Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ethiopia: Gorgora, Day 1: The Ethiopian Tourist Trap

Taxi picked me up at 5:15 a.m. Took me to bus station; driver off-loaded my bag; sought and found bus to Gorgora.

Bus trip -- whoa. We stopped several times along way - just when I thought it was impossible to fit one more person on the bus, five people got on.

Once we got out of Gonder, the road turned to gravel. In some places, just dirt.

The village of Gorgora is decidedly unromantic. It's just plain down and out. The driver stopped in the rutted dirt/rock road alongside a row of low buildings, looked at me, and said "complete." I looked down the street and up the street, seeing no indication of a hotel, no taxis or tuktuks, no hint of a nearby lake. I said, "Port Hotel?" The bus driver pointed down the street. I looked again. Dismal. Nevertheless, I disembarked (what else was I to do) and immediately a young man appeared at the ready to shoulder my heavy bag and escort me to the hotel. I acquiesced to this as we walked the pitted dirt road to a Y, encountering a paved road. We turned to the right, which lead us to the hotel. It was probably a quarter-mile from bus stop to hotel lobby.

We were greeting by a movie-actor-handsome man with stained clothing. I asked to see some rooms. I am sorry to say the two choices were depressing: Dark, tired, grimy (though the toilet and sink looked very clean). I went with the en suite @ 150 birr (about $10) over the shared bath at 80 birr.

 The grounds display what once must have been a spectacular Garden of Eden but which is now a shadow of its former splendor.

Lake Tana looks sort of gray. The bird song, however, is a delight. Multitudinous avian voices. (That sentence sound a little purple-prose-ish i guess).

I hadn't had coffee or breakfast before I left Gonder, so once I selected my depressing room, I went out onto the lodge's Spartan patio, ordering coffee and an omelet. There I encountered a British couple who were enjoying bread and marmalade with coffee. Both sported ugly contusions and wounds from last night, when they (I swear to God) fell into a hole on their way back to their lakeside cottage. I mean, really, these injuries looked nasty. [Note: Such giant holes in pavement later became known in my mind as Ethiopian Tourist Traps.]

We chatted a bit, then they returned to their room while I checked into mine.

I had a long, long nap, skipping lunch.

Later: I've been able to move past my initial let-down re how rundown the place is and, instead, enjoy what is here - a pretty good natural environment, a completely relaxed air, and a terrifically efficient ceiling fan in my room. Of course, I haven't used the shower yet...

About 4:30, I pulled myself together and walked to the restaurant. All of the shady patio seating was taken, so I went inside and chatted with the reception guy (the movie-actor-handsome guy) and his expat Ethiopian friend visiting from Denver. I ordered some Axumite wine -- you can only get the bottle, not just the glass -- and took the bottle out to the patio when a shady table opened up. Presently, an American appeared, who as it turned out, had flown into Gonder from Addis that day, hired a guide to drive him to Gorgora for a couple of hours, then to return to Gonder and fly back to Addis the next day. We shared some wine, we tsk-tsked over the "faranji tax," and generally passed a pleasant hour together.

Later had dinner with the British couple, Liz and Tim. They had hiked in the Simien Mts and were relaxing in Gorgora before heading to Kigali, Rwanda, where they will do the gorilla-watching trek. Later, they'll move to Uganda for a hike, a safari and white-water rafting. They are 64 and 65 respectively.

On my way back to my room, as I cut through the lodge reception, the ladies who staff the restaurant and reception were eating their dinner of tibs and injera. They invited me to join them, and we had a fun chat about the number of children we have (or don't have), our names, etc. These ladies work long hours. They were at work when I arrived in the a.m. and were just now signing off at about 9:00 p.m. or later.

Definitely now I am appreciating the charms of this place, notwithstanding the dreariness of the interior facilities. It is so compelling to just listen to the birds and feel the warm breeze on my face.

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