All the reviews we’d read indicated that the Sunny Side hotel in Kombolcha was a dump in that it was dirty and cockroaches often shared your room. However, everyone agreed there was little choice when needing your break the journey between Addis Ababa and Lalibella.
You can imagine our delight when a week before we left, we were told the hotel had been changed and instead, we’d be staying in the neighbouring town of Dessie at the Melbourne Hotel. We could find little out about the hotel apart from a pretty blank Facebook page.
We were by now half way through our month long trip, and our guide Eskedar had always ensured we had well located rooms. He was therefore most disgruntled to find on arriving at 5.45pm, that they’d swapped the first floor room he’d organised for one on the fourth floor – the hotel, whilst new, does not have a lift and as the altitude is 2470m above sea level even a short flight of stairs can leave you puffing.
Our room had a double bed with bedside lights and a wardrobe but little else. Whilst getting the suitcases opened, the power went off at 6pm and on ringing reception, we were told there was no electricity in the city but that it may come back on after 3 hours. Although the bathroom was relatively large compared to the size of the room, we decided not to have showers in the dark. 20 minutes later, we once again had electricity however having tried the shower, which had literally a trickle of water, we settled on a quick wash from the trickle in the handbaisin.
Dinner was on the first floor, and found Eskedar had secured us a table which allowed us to watch BBC World News (with the breaking news that David Bowie had just died). The scruffy menus seemed at odds with a new hotel, but there was a good range of western and Ethiopian dishes. Eskedar settled on tomato soup and roast chicken with French onion and tuna salad for me (my first choice of salad nicoise wasn’t available). Roy chose what was described as fish fingers.
We didn’t recognise any of the wines on the list (by this stage in our trip, we’d got to recognise the various Ethiopian wines on offer) and it was unclear which were white and which were red. I asked if they had cold Rift Valley Chardonnay White and the waitress said yes. She returned with a bottle and generous tasters were poured into champagne flutes and the bottle was then shown to us. Aggh! It was Acacia medium sweet. Eskedar swung into action and disappeared off into kitchen to return with a handwritten list of the white wines in stock which included a South African Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc we’d had before and so it was sent for. Whilst it was only medium cold, a slosh of cold Ambo (fizzy water) helped.
Firstly Roy’s fish fingers arrived, followed by my salad and Eskedar’s soup. I decided not to bother reminding them about the soup but just as I started my salad, the soup arrived. To be fair, the food was pretty good after all you can’t really go wrong with a tuna salad. Roy’s deep fried fingers appeared to have been coated in a sweet and sour sauce which sounds horrible but they were actually quite moreish. When Eskedar sorted out the bill, they tried to get us to pay for both bottles of wine. When we protested that the girl had not shown us the bottle before opening it, there was a real to do and Eskedar once more had to swing into action and argue our case.
We both slept surprising well but woke early to the sounds from the nearby mosque and baaing sheep. Breakfast was a very simple affair with a thick pulpy papaya juice, tea and coffee with powdered milk, sliced bread and around six hot dishes in tureens although it was difficult to see what they were. Because we had a long journey in front of us, we opted for tea with bread and jam.
After “Buska Lodge”:http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/accommodation/162333-review-buska-lodge, this was the second worst hotel we stayed at in our month long trip. However, it could have been worse, at least there were no cockroaches.