It took over 10 hours by bus, and on the way, I stunned by landscapes I’ve watched on Bahir dar bikeT.V. all my life… but… this time… I was traveling down that road and touching that tree. The “highs” on this journey are stunning. The “lows” … are challenging to say the least… poverty the like you’re not prepared for. Together they push on my heart, my values, and my personal psychology in ways I wasn’t prepared for.

When you are talking about Ethiopian history… you must realize you’re talking about the dawn of civilization where the earliest known anatomically modern human remains were found. “Lucy” rests in a museum in Addis Ababa. (Click on this interesting Wikipedia article for more highlights of the history, economics, and social issues of Ethiopia.) Bahir dar is one of Ethiopia’s most popular tourist destinations. Papyrus plants grow wild along the banks of Lake Tana …. the source of the Blue Nile. So essentially, there was an “Ethiopia” BEFORE there was an ancient Egypt … and long before there was Israel, Rome, or Greece… and these very same papyrus plants were used to make the “paper” that documents the history we read … and distort … today.

I dare you to stand on this cliff and try to take your piss break while fellow passengers observe
I dare you to stand on this cliff and try to take your piss break while fellow passengers observe

The Selam bus from Addis Ababa takes on average 10 hours to travel to Bahir dar. We booked tickets at the “Sky Bus” terminal in Addis and little did I know how apropos the term, “Sky Bus” would be. Ethiopia is a vast land of awesome terrain. We stopped for a rest break to urinate on a cliff so high it seemed we were airborne.

Bahir Dar is a very old university town with striking levels of poverty. (In fact all of Ethiopia… all of Africa… seems to be experiencing a greater divide between the “haves” and “have-nots.”) Again, I was not prepared for the beggars, tuk-tuk drivers, and hotel hustlers that waited to besiege arriving buses. We collected our bags and beheld the scene on the other side of the iron rail gate. (“It must get better than this,” I thought…)

We made reservations at the Bete Daniel Hotel just a few blocks from Lake Tana. The hotel hosts clean, modern rooms for only $27 dollars U.S. (Several other hotels along the boulevard have similar prices… 550 Bir a night…. which is cheaper than what you’ll get in Addis Ababa where 16 million people compete for housing and jobs.)

Food here and in Addis is inexpensive, organic, of good quality, and most often delicious. The coffee! Oh my gawd … coffee here where the plant originates from tastes so much better than Ethiopian coffee in the states and no one can figure out why other than it’s assumed the way they make it is different. I plan this to be both an illuminating 8-10 days as well as a comfortable one.