - 29 November 2024
On the way back to Addis Ababa, visit the Abjata and Shalla National Park to view thousands of flamingos, pelicans and other water birds. Late afternoon there is time for shopping and sightseeing or free time to relax. Farewell dinner will be at the best traditional restaurant in town complete with a coffee ceremony and cultural dancing. Overnight Saro Mari Hotel (or similar)

Day 14 - 30 November 2024
Transfer to the airport for the flight home. 


Lalibela Extension  - This option requires an arrival 3 days prior to the standard itinerary.

Day 1 - 14 November 2024
Fly from London to Addis Ababa, arrival in Addis Ababa the following morning.

Day 2 - 15 November 2024
Morning arrival in the capital, Addis Ababa. Riders will be met at the airport and transferred for the flight from Addis Ababa to Lalibela (2hrs). Upon arrival transfer to the Lal Hotel (or similar), and start to visit of the 12 rock hewn churches of Saint Lalibela  Chruches from the 1st group : Bete Medhanialem, Bete Mariam, Bete Denagel, Beta Meskal and the "double-church" of Debre Sina and Bete Michael in which the "Selassie"-chapel (Trinity-chapel) is integrated.
Overnight at the hotel.

Day 3 - 16 November 2024
Visit of the 2nd Group of churches:
The "double-church" of Bete Gebreel and Bete Rufael, then Bete Marquorios, the Bete Emanuel in the Axumite style and at last the church Abba Libanos. Finally the group will visit the separately located and well-known church of Bete Giorghis, the St. George Church. Visit the village of Lalibela and the local market.In the afternoon. (Lalibela was founded in the 10th century and the rock hewn churches were planned and carved out of the rock by King Lalibela in the 12th and 13th century)
Overnight at the hotel.

Day 4 - 17 November 2024
After breakfast transfer to the airport for the return flight. Upon arrival in Addis, transfer to Debre Damo Hotel (or similar) to meet and join the group for sightseeing tour of Addis Ababa. Meet with the rest of the group who have not opted to take the Lalibela extension on day 2 of the standard itinerary. Continue on the standard itinerary.

Background to community tourism in Bale:
The horse riding portion of our trip comprises 8 days riding, combining the populated mountain slopes of the Bale Highlands and then 4 days in Bale National Park. Trekking in the Bale Mountains is not only nature tourism, but a living example of sustainable tourism, run by local communities and local people.
The northern slopes of the Bale Mountains adjacent to the  National Park contain significant wildlife and natural resource that need protection. In the forest itself, there are about 4,000 scattered homesteads, where cattle, sheep and goats provide the major basis of subsistence. Horses are the major means of transport. and donkeys are widely used in the plains, but the chilly and moist highlands are only suitable for horses. Honey production is an important sideline activity in the forests. More and more fields are being opened up in the forest. This is partly due to the ever-increasing population density.
In 1995 the Governments of Ethiopia and Germany started a co-operative effort to conservation of natural forests in the Oromia Region of Ethiopia- participatory, community-based forest management was started.

