There in the opening light on a track shaded by lakeside trees an engine revs and I – run.
But upon reaching the wharf: Fu*k, the ferry’s departed!
It’s 30 meters away.
But luckily, a guy sees me, and it returns – just for me!
I couldn’t wait another week for the next sailing from Gorgora to Bahir Dar.
And so, the 2-day boat journey to the southern shores of Lake Tana – Ethiopia’s largest lake – was on.
The plan is: when I reach the south, I’ll visit the source of the Blue Nile River and the connected waterfalls.
For some months earlier, I’d traveled to the Mediterranean to watch the Nile flow into the sea, and then followed the Nile upriver while traveling Egypt, and later into Sudan, where in Khartoum, the different colored waters of the Blue and White Nile converge.
Crossing the ‘copper waters’ of Ethiopia’s Lake Tana
An ancient Greek dramatist once named Lake Tana “the copper-tinted lake”.
The waters changing color with the weather and seasons.
Red soil running with the rain gives the lake a copper tan. But other times, the waters are blue.
The boat across Lake Tana stops overnight night in Konzula
In Konzula, I had a $2 room the size of a single bed
It was fine.
And it was the only place with power that intense, stormy night.
But no food served. Beer was my dinner. So I drank bottles with an English-speaking local; hey, my shout.
Starving the next day, I ate a single banana for breakfast.
Stopping at Dek Island on the boat across Lake Tana
The second day on the Lake Tana ferry saw a lengthy delay of many hours at the village of Gurer, on Dek Island.
Wandering Dek Island, crowds of kids followed me along a mud path from the jetty to the village.
Meantime hopeful locals sold mangoes. And only mangoes.
For hours, porters lugged heavy crates on their backs to cram the deck – with stacks of mangoes. No room anywhere. More passengers boarded and the ferry stuffed-full for the final stage.
TRAVEL TIPS for taking the boat across Lake Tana
TIMETABLE: Departures are usually 6.30 – 7 am.
The ferry from Gorgora to Bahir Dar leaves on Thursdays.
In the other direction: The boat from Bahir Dar to Gorgora goes on Sundays.
The Konzula overnight-stay departure is 6 am.
Arrival in either direction is sometime in 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 is 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 for the Konzula early-morning-return to the jetty, which is a one kilometer walk in darkness.
Expect constant attention as the only foreigner on board. You may even feel like a caged animal. For time-out, adopt sunglasses, a bottle and mindless gaze, and/or use headphones.
ACCOMMODATION IN GORGORA: Stay at the dated government hotel for a bit of surreal atmosphere. Better still if you have days to kill, stay at the Tim and Kim Village. It’s a backpacker resort of solar-powered thatch-and-stone cottages with bar and restaurant located on the shores of Lake Tana.
Crossing Lake Tana by boat is a classic backpacking trip. Enjoy!