Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Northern Trip-Part 1

On December 26 I joined the wildlife group for a trip to some northern provinces. We started off heading to Debre Libamos seeing the church and goods on market day. The road heading to Debre Marcos was closed off for 5 hours in the afternoon so we walked to pass the time and ended up reaching DM very late at night. The next afternoon we arrived in Bahir Dar which has palms lining the major roads and more lush vegetation. I had begun taking my malaria medicine ( Doxicycline) a couple of days earlier. We were off to see Tis Abay Waterfalls or the Blue Nile Waterfalls. First we had a short motor boat ride and then walked for about 20 minutes. It was wonderful to see, hear, and feel the water splashing off. A local azmari musician amused the tourist by playing on a maskinko instrument. After that we arrived at the local basketry market and made some purchases. Tana Hotel was where we spent the next two nights and enjoyed the gardens and flowers. The next day, I decided to eat outside at a local eatery and started walking. I asked a schoolgirl if there were restaurants nearby and she pointed me to a small path near the hotel. I started walking and found out I was on prison grounds. So I veered off and a local guide took me to a restaurant for a nice breakfast of scrambled eggs with the hot mitmita spice, bread, and tea. Our group took a big motor boat to visit a monastery on Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. We had an excellent tour of the interior and the exterior as well.

Gondar was the next stop where we toured King Fasilidas' castle (1600s) & swimming pool, the beautiful church Debre Brehan Selassie- with the ceiling of angels, and toured an animal sanctuary. The next day took us to Simien National Park which was chillier, windier, and higher in altitude. My smaller group opted to casually walk, take photos and check the wildlife. We were rewarded with a colony of gelada baboons quietly gathered. Some were grooming each other, young ones were scampering around, adults were digging for roots. Mothers had their young either clinging to their bellies or their backs and the males looked like small lions with their huge manes and tufted tails. I watched them in silence for over two hours at just meters distance away. It was very peaceful. Most of us ate together at the fancy lodge and many opted for bunk bed accomodations for the night. Very chilly with huge ravens hanging around our building.

The next day was Dec 31 and our bus started to smoke due to a problem with the brakes. Thst was fixed and then there was a flat tire! Nearby was family's tukul or house. They invited us to see the small interior and another tukul which happened to be their mosque. Outside, they were threshing sorghum manually, beating the grains with long sticks. We had two great drivers and one was also a mechanic and took care of the NTO bus and us in good time throughout our trip. That day our drive was full of hair pin curves and so we took it easy. We also walked part of the time admiring some small waterfalls and lots of wildflowers. Late at night we arrived in Aksum and checked into the Yeha Hotel. Some of us dreamed about the trip with visions of comfort stops along the way. Our leader, Elizabeth, would announce from time to time, "men on the right side of the road, women on the left" and we would scramble off. The next day we engaged a local guide and headed off to see Queen Saba or Sheba's pool, the many obelisks, remains of palaces and the new museum. It turned out during this Aksumite period there was much trade with the Middle East and other places, including Sri Lanka.

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