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Published: January 4th 2019
Bahir Dar effectively completes our short circuit of northern Ethiopia. From here it's a direct, but full day by bus back to Addis Ababa.
The city is a regional capital so is a sizeable place with a few decent sights so is a fine place to stay for a night or two. The main attraction here is Lake Tana, one of the largest lakes in Africa and the source of the Blue Nile, though the lake is certainly not blue but a disappointing dull muddy colour. On the lake there are quite a few islands some of which have historic monasteries. These are some of the oldest and most important in the country and are known for their impressive murals. As we can't visit all of the monasteries - they are well spread out - we decide to take a day cruise organised by a very helpful guy at our hotel. A French couple backpacking through Africa who are also staying at the hotel come with us. We go to 2 of the monasteries, Debre Mariam which is unusual at it retains the original thatched roof and a smaller monastery on an island nearby where we also see a small
museum and the monks prison! On the return boat ride we divert to the shallows near the source of the Nile to look for hippos and spot a couple, but keep a safe distance. The local lake fishermen here have papyrus boats and have fun feeding fish to the local pelicans.
The following day we do our own d-i-y excursion to the Blue Nile falls about 30km south of the city. This should be straightforward but like many of the activities in Ethiopia is a little harder than you might expect. The bus station has recently moved and is now on the south edge of the town and a reasonable walk from the centre. There is a form of control, meaning that you need to purchase a bus ticket before you are permitted into the bus station area. The tickets are only 15 Birr pp - so pretty cheap. With a bit of assistance we find the bus and get a seat and it leaves after about 20 minutes. The journey takes an hour and though it's bumpy it is not that uncomfortable.
The Blue Nile falls are clearly used to visitors with an organised official warden who
sells entrance tickets. The walk from the village to the falls, through not signposted is reasonably easy to follow. The falls are impressive. Some reports had suggested that the dam upstream had reduced the river flow considerably but from our experience this is certainly not the case in October. We complete a circuit by catching a small ferry across the river above the falls from where is it 5 minutes walk back to the village where there are plenty of buses lined up that take us back into town.
Tomorrow we have a very early "executive" bus back to Addis Ababa. The recommended bus companies do not appear to have offices here so have booked seats with the Golden Bus Company. - we told this is a good company. The French couple have the same problem and follow our advise and book themselves onto the same bus. We need to be there at 3:30am for a 4am departure which isn't very civilised but with a bit of luck this should get us into Addis by mid afternoon at the latest.
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