Last day in Bahir Dar started late, I took a long sleep in, meaning I was not up until 09.30 and I went to hand in the laundry that I needed to have done and was promised that it would be done by the evening which suited me fine so I could pack and leave early in the morning the following day to the airport.
I was looking at the clock and was waiting for it to reach 09:00 in Europe as I had a few days before ordered a flower delivery to my girlfriends work together with some chocolate and a little teaddybear to make her smile, the delivery time was between 09:00 and 12:00.
And as the day passed without any reaction I thought that if I wanted to have anything done this day it was time to move.
I wanted to buy some US dollars as I would need it when I landed in Djibouti for the visa cost and also as a backup reserve in case something would happen like the ATM at the airport would not be working.
A different bank got my business and I first withdrew money from their ATM and headed into the office where I actually got aq cold hand, “- Sorry we don’t sell, only buy” was the reply?
I headed to the next bank and the same answer there, you could not buy US dollars in Bahir Dar, I now turned my hope to the Bole airport in Addis to change my money because otherwise I would be fucked as you are not allowed to export more than 200 birr out of Ethiopia and now I had just withdrawn 100 euros, some 2500 birr.
Thought of taking a tuk-tuk to the huge DERG monument which I wanted to see, listed as one of the towns few attractions.
Sure enough, Faranji never walks alone and soon I had a self appointed guide by my side named Eremias, he first wanted to sell me a tour to Lake Tana or to the Blue Nile Falls and my reply was that I had already seen them.
He asked me where I was heading and I replied that I was going to the DERG monument. He asked if I wanted a tuk-tuk but in an attempt to turn him off and leave me alone I replied that I would walk there.
He smiled big and said “-Good, I like to walk long too”, it looked like my plan just had backfired and I was stuck with this guy but they usually never stick around for long so I kept on going hoping he soon would lose interest.
It turned out to become a long day of walking as he didn’t leave me but persisted to follow me on the way to where I was heading.
On the way he told me the story of himself, how he was on his last year of university in tourism management but he didn’t have so good grades as he admitted that maybe he was chewing more chat then he should.
He didn’t want to be employed but rather self-employed as then he could spend time with his family as well and he was opting for getting the driver’s licence when he graduated and get a car and work as a driver for tourists.
As we were walking alone he started selling himself as my self-appointed guide and already planned in that I would also visit the former palace of the last emperor Haile Selassie after the DERG monument and all of this he would guide me for the simple price of 150 birr.
After have walked some 4 kilometers we reached the bridge before the monument and it is big, I mean really big. I asked Eremias what people thought about the monument as it sure had costed a lot of money to build.
Some people is for it and a lot of people were against it wondering why so much money would be spent on something so useless as a monument but apparently the richest man in Ethiopia, who also owns the Sheraton hotel and donated some 20 million birr for the construction.
unfortunately it was not allowed to come near the monument from the front if you didn’t go to the back of the monument and paid an entrance fee, sounds pretty backwards and unfortunately a lot of things in this country is that, something i would discover a bit later on my journey.
In stead of walking back we decided to walk to the former palace and as I asked Eremias how far it was he replied “- Not so far, about 7 kilometers”
Sounded good to me and he said he knew a short cut so we didn’t have to walk along the road with all the cars the whole way. Instead he led me onto an alley with was more shadowed because of a lot of trees planted all the way “- This is planeted by Haile Sellasie” said Eremias and continued “- You see this tree? This tree is always green, all year-long and that is why it was planted”
We walked and talked for a long while as the landscape changed and we passed curious people seeing a Faranji way out of the city, well we were still actually in Bahir Dar but on the outskirts, and as we came closer the tree alley started to disappear and Eremias pointed on a hill saying “- There it is. Behind that hill is the palace”
As we got closer to the hill I noticed an enormous tree spreading a huge shadow by the side of the tree and two youngsters resting under it and as they saw us coming walking they jumped up on their feet and Eremias told me that these guys were part of a football team and would probably ask me if I wanted to support them with some money so they could buy second-hand stuff for the team like shirts and so on.
His prophecy came true and they handed over a badly torn piece of paper saying that they were a good football team and asked for donations so they could buy second-hand clothes and stuff for the team.
Personally I hate football so I don’t see why I should support it but when it comes to these guys they probably have nothing else to do and if they concentrated on playing football instead of hassling tourists then i could support them and maybe in the future I would have saved a fellow traveller to be hustled by any of these boys.
I donated 100 birr which is about 4 euros and signed my name, email address and other things on a piece of paper that they had.
As soon as this had been done they smiled and thanked me for the donation and me and my self-appointed guide started a brief march in a hasty phase through the high vegetation to climb the hill in front of us.
The vegetation was almost as high as my guide and in my head the mind played me tricks that soon a lion would attack us luring in the high grass or that a poison snake would strike, and of course in my imagination it was Eremias who was the victim in these cases as he was the one walking first in our line.
I know I’m cruel.
Reaching the top was a blessing for my heart as I thought that it would start pounding out of my ears soon as I drank the last of the water I had with me and photographed the view over Bahir Dar which was set all below us from this hill.
I saw the monument from where we had started, I saw the bridge we had crossed before the monument and in all I was impressed of how far we had walked.
