Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Crossing the Blue Nile

We're at 10,000 feet, Gordon and I and the 'Stang, looking down at the Blue Nile 6,000 feet below.  We drop down the road, a corrugated, holey, looping, switch-back and Gordon insists on stopping to get the photo of the grand view of this ancient, fabled, now mud-brown river below us. "You'll never capture it", I say, but he gives it a go.  The drops are vertiginous, thousands of feet; I'm driving and stick the car to the cliff wall...

We've reached the river half-way along today's 450 km stage from Addis to Bahir Dar on Lake Tana.

This was the best scenery we've seen on the trip so far. Green Ethiopian Highlands, 7,000 to 10,000 feet.

After the rains, it's green to the far sky, and plotted with maize, barley, sunflowers and flowering yellow rape.  With touches of lilac in yellow fields.  And everywhere groves and windbreaks of Aussie trees: gums like manniferabicostata, big stringy-barks, majestic blue gums, wattles in yellow flower, whispering casuarinas.  If you took out Aussie trees, Ethiopia would be treeless. Nothing is fenced, nothing is commercial; it's all subsistence, plus what can be put away in hay-stacks and the local grain gathery.  There's bucolic contentment, it seems: cows resting by a gum-shady nook in the stream, their herder leaning on his stick.

It's hard to believe that this, too, can be famine country when the rains don't fall.

The people are well-off today with the good harvests to come, by African standards, that is.  They're fed (though never to the tune of their cousins in America...), clothed, housed.  They tend their cows, goats, sheep. In the vilages, they.... walk.... service the farmers... give a bed to the traveller.  Brew an excellent coffee and cook meaty stew-like tips with barley injera for a couple of Aussies...

We dodge through the usual melee of people walking here and walking there and walking everywhere, walking, walking, purposefully, but to where?  In the morning, it's kids in uniform off to school and we catch them further north out of school.  But all these adults?  Where are they walking to?  And from? And where do the kids go, when they've finished school?  Tending cattle?