Monastaries On the Lake
Trip Start Jul 21, 2009
196Trip End Jul 21, 2010
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Where I stayed
As soon as we stepped outside of our room this morning we were approached by a local guide if we wanted to do a boat tour of Lake Tana and visit the monasteries and later the Blue Nile. We were skeptical at first because you just don't know whether or not the rate they are quoting you is a good deal or way overpriced. We told him we would think about it. Luckily while we were having coffee an American family of three arrived: mom, Hege, dad, Ras, and daughter, Yeshemabet. We immediately liked them and asked if they were also catching the boat tour. After negotiating the price for about a half an hour we all decided to go. The family, who practice Rastafarianism, live in New Mexico and were on a 3 week trip to Ethiopia. They had an Ethiopian guide, Abiyot, who was very nice, for their entire trip. Abiyot helped us negotiate the price of our tour with the tour guides.
It was a gorgeous morning – sunny, few clouds. In the lake we saw kids bathing and swimming naked – having a great time. The boat ride was refreshing – it seemed like we were the only boat on the lake – we saw flamingos and many other types of birds – apparently Ethiopia is a bird-lovers paradise with hundreds of different bird species. Who knew! Our first stop about a 30 min ride away was on a small island with a dense jungle
We next dock at Zege Peninsula where we walk for 20 minutes or so to Ura Kidane Mihret considered to be the most beautiful monastery in the area. The Ura is a circular church built in the 16th century with huge wooden doors that give the church a medieval feel. Inside again there are murals and these are even more descriptive than the last monastery; these murals were painted between 250 and 100 years ago. there are images of fighting and gore. The murals are painted on cloth and then plastered to the wall. What's great is that although there are antique murals on the wall – the church does not feel like a museum. It feels and looks as though it gets used A LOT. There are straw mats on the floor a couple of benches and chairs and drums on the floor. Our guide for the church was very knowledgeable – and when he saw our guidebook he smiled and said that the monk who is on the cover page of our Ethiopia guidebook actually belongs to this monastery – and would we like to meet him?! Of course! So off we go to a smaller chapel where religious artifacts are displayed and there he is – the monk on our cover! Although we never get his name – he is very gracious and allows us to take a photo of him with the book. After talking with several of the monks – the Rastafarian family had a lot of questions :) - we walked our way back to the boat
Now it was the hottest part of the day so we went back to the hotel for a cool drink before we took a van ride to the Blue Nile. With us in the van are two other young girls – one is Ethiopian and one is American from Washington, DC. So we chat about our time so far in Ethiopia and what's going on in DC which is fun. After a 45 minute drive on a non-paved road we arrive and as soon as we step out of the van we are surrounded by locals who told us we were lucky because “the falls are good today.” Our guide later tells us that sometimes the falls are no more than a trickle because of a hydro-electric plant that diverts a lot of the water when operating. On our 30 minute hike we again are approached by kids – this time mostly boys who are out herding their mountain goats and playing the flute. There is something magical about the landscape in Africa – the broad plains surrounded by high mountains. The image of coming to the top of a steep hill to see a bunch of boys sitting in a fig tree playing the flute is something we will never forget. And I hate to say this but when we arrived at the falls I couldn't help but thinking of a scene from the Lion King – sad I know!! We sat down and watched the sunset at the falls which was breathtaking – it was nice because everyone was quiet – just enjoying the majesty around us. It was a perfect way to end the day.