May 27, 2005
I arrive in Bahar Dar, and the moment I step out of the truck two tour guides attach themselves to me. I walk across the street to the hotel, with the guides following me, through reception, all the way up to the door of my new hotel room before I finally rid myself of them. Five minutes later, one of them knocks on the door, and tells me not to trust the other one. I bluntly explain that I trust neither of them, and ask him to go away. In the morning, when I sit down at the bakery downstairs for breakfast, this same tour guide comes and joins me at my table without asking. They're not very good at taking hints.
But I'm generally far more interested in adventure or relaxing with the locals, than in seeing the tourist sites, so I spend most of my time just walking around town. The town seemed evenly split into two parts. To the east, around the bus station, I am constantly hassled - buy this, buy this, give me money. To the west, where few tourists go, it's the exact opposite - I can barely go a block without someone offering to buy me tea or inviting me into their house for food.
The Christian people in northern Ethiopia are different from the tribal people that I saw in the South, or the Muslims of Harrar, but they are equally interesting. Who would have thought that Christianity and tattooing go hand in hand? But they certainly do in Northern Ethiopia; from necklaces drawn in ink, to crosses tattooed on the forehead, chin and wrists, it's all very common in Bahar Dar.
As a kid in America, you grow up with the standard admonishment for not finishing your dinner, "How dare you not finish your food. There are starving kids in Africa!" In Bahar Dar, my thought was quite the opposite. After dinner I'd be sure to collect everyone's leftovers and bring them out to the kids on the street. One night we had a big barbeque with a bunch of leftover steak. I've never seen eyes light up like Ethiopian street kids in Bahar Dar when they're given steak.
Time was running out on my Ethiopian visa, so I had to rush out of Bahar Dar after only a week. That's super-speedy traveling for me. The day before I left, I finally did some real tourism and joined a tour of the lake. For all of the amazing history, the churches that lie on the islands of Lake Tana are very unimpressive. The first church we visited, Azuwa Maryam, was a round building of mud and wood. The most interesting thing about the experience was leaving from the same entrance where we came in and finding that an entire shopping mall had sprung almost magically into existence. In the 30 minutes that we'd been inside, a half-dozen tables filled with tourist kitsch had been neatly set up just for us. As we left, without buying anything, they started taking them down again.
Next we visited Kibran Gabriel, a church made of stone and slightly more impressive than the first, but still not much to look at it. The highlight there, and this time there was actually a highlight, was a gorgeous 16th century illustrated bible showing the bible story through pictures.
After only two churches, our entire group was "churched out". Instead of following the standard tour which included a 3rd church, we went to see the mouth of the Nile where our guide told us we'd find hippos. When we got there, there were no hippos. I think that we were all very unconvinced by our guide's claim that the hippos are hiding from the rain, which was only a very slight drizzle. But now, with this slight detour on the lake, I can at least say that I've seen both the mouth of the White Nile in Uganda, and now the mouth of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia. Now, I get to look forward to seeing where the two Niles meet in the capital of Sudan.
Leave a comment! I'm much more inspired to write when I know people are reading.
Adam! So good to hear from you again. Wow. so what's your plan plan? I was telling a friend of mine about you the other day... all she wants to do is live in europe and that made me think of your world travels. Anyway.
Seattle is great. It's beautiful out here. I am getting my 1.5 year itch though and keep thinking about where i should go or what i should do. But, in the meantime, life is pretty good. I spent the winter skiing and exploring the pacific NW. And i'm planning on a bunch of camping and road trips this summer.
OK well, take care. I love reading your blog!
Soon, I'm going to be traveling up through Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Then I'll fly home for the first time in almost 4 years.
I've given up my plans to travel through the cold countries, and across the bering strait. But I'm doing that to pursue a new dream.
Where should you go? What should you do? I'm buying a private island, want to purchase a share?
Misha - May 16, 2007
Careful about those hippos. I hear they get angry when their ears twitch. Bring a gun. At least thats what the tour guy at Disneyland told me... and those guys know EVERYTHING.
The hippos are by far the most dangerous animals in Africa.
The get nervous when you block their path back to water.... _never_ do that.
And a gun probably won't even slow them down.
Chris - May 16, 2007
Where are you now?
The "Where's Adam?" box on the homepage is constantly kept up to date.
I'm now in Dahab, Egypt.
Dave - May 17, 2007
Was that guy a Christian priest? He didn't fit my expectations about what someone in that role would dress. They tend to be ... somewhat consistent the world over.
Hey I'm getting the same spam check number each time.
The Ethiopian Orthodox church moved down to the region in the 3rd century, and split away from the other forms of Christianity at that time. And so, it has some significant differences from Western Christianity.
As for the spam check number, it only changes daily. Enough to keep the spammers away.
kkkkkk - Aug 10, 2007