The Simien Mountains Trek Trip Notes

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Last Modified: 25 Jun 2014
The Simien Mountains Trek
Trip code: YZXE
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2015
The Simien is arguably the most beautiful mountain range in Africa. Vast and unique, the highland plateau is capped by a dramatic skyline of jagged volcanic plugs and split by deep gorges and gullies. The views across this landscape are breathtaking: the striking towers and formations having been described as 'the chess pieces of the Gods'. Our trek takes us to both the highland and rural lowland areas, with an ascent of Ras Dashen, the highest peak in Ethiopia at 4543m, and the fourth highest in Africa. A haven to many endemic species of wildlife and flora, including the Gelada Baboon and Walia Ibex, the Simien National Park has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The operator for this trip is our experienced sister company Exodus. Your group will therefore be a mixture of Intrepid booked passengers and other international like-minded travellers.
Table of Contents
StyleGroup sizeEmergency funds
ThemesYour fellow travellersVisas
MapSingle travellersIssues on your trip
ItineraryAccommodationHealth
Culture shock rating MealsSafety
Physical ratingTransportTravel insurance
Money ExchangeJoining point Responsible Travel
Spending moneyArrival complicationsA couple of rules
TippingFinish point The Intrepid Foundation
Important notesEmergency contactFeedback
Style
Basix
  • The best value journeys on the planet! On a Basix trip you can expect amazing experiences, but none of the inclusions that you may not want. Which means budget (1-2 star) accommodation, plenty of free time, activities that are optional and the freedom to choose meals to suit your budget. On some trips you may be camping and required to set up your own tent. You'll also have access to a group leader to offer advice and help you uncover the region's hidden gems. On a Basix journey, the way you travel is all a part of the adventure. Depending on the destination and the itinerary, you could find yourself travelling on anything from a donkey to a bus or a private safari vehicle. These trips are ideal for first-time travellers seeking fun and independence with the support of a group leader. They're also ideal for independent travellers looking to make the most of their travel time with minimum hassle and maximum experiences.
Themes
Walking
Map

Itinerary
Day 1 Addis Ababa
Teanastellen! Welcome to Ethiopia.
Your trip normally begins at the hotel in the morning of day 1. Details of how to reach the start point are provided in the final joining instructions - sent approximately two weeks before departure. These instructions will also include information about where and what time to meet the group.
Referred to more commonly as "Addis", Addis Ababa lies amongst wooded hills at an altitude of about 2300 metres, giving it a pleasant climate. Addis has many sights to offer visitors. Get a fascinating glimpse into Ethiopia's many tribal groups at the Ethnological Museum, see the stunning fossil collection at the National Museum, and don't miss the chaotic bustle of the Merkato (local market). All manner of arts and crafts can be found in the souvenir shops on Churchill Avenue.
In the afternoon we will take a sightseeing tour that takes us to the Ethnographic Museum and the Church of the Trinity, where Haile Selassie's remains now lie.
ALTITUDE SICKNESS:
Parts of your trip go above 2800 metres / 9200 feet where it is common for travellers to experience some adverse health effects due to the altitude - regardless of your age, gender and fitness. It even happened to Sir Edmund Hillary!
Before your trip: Some pre-existing medical conditions are known to severely worsen at high altitude and be difficult to adequately treat on the ground, leading to more serious consequences. It is imperative that you discuss your pre-existing medical condition/s with your doctor. We understand certain medications are reported to aid acclimatising to high altitude. Please discuss these options with your doctor.
During your trip: While our leaders have basic first aid training and are aware of the closest medical facilities, it is very important that you are aware of the cause and effects of travelling at altitude, monitor your health and seek assistance accordingly. Please read the following document carefully and, during your trip, utilise the table on the back daily to record your own perspective of your general health and any symptoms you may experience:
http://d3oxn90f3yphmd.cloudfront.net/sites/default/files/file_attach/52735_product_altitude-sickness.pdf
Included Activities
  • Addis Ababa - Guided tour
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 2 Gondar
Today we have a spectacular flight to Gonder. From the air you can see the extraordinary nature of the Ethiopian plateau, cut again and again by immensely deep gorges. Our hotel in Gonder is up on a cliff top with wonderful views overlooking the town.
The historic city of Gonder is known as the city of castles and palaces. This was once the capital of Ethiopia in the reign of King Fasilidas who built the first castle. Successive kings added their own castles to the complex. On the outskirts of the town there is also Fasilidas' Bath, which is an interesting building standing in an artificial pool which is still filled for occasional religious ceremonies. At the Debre Berhan Sellassie Church we can see the famous ceiling which is painted with hundreds of faces of angels and hear about the church's fascinating yet violent history.
