People always talk about the beautiful Lake Tana, the wide, 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 extra in addition to the city’s many natural beauties.
I 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-minute flight.
Compared to air travel, the road trip offered more sightseeing. Aside from the stopovers, 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. I paid 250Birr ($15)/night after good bargaining.
It was already evening when I got in. Thank goodness I did my research before choosing to come to the city. I found some useful tips on Afro Tourism, and was able to use them to prepare ahead for mosquitoes bites, and attendant malaria, that would have otherwise messed up my trip. The good news though is that the rooms at Ghion Hotel are fully equipped with air- conditioners which 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. It was a relief that my hotel was not far from the lake as that saved me the cost and stress of getting to the Lake.
Here is how I spent my time:
I spent the next morning in the garden – located close to the Lake, taking in the beautiful scenery and blissful air. Actually, anyone is welcome to the garden as it is not restricted to guests at the hotel alone. Later, I walked by the majestic Lake Tana and saw two Islands – each with multiple monasteries.
When I entered the monastery, I was surprised to find it was modern in look and feel – against what I had initially thought. It even has fantastic paintings on its 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. Everyone probably knows about the River Nile in Egypt already, what many people don’t know is its source. I had been looking forward to visiting the Blue Nile Fall because of its link to River ile. My guide told me that Lake Tana is the source of the Blue Nile River (the White Nile starts in Southern Uganda). The Blue Nile 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 rainy season, and until a 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. One of my new friends, Solomon, whom I met at the Blue Nile Falls, had suggested that I check the market out before leaving Ethiopia if I could spare the time to. I am glad I did.
The Saturday Market is an interesting place to walk, wander, and stumble on personal treasures. While it is open daily, I understand its busiest days are on Saturdays when many traders throng the market with goods. If you are not careful, you just might get lost in its long alleys on a busy Saturday.
The market boasts of goods; from spices to foodstuff, livestock, clothing and fabrics…just about anything you might want to take home as a souvenir, and there is always someone calling you to stop by and buy.
Before I left the market, I met the most beautiful maiden from the Amhara region famed for stunningly 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!
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