Lake Tana is Ethiopia’s largest lake. I wanted to see it – and I wanted to cross it. Why? Because Tana is the source of the Blue Nile and this alone tweaked my interest.
Months earlier I’d travelled to the Mediterrean, to watch the Nile flow into the sea. Crossing Egypt and Sudan overland, the Nile was often alongside me. While there in Khartoum, the Blue and White Nile converged.
An ancient Greek dramatist once called Lake Tana, the “copper-tinted lake”. The weather and times of day, saw the waters change color, often.
I stayed Konzula in a $2 room, the size of a single bed. It was the only place with power that intense, stormy night. No food served. Beer was my dinner. Drank heavily with an English-speaking local; my shout. Starving the next day – a single banana was breakfast.
Over 20 monastic churches are located around Lake Tana. Most date from the 14th century. Some are located on peninsulas; others isolated on tiny islands.
Early morning alone inside Ura Kidane Mihret with the most-amazing bibilical paintings. Some – not, online here – gruesome, torturous in their depictions of sin and suffering.
“The monastery was founded in the 14th century by a saint called Betre Maryam, who started training as a priest after being visited by two angels at the age of seven (Betre Maryam literally means ‘Rod of Mary’, and is a reference to the saint’s steeliness when it came to beating off the devil and other demons”. [source: Bradt Ethiopia]
I went for a wander on Dek, crowds of kids following me along the muddy path from the jetty to the village, lined by hopeful locals selling mangoes. Only mangoes. Meantime for hours porters lugged heavy crates on their backs, to eventually fill the entire cargo deck with high-stacks of boxed mangoes. No room anywhere. Just mangoes. And people. The relatively-empty ferry – now packed for the final stage to Bahir Dar.
TRAVEL ADVICE for ferry across Lake Tana
TIMETABLE: Departures = 7 am. From Gorgora to Bahir Dar on Thursdays. Bahir Dar to Gorgora on Sundays. The Konzula overnight-stay departure is 6 am. Arrival in either direction is sometime late afternoon.
COSTS: Foreigners pay $US15 (for 2 full days of lake travel). Buy ticket at Lake Transport offices; easy to locate. A bed in Konzula is $2.50 (50 birr).
TAKE FOOD (buy in Gonder as virtually nothing is available in Gorgora or at shore stops). WATER – available on route but take some as the ferry kiosk is limited to tea, coffee, bread, pepsi, and single cigarettes.
MORE INFO: Have a torch ready for the Konzula-early-morning-return to jetty, about a km of darkness. You’ll likely be the only foreigner onboard – maybe the first-ever seen by most passengers so expect constant attention. Certainly you’ll be of endless interest to some. You may even feel like a caged animal. For time-out, adopt sunglasses, a bottle and mindless gaze, and/or use headphones.
Enjoy. It’s a great trip!