Optional Activities
  • Castle Complex and Fasilidas' Bath - Free
  • Church of Debre Berhan Sellassie - Free
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 3 Debark
We travel by road the 105 kilometres to the small town of Debark, the nearest town to the Simien National Park. There is a little time to explore the area while the guides prepare the equipment and mules for the trek. From Debark, walking largely uphill, the landscape suddenly opens onto a picturesque valley dotted with mud huts, horses and livestock. We walk to Buyit Ras and camp close to the edge of the escarpment. There are spectacular views across the range from here.
Walking time: approx 4 hours
Accommodation
Camping (with basic facilities) (1 nt)
Days 4-5 Geech/Imetgogo
Walking near small settlements and villages we have fine views across the lowlands and the Simien plateau. We pass Sankabar before continuing to Geech (3,600 m). En route we see a stunning waterfall. Cascading through a hole in the rock, it falls 500 metres to the bottom of the gorge and is particularly impressive after the rainy season (by Christmas the waterfall may not be visible). The last 2 hours of the day involve a steep climb up to our campsite, where we stay for two nights.
Walking time: approx 10 hours
The following day we walk to Imetgogo (3,926 m). Situated at the end of a long ridge, which disappears on either side to the lowlands below, there are outstanding views of the gorge and mountain range and it is easy to understand why the striking formations have been described as 'the chess pieces of the gods'. We should get our first glimpse of Ras Dashen from here and be able to see clearly our route for the coming days. If we haven't already encountered them, there is a good chance of seeing the indigenous gelada, also known as the 'bleeding heart' baboon or lion monkey. The gelada is in fact neither baboon nor monkey, but the last remaining species of a branch of high altitude, grass-eating primates that have all but vanished.
Walking time: approx 4 hours
Accommodation
Camping (with basic facilities) (2 nts)
Day 6 Chennek
Heading in the same direction as yesterday, we soon branch off to reach the edge of the escarpment which we follow to the top, Inatye (4,070 m). The dramatic views continue all the way down to our camp at Chennek.
Walking time: approx 7 hours
Accommodation
Camping (with basic facilities) (1 nt)
Days 7-8 Ambiko/Ras Dashen
Today will be a memorable but hard day's trekking of ascents and descents as we make our way from Chennek to Ambiko. Along the way we should see birds such as the crowned scraper thrush, siskins, falcons and kestrels. Today is also our best chance of seeing the rare and endangered walia ibex, a species that can only be found in the Simien National Park.
From Chennek we climb to a pass at 4,200 metres, and from here the fit and energetic may like to continue on a further hour up to the summit of Bwuhit at 4,430 metres. Otherwise, from the pass we have a big drop down to the Meshah River at 2,850 metres, via the village of Chiro Leba where we might be able to visit the school and clinic if open. From the river we ascend 350 m to our camp at Ambiko, where we spend 2 nights.
Walking time: approx 10 hours
The following day is the longest day of the trek as we ascend Ras Dashen before returning to Ambiko. It may take up to twelve hours, climbing 1,320 m to the summit. Ras Dashen has three peaks and we climb to the middle, highest peak - known as the roof of Ethiopia. Our efforts are rewarded with views from the summit which are out of this world.
Walking time: approx 12 hours
Accommodation
Camping (with basic facilities) (2 nts)
Day 9 Trek to Sona
Today's another challenging day, although not as difficult as yesterday. From Ambiko we trek to the superbly positioned camp at Sona. After plenty of ups and downs we might be able to stop for some local coffee in the small village of Arquaziye before continuing for another hour and a half to our campsite at Sona.
Walking time: approx 10 hours.
Accommodation
Camping (with basic facilities) (1 nt)
Day 10 Mekarebya
A much easier day today as we descend into the lowlands. Our dya begins with a 1,100 metre descent into the Ansiya Valley where we have a relaxed lunch break. We then move on to our camp near the village of Mekarebya. This is an excellent day for seeing birds and there are very good views up to the Simien Mountains and the areas we have recently trekked.
Walking time: approx 5 hours
Accommodation
Camping (with basic facilities) (1 nt)
Day 11 To Mulit Camp
From our camp we drop 350 metres to where we have another long, idyllic lunch break. The final two hours of the day involve a hot 400 metre ascent to our final campsite at Mulit, which has fantastic views on all sides.
Walking time: approx 5 hours
Accommodation
Camping (with basic facilities) (1 nt)
Day 12 Gondar
Our final day's walking takes us to Adi Arkay from where we drive, via Debark, to Gonder (approx 6 hours), for a much deserved wash and rest.
Walking time: approx 2.5 hours
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 13 Addis Ababa
Depending on flight times there may be time to relax and explore Gonder before we fly back to Addis, where the trip ends in the evening. If you plan to depart today we recommend that you book your flight for no earlier than late evening.
  • YZXE Single Supplement (YZXE)
  • Lost Tribes of Ethiopia (YOKL)
Culture shock rating

The comforts of home are more of a rarity. English isn't common and the food will be quite different to home. It's important to observe some of the local customs to not cause offence. Many of the locals’ standard of living may be confronting.
Physical rating

Be prepared for some serious physical activity. The majority of activities included on this trip will be challenging. The fitter you are, the more you'll enjoy your holiday.
