The Nile Route, Days 1 and 2

I’m sitting in a minibus in my least favorite place in Ethiopia: the Bahir Dar bus station. It’s 11am. I’m waiting for the bus to fill up with other passengers going north to Gonder. Three weeks ago, when I had given up on trying to get a visa for Sudan, I left Addis Ababa for a trip around northern Ethiopia that took me to Bahir Dar, Gonder, Shire, Aksum, Wukro, Mekele, Woldia and Lalibela. I’ve traveled on this road before; its a pleasant trip - just a couple hours with nice views - but the scene at the bus station is ruining it for me. I know that the correct price of this ride is 35 Birr, yet I keep being told the most creative, elaborate lies in attempts to get me to pay 50 or 60 Birr. The only way to get the touts to leave me alone is to shout at them. It gets old fast. For some reason, the Bahir Dar station is the worst for this.

Finally, we’ve left. The weyero came around and I quietly paid my 35 Birr along with everyone else.

Bahir Dar was my first stop on the long journey north into Sudan from Ethiopia. After weeks of runaround and diminishing hope, the Sudanese consulate in Addis finally granted me a two-week transit visa. Because my plan in to move overland across the country and enter Egypt via the weekly Lake Nasser ferry at Wadi Halfa, I must time my entry into Sudan carefully in order to have enough time to comfortably get to Wadi Halfa in time for the ferry. It should take 5 days to reach Khartoum from Addis by bus.

I stopped for a day in Bahir Dar to make a symbolic visit to the source of the Blue Nile. Lake Tana is the source of one half of the great Nile, which I will follow, more or less directly from there all the way to Cairo, just before it flows into the Mediterranean Sea. I went out to the village of Tis Abay in order to see the famed Blue Nile falls (Tis Isat). A few years ago, the falls were reduced to just a depressing trickle compared to their former glory with the construction of a large hydro-electric dam. Lucky for me, though, the turbines were undergoing repairs and the water had been temporarily diverted back to the falls. The falls were impressive, the perpetual wall of mist creating several vivid rainbows in the afternoon sun. I was able to walk directly up to the rocks on which the falls broke and get completely soaked in the spray. It was a spectacular way to start the 3-week adventure which will finish thousands of miles later at the other end of the Nile.