Bahir Dar & Blue Nile Falls

Trip Start Apr 08, 2010
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Trip End Mar 11, 2011


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Where I stayed

Flag of Ethiopia  , Gojam,
Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wednesday started with a trip to the Blue Nile Falls.  (Random geography notes -- the Blue Nile merges with the White Nile in Sudan to form the Nile; the Blue Nile accounts for 80% of the water...and there are all sorts of politics around which country gets to use it.  According to the locals, the Blue Nile has never actually been blue...some European just named it that to differentiate it from the other river.) The waterfall is a fraction of the size it once was, because 75-80% of the water is diverted from this part of the river to generate hydroelectricity.  I still thought it was pretty impressive, and it was nice to hike around a bit after a few days of getting shuttled from spot to spot.  I also made friends with a cow that I've named Barney -- I've decided he's the real "happy California cow" (because we all know they aren't really in California).

In the city of Bahir Dar I saw something I had yet to see in Ethiopia -- a working signal light (I didn't even see one working in Addis Ababa, where they have millions of residents and a ton of traffic).

In the afternoon we took a boat to visit the Ura Kidane Mihret Church.  There are a ton of ancient churches/monasteries on the islands of Lake Tana, although many are limited to male visitors.  I think at this point I've had just about enough of the churches...although this one was interesting because a service was going on when we arrived so we got to see the priests and singing after church.  Inside there were lots of paintings...very nice...very old...but I couldn't build up too much interest.  On the way back we went past the start of the Blue Nile, which was really pretty.

Later on, my guide and driver took me to a local traditional bar -- it was absolutely one of the highlights of my trip (and not because it was a bar).  The traditional bars feature "praise singing", where a man plays a local instrument (kinda like a fiddle...but not) and he and a woman sing.  They improvise lyrics as they go, and will sing lines from the crowd if audience members want to participate.  There is a lot of good natured joking and making fun of various members of the crowd.  They made up a lovely song for me, welcoming me from Obamaland and making fun of how everyone would try to get money from me.  (In Amharic of course...thankfully I had translators!)  I think my favorite verse of the night came after a member of the crowd (jokingly) insulted the woman's singing -- she replied with "you are a horrible poet and should die soon because many artists more talented than you have already passed on".  The man then started singing about America again to change the subject. 

While the singing is going on, there are also local dancers performing.  Audience participation is not optional (at least not if you're the only tourist there)...I highly amused the crowd when the dancers tried to give me a dance lesson.  I'm going to have to find a link on Youtube to add so that you can fully picture what Ethiopia/Gonder style dancing involves - I was a completely lost cause.  Sadly, absolutely none of this was photographed because I didn't realize what was in store when my driver & guide offered to buy me a drink on our last night...I left my camera safely in the hotel thinking it was a better option than worrying about it in a bar.
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