People always talk about the beautiful Lake Tana, the wild palm tree-lined street that has earned Bahir Dar the tag ‘Ethiopian Riviera,’ and the monasteries, but the last time I was in Bahir Dar, I saw something more in addition to its many natural beauties; the Blue Nile Falls! This for me epitomizes the real African beauty.
I really did not set out for Bahir Dar, but I found Addis Ababa so choking I had to check out to a more conducive haven, and there you have it, Bahir Dar, Ethiopia’s third largest city came to the rescue. As a backpacker, I opted for a ride with one of the top transport companies running direct daily buses between Addis Ababa and Bahir Dar—it costs US$18 for about 10 hours compared to the US$50 that Airlines charge for the 45 minutes flight.
Compared to the air travel, the road trip offered more sightseeing. Aside the stopover spots, the landscape en route Bahir Dar was nice, a mix of hills, plains and mountains. There are two routes actually—one through the Debre Markos, this allows for a diversion to Debre Libanos, and the slightly shorter route through Mota. I took the Debre Markos route, stopping at Debre Markos and Kosober before finally hitting Bahir Dar. At Bahir Dar, I was able to find a room at Ghion Hotel, close to where the bus stopped, at 250Birr/$15/night after a good bargaining.
It was already evening, and I was glad I browsed the internet for basic information before leaving for the city. This was where Afro Tourism website (www.afrotourism.com) came in really helpful, by preparing me ahead with info about malaria from mosquitoes in the area that would have otherwise messed up the trip. Anyway, the rooms at Ghion Hotel come fully equipped with air- conditioners that more than helped to silence the mosquitoes.
Aside from Lake Tana and the Blue Nile Falls, I also hoped to spend the rest of my time resting. The hotel I stayed was not far from the lake, and that in itself saved cost and stress. I headed out the next day to the garden; indeed one need not stay in the hotel to use the garden by the lake. Later, I walked by Lake Tana and saw two Islands, each with multiple monasteries.
Some of the monasteries are modern with fantastic paintings hanging on their walls.
I later snacked on injera, a pancake like bread, made with tef, and goat meat, and washed the dish down with Araki (moonshine), a local beer.
Next was the Blue Nile Fall. I should state here that Lake Tana is the source of the Blue Nile River (the White Nile starts in Southern Uganda). The river and the White Nile have a confluence in Khartoum (Sudan) where they form the Nile River.
This is what the Blue Nile falls look like in low tides...
And at sunset…
Anyway, the road was rough but I arrived at the falls in one piece to witness the impressive site, I learnt it used to be much more magnificent during the rain and until an hydro-electric dam was built just up the stream. At the falls, I met a large crowd of people taking photos, I walked up to the top of the falls then followed the path to the river where I caught a boat and then walked back.
I capped my visit by exploring the Saturday market I had heard about the day before and the experience was worthwhile. It is an interesting market thronging with locals, with long alleys to get lost in and miles of goods for sale. With goods ranging from spices to foodstuff, livestock, clothing and fabrics, there is someone calling you to stop by and buy.
The next day at the market I met the most beautiful maiden from the Amhara region famed for stunning and beautiful women. She did not wear the noisy makeup of a city girl, and the innocence of her countenance, genuineness of her smile, the fitting of her native gown, bright brown eyes and bead-decorated neck told me that the Blue Nile Falls isn’t the only reason I’ll be returning to Bahir Dar!
Photo Credit: Monastery by ©-linetta-schneller-zenaye
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