Getting to Lake Tana

Trip Start Jun 08, 2005
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Trip End Aug 18, 2005


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Saturday, June 11, 2005

Day the Fourth - in which Antoneh starts to chafe, and we learn the Art of Sleeping on Ethiopian Buses.

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Up very early again for our second attempt at getting to Bahir Dar. We walked in the grey pre-dawn light to the bus station.





The bus we got onto was scarily old. It set off at 7am. Again it was very chilly to start with but as the day progressed it got very warm. We passed fantastic fertile valleys and wooded hills. The only people we saw were the shepherd boys, with their old shawls (called shamas) and bare feet.

Turned out that Antoneh was pick-pocketed on the bus. I felt a little guilty since he was probably targeted because he was with us. Stef found it funny that it was him and not us, the tourists.

The woman in front of us had a small baby, so part of the journey was spent amusing him. He found our white faces fascinating, especially Stefan's blue eyes.
An old man proudly showed us his wares that he was taking to sell. He had made cups and other items out of cow horn - it was incredible how they were put together. Unfortunately we took too much interest in them and ended up buying one each - we were captive customers on that bus and he knew it. I don't mind - they are pretty cool, and I'm sure the money was much appreciated.

We stopped for lunch, injera again, and watched the BBC World Service on TV. It was about all the refugees returning home on foot to Southern Sudan. All the roads have land-mines on them so a new route has to be cut through the jungle. They have to walk for weeks, some of them very old, or blind. But they are all determined to get home. It brought tears to both our eyes; maybe being here has made it all the more poignant.

Then back on the packed bus. Yes, the guy in the picture (in the bright blue shawl) is asleep face down on the bar in front. It's a skill that takes many years to perfect. Note: pitching forward into it gets you nil points. And a sore ringing forehead.




We arrived in Bahir Dar at 2pm, not bad really. Antoneh refused to take us to the hotel we had decided on (he had my bag on his shoulder so we had to go along really) and instead took us to the Ghion Hotel. It is very nice, by Lake Tana, but we don't need to stay in such a nice place. The cracks are starting to show in our agreement already. We have been paying for his transport, despite choosing to pay him the larger amount. We have only paid him part of the amount so far, so we guess we'll pay for transport and give him the smaller amount. It's not ideal though - and combined with him not letting us take control, is very annoying. We have been trying to use a bit of Amharic to speak to the locals, but Antoneh just translates for everyone. He decides which hotel we go to. And so we pay more than we have budgeted for. It's obviously because he has an agreement with the hotel manager to get a discounted room if we stay. Then the meal in the evening, he invited 2 friends along. They had some food between them, and Stef and I ate our food. But when the bill came, we had to pay more than half, despite our dishes being less than half. It's frustrating, since we are not poor and we don't want to make a big deal about a little bit of money, but we are being played for fools.
But we can hardly dump him now.

We saw our first white people since Addis - one on a bus and one sitting in the hotel. I have a sore throat; I reckon it's the fumes since diesel breaks down membranes in your throat.

We went to bed, leaving Antoneh and co to watch the football.
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