More Challenging Treks
(Rugged Trekking means more ups and downs, and higher altitudes)
These are long walks with more up and down stretches. People making these walks should be fit and active, and prepared for periods of quite vigorous exercise. The middle section Boya to Aina Amba is fairly flat and manageable for people looking for less arduous walks. However most of the sites are over 3,200m (10,500ft). The extra effort is well worth it for the views and landscapes.
A good start is the lower altitude site of Yadukulay (around 2,600 meters). This can be reached in about an hour from Lalibela. You can be dropped off very near the site (30 minutes walk), or met just over an hours walk away in the village of Taja. Buses also ply this route so you could get an early morning bus from Lalibela.
Yadululay is uniquely placed on one of two small twin peaks on a hill rising out of a small valley cut into the escarpment. To the west are the lowlands, actually about 2,000 meters above sea level, where rivers have cut down through the basalt escarpment to further levels of rock. To the east the river valley narrows as it is constricted by the plateau, finally ending in a waterfall that is a hard walk to reach due to the bouldering (scrambling over massive boulders) as you get further up the valley. Into the cliffs are built a few churches, hewn in rather more rudimentary style than those in Lalibela, from the bedrock.
Leaving Yadukulay on the first full day, you cross the river below the site and take a step path up onto the escarpment to the south reaching the top at around 2,800m. From here the path is less steep but gradually climbs toward the lunch stop where the Dufti community serves a well earned lunch on the edge of the escarpment facing west. Lunch is enjara with vegetable sauces, with a coffee ceremony at the end. Water,beer and soft drinks are available. From up here you can see the rivers beginning to cut down into gorges and speculate about the geological process that have taken place to create this landscape. The afternoon takes you through fields and meadows and back on to the edge as you wind round to Boya community site.
Boya like Mequat Mariam has a dramatic westerly views and is a great place for sundown drinks watching the day come to an end – but wrap up at 3,200 meters it can be cold when the wind blows off the plateau.
The next day is a bit easier as it is more or less on the flat, walking either across the plateau or along the escarpment. There are great views to the north of the Abuna Yoseph massif – next highest after the Simiens and Bale mountains with its peak at 4,300m. A lunch like that at Dufti, is served by the community at Waro Mikael. The afternoon walk is more along the edge with the views of Abuna Yoseph and the valley between. This is a great stretch for seeing quite large troops of Gelada Baboons.
As you get close to Aina Amba the afternoon sun lighting up the cottages makes a welcome site, and the thyme flavoured tea makes with snack food is even more welcome. Aina Amba itself is situated on a small rise on the edge of the escarpment facing the Geneta Mariam ridge and Abuna Yoseph. The church for the community at Aina Amba is dedicated to St George (Giyorgis) is one of the few with a thatched roof along the trek.
From Aina Amba you can be picked by car and whisked off to Lalibela, even reaching the airport for a 10am check in if needed. Or the trek can continue to the east. Or for those more adventurous you can trek north down into the river valley and up to Geneta Mariam, from where you are much closer to Lalibela.
Continue to the east
Carrying on along the increasingly beautiful escarpment you come to the lunch stop at Melkidefer which is ready to serve a nutritious local lunch. And the walk is well worth it. There is a pretty churchyard at Adisge with giant Erica woodland (Erica arboreal) among the vegetation just before you reach lunch.
Your trek can end there and a car pick you. This part of the road is closer to Weldiya (and Dessie) so if your journey is going to or coming from this side –Melkidefer is a good trail-head.
The next site, and most easterly is at Kurtain Washa, it is the most recently completed site. The scenery is increasingly dramatic as the valley to the north narrows and the land gets increasingly rugged and craggy. The altitude at Kurtain Washa is about 3,600m. There are red-hot pokers growing here and other higher altitude plants. As the landscape gets more rugged so the chances of seeing wildlife increase – there are many Gelada baboon around here, and a good chance to see the shy Klipspringer.
Kurtain Washa is about a 1hour walk from a settlement called Ahun Tegene on the main road from where you can be picked up. It is the first site in Gidan Woreda
linking to Lalibela or AbunaYoseph
From Aina Amba a trail runs steeply down into the Tekeze valley. There is no lunch served on this route so you need to take a packed lunch from Aina Amba (some extra trail nibbles might be welcome here so good to have peanuts or biscuits in your bag.) The walk to Geneta Mariam is not an easy one with the descent to the river, crossing a second river and then climbing up to the site, but it takes you to within striking distance of Lalibela and the mountain behind it, and the walk takes you through different scenery and villages from the walks along the plateau.
Geneta Mariam is built on a low ridge jutting out from one of the main spurs of Abuna Yoseph that runs southwest from the peak. The community at Geneta Mariam will make you welcome and serve you much needed snacks on your arrival.
There is a beautiful rock church carved into the spur of mountain. It is one of the more interesting churches that lie in the Lalibela area, and has frescoes of elephants inside that were said to have been used in the construction of the church. Were there wild elephants in the Tekeze Valley? Were domesticated elephants bought to Ethiopia from India or did they come with the Napier Expedition?
Further up the mountain another fascinating church is waiting to be explored: Mekina Medhane Alem. This church is a built church in the old style (as Debre Damo & Yemrehane Christos) with painted wooden struts on the roof. It is in a cave which has a pool of water just inside the opening, with the white washed church behind. Again there are interesting frescoes.
To get to Lalibela from Geneta Mariam you can either arranged to be picked up from below the site (its about 45 minutes to either the airport or town) or you can walk the first 15 kilometres or so (about 3 hours) of the rough road, to the junction with the asphelt toad and get a shorter lift from there.
To head onto Abuna Yoseph see the section on mountain trekking
Geneta Mariam is one of the Tesfa sites that remains open during the rainy season and we are able to arrange special visits for one or two nights to Geneta Mariam with guided exploring of the village and the area around it. Geneta Mariam is in Lasta Woreda.