Money Exchange
ETHIOPIA
The official currency of Ethiopia is the Birr (ETB). There are some ATMs which accept international Visa cards in the major cities. Check with your bank for information on international ATM fees. When leaving home don't forget your PIN and make sure you know the telephone number for cancelling your card if it's stolen. Keep this in a safe place. We recommend that you carry some foreign currency cash for when ATMs can not be accessed, have broken down or run out of cash. There are few problems changing money at the many banks and currency exchange facilities. Cash in USD are the easiest to exchange, although EUR can also often be exchanged. Traveller's cheques are not recommended and while some banks and five-star hotels will change travellers cheques, the process is time consuming, commissions can be high (up to 10%) and it can be difficult to change on weekends and public holidays.
Spending money
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
Tipping
Tipping of local staff is customary but of course is optional and dependent on the service received. Should you want to do so an average of about USD $70 per client should suffice for the whole trip.
Important notes
LOCAL PARTNER:
This trip is operated by our trusted local partners, Exodus.
AGE RESTRICTIONS:
Age restrictions apply to this trip: minimum age 16.
Group size
Maximum of 18 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit: www.intrepidtravel.com/meetup
Single travellers
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
Accommodation
Camping (with basic facilities) (9 nts), Hotel (3 nts)
Meals
13 Breakfasts, 9 Lunches, 9 Dinners
Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
Transport
4x4, Minibus, Plane
Joining point
Ghion Hotel
Ras Desta Damtew St Stadium around Meskel Square
Addis Ababa
1643
ETHIOPIA
Phone: +251 115 513 222
Arrival complications
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
Please also make sure have a copy of the local operator's emergency phone numbers from our Emergency Contact section of these trip notes.
Finish point
Ghion Hotel
Ras Desta Damtew St Stadium around Meskel Square
Addis Ababa
1643
ETHIOPIA
Phone: +251 115 513 222
Emergency contact
In the case of genuine crisis or emergency please call our partner EXODUS on their 24 HOUR EMERGENCY NUMBER Tel: +44 (0) 1582 644 100.
For all other enquiries please contact our Reservations department which is open 24 hours, 6 days per week. For further contact details please use the following page:
Emergency funds
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
ETHIOPIA:
Most nationalities require a visa for entry to Ethiopia. Please see this website to find your closest embassy or consulate: http://www.embassiesabroad.com/embassies-of/Ethiopia. If you are flying into Addis Ababa you can obtain a visa on arrival. You'll need two passport photos and approximately US$40. You may be asked for proof of a return ticket - please carry your tour notes as proof that you are leaving overland. If you are entering at any border other than Addis Ababa airport you MUST obtain your visa in advance.
Issues on your trip
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
Health
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
ALTITUDE SICKNESS:
Please note that this trip spends time above 2800 metres/9200 feet where it's possible to experience some adverse effects on your health due to the altitude, potentially including Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE). If you have a pre-existing medical condition, please make sure you discuss it with your doctor and be aware of the way altitude may exacerbate your condition. It's very important that you make yourself aware of the cause and effects of travelling at altitude and monitor your health during this trip. Please refer to the AMS information sheet located on the 'Trip Notes' link for your trip on our website. If you're starting your trip in a destination above 2800 m/9200 ft we strongly advise reading this information prior to arrival. For further information check out the following website: http://www.treksafe.com.au/medical/altitude_illness.htm
YELLOW FEVER:
A valid international certificate of vaccination against Yellow Fever is required in many countries. You may need to present this on arrival at the airport or border crossing. Some countries will refuse entry if you are unable to present your certificate. It's also quite common for your home country to request a Yellow Fever certificate on your arrival back home.
It is your responsibility to check with your doctor well in advance of leaving home about the Yellow Fever requirements for the countries you'll be visiting.
ETHIOPIA:
Bilharzia is known to occur in some of the lakes or rivers visited on this itinerary, we therefore advise all to take advice from your guide or leader locally before venturing for a swim.
Dengue fever is a known risk in parts of this country. It is a tropical viral disease spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available for dengue, and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
Malaria exists in all areas of Ethiopia below 1800m and it is recommended that you consult your doctor about malaria preventative medication.
Safety
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
In addition to any included activities on your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. Our local representative may be able to assist you with available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that our local representative has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
Travel insurance
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
Responsible Travel
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
When packing be aware that dress standards are conservative and you should dress accordingly. To respect the local culture and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. As a guideline, shoulders and knees at the minimum (and everything in between including midriff and cleavage) should be covered at all times. Wearing shorts and singlet tops is not appropriate and may well restrict your entry into sites of a religious nature, family homes, and will limit your local interaction opportunities in general. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool in the predominantly warm climate.
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our local representative has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Feedback
After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.
Remember that once you’ve left your feedback you’ll automatically be entered into our monthly draw for a US$500 (or equivalent in your local currency) travel voucher.