This is a short video of a hike to the rock hewn church of Abuna Yemata Guh in the area of Gheralta, Tigrai, Ethiopia. Carved sometime between the 9th and 11th centuries, this church is famous for its remote location and it is a little difficult to access; it is carved into the side of a rock pinnacle on the edge of a large sandstone mountain. There is a short, near vertical climb close to the top which leads to a narrow ridge between the pinnacle and the adjacent mountain. Two valleys are visible from this narrow ridge, which measures just two to three metres across. Beyond this an even narrower ledge leads to the church itself which is decorated with extensive frescoes dating to the 15th century. While a trip to the church is not for those who suffer from vertigo, or out of shape, the views from the top are really something special.
An offical guide must be picked up in the nearby town of Megab and an offical ticket to enter the church will be issued at the base of the cliff, close to the start of the climb. The priest (with the key) and the local guys who help you climb should be tipped. Over the course of the hike and climb you will ascend approximately 500m, it takes a total of just 2 - 3 hours return from where you leave the car and is a further half an hour back to Megab. It is a great half day trip from Hawsien. I highly recommend the Gheralta Lodge for accommodation in Hawsien.
A video snapshot of myself and my brother Samuel's trip to South Island, New Zealand.* It's the first video I've done and I was learning to use the GoPro as I went so its not great but gives a flavour of the things we got up to. We seem to have spent a lot of time propelling things around, but I guess that is what outdoor activity is all about, unless you take up skydiving. I may update this later as there is, temporarily misplaced, footage of dolphins in Milford Sound and also some Shotover Canyon jet boat footage I'd like to add.
It was originally filmed in HD but I've had to reduce the quality to be able to upload it over satellite link-up from the boat. It's best watched in a window about 1\4 the size of your laptop screen.
*Also includes Makara Peak, Wellington, North Island.
Ethiopia has some remarkable terrain for mountain biking. In the north of the country the highlands are as dramatic as they are beautiful and the landscape is criss-crossed by a myriad of tracks created by livestock and local people. These tracks make for some fantastic single track, too numerous to map - the possibilities there are almost infinite. I shot this footage to show people what it's like to mountain bike in Tigrai, a province in the north east of the country.
My advice to anyone going to mountain bike in Ethiopia would be to take a full suspension bike with extra strong wheels, reinforced tyres with tubeless kits or at least half a dozen spare tubes and a repair kit. The terrain is dry, dusty and rocky - which causes pinch flats. The common indigenous acacia tree has thorns as large and as hard as nails. And then there's the cacti to contend with too. There are no bike shops for parts and no mountain bike rental places so you should bring everything yourself for a completely self sufficient trip. I took my steel On-One hardtail with 110 mm front shocks and it was punished during the trip, it's still recovering.
A couple of other notes on the trail - take care passing farmsteads as they all have dogs (some are aggressive - they are kept to repel hyenas after all), take care when passing people with donkeys and oxen as they may spook and be aware that a (very) small minority of children may throw stones. Almost all children however will ask for money, pens and sweets - none of which they should be given of course. It does no harm to hire a guide for directions or just to mind the car. The people of Tigrai are as smiley, happy and hospitable a people as you will find anywhere, sit down and enjoy a coffee once in a while.