Castles and Lakeside retreat
26 April 2013- Lake Tana, Ethiopia
We have just spent a couple of nights in Gondar in the west of Sudan, Gondar is a big town that was the third major capital of the Ethiopian region in the 16-1700’s. The centre of town sits just outside the walls and watchtowers of a royal enclosure. Each emperor added a new castle to the complex of buildings inside, that include the remains of 6 castles and numerous other buildings including churches, two lion cages, a library, wash houses and stables. It was great to be guided around and hear the history of the palace and how it was successively built up, after the guide had showed us around we went back to wait out the heat of the day in one of the balconied castle rooms and chatted away for ages. The town itself is a busy place, bajaj (tuk tuks) whizzing everywhere, cafes in squares offering juices and snacks, lots of donkey and carts hauling stuff around the place. We walked down from our car park campsite for breakfast on our way to the castles on our first morning and Lisa found a spot in a cafe out of the sun while I posted some fantastic postcards of Ethiopia from the 1970’s, of what seemed to be the first concrete tower block built in Addis, quite an attraction! When I got back Lisa was chatting to a guy who was having a breakfast of avocado juice and a cake, he was having a few days away from the Addis and seeing some of his country. We ended up having a great chat, and after discovering there were no eggs (every breakfast item on the menu was egg based) we ended up having juice and cake for breckie too. Modestly but very generously he paid for our breakfast as he left, I can’t imagine that happening in Sydney or London. On our wanderings around Gondar, we found Dashen House, an open court-yard with plastic tables and chairs, a popular place serving local beer and simple food. After a few hand gestures and pointing at someone else’s food nearby we ended up with a couple of great draught beers and a plate of food all for a couple of dollars. We have found Ethiopians so friendly, kind and quick with a smile and joke. The security guard at the hotel we are camping at nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard we were from Australia. He was an older gentleman and didn’t speak a word of English but with a massive grin and immense pride showed me his mobile phone that had an Australian number saved in it. It turns out that his daughter lives in Oz and the next day he brought in some treasured photos of her and his grand kids, carefully unwrapping them and showing them to us, he then phoned his daughter and thrust the phone out to us so we could speak to her. Well, his daughter lives in Perth and has a very proud Dad back in Gondar, happy to have shared his family with us!
Yesterday after breakfast we walked to a nearby church, one of the most beautiful we have seen. We removed our shoes and entered in separate doors as is necessary and we met with almost every surface covered with fresco paintings depicting scenes from the bible. The priest who minds the place had a few words of english to point and show us a couple of things but mostly we just sat in silence and took it all in. Although the hotel had a very friendly security guard, it is often difficult to sleep in car parks, so we were very glad to be on our way and heading to a campsite for the first time in Ethiopia.
We arrived yesterday afternoon to the edge of Lake Tana to a lovely place run by a friendly Dutch couple, Tim and Kim. It has been so relaxing! We are camped under a massive fig tree (not a car park in sight!) which provides needed shade and when we get up to go to the loo in the morning nobody is standing right outside the door looking at us. We have had all of our laundry done (never do it ourselves anymore, no washing machines anywhere and we are not hand washing our sheets, it would be a mess. So we hand it over to the professional who hand wash them). We have clean sheets, so nice! We joined Tim and Kim last night for a communal meal with the other two guests staying in one of their little rooms they have. It was a nice evening with a few beers and Lisa and I had a game of scrabble and finished the grog we had in landy before going to Sudan, where it is illegal.
We have decided to head for the border tomorrow. We don’t know yet when we need to arrive in Wadi Halfa, in the north of Sudan, to get our ferry to Egypt so we decided to carry on.
O and L