Traveling Nancy

Traveling around the world as far as I can go.

Dec 29 Lake Tana and Blue Nile Falls


At 8:00 Ayu drove us to Lake Tana (a short distance from the Arba Minch Lodge) and we took a 90-minute boat ride across Lake Tana, which is the source of the Blue Nile.

Lake Tana is the largest lake in Ethiopia with an area of 3600 square kilometers. The lake hosts 27 islands and 37 monasteries that were founded between the 11th and 16th century. We passed two islands that were close to each other. One was for the nuns and the other was for the monks.  This photo shows the one for the monks.

We docked on the Zege Peninsula and walked about 20 minutes up the hill to the Ura Kidane Mihret Monastery. There are 10,000 people living and working on this island including the monks, nuns, priests, and people growing coffee beans. I think the name of the village is Azua.

 Although Jane, Sue, and Leigh each had a hiking pole with them, I had left mine in the room so I had to hike without a pole.

Our guide showed us that coffee beans are ready when they turn red. Each seed has two coffee beans inside of it.

We arrived at the Ura Kidane Mihret Monastery, which was established in the 14th century. First we looked at the hanging stone on the outside of the monastery, which is used to call the monks.

The Monastery is conical-shaped.

On the top of the Monastery is a sculpture showing seven Ostrich eggs that represents the 7 miracles of Christ.

People pray in front of the monetary.

We took off our shoes, covered our heads, and entered the Monastery through the floor to ceiling doors that were made out of 1 piece of a Sycamore tree.

Inside the murals (which are also floor to ceiling) were painted using natural colors in the 16th century and were restored in the 1990s. Our guide told us that the paintings were created to help the people who cannot read understand the stories of the bible.

Some of the murals were small squares depicting everyday life of the people.

As we walked around the circle inside the monastery, our guide explained the 4 sections. The north section depicts the martyrs; the west section is about Mary; the south section is about the exile of Mary; and the east section is about the miracles.

Only the priests can enter through the main doors. Just like churches we saw yesterday and the day before, there are 3 sections (one for woman, one for men, and the center for priests and Monks.

Ura Kidane Mihret Monastery was built in the 16th century. Kidane Mehret is a Ge’ez phrase meaning Covenant of Mercy and refers to Ethiopic tradition that Jesus promised Mary that he would forgive the sins of those who ask her to intercede.

We walked on a path through the coffee bushes towards a second, smaller Monastery. The path was beautiful.

The people who harvest the coffee beans live near the field.

I was doing a great job walking without any hiking poles until I attempted to take my hat off of my fanny pack and tripped on a root. I am so lucky that I did not get a FOOSH Falling On Outstretched Hand Wrist Break) because I fell forward right onto my hands. But I picked myself up, dusted off my hands, and was just fine.

At the end of the path was the second monastery, which smaller than Ura Kidane Mihret.  The murals in this monastery have the same themes but are not as colorful.

.As we walked back to the boat there were many people selling things. Leigh bought a small drum and a bell.  Jane bought a small cross.

A young man named Sale was painting small pictures.   I took a photo of him doing a painting and of the natural dyes he uses. He wanted me to mail the photo to him and the natural dyes he uses to paint..

On the way back across the lake the boatman took us to see Hippos.

We also saw pelicans.

A guy in a small papyrus was feeding the pelicans.  Of course he was there for the tourists and wanted money.

We went to a lovely restaurant where we sat by the lake.

It took them a very long time to bring us our lunch but I loved watching the red dragon-fly land over and over again on the same branch while we waited for our lunch.  The grilled lake fish were delicious so I guess it was worth the wait.

After lunch we drove about 30 km. Ayu told us we were going for an “African Massage” just as he began driving over another gravely, potted road. It took me a few minutes to get what he meant. We passed the fields of sugar cane which is grown in this region.

This was market day in the small villages we passed. We had to keep the windows closed because of the dust. We saw a man covered in a white cloth being carried on a platform- like board by several other men. Ayu said they were taking him to the doctor’s office. I think they had to walk about 5 km to get there. If the doctor doesn’t know how to help the man, he will call an ambulance.

We arrived at Tisabay (the town by the Blue Nile River which means “smoking water”) where Ayu bought our tickets to walk to Blue Nile Waterfall that is on the Blue Nile River. The river is known as Tis Abay in Amharic, which means “Great Snake.”

We walked up the very rocky path along with many other people who were going home from the market and several of them they had donkeys with them.

Again I was walking without a pole and I was so happy that I can still have good balance as I walk.  The guide was helping Sue down the rocks because they are hard for her to see. I really did a great job managing the very rocky path without my poles.

The guide warned me to be careful about the donkeys pushing me over. When we were crossing the stone bridge that was constructed in 1620, one donkey bumped tight into my butt.

We made it to the overlook of the waterfall.

Of course we needed a photo of ourselves.

We came to the new suspension bridge that was constructed in 2011. Much to our surprise, there were 5 or six cows being led across the bridge toward us. One woman said that it was very fitting because the bridge had been constructed by the Swiss.

We took a very short boat ride back to the where we met Ayu and the Land Cruiser. Then we bounced along the gravel road again and back to Arba Minch Lodge for a delicious fish and vegetable dinner. They brought the fish wrapped in aluminum foil with a fire on top of it.

They just threw the fiery foil onto the floor.

Being driven by Ayu in our own Land Cruiser with only the four of us and having private guides at each place we visit is so fantastic. We are so privileged.

Author: Nancy Panitch

Traveling has been a passion of Nancy Panitch's life and she loves seeing how people in other cultures live. Her travels have taken her to many places within the United States, Asia, Europe, South America, and Africa. Being around people inspires her and she has much gratitude for the kindred Souls that are joining together with her in body, mind, and heart. She moved from Chicago to Portland, Oregon in 1982. It was one of the best decisions of her life. While in Portland she stays very, VERY busy. She volunteers (Inter-Religious Action Network, Human Rights Council, & ushering for various theaters); attends a Unitarian Universalist church; goes hiking with groups (Cascade Prime Timers & Trails Club of Oregon) and also with individual friends. Book groups, movie group, and bridge groups occupy her time as well. Her quiet activities include yoga, knitting, Sudoku, and reading. She enjoys all of these activities, but making time to see her wonderful 4 grandchildren takes priority over it all. She is happy to share this blog and hopes to encourage others to travel.

5 thoughts on “Dec 29 Lake Tana and Blue Nile Falls

  1. Well, Nancy, I feel privileged to be among the people to share your adventures, if only through this blog! Thanks for sharing with us!


  2. It is so great and informative to travel vicariously through your writings and photographs!
    Thank you!


  3. Sounds like you did a great job walking without your poles 😉


  4. Wow, what a trip!


  5. Love reading about your adventures!


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