In Search Of The Nile’s Source At Bahir Dar

Ethiopian Christians at Bahir Dar

Ethiopian Christians at Bahir Dar

Today the air is cleaner… good day to backtrack a few hours to Bahir Dar… …maybe catch some vistas that I missed on the way in to Gonder… maybe my lungs can start recuperating… but the vistas are few even on a clear day, nothing more than a few old stranded Russian tanks… finally Lake Tana comes into view, monasteries dotting its islands and shores, and a thousand traditional straw-thatch tukuls dotting the landscape…

I get a place right on the lake, for the equivalent of a ten-spot, but no TV, and Wi-Fi just a sticky wet dream (beware of cheap places advertising “wireless,” a radio). My place in Gonder actually had satellite TV with real movie channels, but only when there was electricity…

Ethiopian baboon

Ethiopian pet baboon

…more faranji tourists here, though, only saw ten or twelve in my entire three days in Gonder… that many in my hotel here in Bahir Dar, and a baboon to boot… and no shortage of hustlers, either, street-smart little kids with a command of English beyond their years, talking about their homelessness and preying playing praying on your sensitivities, the little Chomskyan urchins. It’ll blow your mind.

I eventually decide to go see the falls of the Blue Nile down the road a ways, not what they used to be, apparently, back before water was diverted for hydroelectric purposes. I guess they should have diverted more, since blackouts are still the order of the day. At least the beer is good, but that’s not enough. I’ve got my ticket back to Addis already. It’s time to move on.

Headwaters of the Nile in Ethiopia

Headwaters of the Nile in Ethiopia

…air quality so bad the first time that I didn’t even realize that we had crossed Ethiopia’s Grand Canyon on the way in, the valley of the Abay River, aka the Blue Nile, the same one glimpsed at its source at Lake Tana, now widened and deepened almost as much as Arizona’s own Big Ditch, if lacking some of the color and dramatic nuance. Other than that it’s more tukuls and cows. You’d almost think they built the new improved road system for livestock. The bus stops to allow us to piss on the side of the road every so often, so that’s unique. Few countries are so down to earth and so honest about it. It doesn’t work as well for women, though…

So what’s the verdict on Ethiopia? Well, I’m filing it under “Plan D—schedule for further consideration and possible re-visit”… the short list, first African country so honored… Ethiopia is special. So what if there’s a faint sweet smell of decay pervading everything?

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