|Men chatting in Tis Abay|
From our base in Bahir Dar, we drove for an hour and a half over increasingly rough terrain to reach the small town of Tis Abay, the starting point for any hike to the Blue Nile Falls and the location of the ticket office. The town also gives its name to the local Amharic word for the falls. Mas, our guide, organised our tickets and we then walked 1.5km through the town to the start of the path to the falls. We attracted a great deal of attention from the locals, especially the children, as we walked. Life in the village was going on as it had for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Give or take the odd satellite dish, some of the scenes we saw were almost biblical – the husband leading his pregnant wife on a mule, the ladies cooking injera over open fires, the men in traditional dress standing by the road, the children playing with sticks in the dirt, the yoked oxen being taken to the fields, the mill where tef was being ground by hand to make flour.
|Lady cooking injera, watched by her family and cattle|
|People going about their business|
Leaving the village, we crossed a bridge near the hydro-electric plant which now takes most of the energy from the Blue Nile, meaning that the volume of water which tumbles over the falls is much less than it used to be. That, coupled with the fact that we were visiting during the dry season, meant that we weren’t expecting much of a spectacle when we finally reached our destination.
The start of the footpath is very rocky and leads down to a 17th century Portuguese bridge, the first bridge to span the Blue Nile. Whilst we were watching our steps and picking our way carefully over the rocks mindful not to fall, we were overtaken by sure-footed locals virtually sprinting down the track. We were even passed by an old lady with her donkey – they were both well over normal retirement age and, astonishingly, the lady was barefoot!
|Our first view of the falls|
Beyond the bridge, the path climbs steeply to reach the best vantage points to view the falls. The walk was quite strenuous (for me, anyway!), especially in the heat, but it was worth it! Despite our misgivings, the falls were stunning! The river pours over the side of a sheer 42 metre high chasm in three prongs and explodes into a magnificent display of mists and rainbows. Locals call the river here the ‘Nile that Smokes’ and, even with a restricted water flow, I understand why. We took the time to appreciate the splendour of the view before beginning our descent which took us across a suspension bridge over the narrow Alata River. From here, we walked down to the base of the falls. Some of our group climbed onto rocks to have their photos taken against the backdrop of the curtains of water. They paid the price with very dirty trousers for the rest of the day, but it looked like they had fun and they said it was worth it!
|A wide view|
|Children trying to sell to us at a viewpoint|
|The suspension bridge|
|The base of the falls|
We returned to the village by taking a motorboat back across the Blue Nile and then walking a further few kilometres. As is the case everywhere in Ethiopia, people were offering items for us to buy all along our route. I succumbed when I came across a lady hand spinning some yarn – I just had to have a spool or two! I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it yet, but I’m sure it will feature somewhere in my ‘African Collection’ at Lincoln Christmas Market later this year!
|A lady spinning|
|Ladies loading logs|