My Ethiopian Adventure: On the Road from Bahir Dar to Debre Markos


After coffee and a walk around the grounds at Kuriftu Resort and Spa on Lake Tana–see last photos of previous post, we headed south.  This was not the kind of trip where I could stop whenever I wanted to take photos so many of the photos you see on these Ethiopian posts were taken from a moving car. IMG_0897 A typical house along the roadside.  Eucalyptus may be invasive; nevertheless, its uses here seem endless–the house, the fence. IMG_0899 A new housing development along the road all framed in eucalyptus.  In fact, nearly everything is made from eucalyptus except the metal roofs and the final coats of mud on the outside.  I wondered about the advisability of the modern use of metal.  Since no one heats or air conditions, metal can be both hot and cold whereas the traditional roofs act as insulation.  Of course, they take a lot more work for upkeep. The land immediately south of Bahir Dar is flat.  Farmers grow eucalyptus commercially.  They use irrigation canals and grow onions and tomatoes as well as other vegetables. IMG_0900 If you want to drive in Ethiopia, you must learn to dodge people and animals because the highways remain the primary transportation routes for everything, not just modern vehicles. IMG_0904 Although the houses may be mostly mud plastered with dirt floors, nearly everyone has electricity. IMG_0913 So many rivers nearly overflowing during the rainy season, it is hard to keep track of which one is which.  Even the official map does not contain all the rivers we crossed.  This one is often referred to as the Little Nile (Lesser Abay).  Some even claim it is the real beginning of the Nile (Abay) because this river feeds into Lake Tana from which the Blue Nile flows. However, the Lesser Abay is not the only water input into Lake Tana. IMG_0916 Few overweight people can be found in Ethiopia.  Why?  They walk; they carry heavy loads. IMG_0920 Bridge over the Little Nile. IMG_0924 For most of the day we drove through heavy rain.  This huge rock suddenly appeared, sticking up among the grass and fields.  Except for  water everywhere, it reminded me of things one sees in the western United States. IMG_0927 When I tell people that I have never seen so much green and rain or experienced so much cold in a three week period in my life, they seem amazed this occurred in Ethiopia. IMG_0929 We stopped at this lovely lake, not only because it is beautiful but also because Colobus monkeys live here.  I tried to photograph them and gave up; they fly through the trees with incredible rapidity. IMG_0930 Lake Zegena between Injibarra and Bure at 2529 meters altitude.  Here it even rains during the dry season. IMG_0933 The incredible number of plants and mosses growing on the trees made me think of Costa Rica where as many as 150 different species of plants can grow on one tree. IMG_0936 Dino and Alemu appeared very excited to see this for sale.  Yes, it is edible–tiringo.  They cut up slices and ate them with big smiles on their faces.  I tried it; too sour for me.  The flesh is somewhat like an apple but tastes more like lemons.  However, I am not a fan of citrus fruit–these are a type of citrus–so was not surprised to find I could do without this one. IMG_0938 In this area charcoal is made and sold commercially everywhere along the road. IMG_0940 We stopped to buy a bag of limes from these girls. IMG_0942 Most of the day we drove through lush agricultural country. IMG_0944   IMG_0949   IMG_0950 IMG_0953 We arrived in Debre Markos in the perpetual rain.  Although the hotel where we stayed was only two months old, not everything functioned. I had to change rooms and even then, the bathroom door would not shut and a tile was missing just above the door.  By this time, I had come to the conclusion that the really old things in Ethiopia, not unlike elsewhere in the world, were better made than new construction.  The 1000 year old churches in Lalibela still function perfectly.  This hotel definitely will not last 1000 years. Like everywhere in Ethiopia, no heat existed anywhere in the hotel.  Aesthetically, the hotel received a very good score.  Beautiful linens, lovely decor (everything had been painted by Dino’s sister’s company with the exquisite paint she imports from Italy), a well stocked bar.  I hung out in the bar a while with Dino drinking sambuca romana trying to get warm.  It failed to work.  Sleep seemed impossible–too cold.  Finally, after lying in bed cold for over an hour, I arose, put on two pairs of socks and tried again.  Finally warm enough to sleep. IMG_0956   The view out my hotel room in Debre Markos demonstrates a typical Ethiopian city view–the contrast between the new and luxurious and the elemental.

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