As Harvest season approaches, the town of Bensa welcomes a host of travelers, coffee enthusiasts, importers, and more. As leading producers and exporters in the region, it is important to all of us here at Daye Bensa to make sure that our correspondents and their associates have a fulfilling trip. And so, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to provide this succinct yet all-encompassing travel guide to all things Bensa!
Fig 1: Gatta Farm, a destination favored by coffee travellers When travelling anywhere, the first question anyone asks is quite a basic one: “Where am I going?”. The answer is not merely in the name of the destination but in its proximity to other, perhaps more familiar sites. In the case of Bensa, it is located about 281 kms away from Addis Ababa, the nation’s capital. It is also located about 74 kms away from Hawassa, the capital of the Sidama Region in which Bensa is located. The significance of Hawassa, however, is not just in its marker for proximity. Hawassa is the last major city you are to encounter on your journey to Bensa. Here you may replace anything [small] that you may have forgotten at home. From power banks and batteries to toiletries and water bottles, feel free to scour the city for all you might have overlooked.
Fig 2: Hawassa City Once you have everything, prepare for a 3-hour drive to Bensa. Enroute, you will come across many checkpoints but fear not, they are only there to help prevent the contraband that move through those tracks. As for the road itself, it has many twists and turns with next to no streetlights so travelling during daylight is probably for the best. That’s not to say a nighttime drive is impossible but considering the weather can get quite foggy, it would be best to avoid it if possible. Speaking of the weather, at Bensa, it can be all over the place. The day might start out cloudy and foggy in the morning then follow through with some blazing sunshine in the afternoon, only to end up raining relentlessly throughout the night. Generally, it would be best if one packs moderately, with light clothes and nice jackets you can easily slip on and off. It would also be recommended if you brought a pair of comfortable boots – the farm sites in particular can be quite muddy.
Fig 3: Bensa Roads and The Common Transportation Method, a motorbike At Bensa, there are a number of small guest houses and pensions that could serve as appropriate accommodation. The travel guide that’s assigned to you would have already arranged everything in this regard but let us mention a few things to help you prepare anyway. Bensa is a small, relatively remote town and electricity is somewhat of a rarity. The town makes due with several hours of power outage on a daily basis. Running water can also be a bit of a problem so make sure to ready yourself appropriately. Besides the problems with these two amenities, everything else is likely to be up to par. When it comes to meals, the staple food of Sidama is enset, also known as false banana. This unique crop has a complex preparation process but forms the basis of most southern dishes. It can be consumed in powdered form as chukame, accompanied with butter, yogurt, and sometimes, gomen be siga (steamed cabbage with beef). Alternatively, it can also be prepared into flatbread form as kocho, where it is fit to accompany any other dish, predominantly meat-based ones. The cuisine in Bensa is overwhelmingly carnivorous but vegans need not worry as various other plant-based dishes are also popular and readily available. The region is also rife with fruits such as hopi (passionfruit) and gishta (cherimoya), fruits that are not readily available back in Addis. Rest assured, your dining experience will not be lacking on your trip.
Fig 4: A local food called Tibs (Stir Fried Meat) This guide wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the people of Bensa. The community there is quite tight knit yet anyone perceived as an outsider will never be greeted with hostility. The people are overwhelmingly welcoming, curious, and hospitable. If you happen to greet locals with a simple “Keereho” (‘hello’) or bid them farewell with “Keeruni” (‘Goodbye’), their appreciation will almost always be visible on their faces.
Fig 5: A mother and a daughter from Bensa Area As for the coffee… well, the harvest will speak for itself. The region has been a consistent producer of high-quality coffee and this year will be no different. The farms and washing stations, besides showcasing the ‘wonder bean’, are also host to some gorgeous views. The waterfall at Abore, for instance, is not one to miss. Overall, a trip to Bensa is bound to be rewarding in and of itself – the place is fascinating, the air is clean, and your hosts are warm at heart. So, what are you waiting for? Pack a bag, let’s go!