How it works:
The core element of the strategy is to grant exclusive usage rights to the local community to keep “illegal” outside wood collectors out of the forest. Tree growing outside the natural forest is supported to reduce the pressure “common property”. For the forest dwellers and alternative income to wood collection is encouraged and the main such income source is tourism.
All tourism in the region comes through the forest users group union (representing the large community) and a locally owned and run Tour Guides’ Association and payments go directly to them. The fees include a tourist tax consisting of 20 percent of the bed charges which contribute to upgrading social infrastructures such as village schools.
Each day a new team of horses and assistants are hired from the local community to ensure that each community (and not only the ones at the foot of the mountains) gain from tourism. Assistants are there to bring the horses back after arrival at a forest camp. The next day new horses and assistant(s) are hired from the next community. Unicorn Trails’ rental payments include food for the horses each day.
The communities also operate 4 Mountain huts. Services of these mountain huts are paid directly to the operators appointed by the local community. Dodola is at an altitude of 2,400 metres and the four basic lodges/huts (Wahoro, Angafu, Adele and Mololicho) and one tented campsite (Cangity) in the trekking area are at an altitude of up to 3,400 metres. Each location has its own characteristic scenery and flavour.
The 40-square metre huts are divided into a main room and 2 bedrooms with bunk beds for up to 8 visitors. Bed sheets, sleeping bags, blankets, towels, stoves, basic kitchenware, crockery, cutlery and kerosene lamps are all provided. An outside annex offers flushable toilets and a hot shower unit.
The quality and standard of the accommodation is aimed at trekking tourists; frequently visitors are amazed to find such well established facilities in the middle of the highland forests. If, however, you prefer, you can bring your own tent, pitch it up next to the hut and use the facilities. (I would recommend this as the beds had fleas!! But do pay your 5 birr for the hot showers – well worth while!)
The direct recipients of the visitors' payments are the various service providers (guides, camp keepers, horse providers etc.). The IFMP has now handed over all the tourism operations, including bookings, to locally organized guide associations who are closely working with the forest users group union.
Tourism income since 1995 has led to a greatly increased level of wealth in the communities resulting in, amongst others, a 4 year increase in school leaving age in the area.
 
During the National Park portion of the trek all fees go directly to the National Park and it’s conservation efforts. The horses on this portion belong to the National Park and you ride the same horse for the last 4 days. There are no permanent dwellers in the national park but the nomadic Oromo with their herds of cattle and sheep have roaming rights. We encounter these nomadic dwellers on their horses during this part of the tour.
 

It is possible to run this ride for small groups of 2 riders onwards. If the minimum number of 5 is not reached riders who have booked will be given to go ahead with the ride if they are willing to pay the supplements indicated. If they do not wish to pay the supplement a full refund will be given.


Reading List
We're avid readers here at Unicorn Trails and have selected several books connected to this ride. If you're interested in reading more about the area before you travel, or want to get into the cultural background, here are some suggestions that may inspire you. Click on the links for more information.

The Barefoot Emperor; An Ethiopian Tragedy - Philip Marsden
The Pale Abyssinian; The Life of James Bruce - Miles Bredin

Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.

Horses & Riding

The horses are the same as those used by the Oromo tribe. Oromos horses are distantly related to Arabs, though on average a little smaller (the largest being about 15hh). They have a good nature and are confident, sure-footed (they are ridden unshod) forward-going, docile, and sweet tempered.

Riders will discover the Ethiopian riding style, with a single rein, no bit, and mounting from the right – one gets used to this quickly. The traditional saddle is fortunately provided with a padded cushion, although bringing a seat saver will add comfort. We recommend bringing your own stirrup leathers and irons as the local style are often too narrow for western boots and the leathers cannot be altered.


Rider requirements

Riders must be of an adventurous nature, fit and able to ride for up to 8 hours on one day, preferably have some experience of camping, able to mount and dismount unaided, and at ease at a walk, trot and canter.
Novice riders can be accommodated on separate dates on slightly adapted routes.

It is essential you are in good physical condition to do this ride; you will be riding into an altitude reaching 4,200m but with gradual acclimatisation. There are some long hours in the saddle that demand a fair amount of endurance and some walking on steep ground. There are no drop offs.

This is an adventurous trip with untold rewards for those fit and flexible enough to come!

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 187 lb/85 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

Accommodation in Addis Ababa is in a 4-star hotel with double rooms and hot showers.

During the ride the group sleeps in two-man modern lightweight dome tents provided with foam mattresses.

On some nights mountain huts are available. These have a capacity of 8 persons. The local villagers manage these huts and will come to prepare the traditional “injera” or coffee for the group. The refuge huts also have a toilet and bucket shower available.

Meals are in local restaurants or picnics during the vehicle portions of the trip. Meals are prepared by a cook and his assistants during the rides. Baggage is carried by pack horses in the Bale mountains, and by 4X4 in the Oromo region.


