Addis Ababa is surrounded by hills in which ancient dwellings and places of worship are continually being discovered. Either natural caves or buildings hewn from rock, these remnants of bygone civilizations, offer a challenge to the explorer.

Yeka Michael
Yeka Mickael rock church is located on the hill rising behind the British embassy. It is carved from rock as were the Lalibela churches, and was used during the Italian occupation to harbor the Tabot of St Michael which was later returned to the new church of St. Michael on the Dessie road.

A low tunnel leads into the courtyard and you can then see the still standing double entrance gate. Although the ceiling has long since fallen in, the remains of windows and other architectural details are discernable.

If possible to approach fairly close to the church in a four wheel drive vehicle up the track between the British embassy and new St. Michael’s. But riding or walking is often preferable allow two or three hours for the trip to give yourself time to enjoy the marvelous views over the city and countryside.

The road reaches the edge of the escarpment through a terraced landscape of fields with small villages dotted about. At about twelve kilometers after the turnoff, its worth stopping and climbing to the top of the rise on the left. This is the edge of the escarpment from which one looks down over the Great Rift Valley across the desert to Awash station and beyond to the mountains of Hararge.

Montane flora of great beauty and variety and troops of gelada baboons sporting on the cliff edges makes this one of the more lovely walks. Ankober is founded by sahle silassie, and was Menilik’s capitalbefore he moved to Entoto at the beginning of the nineteenth century. On sa small conical hill are the remains of Menelik’s palace and at its foot tow churches both containing interesting murals.

Melka Kunture
Since 1965, from October to January each year, geologists and archeologists have been camping by the awash river at this point, because two million years ago at the entrance to the gorge lived some of the earliest ancestors of mankind. They left behind tools, traces of mealsand shelters which are now the focus of archeological interest.

Here in the lowest levels, pebble tools have been found andin the higher levels men of the middle and later stone age have left many examples of beautiful two edged hand axes, obsidian scrapers and sets of bolas (the round stones used several together in nets to throw at animals). At Melka Kunture also were discovered fossil bone of the hippopotamus, rhinoceros, elephant and various antelope.

Adadi Mariam
Travel on Alem Gena – Butajira road for about 30km to the awash bridge. There is a small local church upto the left just before the bridge from where a good view of the falls may be had. After crossing the bridge continuing for about another 11km, there is a gravel road off to the right marked by a small wooden signpost.

The road is is a fairly good condition but muddy in places when it rains. At about 8km, you come to a dried-up river bed and the village and the church are just to the far side of this wadi. The church itself is of considerable interest,lying underground with access down a flight of steps cut into the rock.

One of the square openings in the wall of rock is the entrance to the church, which is actually a block with a gallery running round three sides. Light is admitted through windows opening into a narrow trench surrounding the church. Visitors must remove their shoes before entering, and access to the central sanctuary is not permitted.

Menagesha forest
To the west of Addis Ababa, rise two very obvious mountains. The first mount menagesha is the shape of an upsde down pudding basin and is covered more or less entirely in thick heath and undergrowth. This mountain is climbable from the addis Ababa side after an hour’s walk from the main road and a hectic scramble up the steep wooded incline.

Alternatively, there is a track, a longish walk, up the west side to the monastery on top. It is now practically deserted and the cave where the hermit lived is a;most impossible to find, the long grass and thick bushes provide plenty of cover for wildlife and birds.

Second and further away lies Mount Wuchecha the western slopes of which are covered in superb forest, the last of Addis Ababa’s indigenous trees, giant junipers (the Ethiopian tid)and zigba (podocarpus gracilor). Mingled in with these two forest giants, some of which are over four hundred years old, are lush undergrowths of palms, and kosso.

The track widens upwards to a delightful picnic spot, a level place between huge trees and the forest gradually thins out to wild roses and iant heath it finally emerges at the actual rim of the crater valley. The forest itself was originally planted by king zera yakob of showa and was reserved as crown land into the old system.

It is now a national park and the birds and animals which live there are protected. Among these the beautiful black and white colobus (gureza) is probably the most spectacular. Menelik’s bush buck and duiker are concealed in the thick undergrowth.

Eskinder Hailu - Manager, Highway Tours

Eskinder Hailu
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