Bahir Dar was green, clean, and friendly, and there was lots to do there. The kids and I agree it was our favorite city in Ethiopia. We stayed at The Annex, a small guesthouse with a beautiful garden full of birds that was a short walk from the lake. I can't say enough good things about this place. The people were very welcoming, were great with the boys, arranged activities for us.
On the first day we just hung out at the guesthouse for a while, then walked the lake path along Lake Tana, and took a bajaj out to dinner. A bajaj is a little three-wheeled cloth-sided taxi that putters along at 20mph. Riding in bajajes was one of the kids' favorite things about Ethiopia.
On the second day we joined a tour to the Nile Falls with a van full of Ethiopian tourists. It was a beautiful green drive out to the Nile gorge and then a nice walk first to an overlook -
then across a suspension bridge -
and then to the falls themselves.
After the falls we continued on a loop back to the van and it began to rain. It was pouring by the time we reached the bank of the Nile upstream from the falls and took a tiny boat across. For a while we took shelter with some kids cooking corn and then we took a very muddy shortcut through the kids' village. When we got back to town, we changed out of our muddy clothes, and took a bajaj out to dinner at the Desset Lodge, right on Lake Tana.
On the third day, the bajaj adventures continued. Gashaw, the guesthouse guide, arranged a private bajaj tour for us. First we went to a viewpoint overlooking the city, near Haile Selasie's palace (we could only do a drive-by of the palace itself, as the guards didn't let us stop).
Then on a quiet road, the driver let the kids take turns driving the bajaj, which was a HUGE hit.
After that we went to the extravagant Amhara Martyrs Museum, with its sculpture gardens, towering monument, and enormous (but mostly dry) fountain.
Then we walked across the Nile Bridge (the one in town) and looked at the hippos. Finally the driver dropped us off at the Tana Hotel at the far end of the lake path, where we had a late lunch with a lovely view of the lake, surrounded by beautiful yellow birds that jumped all over our food when we stepped away from the table.
On the fourth day in Bahir Dar we did a private boat tour of Lake Tana. First we docked on the Zege Peninsula where a guide took us to the 14th century Ura Kidane Mihret monastery. Gorgeous colorful, sometimes violent paintings, also a nice museum.
Back on the lake, the boat captain let the kids drive the boat, another huge hit. Then we took the boat to the outlet of the Nile, where we saw hippos, birds, and some kind of swimming lizard.
We had a late lunch at the Desset Lodge and then walked around town some more and found the beautiful public gardens.
In the late afternoon we went back to the guesthouse and the boys had a great time playing soccer in the street with kids from the neighborhood. No common language needed.
On the fifth day, the kids played soccer all morning. In the late morning we got day passes to the Kuriftu Lodge and spent the rest of the day at the pool. There were other kids there and the lifeguard spent hours organizing races and games. In the evening we hung out with an Ethio-British family who was in the country for a development project. They were driving to Gondar the next day. We'd heard about unrest in Gondar and I wasn't sure if we should go so they said they would call with an update.
The next day A felt sick so we took it easy all day - reading, games, laundry, hair braiding. We heard from the Ethio-Brits that everything was calm in Gondar, so we decided we would go there next.
Two weeks after we left Bahir Dar, security forces killed at least 30 people there.
Read Part 3