We took a minibus on a four hour drive from Gonder to Bahir Dar, which is a little town next to Lake Tana. That afternoon we watched the pelicans down at Mango Bar by the lakefront – the pelicans congregate outside the bar and it’s a popular place for a juice or a coffee.
The next morning we went on a boat ride on Lake Tana to visit some of the monasteries that are on islands and peninsulas. We landed on a peninsula and walked through coffee groves to one of the churches. Reubs and I decided not to pay to go into each church, but just to a couple of them as they have become quite expensive to visit. It is a constant balance for us while travelling to work out where to spend money and where to save money! We went inside Ura Kidane Meret and one other church, where we saw beautiful art and an ancient illustrated book. We skipped another church, and were unable to go into a fourth as it was closed, but we really enjoyed motoring around the lake.
The highlight of the boat trip was at the outlet of the Blue Nile, where we saw three hippos in the water – two parents and a baby. I was a little concerned that they would attack, but the hippo family was fairly chilled and left our boat alone. It was awesome to see hippos in their natural habitat.
On our last day we caught a local bus to the nearby village of Tis Isat. However, we had neglected to take into account that it was a market day – so it took about 2 hours to cover what should have taken 45 minutes as the bus kept stopping to pick people up. Once at Tis Isat, we were disappointed to learn that the Blue Nile falls had no water running but decided to still do the hike to see them. (We had been pre-warned that there was significantly less water these days than when I had been there last due to the dam that was built, but we were hoping for some water!)
We walked from the town to the Portugese Bridge, where we crossed and then climbed a hill. Along the way we met lots of children who asked for “candy? pen? chocolate? money?” Not being big fans of giving to children and not actually taking any of those items hiking, we declined to give them anything. It’s probably a whole different reflection post to write about giving money to children, but this was something we faced throughout Ethiopia. We were slightly underwhelmed by the actual falls – especially when compared to how I had seen them on my trip seven years earlier!
We did enjoy the walk across the new suspension bridge, through the local villages and completed the circuit by going back to Tis Isat via local motor boat. When we got back to Bahir Dar we attempted to book a bus back to Addis Ababa and found out there were none available – so without other options we booked ourselves on a minibus that picked us up at 4:30am the next morning. The minibus was not a fast option – it took us two hours to find enough passengers to leave Bahir Dar, and then another 12 or so to get to Addis Ababa. The other passengers on the minibus were lovely, showing us how to throw bread to feed the baboons along the way, taking us where we needed to go in Addis and just generally being friendly, but it was still a very long day!