Yesterday we wandered around Addis for two hours. It was just long enough to get coffee at a cool little shop, visit St George’s cathedral and nearly get lost in the alleys and back streets. The first stop was looking for breakfast. Since must places have options for locals fasting (no meat, dairy or egg) for Christmas, it wasn’t hard to find vegan options. The place we went only had standing tables so we edged in next to business men grabbing an espresso on the way to work.
After finishing our coffee, we walked up to St George’s. Walking through the gate in the wall surrounding the cathedral, the atmosphere changed instantly. The frenetic feel of life and commerce on the street dropped away. There were just as many people inside the wall as outside, but most were quietly introspective.
After making a complete loop of the church, we left through a different gate and assumed our innate sense of direction would get us back to the hotel in time to catch our flight… It’s always an adventure wandering around an unfamiliar city with a destination in mind and no plan for how to get there. After 25 minutes, I was starting to think we should turn around and retrace our steps. Then, as if we had planned it, we arrived right where we expected to. It’s so satisfying when that happens.
We checked out of the hotel, got a cab to the airport and flew to Bahir Dar.
We (Dominique) had arranged for a guide to meet us at the airport and show us around the cultural sites of Northern Ethiopia. Yalew met us outside baggage claim, got us to the hotel, got lunch then began the hour long drive over very rocky roads to Blue Nile Falls. The Blue Nile is one of two main tributaries of the Nile river. About 15 miles from the headwaters in Lake Tana, the river pours over a massive falls, 50-75′ high and a quarter mile wide. Or it did until they built the hydro electric plant. Now there are three small falls, each narrow enough that you could probably jump across. The hike out to see them was nice but the sight of small falls that were one so massive they were referred to as smoking water, was disappointing.
The villages on the way back from the falls seemed surprisingly incongruent. Each village had at least one pool table in a mud hut with teenage boys hanging around. The homes were made of sticks and mud with corrugated metal roofs, but several had mini satellite dishes. The preferred method of transporting good to market seemed to be donkey carts. The drivers often wore very old shoes, just barely holding together and a towel over their head to keep out of the sun. But under many of the towels, the drivers had their cell phones out and were texting each other. There is a noticeable (and expected) lack of resources in the villages, but the people remain joyous and full of life.
Still getting used to the new time zone, we were nearly asleep by 8:00, so we turned in early. This morning I got up for a quick run. I did a little over 3 miles and never have I had such encouragement from passersby. A few positive words in English and many hands in the air cheering. Everyone one seemed to think running was ask odd thing to do, but they seemed to expect odd things from tourists.
We’re now on a boat on Lake Tana. Today we will visit three monasteries on islands in the lake before returning to visit the market in Bahir Dar. It should be a good day. Oh, and we just passed three kayakers in boats they made out of papyrus. I’ll have to see if they’ll let me try one later.