Distance: 557km (Cumulative: 14 377km)
Moving time: 12:00
Average speed: 46km/h
Road surface: 100% Tar
NGG Hotel - R110 p.p
Centrally located, relatively clean
The alarm went off at 03:45, but it didn’t really wake us up, because we were basically awake the whole night due to one or two mosquitoes and the creaking bed and hard cushions.
By 04:00 we were at the gate and the taxi was one time. As Michael expected we were at the bus station by 04:10 and then had to wait until passed 05:00 before the bus actually left.
We were the only foreigners on the bus, but it didn’t feel too strange. We tried to sleep for the first few hours. By the time we looked out the window we were on a high mountain pass with amazing views over valleys and rivers comparable to Blyde River canyon, except that most of the hills are covered with crops and very little trees are visible.
On the bus they showed Ahmaric movies, music videos and funny clips.
For lunch the bus stopped next to a restaurant and everyone went to sit down. There was no menu, but everyone got some form of injera. We already got used to the taste a bit and it wasn’t as bad. We ordered coffee again and a sprite. The whole bill was only R27.
We arrived in Bahir Dar by 16:00. The street was lined with Bajajis (Tuk-tuks) waiting to pick passengers up, but we decided to walk. Bahir Dar seemed almost more chaotic than Addis with hundreds of Bajajis and minibus taxis weaving through each other. The sidewalks were also full of people. An especially popular street vendor activity is a new take on shoe polishing. Since not many people wear leather shoes anymore they have water, sponges and nail brushes to wash your sneakers or tekkies and it seems that everyone does it.
Ons the way we bought two paper cones full of freshly fried chips for only R5. We got to the Tsehay Pension without incident, but then someone rushed in to the reception before us claiming that he brought us to the hotel. That is itself isn’t as bad, but then we were stuck with this guy for the rest of our time in Bahir Dar.
We didn’t like the room (no toilet seat, etc) and decided to go to another place. So of course this guy had to take us there. His name is Samuel (or perhaps rather something like Fajal) and he walks around with a Lonely Planet guide. We liked the room in NGG Hotel for 400 birr. It supposedly had warm water, but at the time of checkin there was no water at all.
Samual tried his best to book us on a tour, but we got away by saying that we are very tired and just want to rest first before deciding.
We did rest a while before heading out to the lake. We first went to the jetty where there is a floating restaurant. You have to pay 5 birr entrance to go to the restaurant. At the ticket office another guy approached us to ‘explain’ the obvious that we could read ourselves on the sign. He didn’t follow us to the restaurant, but after sitting down and ordering a Coke he appeared at the table next to us. He then continued to give useless information and said he is a guide and whether we want to go on a Lake Tana tour. We mostly ignored him and left.
We then went to the Lake Shore restaurant to try their famous Foil Fish. Tilapia cooked in foil.
We also ordered Shiro (a hot pot of legumes), which came with more injera.
Both dishes were delicious. Just as we finished eating Samual appeared. We told him we won’t be doing any tours tomorrow. We spotted to other foreigners in the restaurant and Hugo went to make conversation with them, just to have some ‘normality’. They turned out to be German so Hugo spoke to them for a while in German before inviting them over. The four of us talked a while more. The girl has been in Ethiopia for 3 months and her boyfriend just joined her for a short break. They’ve been to the Blue Nile Falls and took a tour rather than doing it themselves. We left together and shared a Bajaj which they paid for.
At the reception we found the guy from the jetty who again wanted to know whether we’ll be doing a tour. Again we declined. After he left we asked reception if they had any information on how to get to the Blue Nile Falls. They said they didn’t. Not even 10 minutes later Samual called me (I gave number to reception) and said he heard we wanted to go to the Blue Nile Falls. Hugo went to talk to him downstairs and he we on and on about how he is making us a special price and that other people on the tour come from an agency and pays €50 for the tour. He even threatened us that if we tell anyone how little we are paying the penalty is to pay the full price. He wanted 300 birr per person basically just for the transport, since you still have to pay entrance at the falls. He showed Hugo a fancy new Quantum bus standing outside the hotel and said that’s what we’re going in. Of course Hugo knew it was all bullshit, but against our better judgement we decided to give it a shot as we were interested to see exactly how they scam you.