Vegetarian or other dietary requirements within reason can be accommodated with advance notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests before booking.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip.

NB: Be sure to check the COVID status of the country you plan to visit including entry procedures and requirements while travelling.

Visitors must obtain a visa from the official Ethiopian e-visa platform or from their nearest Ethiopian Embassy before travelling. You will need to show a valid visa before boarding your flight and upon entry. Visas are no longer available on arrival.

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Ethiopia. Make sure you have two blank pages in your passport on arrival.

Passport and Visa requirements can change regularly depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country.

Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate should you need a visa.

In the UK the British Foreign Office gives advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/ethiopia

In the US: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Ethiopia.html

In Canada: https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/ethiopia

Climate Summary

Ethiopia's seasons are reversed. Spring begins in September and summer runs from January to mid-March. The first rainy season lasts from February to Apriland a more substantial rainy season lasts from June to September.
The major portion of the country consists of a high plateau, which results in a mild, sunny climate. There are months of guaranteed sunshine, yet the altitude keeps the climate bearable with upland temperatures remaining steady.

Climate Chart

Health

COVID: Be sure to check the latest COVID regulations for travelling in any country you visit.

Please refer to your country’s latest health guideline for travel in Ethiopia and contact your own GP for up to date advice on vaccinations and prophylaxis prior to travel.

Health authorities have classified Ethiopia as having a risk of Zika virus transmission.

Malaria is common in areas of the country below 2,000 metres above sea level. Addis Ababa sits at 2,400m but a number of sites popular with tourists are below 2,000m.

Bilharzia is present in the vast majority of lakes in Ethiopia - you should check before swimming.

Water-borne diseases are common. Drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks.

Please refer to your country’s latest health guideline for travel in Ethiopia and contact your own GP for up to date advice on vaccinations and prophylaxis prior to travel.



Health (ride specific)

An indispensable preliminary is a visit to the doctor for a check up and inform him you will be undertaking activity at altitude. A visit to your dentist is advised.

At the time of the Bale ride the altitude ensures that we are in zones where mosquitoes are very rare, hence there is little risk of Malaria or Yellow Fever. This is also true for Lalibela at the time of our trip. However Yellow Fever inoculation and malarial protection remains advised if you are travelling to the Ethiopian lowlands (not Lalibela).

Be up-to-date with the following vaccination: diphtheria, tetanus, polio myelitis, typhoid. Consult your doctor for definitive up to date advice and his/her consideration of Hepatitis A and B, and Meningitis.
Please take along sun cream and anti-allergy medicine for possible insect bites.

Water-borne diseases are common. Drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks

Electricity

In Ethiopia the supply voltage is 220V. If the appliance is a single voltage rated appliance, it will need to operate at the same voltage as the supply voltage of the country i.e. 220V. If this is not the case it should be used alongside a voltage transformer or converter to allow the appliance to work safely and properly.

Mobile, WiFi and charging

There is electricity in hotels but not on the camping portion of the trip. We advise taking enough batteries or solar chargers (these work well as there is plenty of strong sunshine). On occasion you can recharge in the vehicles in use during the trip (12volts).
There is good mobile coverage in populated areas but not on the Bale Plateau portion (4 days).

Packing List

Baggage is limited to 20kg, all of it in one or two strong, flexible bags (not suitcases). Please no hard bits (e.g. wheels) as the bags will be tied together and put onto pack horses. As always we recommend you put your camera equipment, glasses, medications and any other items you cannot manage without into your cabin baggage in case of loss of baggage on your International flight.

