Saturday, February 18, 2012


Guide books suggest that it is an easy bus ride from Gondar to Gorgora. It is not. As so many buses in Ethiopia, this one leaves somewhere between 5.30 and 6 am. OK we can handle that. But from getting close to the bus station in Gondar to after being well away from the bus stop in Gorgora, it is a constant hassle. Everybody in Gondar wants to help you buy a ticket. Needless, because for Gorgora you buy a ticket in the bus, in fact you cannot buy it anywhere else, so any money handed over beforehand would be immediately lost. One guy even got into the bus to sell us a ticket, at vastly overpriced rates, and claim further money for the fact that he carried a suitcase to the back, and to the roof of the bus. Everybody already on board must have known this was a scam. Nobody said anything. Someone else claimed a service charge, also for carrying a suitcase to the roof of the bus, after he had taken it down first. When finally the real conductor appeared, we haggled for another 20 minutes, to get somewhere near the real ticket price – we still paid about twice as much, but anyhow. In Gorgora, two hours later, we were besieged by guys who carried our suitcases down from the roof again, and demanded further payment for the carrying, for the fact that the suitcases had been transported in the first place, and for whatever else they dreamt up. We were the only foreigners on the bus; they didn’t ask anybody else the same. Exhausting. But utterly in line with our experience so far that everybody tries to get a slice of the cake. I recall a newspaper headline in China, years ago, “to screw a foreigner is a patriotic deed”. It could have been written for Ethiopia.
But we didn’t regret coming to Gorgora, a small town on the other side of Lake Tana. There is yet another church, Debre Sina Maryam, older than any of the ones we have seen so far, and possibly even more beautifully decorated with frescos. (And I now got a picture of Emperor Fasilades, Queen Sheba and King Solomon!). This church still has a thatched roof, and nicely carved woodwork inside to support it. Obviously, it is still in use, with a wooden pulpit outside, reinforced with an amplifier and loudspeaker.
(1) papyrus canoe on the lake, note the ship yard in the back, on the island
(2) more papyrus boats, drying
(3) the church, Debre Sina Maryam, as authentic as they come
(4) and this is just an incredible chair, solid rock; somebody must have spent quite some time getting it in chair shape!

(5, 6, 7, 8) visualising history: we have the stoning of Saint Peter above (we haven't seen enough of horrible torture yet), then Emperor Fasilides, below him the Queen of Sheba, and at the bottom an unidentified group of men - but nice enough painting to include
A couple of hours walking around the lake reveals a wealth of spectacularly colourful birds, of which, with the help of our guide, we are now able to name a few, as well.

(9, 10, 11) and just a few of the birds we saw, top ones I don't know the name, second one is a pygmee kingfisher and at the bottom the, rare, Abyssinian roller - or so I have been told
The real gem in Gorgora, however, is the little lodge and campsite of Tim&Kim, a Dutch couple who have set up this place some time ago, partly to provide accommodation for tourists in one of the most peaceful settings you can imagine, and partly to support the village people, through small scale projects like school toilets, a water system, and straightforward employment.

Back to Gondar, Tim gave us a lift, which allowed us to avoid the bus trip, this time around.

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