Ambo & The Wenchi Crater Lake

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Africa » Ethiopia » Addis Ababa Region » Addis Ababa
April 10th 2012
Published: August 6th 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

After leaving Harar, which had us waking up at the ridiculous time of 3 a.m., but not actually going until 4 a.m., we arrived back in Addis Ababa about 10 hours later. I was looking forward to spending the weekend back in Addis, but unfortunately I spent it being sick and didn't end up doing a whole lot.

As soon as I felt better, I decided to go out to visit the Wenchi Crater Lake. I took a minibus from Addis to Ambo, which was only 2 hours away. This was the quintessential Ethiopian minibus ride, with 4 people to 3 seats, a woman getting sick beside me, the windows being kept shut in spite of this, people seemingly unable to decide whether they were getting on or off the bus and doing both in the space of a few minutes. And of course, a chicken or two running around at my feet.

Ambo is a nice enough town and I found the people to be extremely friendly. There is what they call a 'Hot Spring Resort' that used to be quite popular with Haile Selassie. In reality it is pretty much just a big open air swimming pool, but it was nice to go for a swim in.

The next morning, I was up early to catch a lift to Mount Wenchi that I had arranged the previous evening. Wenchi is a small village up in the mountains between Ambo and Welisso. There is no public transport between the two, so it is necessary to arrange a lift. I think I got a bit ripped off and that it may be possible to just turn up at the turn off to Wenchi in Ambo and catch a lift, but nevertheless, the truck, which was to take me there arrived and I sat in the cab. The reason I think I was ripped off was that I was shown the truck the night before and it was full of firewood, which they said they were delivering the next day, but in the morning it was empty and the back filled up with locals, who I am sure paid a fraction of what I did to sit up the front.

I arrived at the Tourist Office after an hour or so of a bumpy ride. I paid the entrance fee and bought a map. I also left my big pack there, as they told me that there would be transport going on to Weliso in the late afternoon. I had planned on camping, but after realising how cold it would be and how ill-equipped I was for that, I thought it best to get out before night time. I was also eager to get moving after wasting a few days being sick in Addis.

The trek around the crater lake took me about 5 hours. It was incredibly beautiful walking down seeing the views of the lake. Mount Wenchi is basically an extinct volcano that has filled up with water. The first section took me about an hour and a half. I had many local kids following me, some looking to be my guide others just looking for money. I came across quite a few locals as there many people who live in mud huts along the side of the mountain.

After completing the first section, I got down to the edge of the water and took a boat over to St. Georges island, in the middle of the lake. There is a church on the island, which is only about a few hundred metres wide, that is in use. I then took another boat over to Imolgu on the opposite side of the lake. This was actually a dug out canoe, with just me and the boat man. It wasn't the safest boat I've been on. There was water seeping in through holes plugged in with grass. It took about 10 minutes to get across and I was relieved to arrive safely.

I think I strayed off the tourist trail at some point after this as I had a 10-15 minute vertical ascent and then didn't get back on to the path for about an hour. But it was pretty cool walking the way I did as I had perfect views of the lake and got some respite from the hassle from the locals.

I got back at the Tourist Office at about 2.45 and was told there would be a truck coming at 3. 3 o'clock came and they told me it was coming at 4. 4 o'clock came and they said maybe by 5. The only other options were the odd driver looking for exorbitant amounts to take me on to Welisso. I eventually agreed to pay one guy 200 Birr to take me all the way to Addis Ababa, which saved me a night and I was back there by 8 o'clock that night.

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