On horseback, use a bumbag for small objects to be carried by hand, and a daypack/backpack to carry your water, lunch and rain clothes. No saddlebags are available – the saddles are not adapted for these.
Stirrup leathers & irons - local irons are generally narrow and leathers adjustable.
You can, however, leave some articles in the back up vehicle.
In all circumstances, whether on horseback, in camp, or hiking, wear reasonably sober and conservative clothing (no deep cut necklines, short shorts or mini skirts) in order not to offend local sensibilities. Ethiopia is an essentially Muslim country.
Take high altitude clothing for fresh to very cold nights (temperatures below zero at altitude). Days have strong sunshine at altitude so good sunblock.
A four seasons sleeping bag with either silk or fleece lining
Sleeping matts are provided although some people like to bring their own)
T shirts and blouses – 1 or 2 with long sleeves.
1 or 2 jumpers
Several pairs of jods or riding trousers
Light clothing for warmer regions (shorts, sandals)
Warm nightwear and undergarments
A padded jacket
A wind breaker and/or waterproof 2 piece (the rainy season ends in October but there is always a risk of rain in the mountains)
Walking boots and chaps
Comfortable shoes to change into for evening/after riding
A wide brimmed sun hat
Hat, scarf and gloves for cold weather
Sunglasses
High factor sunscreen and lip salve
An eye wash as it can be dusty
Water bottle
Toilet paper
Pocket knife, electric torch, batteries (or wind up torch)
Your usual medications, aspirin, eye wash, wet wipes, immodium, wide-spectrum antibiotics, mosquito repellent, medication for altitude sickness (Diamox – on GP advice only)

Programmes

Set date once yearly in November. Private tours for groups of 4 or more can be arranged in the dry season from November to February - 14d /13n /8d riding

Departure Dates

2024: 17 - 30 November or on request

Pricing
No single supplement is charged if the rider is willing to share with someone of the same sex, and a sharer can be found.

Please note that the basic price is based on group of 5 riders. Please enquire for further information.

No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
2024 Lalibela Extension4d/3n0double pp929
2024 Lalibela Extension4d/3n0single supplement95
2024 Abyssinian Explorer 15d/14n8double pp3,355
2024 Abyssinian Explorer 15d/14n8single supplement309
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
2024 Lalibela Extension4d/3n0double pp1,085
2024 Lalibela Extension4d/3n0single supplement109
2024 Abyssinian Explorer 15d/14n8double pp3,919
2024 Abyssinian Explorer 15d/14n8single supplement359
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description US $
2024 Lalibela Extension4d/3n0double pp1,209
2024 Lalibela Extension4d/3n0single supplement125
2024 Abyssinian Explorer 15d/14n8double pp4,379
2024 Abyssinian Explorer 15d/14n8single supplement405
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
2024 Lalibela Extension4d/3n0double pp12,819
2024 Lalibela Extension4d/3n0single supplement1,305
2024 Abyssinian Explorer 15d/14n8double pp46,345
2024 Abyssinian Explorer 15d/14n8single supplement4,265
Recommended Reading

The Barefoot Emperor: An Ethiopian Tradgedy by Philip Marsden The Pale Abyssinian: The Life of James Bruce by Miles Bredin


Wildlife

You should see the rare Abyssianian Fox (also know as the Ethiopian Wolf) and the giant mole rats and other rodents they hunt, on the Bale Plateau. The large number of rat holes mean the pace can be slow in areas they populate. The Bale Mountains are home to over 282 species of birds, including 9 of the 16 species endemic to Ethiopia. Furthermore, over 170 migratory birds have been recorded within the park. Bale Mountains National Park is home to almost every highland Abyssinian and Ethiopian endemic. Due to the diversity and density of rodents, the Bale Mountains are also an extremely important area for resident as well as wintering and passing raptors.

Other Information

Ancient Abyssinia bears witness to the geological genesis of the planet, and also the origins of mankind. Lucy, the oldest humanoid skeleton was found in Ethiopia and a visit to the Ethnographic Museum of Addis Ababa is included in the tour.