“- You are a crazy Faranji” Eremias said. “- no Faranji walks here, they all take a car to this point and pay a lot of money for it, I like you”
Proud of myself that I was not like the other Faranjis, which I always have known I am not, but now I had it confirmed as well from a native like Eremias.
The rest of the walk took a few minutes and suddenly we were at the former palace of the last emperor which is now used by the prime minister during the days he is in Bahir Dar and of course it is not allowed to photograph.
We walked up to the gate and an older man, he must have been in his late 50´s, was sitting on the grass in the shadow with an old Soviet style single rifle resting in his lap. I was curious and asked Eremias to ask the man how he liked his job and how long he was sitting there.
The old man replied that they work in 24 hours shifts, he and another guy, work 24 hours and be home and sleep for 24 hours but there was no water and no food if they didn’t bring anything with themselves. But it was a job and it gave him some little money.
Eremias asked if I could take some pictures but the answer was no as a manager was sitting a bit further away and he didn’t want to risk anything.
We thanked and started to walk back on the “offical” road which Eremias pointed out that the walk would only be downhill from now on.
As we were walking down we passed a church which was painted in the Ethiopian colors and my guide told me that it is probably the most famous Rasta Farai church in Ethiopia and it was very famous in Addis and a lot of people come from Addis and it is famous just because it is close to the palace, other than that, it was a regular church.
We walked pass a field where some men were cutting down the high grass as they were gonna use it to build traditional tukul houses. A tukul house is a round house, why it is round I have not really dug into but at least I can imagine that it is good because then a dog can not piss in any corner.
Eremias greeted them and exchanged some words and then started laughing.
He turned to me and said “- they told me that we are welcome to help them” and we laughed together, smiling and waveing to the men who were standing, smiling and looking at the Faranji walking with his little helper beside him
When we reached the monument we both decided that the 20km walk we had done so far this day was enough and stopped a tuk-tuk that took us the rest of the way back to the hotel.
I paid Eremias 200 birr instead as I really had enjoyed his company during the walk and everything h had told me, he smiled and excused himself and wondered if he could get some more money as he also was supporting his younger sisters in school, I looked at him and gave him another 100 birr which brought his smile even bigger and I commanded him to stop chewing so much chat and concentrate on school instead, he laughed and said goodbye.
As soon as I got into my room, my host from Gondar, Behajlu was calling me as he was in Bahir Dar for work.
We decided to meet sand I hit the shower to have a well deserved wash after the little walk and I also noticed as I took of my shoes that I had two huge blisters on my feet as I didn’t use socks in my shoes.
I sat myself down on the terrace at the hotel and chatted with my girlfriend again until Behajlu showed up with his work buddy.
Left my netbook and my key in at the reception and asked for my laundry and got the answer, tomorrow and I said “-No, I need it tonight as I have to pack and I leave tomorrow morning”
Ok, ok, they would fix it.
The three of us decided to go for dinner and they took me to a pizza place and I tried the Ethiopian version of pizza, not so bad and not so good either and after a while when we had eaten Behajlu took me to the local club where they had traditional music, again.
And as last time as I was the only Faranji walking into this little and dark club, only lit by some red lamps, all eyes was on me but they soon directed their attention on the singer and dancers instead.
I ordered a beer and was sitting and sipping it when one of the singer came up to me and started singing “-Faranji…” and paused and all started to laugh as we, even I, understood that this was me this was all about.
And he continued singing in Amharic an ode to me and all the Ethiopians were laughing and all I could do was sitting and smiling being flattered that this person actually addressed me and I found out later by Behajlu that this was how they were doing it, they sing songs about you in all ways and everyone laughs even if it is insulting it is all done in good spirit and heart.
In my case he had sung something like “-When I came to Bahir Dar the city was so big for me, when Faranji came to the city he became as big as the city” and so on.
Surely enough they also wanted me to dance and I had no other option that to comply and copy the womans moves, I didn’t master it but I did the nest of the situation as simple as that and it was to everyone’s liking.
After a few beers I was really tired and as it was very intimate club, meaning it was also very hot in it, we decided to leave and walk home.
Walking along the street I saw two women that was too well dressed for the street and as we passed on of them, who actually had a really nice cut dress, the woman shouted after me “-Faranji, I want sex with you”, yes she was a prostitute asking for business
We walked and talked and I stopped to buy a pack of local cigarettes, as a gift, and as we reached the gate we said farewell and I promised to try to find a cable that Behajlu needed for his video camera.
Walking along the entrance alley towards the hotel reception another woman approached me and greeted me and we shook hands, she must have been in her late 30s or early 40s but she was looking good.
She asked me if I wanted to have some massage and I asked what kind of massage she did, making her start giggling and becoming all shy, I just looked at her smiling and waiting for an answer and she continued to giggle.
I said “-Thank you but I have to get up early tomorrow morning and fly to Addis so no,no massage, I have a girlfriend”
And we said good night and departed ways.
When I got to the reception I wanted to pick up my laundry as well that I had handed in the morning and of course they didn’t have it.
Tomorrow at 06:30 the hotel manager said and I was not very happy with this as I was supposed to leave at 07:00