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Published: February 3rd 2011
My tour leader says I need to arrive 2 hours before a domestic flight which seems crazy to me, but luckily he arranged my pick up for 5am as the airport is chaos. Before being allowed near the building, I need my ticket and passport checked. Before entrance to the check in area, all bags need scanning, shoes and belts off etc. That is a complete bundle and the usual routine is for Ethiopians to wheel their trolley up to the door, unload their bags inside and continue to scanning. When I get there, there are 4 trolleys blocking the door and no-one can get in, ridiculous!!
After scanning, the queue system doesn't work any better for check in. I think I'm queuing as normal, but then I see many people ahead of me that were being scanned while I had already been in the queue for 15mins, so there is clearly a short cut I have missed... Finally checked in, then I get to eat my take away breakfast in the departure lounge, fried egg sandwiches. To get to the gate, another full scan, shoes and belt off again. Then the flight has multiple destinations so we are all colour
coded and boarded in a specific order. After a bus ride to the hanger and an hour's delay we finally arrive in Bahir Dar. My guide is waiting and we're off straight away to drop my things at the hotel, then a 50min dusty drive to the Blue Nile Waterfall. We pass many locals on their way to the market, everyone laden with packages of food to sell and many loaded donkeys. I am told that the men carry a stick for many purposes, firstly as a walking stick although that is the one use I've never seen in practise, then as a carrying stick, much like Dick Whittington with his nap sack, also if the man is carrying items on his head it can be used as a support. It is used as an arm rest across both shoulders as often the hands get painful from miles of walking when all the blood runs to the end of their fingers and lastly for protection, mainly from snakes or dogs. The man walks in front of his wife, no ladies first custom as at home, he walks first to ensure the path in safe from snakes etc.
Another difference from
the rest of Africa is the baby carrying. It is still in cloth on the mothers back but they tie many cords of shells below the baby, these rattle as they walk keeping the baby contented, brilliant idea!
We finally arrive at the village of Tis Isat and start our walk down to the Portuguese bridge, there are many Italian tourists, all of the women with their own guide who holds their arm for the journey as they are struggling. We then climb up a rocky path to finally see the falls. This is a farmers route to the village so we pass many locals; men, women and children and numerous donkeys. I can see many tourists by the falls and it looks close but the journey is long due to having to find a shallow, narrow place to cross the river. I am given the option of taking my shoes off and walking across or being helped by two local men, I opt for the second! They carry me between them, brilliant, so I tip them 10Birr each. It's still quite a walk across farmland to the falls, I am not used to the heat after the snow in
London. We meet lots of local children, but my guide knows them and has a deal with them. They will not hassle his clients for money or to buy anything if he lends them his mobile to listen to music. Works brilliantly! We climb down to the falls for a few close up photos and a few hidden angles down some muddy paths, then climb back up through the chat fields. I have read about this drug, banned in Europe and the US but legal in the UK. They tried to ban it here but it is the biggest, official, export after coffee so no-one wants to lose that revenue. After the farmland we reach the river again and whistle for the motor boat to pick us up, 10Birr for the 5min journey. Back to the hotel for a rest.
After lunch and a nap I'm picked up for the town tour. Bahir Dar is a very nice town, it has wide boulevards with trees and flowers down the central reservations, very non African in feel. First we stop at the street stalls selling the Bahir Dar style lunch boxes, these are usually made of reeds, but the Bahir
Dar ones are covered in goat and cow skin, I buy a small one for 100Birr. Then onto the town market, it sells everything in sections. Butter and Honey, then veg and spices, pulses, grains, plastic goods, fabric, repairs section, there is also an indoor market selling mostly clothes and shoes. Next stop the Haile Selassie palace, where visitors are not allowed to enter, but there is a good view point of the city and lake. Afterwards we go to the Lake Tana Hotel to watch the sunset over a few beers, paid for by my guide! After sunset we take the paved walk along the lake side back to town, it's mainly local couples taking romantic walks below the stars. My guide and I go to dinner at Blue Jayz, it's a local place so we have injera and it's cheap! Injera is a large bread/pancake type food made from indigenous cereal called tef, I had seen some tef grains earlier in the market. It is either served below the food like a plate or in my dish rolled up at the side like a napkin. It has a greyish colour and looks a bit like a thin crumpet
with bubbles and holes. I have fish gulash with injera and my guide has the fasting plate with top ups, a St George's beer each and the total is 61Birr! I pay, that is less than 3 quid!!! It's been a long day from the 4:30 wake up, but my guide has been great and I've learnt a lot. Early night for the monasteries tomorrow...
Seen lots of Birdlife:
Long Crested Eagle
black winger lovebird
long tail paradise flycatcher
black headed heron
african fish eagle
sun black bird
yellow beaked kite
other blue kingfisher
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