Amongst the many ecosystems of Ethiopia, that of the Highlands of the Bale plateau is one of the most remarkable because of its exceptional diversity, and offers us 8 days on horseback across a most unusual countryside. Formed of great volcanic masses thrown up before even the African Rift was formed, remodelled by glacial periods, isolated and scarred by deep valleys, the Bale massif is a natural sanctuary for numbers of plant and animal species; high rainforest, humid heathlands with giant heather where also flowers the endemic Giant Lobelia, refuge for rare species such as the Nyala Antelope and the Abyssinian Wolf.

The sparse inhabitants of the Bale are Oromos people, the most numerous ethnicity among the 80 peoples who make up Ethiopia. They have a long history of equestrianism and are delighted when outsiders show an interest in their horses and lifestyles here on the "roof of Africa".

In bygone days redoubtable warriors would take part with other nilotic peoples in the practice of initiation ceremonies, and a social organisation according to age. Islamic or Christian, they nonetheless adhere to their rites, their traditional social organistaion and their belief in a creator-god: Wak.
Draped in capacious white shawls, they cross the vast horizons on their inexhaustible horses. Slender and fine-featured, they were semi-nomadic pastoralists, traditionally horsemen who use their horses as mounts or as draft/pack animals according to need. We will meet them guarding their herds of cattle, goats and sheep, or watering them at some salinated mineral stream.

To the North of Addis Ababa we disover Lalibela, also known as the Black Jerusalem. A religious treasure unique

Other Country Information

Ethiopia is twice the size of France. It is landlocked, sharing borders with Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan. It is divided into nine ethnic-based regions plus the capital, Addis Ababa and the city administration of Dire Dawa. It covers an area of 1.13 million sq km (437,794 sq miles) and has a population: 74.2 million (UN, 2005).

For much of the 20th century Ethiopia was ruled by Haile Selassie. His long rule ended with the Ethiopian Revolution of 1974. Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam emerged as the leader of the Provisional Military Administrative Council (known as the Derg) in 1977. He established a brutal Marxist dictatorship that evolved into an authoritarian communist system dominated by the Worker's Party of Ethiopia. Ethiopia was wracked by civil war for most of the Derg period. The population experienced massive human rights abuse and intense economic hardship, including acute famine. The Derg was overthrown in May 1991 when rebels of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) captured Addis Ababa.

Meles Zenawi took the leadership. In a decisive break with Ethiopia's tradition of centralised rule, the new institutions are based on the principle of ethnic federalism, designed to provide self-determination and autonomy to Ethiopia's different ethnic groups. Meles Zenawi's Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) won bitterly contested elections in May 2005, despite a swing to the opposition. The win paved the way for his third five-year stint as prime minister.

Ethiopia's economy revolves around agriculture, which in turn relies on rainfall. The country is one of Africa's leading coffee producers.

Bale Mountains is the true ancestral home of the Oromo-speaking farmers and cattle herders, the largest single ethnic group in the Horn of Africa. Living as pastoralists and farmers, the population grew quite quickly and expanded to different corners of the country beginning in the 16th century. Currently people subsist mainly on agriculture. They follow a traditional transhumance system know as the Godantu system, where livestock, particularly cattle, are sent to higher grazing grounds during the months when crops are growing in lower altitudes or into the forest for shade during the dry season. Bale houses are circular in shape and locally referred to as “Mana citaa.” Juniper and sometimes Eucalyptus are used to make the walls and roof. The roof is covered with thatched grass cut from “citaa” (tussock grass) or stubble, especially barley, and supported by a wooden pillar, which stands in the middle of the floor. The house is divided into portions by walls made of bamboo or mud mixed with stubble of barley or grass. You should come across several in your journey through the Bale Mountains.

On a more practical note Ethiopia uses the metric weights measures system so kilograms and kilometres rather than pounds and miles. It is 3 hours ahead of GMT and the international dialling code: +251.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Addis Ababa (ADD)
Transfer:
Included from Addis Ababa. Transfer time is approximately 20 minutes
Flight Guide:
London - Addis Ababa from £500 pp return
Internal flights included in Lalibela Extension
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