The next morning we came down to reception and Samual was there to meet us. He said we had to walk to a cafe (passing the new minibus which we obviously won’t be taking). After walking quite a distance Caro asked where we’re going and he said we need to meet the bus somewhere else. We got to the ferry harbour and the guy from the jetty was there again. We waited and waited and then the most unroadworthy dilapidated minibus arrived full of touts with no other tourists. They just kept saying don’t worry, trust us which obviously isn’t very encouraging. The minibus then however did proceed to pick up some other passengers (all affluent Ethiopians on holiday). Each time we saw them handover the same or less than what we paid and each couple had a different tout who they seemed to handle with the same scepticism. Finally it was just the driver and 9 of us.
We then went on the bumpiest road in all of Africa. The 27km took more than an hour and everything in the taxi was rattling like it was going to fall out any second.
All the way next to the road new mud huts with wooden frames were being constructed. All of them have very high roofs easily two stories high, but as far as we could see it was only single story houses.
At Tis Abay the town next to the falls we bought the entrance tickets for 50 birr each. There were also clear signs indicating the cost of a guide ranging from 90 biir for two people to 400 birr for more than 21 people and two guides. We got back in the minibus and a guide got in who only spoke Ahmaric to the group, it looked like some of the group members were protesting.
We drove 1km back and then started walking to the river. All along the way children were begging or trying to sell items. We then had to cross the river with a boat.
We walked for half and hour during which the guide only showed one bush and then the dam where the river gets diverted to the hidro-electric station.
The waterfall isn’t nearly as impressive as it used to be before the hidro-electric plant. And the Blue Nile should have rather been called the Orange or Brown Nile from all the mud (hopefully) in the river.
We initially wanted to complete the circular route, but the rest of the group wanted to return the same way so we joined them as we weren’t up for facing all the beggars and merchants on our own. What was interesting is how much the other Ethiopian tourists bought. Flutes, grass hats, scarves, leather bags, guavas, etc. Either they really wanted souvenirs and thought it is cool or they actually cared about their fellow Ethiopians well-being.
We had to pay 40 birr for the boat crossing and then the guide wanted almost 500 birr for the group. The Ethiopians reluctantly handed over 100 birr per couple, before we could protest. We told him the official rate for a guide is less than 200 birr for a group of less than 10 people. He said all kinds of nonsensical things. Hugo opened his wallet and gave him everything in it – 50 birr. He then also demanded the 50 Kenyan Shillings that he saw, which we gladly gave as it is only worth R5.
Back at the hotel we just went to our room and stayed there until dinner. Feeling emotionally drained. We just can’t understand why everyone needs to lie about everything. 300 birr for a tour isn’t that much. If they were to tell us the truth: “The normal price is 300 birr, you will be going in an old taxi and the other guests are paying the same and were also recruited by touts like me”. We would probably have said, ok that sounds like an Ethiopian experience. Why on earth would they waste 20 minutes of your time to tell you all these lies and go on about how they just want a good recommendation. Obviously they must know that there is no way in hell that anyone would give them a recommendation after being bothered the whole time and the lied and cheated to.
For dinner we went to a cafe around the corner. Hugo ordered Spaghetti with tomato sauce which turned out to be delicious, the sauce was like a relish with some Ethiopian spices. Caro wanted Lentil Soup which they didn’t have so she ordered a burger, but due to some misunderstanding it only arrived after Hugo finished the Spaghetti. The Burger was a massive double decker spectacle for only R40.
Back at the hotel we watched a Netflix movie before going to bed.