After a quick lunch in Adjbar, a small south Wollo town, we picked up our Mekdela guide Getachew and two cooks and set off via Tenta (10km to the north) and then along the 17km road to Mekdela.

The road was pretty good. A bit steep in places, but just short of Mekdela the road was blocked by a rock slide.  I had not realised that there was a dirt road to the top of the Amba, but as it was  we abandoned the Landrover and walked the last few km to the top. The Amhara Tourism offices have facilitated the construction of some seven guesthouses in three clusters.

 

It’s a bit over the top as we gathered they only had 15 visitors last year. Due to the lack of ‘uptake’ there had been a decline the state of the buildings. Some are not in use. The toilet by our guesthouse had such a small hole in the seat that it was unusable. But the long drop at the ‘northern’ guest house was fine. The cooks bought some random supplies: bread, rice, oil and onion so I added veggies and shiro. We had a delicious dinner: rice, shiro with al dente veggies.

 

I’m not sure what they had planned to feed us without the shiro and vegetables!. Also no tea, coffee, bottled drinks or breakfast was available. So good to bring your own supplies.

That afternoon we explored the southern end of the Amba where Tewedros had his buildings. His ‘suicide’ place was clearly marked, and the remains of the prison, store and Medhan Alem church (looted and destroyed by the British). We also saw Tewedros’ burial place, a quite glade of trees and a concrete stone. A very simple place and somewhat moving. At the southern end, beyond a water catchment) amusingly called Tewedros’ swimming pool) is Mariam church with a pretty wood around it, and a brightly painted church.

 

Mekdela is a place painted rich historical annals of Ethiopian history. It’s interesting to note that Menelik’s father was killed in battle by Tewedros and Menelik himself was imprisoned on Mekdela.  He later said Tewedros treated him like a son, however he still had to escape the fortress Amba!

 

In the sky above as I write Mars, the planet of war, looms large and red near the sting in the tail of Scorpio. The Milky Way and trillions of visible stars light up the moonless landscape. Some how this seems to be linked to the hisotry or war and suicide that marked out and the colourful reign of Atse (to use his Ethiopian title) Tewedros coming as it did to a tragic and dramatic shooting star like end.

 

Next morning we set off early as no tea or breakfast was possible and walked to the north end of the Amba to the big gun: Sevastopol. This short cannon weighing some 6-8 tons was dragged from where it was forged in Gafat near Debre Tabor to Mekdela, an epic feat in itself. It was fired once before it cracked. It now stands rather sadly surrounded by a corrugated fence. There is a smaller cannon too on the western side of Mekdela it’s of similar design just maybe 1/4 the size on another part of the Amba. Looking over the gorges to the south you had to wonder on the stupidity of Victorian Britain, to send an army to punish the Ethiopian ruler for kidnapping a British Consul and a few missionaries. On 13th April 1968 Atse Tewedros shot himself with a pistol sent as a gift from Queen Victoria. This swiftly ended the campaign led by General Napier which was mounted at a huge cost, with nothing strategic achieved.

 

The whole of Mekdela is a really peaceful bucolic place. It’s bigger than I imagined with several villages and at least two churches on the top. The farmers all knew our guide Baye and stopped to greet and chat. It’s the kind of place to stay and recharge your batteries. Hopefully, with more visitors, the community can up the service level. I can definitely recommend making the trip, and will encourage the more intrepid tourists to visit.  Arrange your visit to Mekdela with Tesfa Tours.