. It's about 300m wide and about a 45m drop. There was locals at the base of it washing their clothes and gathering water...clearly not overly impressed by this natural feature on their doorstep! As we walked back some of the kids got very upset if we didn't want to buy their wares...but we kept on walking anyway and made it back to the minibus just before the rain started. It's possibly at this point I should ensure that it is realized that being in Ethiopia in their summer means regular rain. It usually comes in early afternoon as a bit of a drizzle and a more sustained attempt in the evening...but sometimes it ignores these rules and just rains anyway! As we were back at the hotel by lunchtime Tracey and I decided to make French toast (as it was intended for brekkie but no one had got up with enough time for that!) I had a hot shower - bliss - and used the internet and somehow the afternoon just sailed past. At 6pm we started dinner as it was Tracey and my turn...the selection available was limited so I made my own concoction of Rice, Onions meat and fresh tomatoes, oil with cabbage and carrots - it got a great reception which was a relief. That evening I stayed up with Peter and Ronnie drinking Martini with soda water - 4 shots...! At 2am exhausted I ran to my tent when Peter had disappeared to the toilet as he was never going to let the evening end and fell fast asleep!
24th July - Got up to take a trip on Lake Tana to the Island monasteries
. I suppose I've failed to mention thus far that Bahir Dar and more precisely the Ghion hotel is situated on the shores of Lake Tana, a huge lake in Northern Ethiopia. Bahir Dar is on the Southern Shore of the lake. The guys and Ange had booked with a different local than Peter's contact which hadn't gone down very well with Peter and Ronnie, but they had stuck to their plans...so Sara, Tracey and I headed for the boat together out onto the lake in our little speedboat, with a Spanish/French couple. We headed out to the Peninsula Monasteries of Uta Maryam Kidane (or something like that) and Azwa Mariam. These monasteries you have to take your shoes off to enter and are large circular buildings made of mud and straw with outer walk way and inner area with decoration of frescoes of the virgin Mary, St George and many other biblical scenes. They are beautifully painted and are very long standing. They also have crosses and old manuscripts. They are quite impressive. On the way up to them you are climbing along mud and rock paths being spoken to by locals trying to sell their wares and telling you their stories. This is very usual everywhere you go in Ethiopia...everyone wants to help you...because they want the tip at the end...even if you don't want or need their assistance! We then went to a monastery only allowed to be entered by Men so our guide and the French guy left the boat on that island and the rest of us went to another island which had a small nunnery and smaller monastery to the ones we'd previously seen
. The nuns showed us some manuscripts and then we climbed the short distance to the little monastery. It also had some frescoes but much smaller but had a little bell tower next to it and a monk was ringing the bell as we were there. Once we'd got back to the boat and collected the guys from the men's island we went to the outlet of the Blue Nile River...as it begins at the Lake and saw local boats made of papyrus grass. We then headed back to the Ghion Hotel and Tracey and I made more French toast - even better today as the coals got going much easier - yea! Sara and I then went to the local Merkato - open air market - as Ronnie and Peter had asked us to pick up fruit and veg for dinner. A local guy acted as a guide for us and led us around via local pottery stalls, honey huts - where I got to try some honey, it was lovely, there were bees buzzing round the room and some dead in the top of the barrels of honey but they scooped under this for the fresh honey, and I got ripped off for the fruit I bought...but that isn't uncommen being Faranji (westerners). Our guide carried our purchases back for us, so we gave him a generous tip to thank him. I spent the rest of the afternoon chatting with Leigh, Ronnie, Peter, Sara and Tracey. At 6.30 a dramatic thunderstorm brought in very heavy rain and the cook group still wasn't back, so we sheltered in the bar. The cook group finally got back at about 8pm when the rain had subsided a bit, but that was too late to start preparing dinner. Tracey was with the Hotel Manager - he likes her - and she asked me if I could help him write a letter, so I got free dinner and soft drinks for the rest of the evening as I wrote and typed up his letter. Result!
23rd July - we were planning on heading to Blue Nile Falls so it was an 8.30 start. Greg, Tracey and Jamie had been out the night before (Greg had got 'lucky' and Jamie had woken us all up at 4am - sounds like they enjoyed it!) The local agent knew that they had been out so didn't think they would be going on the day trip I had assured him they would...and when they were all there...he acknowledged I was right! How could he have doubted me! The minibus took us out of Bahir Dar and we walked down a steep path, over a 17th Century Portugese Bridge. When we crossed the bridge we were greeted by loads of kids trying to sell souvenirs to us and holding our hands as we walked up through their village. We had been told that since the Dam had been built the falls were less impressive and sometimes when they closed the flood gates you got water at all. We had been assured that the flood gates would be open on this day so it was quite impressive when we walked along the opposite cliff face to be greeted by the gush of brown water over the cliff