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Bishangari, Lake Langano: A Review by Anne

Here is Anne’s review of Bishangari, also available on Trip Advisor:

Peaceful, serene – beware of village children!

After being in Addis Ababa for 2 weeks, we decided to go out of the city for a weekend to explore the rest of Ethiopia. We had heard of a resort type of place called Bishangari Lodge next to Lake Langano, so we decided to book with GETTS tour services (which is a very good company – albeit expensive, but comfortable transportation, English speaking guides/drivers and ability to whip up a customized tour last minute). The 4-hour drive to Lake Langano in a 4×4 (absolutely needed to trek through the muddy, uneven terrain up to the lodges) was mostly comfortable in a very clean and new Toyota Land Cruiser (quite a difference from the old Lada Taxis in Addis!).

The lodge was very eco-friendly, relying solely on solar power for the little electricity that light up the cabins (called Godjos) at night. The bathroom and shower were well equipped with basic amenities and the beds were comfortable and had enough blankets for the cold nights (July-August is the coldest and rainiest time to be here – but it’s still a good time to go).

Activities were available for an extra fee, such as mountain biking (but beware if you are small, they only have mountain bikes suitable for taller people!), trekking through the jungle with a guide (it’s more fun without one, but probably much safer with one!), hippo spotting (didn’t see any this time, but there is a marsh where they usually reside just outside the fences of the lodges), and swimming (the lake is supposedly clean enough, but it was too cold for that when we went).

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30-Jul-2011 07:17, SONY DSC-S950, 5.1, 5.8mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100

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30-Jul-2011 08:05, SONY DSC-S950, 5.1, 5.8mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100

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30-Jul-2011 08:13, SONY DSC-S950, 5.1, 5.8mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

Just outside the fences of the lodge, there is a magnificent terrain filled with exotic birds, shepherds with their herds of cows and goats, and a lot of village children. If you decide to leave the premises of the lodge, you will be surrounded by village kids either by curiosity or by them asking for things and money from you. The first day we went out there, we were persistently followed by 2 girls who were just very curious and kept smiling at us. This was very cute and innocent; they didn’t speak a word of English, but nonetheless seemed very intrigued by our presence. We snapped a couple of pictures of them and they were very happy about it.

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30-Jul-2011 07:04, SONY DSC-S950, 5.1, 5.8mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100

We had nothing on us, except for a big plastic water bottle, so before heading back, we gave this to them (apparently they cherish these water bottles, because they can sell them or find other uses for them). We felt bad that we couldn’t give them more so we decided to head back to our lodge and take most of our belongings to give to them.

By the time we got back, they were already gone, but soon enough, four other girls ran up to us and were not as happy to see us, but were just as curious. We decided to give them all the stuff we brought since that was our intention with the other girls. They were quite happy to receive all of this stuff but one girl seemed expectant and greedy (so not sure if it was a good idea to give them things or not since it encourages negative behavior towards tourists). It was nonetheless an interesting experience.

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30-Jul-2011 08:39, SONY DSC-S950, 5.6, 23.2mm, 0.01 sec, ISO 160

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30-Jul-2011 17:49, Nokia N97 mini, 2.8, 5.2mm, 0.03 sec, ISO 141

The next day, we went to the gate, but did not cross it; instead, we stayed on the lodge’s premises and sat in a watch tower made out of sticks (as unstable as it seemed, it was still solid enough to climb up and sit down for a while on). After a few minutes, 20 village children came out of the forest and came right up to the gate – most of the kids just looked up at us in curiosity but a few started demanding birrs (the currency used in Ethiopia). We barely had anything on us this time and even if we did, 20 kids was just too many to handle.

When we kept shaking our heads and saying no, they became aggressive and a bit violent, picking up sticks and stones and throwing them at us! At this point, I was so glad I was on the right side of the fence – I actually got frightened and had to run back to our lodge! As sad as I am for these poor kids, they behaved like savages and felt like they had a right to receive things from foreigners. This attitude should not be tolerable, but maybe tourists giving handouts are to blame for their bad behavior?

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31-Jul-2011 11:50, Nokia N97 mini, 2.8, 5.2mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 107

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31-Jul-2011 11:37, Nokia N97 mini, 2.8, 5.2mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 107

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31-Jul-2011 11:46, Nokia N97 mini, 2.8, 5.2mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

All in all, this lodge was wonderful, the surroundings were beautiful, the air was fresh, the animals were fun to watch, but just be careful if you want to cross the fence, not only of the village kids but also of all the cow dung spread out over every 2 inches of the terrain! Bring good shoes!

If you want to see how most Ethiopians live and if you are tired of the big city of Addis, I highly recommend a few days at Bishangari Lodge – the service is friendly and polite, the serenity is very relaxing, however, the food is extremely pricy by Ethiopian standards and you won’t have a choice but to eat there (about $25 US for a full course meal for one person) Lawn chairs are available to sit on by the lake, and massages are also available for an extra fee.

The trip back was good, our driver from GETTS was waiting at the parking for us. There was however a misunderstanding, because we told him to pick us up at check out time which is noon, but for Ethiopians, they have a different time system, this meant 5-6 am for him, so he was there waiting for us since the early day! However, no harm was done and he was very understanding, but we felt so bad for the guy!

The “tour”, including the 8 hours of transportation in a nice SUV, with as many stops as you require to take pictures or have things explained, plus one night’s stay at the Bishangari lodge cost a total of $390 US for 2 people. The food is not included so be sure to bring extra cash. At the end, we tipped our driver $20 US as he had to wait for us for more than 5 hours in the morning! Expensive trip, but well worth it.

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