Ethiopia - Gertrude
Thu 4 Dec
I left the hotel at 0515. The promised taxi had not shown up but the watchman helpfully asked a passing runner to send one my way. I got to the bus station in good time and was mightily relieved that I had bought my ticket and seen the actual bus the day before. To my surprise there was a blonde European lady in the seat I had asked a boy to "reserve" for me so I sat in the one behind and sent him to get two coffees. By 0600 it was getting light so we felt comfortable about putting our big bags on the roof. Gertrude offered to chain mine with hers to the rack, which seemed a sensible precaution, and I was quite impressed when she climbed up there to do it. As we waited a cassette played with some slow moody Ethiopian music. I thought it sounded almost Celtic and was quite keen to get a copy. Later, after it was about to play through for the third time the driver took it out to put something else on. I asked to look at the tape but it was a home copy so I was none the wiser. Instead of handing it back I offered him 15Birr (US$2), which he took with a grin.
We stopped after three hours for breakfast and shortly after reached the spectacular Blue Nile gorge. It took an hour and a half to wind our way down to the bridge and zigzag our way up the other side. It was impressive civil engineering but the scenery was not much different from what I had walked through in the previous two weeks.
Gertrude proved to be a refreshing companion, a German, now free of a university age son she had taken to travelling. I got the impression she was reclaiming a life of her own and although this was only her second outing she was not so na´ve. The bus does not complete the journey to Bahir Dar in a single day (although if it left on time it probably could). The new road expired somewhere around Debre Markos and the last few hours were on temporary tracks alongside the ongoing construction. We stopped at 2000 in a small town called Dangla and checked into the "best hotel" which sadly left much to be desired.
Ethiopia - Gertrude