Rafting Ethiopia's 'Grand Canyon'

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of January 31-February 7, 1996

Rafting Ethiopia's 'Grand Canyon'
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Rafting Ethiopia's 'Grand Canyon'
Q: Do you know anything about the Tekeze River in Ethiopia? We hear it is perhaps the most spectacular river in the world, running through the "Grand Canyon" of Africa. When does the trip leave and how can I join?
San Francsico, CA
[email protected]

A: The Tekeze flows off the "Roof of Africa," a high plateau on the edge of central Africa's Rift Valley, through 7,000-foot canyon walls--making the river a half-mile deeper than the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. Unlike the Omo, Awash, Gabba, and Baro Rivers that flow off the same plateau, the Tekeze was sealed off to foreign travelers in the mid-70s when a civil war erupted in northern Ethiopia. The area remained closed until 1993, when the revolution's leader was exiled and a new coalition government took control.

Now that it has reopened, San Francisco-area-based Mountain Travel Sobek will attempt the first-ever exploratory expedition on the Tekeze. Their 26-day rafting trip will depart out of Addis Abada on September 5, 1996, for an estimated two weeks on the river. Class III-IV rapids are expected, but since no one has ever run the Tekeze, it's hard to say for certain what the water level will be like. Nights will be spent camping along the river.

A word of caution, however, before you sign on in a flurry of Indiana Jones passion: Because this will be the first run on the Tekeze, you should be comfortable traveling in remote wilderness areas that have no tourist amenities and few accessible medical facilities. Land costs start at $5,750 per person, with a possible surcharge for a group of fewer than ten members. International airfare is not included. For more information, contact Mountain Travel Sobek at 800-227-2384.

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