And yet again, it has been a very long time since I posted last. I think this time is weeks. Sorry about that, things are getting busy, as I knew they would, towards the end of school. I will endeavour to post as frequently as I can.
So our Coke problem has been sorted, I see it even made the BBC news. However, the foreign currency problem is on-going; the government here even confiscated 17,000 tons of coffee beans that were being held by the coffee growers, hoping for a better price. The government, desperate for foreign currency from exports, decided they would sell it instead. The current economic growth of the country is slowing down. A quote from a Voice of America news article:
"Many western economists and lending institutions say one of Ethiopia's biggest problems is its reluctance to abandon government controls and accept free market reforms. Banking and telecommunications are cited as areas where Ethiopia lags far behind."
I could have told you that a year ago!
Last week we had spring break and unfortunately our hunting trip was cancelled. A couple of us, Daniel Toole and Blake Pardue, decided to go up north to Bahir Dar, one of the largest cities in the North. We took the bus to save money; Ethiopia has a new bus service called Selam Bus. The buses are large, new buses with comfortable seats. They are air-conditioned, have videos played (all Ethiopian music videos or animal footage but still!) and snacks served. It really doesn't feel like an Ethiopian service, perhaps the biggest luxury for a bus service here is that it is an express service. There are quite a few seats free, but they don't wait until the bus is full, and then stop at every hole in the hedge to let people off or pick up more. All for about £8 each way.
We arrived in the city at about 4pm on Tuesday afternoon. 3 of us were able to stay in a room in the Ghion hotel, which is beside Lake Tana, a large lake beside the city. We went for a stroll in the evening; the city is very, very clean, well looked after, not crowded - altogether better than Addis. There are palm trees planted by the road, it feels very like a western city somewhere.
Wednesday we spent on Lake Tana, taking a boat trip out to visit some of the many monasteries that are on the small islands on the lake. Quite interesting, some of the island inhabitants have not left the islands in their lives. On Thursday, we decided to visit Gondar, a town to the north of Bihir Dar, famous for its castles. I didn't really have much interest in seeing castles, having plenty of them in Ireland, but the other guys were quite interested to see them and we had nothing else to do anyway. We took a minibus there, quite an interesting trip; for 4 hours crammed into the minibus like sardines. Women with crying babies, mud in their hair, being sick into plastic bags; great fun. We arrived at Gondar, saw round the castles, had lunch and started the 4 hour trip back. We were glad to arrive back in Bahir Dar!
On Friday, we visited the Blue Nile Falls, a waterfall on the Blue Nile River that flows out of Lake Tana. This was quite a depressing visit, as the falls themselves have been ruined by some inspired thinking. Until 4 or 5 years ago, the Blue Nile Falls were the second biggest waterfalls in Africa, after the Angel Falls in Zimbabwe. However, the Ethiopian government, ever in search of more electricity, decided to build a hydro-electric power plant on the river. Rather than build it before or after the falls, they opted with building directly beside the waterfalls, and then to re-route 2/3 of the water from the river to the plant. As a result, now only 1/3 of the original water flows over the waterfall, the rest rejoins the river a little further down. When we asked our guide why they had done this, he could not think of a reason. It's very sad what has been done to the locals' economy as a result of lost tourism that has surely resulted.
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