Bahir Dar

Bahir Dar Travel Blog

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We caught another plane to our next destination, Bahir Dar. The flight was only 20 mins (though it would have taken all day to drive there). Somebody from Gonder had phoned their friend here and we had a would be guide waiting for us at the airport. He wanted us to go to the hotel of his choice of course, but we had already decided on another place and thankfully he took us there without a fuss.

Bahir Dar is a pleasant town set on the huge Lake Tana. The Blue Nile also starts at Lake Tana. The lake has many islands with monasterys on them. We took a boat out for half a day to visit some of them.
The islands were covered in jungle so when the boat pulled up, you couldn't tell there was a monastery (or anything) there.
One of the many islands on Lake Tana

One was only open to men (the most interesting one, according to Cameron) but they all had a resident priest who brought out old bibles and other treasures.

Unfortunately some of Ethiopia's heritage as been lost by foreigners offering good money to buy these things. It is now prohibited to take anything like this out of the country.

One of the days there we hired bikes and cycled to where the Blue Nile starts. It was good being on bikes as we didn't get as much hassle from beggars or would-be-guides - unless they too had bikes - which 2 boys actually did and rode along side us for a while. They weren't too bad though and I think were just wanting to practice their English. The source of the Blue Nile had puzzled explorers for centuries until it was at last found. It also puzzled us and we didn't end up finding it.
Our guide book said that it was 5km out of town, 1km past a bridge. We found the bridge allright and kept on cycling into the countryside.

It was interesting to see lots of rural Ethiopians walking along the road with cows and donkeys or balancing firewood on their heads.
None could speak English and just stared at us curiously.

After a while we looked behind us and saw the lake and the Nile way back, so it was obvious we had missed it. It was very hot so we rode back to the hotel defeated. Later we saw an aerial map of Bahir Dar and saw that there was a little path before the bridge that led to the entrance. We realised that the directions in the Lonely Planet were a bit incomplete to say the least.

The next day we hired a minibus to take us to the Blue Nile Falls, 30km away.
spider galore

A guide found us and he seemed like a friendly young fellow so we agreed to let him guide us.

Walking to the Blue nile falls, followed by hawkers
Lucky we did as I don't think we would have found the way ourselves.

It was quite a walk and very hot. We had lots of kids walking alongside us, trying to sell us things, or offering their staffs to us. The guide tried to shoo them away but he wasn't a gruff fellow and it made no difference.

The falls were pretty but nowhere as spetacular as they were 4 years ago. This was before a dam was built upstream which now takes 80% of the water for electricity. Our guide said that the dam could have been built anywhere and at the time the effect on tourism wasn't even thought of. He seemed quite frustrated at this.
We kept walking and had to cross a tributary of the Nile.
The water was moving fast but was only knee deep. The local children know the routine here and came from everywhere.

The Blue Nile falls - not too impressive due to the dam upstream
We were trying to take off our shoes and socks and roll up our trousers which was a bit hard with 10 kids thrusting walking sticks in our faces "take it! take it!"

Our guide helped me across but Cameron had the crowd of kids with him, still trying to rent out their sticks. I took a great photo of this. It was great fun, though Cameron didn't think so "You'd think I'd never crossed a creek before" he said, miffed.

We kept going past more kids selling trinkets. One tiny boy had a hot pepsi and a hot fanta in his bag. Enterprising, yes. Tempting, no.
Further on we had to cross the river to get back to where we started.
Blue Nile falls
A beaten up dinghy came to pick us up and take us to the other side. We looked out for crocs and hippos but we didn't see any.
We stayed in Bahir Dar for 3 nights. The Ghion hotel was very nicely situated right on Lake Tana with huge grounds with massive shady trees and tropical gardens. There were lots of tables and chairs under the trees, overlooking the lake (just had to be careful about the the birds above)
Plus we didn't get any new flea bites at this hotel! However this could have been due to the town being endemic for Malaria. We constantly had repellant on (which repels biting fleas as well, according to the label)

We first noticed fleas way back in Lalibela where we had to change to a cheap hotel due to lack of funds.
The next morning I had quite a collection on my stomach and arms. Very itchy! Cameron remained unscathed. The next hotel in Axsum had them too (or did we bring them with us...?) By the end of our stay at that hotel, I had counted 83 bites. Cameron still had smooth flawless skin while my arms and legs were blotchy as if i had measles. Attractive..
In the Simiens, we met up with 3 other couples and the same was true for them. All of the women were covered in bites but the men were bemused that they hadn't a single bite. Poor Sabrina, the french girl said in her french accent that she felt like a bag of fleas. To add insult to injury, she had bought a traditional weaved hat from one of the shepherd boys in the mountains. She was wearing it for all of 10 mins when she suddenly ripped it off because she could feel creepy crawlies in her hair.
Further examination of the hat revealed many black fleas within the fibres. She hit her head with her hand in frustration.

"What if they get back into our house in Paris?!" she said, a bit worried.

Finally in the Simiens, the fleas didn't have so much of an affinity for females and Cameron also got a taste. They were in the mattresses hired for us. We were constantly waking up, scratching they bites. You should have heard the complaining of how itchy they were. I hear you dear!

I didn't do another count but I'm sure the last count of 83 had long since been supassed. We managed to find some Calamine lotion at a pharmacy in Bahir Dar.
Fleas just seem to be ubiquitous in this country. You're sure to get a taste of them unless you stay in all the posh hotels (and lets face it, that just wouldn't be as fun!)
Andy99 says:
Very interesting blog, but sad to read about the demise of the falls.
Posted on: Aug 19, 2007
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One of the many islands on Lake Ta…
One of the many islands on Lake T…
spider galore
spider galore
Blue Nile falls
Blue Nile falls
Searching for the source of the Ni…
Searching for the source of the N…
Streets of Bahir Dar
Streets of Bahir Dar
A bright young boy who introduced …
A bright young boy who introduced…
Lake Tana
Lake Tana
Bahir Dar
photo by: alexchan