After buying some extra brake fluid, I then continued south back through Gonder to Bahir Dar. The cultivated wetlands near Lake Tana continued to produce plenty of birds, including a very surprising sighting of Abyssinian Longclaw in some long grass near the road. I also found a pair of Black Crowned Cranes on the outskirts of Bahir Dar.
I stayed at the camp site at the Tana Hotel. This was the first hotel where I met tourist groups. While there were 2 Europeans walking in the Simien mountains, and another two at Lalibela, I hadn’t met another tourist since Awash NP. The hotel has excellent facilities, and a beautiful terrace overlooking the lake. Black-headed Gull were seen on the lake, and Yellow-fronted Parrots heard in the grounds. Ethiopian Grivet were found in the trees.
Tuesday 28th December 1999
In the morning, I started by driving along the east bank of the Nile just south of its source, and found a single White-cheeked Turaco. Then I drove down the west side of the river to the Tis Abay falls. The falls were impressive, but - in my opinion - not as impressive as either the Victoria or Murchison Falls. There was surprising little bird-life along the road or the path near the falls.
From here, I returned towards Bahir Dar, before taking a new road west towards the main Addis Ababa road. This road was in reasonable condition (gravel still - the last tar road I had travelled on for any distance was returning from Djibouti). After reaching Bure, I turned south, continuing towards Nekempte. This road was significantly worse, having less gravel portions than the previous roads, and several areas of bad potholes. This meant slowing down, but even then it was still impossible not to hit the occasional pothole quite heavily.
Quite soon after leaving Bure, the road starting dropping rapidly down into the Nile valley. Curiously the most notable species was the African Reed-Warbler. The local race was a beautiful rich cinnamon colour, and the bird was common foraging around the roadsides, and even on the road itself. It took a little bit of identifying, as it behaviour was very chat-like.
I wasn't able to reach Nekempte that evening, so started looking for a place to camp for the nights. As I started to descend the next major river valley (the Anger river) I saw a Stone Partridge just next to the road. Shortly afterwards I found a suitable place to camp and pulled off the road. There was absolutely no-one around this area, so I couldn't even ask permission.
Wednesday 29th December 1999
The first sounds I heard in the morning were the calls of the Stone Partridge. However, after that there were few birds to be found. However, the road did not improve, and by the time I had reached Nekempte, I had broken a couple of leaves on the front springs. This was easily repaired in Nekempte, but I realized that should I have a more serious failure I was going to run short of cash. So at this point, I decided to quickly divert to Addis Ababa where I would try and top up my wallet.
The road from Nekempte to Addis Ababa was tarred, and in quite reasonable condition, so even though I only left after midday, I was in Addis Ababa by 17:00. Stopping at Gefersa Reservoir, I failed to see the Green-winged Teal, but there were several Northern Pintail there instead.
On arrival in Addis Ababa I stayed at the Wanza Hotel, on the road towards the airport. This was a very pleasant hotel, and relatively cheap, but didn’t serve food. However, there are many good restaurants within walking distance.
Thursday 30th December 1999
In the morning, I went to the main branch of the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, hoping that there might be some way of using my credit card to obtain cash. They assured me that there was absolutely no way of doing this, and even the airport was unable to handle credit cards. Not only that, they were unable to change any currency other than US $ or one of the major European currencies - certainly no African currency - even though they had brochures on the walls stating that they changed Kenya Shillings. Apparently this was out-of-date. This was intensely frustrating, since I had nearly US $500 worth of Kenyan & Tanzanian Shillings, etc - for buying petrol on my return journey. Clearly changing the money early (so I wouldn’t have to bother changing any on the way back) was a serious error. The only advice they could offer was to try the Hilton Hotel.
An Ethiopian trip: 27/11/1999 to 17/01/2000Giles Mulholland 31 January 2000