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Ethiopia by E-mail

Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2005 09:27:41 -0600
From: "James E. Rollin, Ph.D." <rollin@uic.edu>

We had a good weekend. We went to Bahar Dar, the Tis Isat Falls, the Abay (Blue Nile) river. It was a long drive up there. We took the main road from Addis Ababa to Bahar Dar. It was about 600KM, (372). The main road between those two major cities is paved only part way and some of the paved sections are full of huge potholes. Parts of it are just big rocks and clay. We would not have made it without a good 4X4. The car was a Toyota Land Cruiser. It has a front bench seat for 3 & the back seats are set on the sides and are about 7 feet long. They have been working on improving the road recently. The Chinese are paving half and the Japanese are paving the other half.

On the trip, we drove down into the Blue Nile Gorge and back out. From the highland plateau that Addis Ababa sits on at about 8200 feet altitude, we went down about 1000 meters (3280 ft) to the river and back up to the top of the plateau again on a difficult road. It is an amazing sight.

The countryside is very harsh. There are electric power lines that run through the countryside to some but not all villages. Even in the villages that have power, not all homes have electricity. The people that live there are subsistence farmers. They are given a small plot of land by the government and in good years, they have a little surplus to sell. In bad years, many starve. They hand till the land, there are very few machines. Donkeys and women haul most of the heavy loads. They walk miles to the market on Saturday and we saw large numbers of people headed to and from the market.

We arrived late at Bahar Dar and went to the hotel to recover from the long trip. The town of Bahar Dar is on Lake Tana, the source of the Abay River, also known as the Blue Nile. The Abay River leaves Lake Tana headed south, then winds west and north into the Sudan where it combines with the White Nile to become the Nile River. We were tired when we arrived & stayed at the government hotel on the lake.

The next day we took a cab to Tis Issat, the Blue Nile Falls. Mom walked down into the gorge and up the other wall to the lookout then retraced her steps to the car. She had two "guides" helping her all the way. I will let her show you the photos of the path up and down the walls of the gorge.

Tis Isat Falls I have attached a photo of the falls. They are not very big now, the government has diverted about 90% of the water from the river to a hydroelectric plant. During the rainy season, the falls return to their original size. In the photo, you can see a bare rock face. That is less than half the width of the falls during the rainy season.

Shannon & Pat were car sick driving up so we took a plane back. They did not want to see another 12 hours driving in primitive conditions.



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