A 15 birr bus takes about an hour to travel the 30km over the worst road from the bus station in Bahir Dar to Tis Abay town.
From there, a mandatory ticket (50 birr adult / 20 birr student) gives you permission to enter the waterfall area.
From there you battle with the twenty plus guides who tell you the path is difficult to find. We had one such guide, Thomas, he made a couple of birr commission on some beers and that’s all we resolved to give him.
We walk past the local market, where hundreds of people have gathered to sell their goats, vegetables and other goods.
Thomas keeps trying to get us to pay him to go to the falls, we walk in what we assume is their general direction (there are no other roads). When we ask locals the way to the falls, he tells them in Amharic not to tell us.
Eventually we bump into some other tourists who confirm the path to us. Thomas feels tricked, but we let him tag along anyway telling him he can practice his English but we’re not giving him any money.
Some local girls are selling knitted handkerchiefs along the path, we offer them Thomas as a husband, they laugh and say they know much better guys.
So do we
We get to the falls, a mere trickle due to the dam, Thomas asks for money. We laugh at him, he was useless as a guide. Eventually he says that he’ll NEVER guide Russian tourists again. We feel like we’ve done them a favour, and hope we never see him again.
As we head back to town, we pass all of the villagers heading back from the market.
We catch the bus back, and get drenched in the downpour walking the hundred metres from the bus station to our hotel.
Did you fly into Ethiopia with Ethiopian airlines? Do you plan on taking domestic flights from Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar, Gonder, Lalibela, Axum, Dire Dawa or Harar? Well here’s a tip for you.
Ethiopian airlines have two sets of prices, one set available to all, in the offices or online, the second set are roughly 40%-50% cheaper than the full price, and is only available to be booked in an Ethiopian Airlines office in the country.
This price is ONLY available to those people who flew into, or are flying out of the country, with Ethiopian Airlines. So here’s a tip, if a flight into / out of Ethiopia is $100 more expensive with Ethiopian airlines, if you plan at least one return flight domestically, or two singles, e.g. Addis > Axum, Lalibela > Addis, you will make up the difference with this discount, so you may want to look at booking with Ethiopian airlines, to save up to half of the fare on plane tickets in Ethiopia.
What’s closer, Milan > Addis Ababa or Addis Ababa to Bahar Dar?
One is six thousand kilometres, the other a mere 500. One is by plane (with a 2.5 hour layover in Doha, Qatar), the other a direct, “1st Class” express bus.
The bus is supposed to take off at 0500, we leave our host’s place at 0430, walk 300m before we find a taxi, haggle a little on the price and then get to the bus station, a big car park, in the slums on the outskirts of the city. No signs, no directions, no nothing, so we walk around and play a game of warmer, warmer asking Bahar Dar.
Eventually we pass all the mini buses parked outside and get towards the bus station in the compound, there we find 30 different windows, and start aiming for one, when an official looking man (you can tell he’s official by the laminated card on a lanyard that he carries), takes us to one window, only to find that that bus is already full, as is the next. However third time lucky, we buy a ticket, and are short changed 28 birr, we try to argue with the guy, but he just points to the tickets, one of which has 28 encircled on it. Seems official enough.
Off we go into the maze to find our bus, or rather find someone who sees how clueless we are and finds our bus for us. We find another official with a lanyard, and nearly lose him several times as he ducks in and out of buses and around the hordes of assembled people and luggage.
A quick aside to describe Ethiopian/African buses compared to the rest of the world. When you take a long distance bus in most cities, the bus terminal will have a gate number for you to head to, a bus parked there, and the bus has a clear path out of the bus station when it is due to depart.
In Africa, on the other hand, it seems that the first bus into the bus station parks right infront of the exit, almost entirely blocking the other buses, that haphazardly play a game of drunk tetris, assembling themselves in a chaotic fashion for one reason only, to maximise the amount of time between when the bus starts and when it gets out of the gates. We spend close to 40 minutes navigating the car park.
Let me repeat that again, a distance that you can walk in 30 seconds, takes 40 minutes by bus, as it follows the LONGEST possible path out of the station in a mixture of slow rolling, honking, slow rolling and yet more honking.
From there its a few hours until the first toilet break, no one (man or woman) walks more than 10m from the bus to pee, and 30s later we’re on our way to lunch, anything you want as long as it is enjerra and some combination of meat and veg. Then another few hours, another toilet break, and thirteen hours after you’re at the bus station you get to Bahar Dar, drenched in sweat, cramped, cranky, and tired.
The flight on the other hand takes two hours less, includes food and costs twenty times as much. A useless comparison.
It’s been three years since I finished the trip in Mexico, so this blog is a little out of date. Which means that it needs some more writing and also an update on what has happened in the time between.
I will catch up with that later, and also add some of my ongoing travels into the mix too.
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