Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

The guidebook referred to Bahir Dar as the Ethiopian Riviera, so that was as good of a reason as any for Ana, Kate, Monica, and I to pack our bags and head north to welcome in the New Year. Just in case you're wondering, Ethiopia is on a 13-month calendar and it is barely 2007. While we didn't quite ring in the holiday with a bang, the nightly thunderstorms and the proximity of the Chi Chi Nightclub provided all the appropriate sounds of a grand pachanga, hootenanny, brouhaha... 

Compared with Addis, the air in Bahir Dar is thick, moist, and clean. It felt like a holiday walking off the plane onto the tarmac with the swaying palm trees and lush green hills as the backdrop to solidify that feeling. We were picked up by a driver and taken to one of the resort spas that line Lake Tana.

Lake Tana is a beast; the large brown body of water is more than 50 miles long and 40 miles wide. It also feeds the Blue Nile River. Rumor has it that hippos reside along the shore of the lake, but all attempts to make contact with them proved to be fruitless. Additionally, there are monasteries located around the lake, most of which women and animals are forbidden as not to "tempt the young monk's sexual desires!" At least that is how our guidebook put it. Perhaps next visit we'll get on the lake and explore some of the history a little more in-depth. In the meantime, here is the documentation in photos and comments. 

Mistake no. 1, left swim trunks at home. 
The monkey see, monkey going to jail soon park bench. 
Barbed wire around the tree (not pictured) to deter small animals looking to wreck havoc on the vegetation. 
There was art to be seen. Ever dreamed of having a paddling man in a papyrus boat sculpture in your home?  
New resort under construction. 
A little Dr. Seuss landscape will add sunshine to anyone's day.
Condos in the making. Taking orders now. 
There was a nice walkway along the shore but was pre-empted by the seasonal rain. One resort was cut-off by the standing water but they rigged something to access the main road. 
Lush is the word.
Lots of potential for your inner Edward Scissorhands. 
Lake Tana from our resort.
One of the main attractions of Bahir Dar is driving an hour on a less-than-desirable road then hiking in 30-minutes to the Blue Nile Falls. The lovely Portuguese bridge is the gateway.
Downstream from the falls. 
Another view of the bridge.
Kate and our guide both agreed that when the dry season arrives in December, the water  output will be significantly less. 
Climbing towards the falls.
What was around the corner.
You could feel the mist from this vantage point.
Going over the falls in a barrel is discouraged.
I'm hesitant crossing suspension bridges, but it had to be done with packing donkeys and all.
I bet during rush hour it can be a pretty rattling experience. 
Remember kids, no swimming at the bottom of the falls. 
Tourist picture no. 81
After walking an hour in the sun through wet and slippery terrain, the last thing we had to do was get on a boat and cross over to the other side to meet our driver. When we arrived to catch the boat, it was nowhere to be seen. Our guide called out "boat" in Amharic to the sounds of birds chirping. No network, no boat, no luck. It was suggested that we backtrack and with Kate's broken shoe, heading back the original way barefooted was not an option. After our cries of SOS, contact was made with a local who got in his paddle boat and went to find us our ferry. 
Bahir Dar has a large market to find all kinds of goods. Parts of it are being renovated. 
We rented bikes and supposedly a tour guide who almost found his way into jail. We arrived at the Martyrs Memorial Monument and walked up the steps. Moments later our guide comes running towards us telling us we need to go, that the guard is making us leave. Bogus, was our first thought only to find out we had to go to the other side and pay. It turned into a shouting match between our guide and the guard with an AK-47. I think something was said along the lines of "you're a local you know these people need to pay" versus "it's your fault, you were suppose to be on duty and not away from your post talking to the hot chick."  
Prior to getting chased away.
In keeping with the theme of going to wrong places, we rode up a hill, well, rode and walked our bikes to a palace which was more or less a vacation home with a big fence that we weren't allowed into. We did get a nice view of the city before riding down a very rocky path on bikes with no breaks. When we returned from our journey we paid the guide for his services and bike rentals...he demanded extra to pay for his bike rental. That was comedy.   
Get them while they're young.
A  real Bahir Dar Greek salad. 
The ladies.

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