Bahir Dar & Lake Tana updates

a.       Stayed at the recently opened Kiriftu Resort (that I believe is listed as Boston Resort in your guidebook). Nice place even though construction work (of other bungalows and swimming pool) is still underway.  Bungalows were well decorated and food and service were of high quality.  Shiatsu massage (included in room price) was unexpectedly nice…

b.      ATM machine at Dashen Bank also very convenient;

c.       Lake Tana: what an experience!!

i.      We hired the boat from the Resort to take us to a few of the monasteries. It took us some effort to convince the hotel manager that it would be a one-way trip, since we wanted to end the boat trip at Tana Kirkos, cross to mainland, see Kristos Samra and continue our drive to Lalibela (rather than go back to Bahir Dar and drive all the way back to the Lalibela road). The manager thought it could not be done but we decided to follow your guidebook;

ii.      Ura Kidane Mihret: Our first stop, early in the morning.  We were probably the first tourists to get there that day which made the visit even more pleasant. When visiting the church, I saw a familiar face!! The monk on the cover of your guidebook was there, hanging around. We obviously asked him to pose in front of the same door and for the first time in our lives, we managed to take exactly the same picture that we saw in the cover of the guidebook… I think only in Ethiopia one could do that…

iii.      Getting off at Tana Kirkos was easy and a monk who probably spotted the boat during our approach was already down at the rocks waiting for us when we arrived (together with a hippo that submerged when the boat stopped).  Both wives were not very pleased to learn that they could not go beyond a certain point and gave us 30 min to visit everything!  My friend and I could not see the monastery itself since it is apparently “open” only during prayer time (i.e. from 3:00am to 6:00am…).  We were escorted to the pillars (now protected from the elements by a iron “house”) and heard all the interesting stories about their possible origins and uses. I found far more interesting though the visit to the “museum”, a 20 sq m room that is kept locked.  Two of the walls have shelves covered with centuries-old books, full of pictures and texts written on goat skin. While the monk was showing us the books, I could not stop thinking that they were not properly conditioned in that little room and if the church doesn´t do anything soon they may not last much longer…

iv.      After our visit, we wanted to carry on to the mainland as originally planned. We asked for help to find a papyrus tankwa that could take us over the small river that separated us from mainland and for directions to Kristos Samra. One of the monks was willing to help but charged us 150 birr for the whole package… Much more than the 20 birr we were expecting to pay… Given that the hotel boat had long left, we kind of realized that we did not have the upper hand on the negotiation table and accepted the price… Hopefully some of that money will help the monks better preserve the books they have… After making it to the other side of the river, it took us almost one hour to walk through some farmland along the river to Kristos Samra, where our car was waiting;

v.      Driving from Kristos Samra to the main road was a lot more challenging than what your guidebook sounds… And a lot more interesting as well. It was a tough one hour plus drive through farmlands and small villages. But it was the best opportunity we had to see how life is lived in the deep countryside of Ethiopia. By the reaction of the people (especially kids) along the way, we could tell that not many tourists opt for that “shortcut” during their visits…

José Bonchristiano

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One thought on “Bahir Dar & Lake Tana updates

  1. Laura says:

    very bad news about this Kiriftu resort. Poor service quality. As soon as you paid, you have to take care of yourself. You order something, fight for it. We were there for lunh on sunday and I thing I will not advice people to go there anymore. we finished lunch, paid it and waited unsuccessfully for the coffee, even if it was already paid. COnclusion we paid for we coffee and left without having it. When we complained, they were laughting, pityful. We went at the reception to complain, but they didn’t want to call their supervisor. They called one of the guys from the restaurant and told us that it is the supervisor. Unfortunatly we recognised him. What a shaaaaaaaaaaame.

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