Thursday, December 13, 2012

Northern Ethiopia and the Source of the Blue Nile

Amhara youth paddling his papyrus Tankwa past a flock of pelicans
Wondering where I've been the last few weeks? I landed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and began traveling straight north into the highlands, lush fields of tef (local grain), cattle and sheep welcoming on the way. I came to the town of Bahir Dar on the southern edge of the massive Lake Tana, who's plethora of birds and humming and forested island monasteries (some 1400 years old) only seemed to celebrate the fact that I had finally reached it - the source of the Blue Nile.

Fishermen with papyrus canoes (Tankwa) resting in the shade of a fig tree
The driving reason for my trip to the Lake is the papyrus canoe or tankwa which line the banks and papyrus reed ecosystems of the lake, still used since the time of ancient Egyptian and Ethiopian civilizations shrouded this beautiful land in a sense of pride and mystery. I had a chance to build this unique boat with a local fisherman. Unique in design, yet strikingly similar in purpose to those reed boats of South America, building the boat was a happy and communal experience, those wonderful moments (to be explored more in the next post) with my Amhara friends will not be forgotten.

Blue Nile Gorge, south of Lake Tana, as the river flows to Sudan and on to Egypt and the Mediterranean

After building a Tankwa, the mountains of northern Amharaland kept calling me. The Amhara people are one of the most populous tribes of Ethiopia, dominating the highlands of the north country. The are the shepards of the Simien Mountains, a World Heritage Site and completely unique ecosystem of 4000 meter high plateau, whose baboon and ibex covered cliffs simply drop of the edge of the world, heading north to Eritrea.

A troop of baboons feeding on the edge of a cliff

 I spent three nights with my Turkish friend Haydar, hiking along the cliffs among troops of baboons, watching out for the Simien Wolf, Hyenas, Jackals, incredible eagles and the Walia Ibex, a species unique to Ethiopia. My wilderness addiction has been satisfied. All I can say is wow. Go to the Simien Mountains and see for yourself, watch that self change.

Standing on the edge of the Simien Mountains

Look forward to the next post about building a Lake Tana tankwa and paddling it amongst the reeds, and the hippos!

1 comment:

  1. Hey, I like your photos. This is so beautiful place. Thanks for sharing and best of luck.