This is the second in a series of posts about my travels in Ethiopia over a 17 day period in November 2014, or I should say our travels, as I was not alone. My travelling companion for the duration was the inimitable Pablo London, un camarada originally of Salamanca. For our stay we were based in Ethiopias capital city, Addis Abeba, residing at the apartment of our equally inimitable host & camarada Angela, who hails from Buti.
Our visit to Bahir Dar, a city of over 300,000 inhabitants & 321km (199m) north-west of Addis Abeba, began with an uneventful, but picturesque flight that took just under one hour.
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Pablo was the chief organiser of this & our subsequent internal trip (future blog post), & I was content to allow him to arrange for the places we would visit; I felt excited, cloaked in anticipation at what mysteries lay ahead of us. I was aware, however, that our primary aim was to visit the Blue Nile Falls, known as Tis Abay (Smoking Water) in native Amharic. The falls are a 30km rough track journey from Bahir Dar, &, once booked into our hotel, Pablo immediately found someone to drive us out there. After eating I packed up my camera & lenses, & the two of us climbed inside the mini-bus taxi which would take us to the beginning of the tourist trail around the falls. The day was hot & bright, the road dusty & the vehicle suspension unforgiving.
I can't rememeber how long the journey took, I estimate about an hour and a half, before we arrived at Tis Issat, the village or small town where we recruited a guide & began our afternoon walk.
By this time the sky had clouded over considerably (indeed we were showered a couple of times during the walk), so conditions were not optimal for photography. Nevertheless we embarked on our jaunt with much cheer, Pablo as usual jollying up the guide with his humour & curiosity. We learned that as well as the Blue Nile, there is a White Nile, & that they are named not for the colours of their waters, but after the national flag of the person who claimed to have traced their sources, a Scotsman, (possibly James Bruce, historically credited at least with tracing the source of the Blue Nile,).
Early on along our journey we came across a bridge built by Portugese missionaries in the 1600's, which is still in surprisingly good condition. The trail then meandered through rocky, hilly terrain, gently climbing as we passed by clutches of huts whose inhabitants would emerge from, offering us hand crafted trinkets to buy.
Eventually, after what seemed like an hour or so, we arrived at the prime attraction of the walk, the Blue Nile falls, or alternately named Tis Abay (Smoking Water), & locally Tis Issat falls. The view was stunning & the falls near their seasonal peak in volume. The falls have actually dwindled in size this century since water has been re-routed away from the area, & a hydro-electric plant has been constructed to provide electricty to the growing local population. Still their force & presence is awesome, & having captured a few images from our first vantage point, we were conducted by our guide to two further view points, (after traversing a modern steel footbridge where we were passed by children returning over it from school) providing more opportunities for photographing the roaring torrents of foam, as they crashed approximately 45m to the depths below.
The rain came down heavier during this stage of the walk & we got increasingly wetter & muddier, as the earth became more & more water-logged beneath our sandals, & the clouds slunk in above us, growing in blackness. We were now guided hurriedly through the rain to a waiting ferry boat that took us across the Blue Nile above the falls to the path that would return us to the local town.
I snapped a couple more images in an effort to capture the eery premature twilight that had descened upon the land, before we emerged from the trail onto the main road of Tis Issat, where young boys were waiting to clean our muddy feet (for a price of course), & where Pablo having spotted a ball, enthusiastically engaged with them in a display of his somewhat comedic football skills.
We paid, thanked & tipped our guide, & soon enough our mini-bus taxi was awaiting our boarding, to whisk us back to our place of stay, the comfort of the western styled Jacaranda Hotel in Bahir Dar, with its hot running water, soft cotton towels & warm fresh cooked food. Worlds apart.
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I am a freelance photographer specialising in performance arts.
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