Monday, January 2, 2012

Bahir Dar

We were happy to have left Addis, it was an interesting city but very busy and large. It was a challenge to get around without taking taxis. Isn't like the taste of knowing that we were being overcharged. They weren't Amsterdam prices but after awhile it added up. It was a pain to carry around the child seat for Anton, though after realising that none of the taxis had functioning seatbelts and setting how allow the traffic moved we soon left it at home.

After 3 nights in Addis we flew to Mekele in the north of the country. It immediately seemed a relief. It was much more relaxed. It also helped that wewere getting used to the altitude and walking up steps wasn't such a puffer. There wasn't much to see in town so we just wandered around. We had a nice time in a church yard/park with 3 teenage girls who practised their English on us and played with Anton, who really got into it. He was really taking to the chance to walk around outside, since his first steps in October the weather was pretty bad in Amsterdam and he'd hardly walked outside.

Our hotel, the Abraha Castle, was on the top of a hill at one end odd town and had a great view over the town and the surrounding hills.

The following morning we were picked up by a car and driven to a lodge from which we'd stay our first TESFA trek.

Freddie's back was getting much better. It was a miracle that we were here at all. Even so the trekking schedule was adjusted to make it a bit easier.

The trek was marvellous. We walked through villages, up mountain sides and stayed in basic mountain top hiking lodges. The only electricity was from torches that we carried and all water was hauled up from the valley below by donkeys. Or guide, Kiros was great. Anton took to it very well. He loved being carried in the backpack. He got lots of attention from everyone. All the Ethiopians expressed surprise that a man was carrying a child.

While it was nice to arrive in a comfortable hotel in Axum at the end of the trek and have a shower it was with regret to nolonger be walking.

We stayed in Axum for 3 nights. Enough to see some of the wonders of the Axumite civilisation which had thrived in this area of Africa and southern Yemen almost 3000 years ago.

We flew from Axum top Gonder, which had been the capital of the Ethiopian empire in the 17th and 18th centuries. We visited the ruins of imperial palaces in the royal compound some of which showed a Portuguese influence. It was a nice town, livelier than either Mekele or Axum but not overwhelming like Addis. On the way in from the airport we shared a cab with a pair of sisters who had a restaurant with 2 now of their sisters, called the 4 Sisters. We ate their during or stay. When in the car I expressed regret that we wouldn't have a chance to experience the traditional Gonder singing where the singer customises the lyrics to suit the customer. When we left the 4 Sisters they arranged a singer to come and give us a demonstration, with a song about Anton, which I think he liked.

From Gonder we went overland to Bahir Dar where we have been for a couple if days. It didn't start to well as the hotel that we'd been booked, the Deb Ambesa not very nice and we soon found ourselves something,  much more pleasant on the lakefront,the Ghion, though rather rundown. Anton found a large number of condoms in the bedside table.So perhaps some customers paid by the hour (though we saw/heard) none of this. The staff are very nice and the hotel had the loveliest garden and patio looking out onto the lake.

Yesterday we took a boat trip to see some of the famous monasteries on the lake. This morning we spotted pelikans sitting on done rocks just around the corner from the hotel. We were told that there are hippos in the lake but they are hard to spot.

We have 2 more nights before we head out our second trek, which weer look forward top with much expectation.