Our second day in Bahir Dar saw us heading to the local bus station to board the 8am bus (15 birr) to village of Tis Abay, jumping off point for the Blue Nile Falls. The standard Ethiopian Bus Shuffle just before departure sees everybody who’s been sitting comfortable for the last 20 minutes suddenly need to get off the bus for some reason or another, something which would repeat itself on every local bus we took. Couple this with the slowest bus driver ever dragging the one hour trip to over two and a half hours and our plan to arrive early and beat the heat was in sweaty ruins.
Tis Abay is not a pretty town, and being Ethiopia’s rainy season the roads were in poor muddy condition. It also happened to be market day which meant every man and his goat from the surrounding area was making their way to town to trade food, animals and other necessities, clogging the roads. As soon as we exited the bus a load of kids surrounded us begging for pens or our plastic water bottles.
From the bus drop off point the ticket office for the falls is at the end of town on the left. After you’ve purchased your ticket (50 birr) walk back the way you came and take the first road on the right, following this until you see another road crossing a bridge to your left. If in doubt just ask anyone and they will point you in the right direction. Loads of people will offer you a guide service though it’s not needed.
The walk takes you up a rough rocky path before the falls appear below you. With the rainy season in full swing the hydroelectric dam which controls the flow of the dam is, luckily for us, turned right up, and the Chocolate Nile seems a more fitting name. Continuing along the path and crossing a metal suspension bridge, follow the path immediately to the left and you can slip and slide your way to the base of the falls. Keep your camera covered as you’ll get soaked, best to use the GoPro for this one.
Walking to the falls we were joined by three local girls who followed us the whole way (and back) trying to sell us scarfs, lamb skin lunch boxes and flutes. Sarah’s one was so persistent she almost threw her into the river below. It’s possible to do a circuit by taking a boat across the top of the falls back to town, which is quicker and we did contemplate it to shake our scarf selling shadows, though we needed the exercise after three weeks of drinking and eating crap.
Back in Tis Abay we head down the road to find a bus back to town, being forced into a scrum with the rest of the market crowd. Managing to get seats, Matt found they were way too small for me, and with one leg having to hang out into the aisle people lean all over you, there’s no such thing as personal space here. Thankful this Driver was a lot quicker and a lack of people on the road meant we made the trip in an hour. With mud caked shoes we head to Georgis Road where we find our prefered shoe shine boy/girl from the day before and hand over the equivilant of 15p to get them all cleaned up (this is big business for the kids on school holidays so support them!).
Having arranged a minivan pick up for the trip to Gonder for that afternoon, it arrives with the two worst back seats saved for us…one of them being sat on a 20lt water container. With the van already full of locals and the promised rain cover for our bags on the roof missing, knowing we’d paid more than everybody else for the worst seats left us pretty pissed off. So we didn’t bother and walked off to find a hotel, intending to get another minivan from the station in the morning. At Zimamesh Hotel we’re given a massive room with TV, hot water and this time Wi-Fi…albeit it was slower than our bus driver today. The room was so nice we were even joined by a local rat….guess you can’t have it all.
With our afternoon now free, we grab a tuk tuk and head out to check out the local wine on offer at Pelican Wine House. Owner Yordanos has used her chemistry degree to perfect the art of making her own honey, date, mango, apple and grape wine. With only the mango and grape on offer, we part with less than USD$2.50 a bottle and settle in to watch a huge thunderstorm overhead in the outdoor courtyard. Small rustic rooms and dirt floors give a great atmosphere, though the place was pretty flat the night we visited. Still it’s worth a visit to try the unique local wines on offer.
You can check out more Ethiopia pics on our Flickr page, including those taken on Zege Penninsula whilst in Bahir Dar.
Tips for Bahir Dar and the Blue Nile Falls
- Check local reports on the current flow of the falls. When the hydroelectric dam is closed it can slow down to an unworthy trickle.
- Again you can take an expensive tour or just go it alone. It will take longer, especially in the wet season, but will save you a lot of money and you’ll get to see how the locals travel.
- A shoeshine on the street cost 5 birr
- A tuk tuk to Pelican Wine Bar from the main drag cost us 30 birr, though we struggled to get one back in the pouring rain.