Kathryn McCarthy of Australia Travel Centre is our September winner in the ITTN Budding Travel Writer competition – and hence receives a €100 One4all voucher, an invitation to the Irish Travel Trade Awards at the DoubleTree by Hilton Dublin on Friday 28th November 2014, and the chance to win the overall prize of €1,000 – and so could YOU!
If you are a travel agency or tour operator staff member in Ireland (RoI or NI) and have been on a fam or prize trip in the past 22 months (i.e. since 1st January 2013), send your 500-1,000 word report to email@example.com by Friday 31st October 2014 and you could be our October or November winner. The competition rules can be read at:
Kathryn won with her write-up on the Exodus / Ethiopian Airlines fam trip in September 2014 to Ethiopia:
Ethiopia: a 5-Star Experience
Never having been to Africa, my reaction to being invited on a trip with Exodus to Ethiopia was very mixed. I’ll be honest and say I only knew Ethiopia because of Live Aid in 1984. How wrong was I! We started our six-day visit on Ethiopian Airlines’ comfortable Dreamliner aircraft from London to Addis Ababa.
Our first day in Addis brought us on a city tour to see Holy Trinity Cathedral and the National Museum, which houses the 3.2 million-year-old fossils of Lucy, the first early hominid.
Driving around the Merkato (market) area was fascinating, with all types of street life, from street cooking, recycling and shoe shining to tending to livestock. One scene involved a man carrying 25 mattresses on his head – I have the photo to prove it!
Two days followed in Gonder, home to the stunning Gonder castles and the Debre Birhan Selassie Church famed for its Ethiopian church art. The stories of emperors, kings, queens, brothers, sisters, wives, invaders and poisonings are fascinating.
From Gonder a four-hour drive, with a stop in Debark for coffee and permit, took us to the Simien Mountains for a two-hour trek through stunning mountain scenery. We also came up close to Big Black Beaked Falcons, Vultures and the very tame Gelada Monkeys. At the end of our trek we were greeted by lovely mountain children selling their basket weaving crafts.
Lalibela was our next stop to experience the 11 rock-cut churches commissioned in the 12th century. In 1978 these structures became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Also in Lalibela is the Ashketon Maryam church, which is situated on top of the mountain and involves a two-hour mule trek. This was my highlight of the trip – however it is not for the faint hearted! With approximately 20 minutes to go, my vertigo kicked in. I stopped on a little plateau and sat with a family on the side of the mountain. I had a pack of playing cards in my bag and with five little children, we played snap for one hour.
This was a magical hour and when the rest of the group came down we had coffee made for us by the beautiful 15-year-old daughter of this family. Ending this long day with tired limbs, we had a meal in a local restaurant viewing a mesmorising sunset over Lalibela and some entertaining Ethiopian dancing.
Throughout the trip we had lovely meals. The local dish, ‘Injera’, is an acquired taste, however there are plenty of options to choose from.
There were so many other experiences on this trip, too many to mention. Ethiopia is an amazing country: lush, green, vibrant, and beautiful people. There were early starts and early nights in comfortable hotels on this trip. Every night you are excited to see what the next day will bring.
Ethiopia may not be a 5-star holiday, but it is definitely a 5-star experience.