My Ethiopian Adventure: Bahir Dar and the Nile Falls


My Ethiopian friend with whom I travelled asked me about a week ago, “Where would you like to go back to if you go back to Ethiopia?”  With a little hesitation while various places flitted through my mind, I answered, “Bahir Dar.”  Why?  Bahir Dar’s climate suits me perfectly, tropical but not all that hot, lush flowers everywhere, Lake Tana, the Nile.  What more could one ask for?

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You can drive down streets that look like this and go to restaurants along Lake Tana with beautiful scenery and gardens plus a lake view.

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And I could drink the only beer I have ever tasted that I actually liked.

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Saint George Amber Beer.  Yes, Saint George is everywhere, even beer.

To get to the Nile Falls, you have to drive through the countryside on less than fabulous roads and park in probably the dirtiest, most dismal village I saw in all the places I visited in Ethiopia.  Part of the dirty appearance, I know, was due to it being the rainy season with puddles and mud everywhere.  Once I walked away from the village on the path to the falls, lush farmland lay before me.

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Fields of beans and corn.  Off and on all my life, I have raised corn.  This corn is as good a crop as I have seen anywhere.

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On the path to the Nile Falls, youngsters show up everywhere selling various items.  This young man walked all the way to the falls and back with me.  I bought this flute for my grandson.  We have all tried to play it, my daughter and grandson, and I.  We cannot make a sound.  This young man made it sing.

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He also spoke very good English which he learned in school.  He could explain all the crops, when they plant, everything as we strolled along.

The falls, although impressive, failed to meet my expectations.  After seeing numerous photos of them, I expected something grander.  They used to be.  Now, 80 per cent of the water is diverted from the Nile before it reaches the falls.  Ethiopia produces enough hydroelectric power to export it to nearby countries.  85% of the people in Ethiopian have electricity.  As you drive by villages, you can see dishes for TVs on rooftops.

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We were told that the falls used to be so large they covered everything where we stood.

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My friends took a different route to get to the falls than I.  I crossed the Nile at another location to get there.  They hiked around some large hills and crossed this footbridge made by the Portuguese years ago.

Children of varying ages crowded around us selling various types of items.  My friend, Zuriash, is in the middle with the hat.

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Twice that day I crossed the Nile in this boat.

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The morning we left Bahir Dar, Alemu took us to this restaurant at a fancy resort on the lake.  The owner’s story remains one of those success stories one hears off and on in Ethiopia.  He came to the US, worked for a big hotel here, learned the trade, saved his money, returned home, and built a couple of very successful luxury hotels.  This is the restaurant at the one in Bahir Dar.  All the rooms, the landscaping, everything deliberately duplicates African traditional architecture and gardening, a certain, special atmosphere.

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These hand carved chairs may look uncomfortable but they are not.  Somehow they fit the human body perfectly.  The following is a view of the pool and some of the rooms.

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My Ethiopian Adventure: Lake Tana, Where the Nile Begins–Part One


From Gonder to get to Lake Tana, you must retrace your route to go to Bahir Dar, the largest city on the lake.  The road around the west side of the lake is not a major highway so we traveled back past the Finger of God, past my favorite castle, through the valley with miles of rice, through Addis Zemen.  Altitude declines the closer you drive to Bahir Dar.  Although Simien Mountain National Park remains one of the most scenic places I have ever visited and Gonder is a city filled with unique history and beauty, I felt happier and happier as it became warmer, more tropical.  In keeping with the previous week, the emerald landscape continued.

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Here cattle grazed in the seemingly endless pastures.  As usual, livestock walked along the road.  The species of livestock varied with altitude and locale.

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When you drive through towns and even larger cities, expect to dodge people and animals.  Even in Addis, we saw goats.

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These intensely yellow flowers in the foreground grew everywhere.  No one seemed to know their name.

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Dino wanted to buy the hat so we stopped to talk to this boy herding his animals along the roadside.  He told Dino he spent two days making it.  The hat along with baskets and other items bought on the trip took one and one half months to arrive in the US after being shipped from Ethiopia.

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In this area, these same yellow flowers appeared everywhere and in some places so close together as to make a fence.  Upon detailed inspection, I concluded they are some type of thistle. Later, we learned they are poisonous to the touch and cause massive swelling.  And to think I seriously concerned touching them. Finally, we arrived at Bahir Dar and drove onto this street.

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We reached a promontory overlooking the Nile.  The Nile!!!  All my life I have heard of the Nile.

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Here below me, flowing out of Lake Tana, the source of civilizations thousands of years old, the Nile begins its long journey to the Mediterranean  Sea.  We drove further down a dirt road to this overlook.

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Unlike the previous point, no one was here except two youngsters and us.  We watched cattle graze along the Nile, a couple walk on a pathway along the river, and a hippo cross from the near bank to the larger island, but too far away to capture with my iPAD.  Even now I can feel the emotion, an overwhelming, indescribable sense of amazement–the Nile, river of rivers, laying there below me.

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I stood spell bound for a long time, watching, feeling, thinking:  I cannot believe this, I am looking at the Nile.  Later, on the way to the hotel, we crossed a bridge over the river where hippos lounged.  We stopped, hoping to take photos, but the river guard said no.  We could look but no photos–he explained it is a strategic bridge.  We checked into our hotel on the shores of Lake Tana.

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Still, now, writing this, I feel the magic, the mystery.

Ethiopia–Lake Tana and the Blue Nile


I spent yesterday evening and today here in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, looking at, riding across or around on Lake Tana and the Blue Nile.  The out flow of Lake Tana is the beginning of the Blue Nile, the world’s longest river.  I crossed the Nile three times today in a relatively small motor boat.  Due to a diversion of water for hydroelectric power, the Nile falls are only a fraction of what they used to be.  Fishermen still fish Lake Tana in boats made from papyrus, scarves are still woven on hand looms, and corn, beans, and sugar cane are cultivated by hand, The following photos were all taken today, including the exquisite gardens at the restaurant where we ate lunch.

 

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