Travel Weekly editor-at-large Arnie Weissmann continues his
journeys through Ethiopia. Following is the third in an eight-part
series telling the tales of his travels and travails:
he day before, I had had no
trouble conversing with my guide, Mr. Kindu, but as we drove to the
trailhead for Blue Nile Falls, we were misfiring.
"What's the name of the bird on that wire?" I asked.
"It is an oil refinery," he
replied, the wind having garbled my question to God-knows-what.
The day seemed destined for misfires. I was pondering just how
worried I should be about an early-morning visit I had received
from the manager of the local tourist office.
"I must warn you," he said in a quiet voice, "that the falls are
not going to be as good as usual." I told him I knew I was there in
a dry season, but he interrupted and said that was not the
"No, they are building a
hydroelectric dam, so some of the water is being diverted. I
thought you should know."
I have for years seen photos and woodcuts of the Blue Nile Falls
(or, as it is known locally, Tissabay Falls), and I imagined them
to be an awesome sight. As we drove on, I wondered just how much
water was being diverted.
At the town of Tissabay Falls, we paid a small access fee, then
drove on to where the trail to the falls begins. We climbed, we
descended, we climbed again. As we stepped onto an old, stone
Portuguese-built bridge, Mr. Kindu seemed suddenly apoplectic. The
small river -- it really could have qualified as a large creek --
at the bottom of a canyon 70 feet below us was the Blue Nile.
Mr. Kindu said the entire gorge was
usually filled with water.
We walked for about another 20 minutes, and at the sight of the
falls themselves Mr. K stood in open-jawed silence. He turned to me
and said, "I'm really so sorry." He had been coming to the falls
for 17 years -- he had been there just a week before -- and he had
never seen them so small. "It is only a fraction of what it should
be on the worst day of the dry season," he said.
We were looking at it from a vantage point opposite the falls,
and I have to say I have seen more impressive cascades in state
parks in the U.S. Mr. Kindu said that a week before, we could not
have stood where we were standing -- the spray would have been too
thick and we would have been drenched, even there on the opposite
We pushed on, following a
nameless shallow tributary, and jumped on stones across the water
to approach the falls from the other side. Ultimately, we stood
within yards of the cascades.
Inspired by the rainbows in the rising mist, I tried to come up
with a silver lining to this disappointing sight. I found some
comfort -- cold comfort -- with the thought that, while I might not
be seeing the majestic display I expected, at least I was seeing a
sight even the greatest explorers of Africa could never imagine --
the tap turned off of Blue Nile Falls.
" " "
Arnie did the traveling, but you
can win the souvenirs.
This week's prize, pictured here, is the Bead Collection, and
includes three necklaces, a bracelet and a rosary.
Just send an e-mail to Arnie at [email protected] for your chance to win this
second of four prize groups. (Editors' note: This contest is
Be sure to check back Thursday, July 19, where in his next
installment, Arnie will get caffeinated in a most unusual way.
For the complete archive of Arnie's Adventures in Ethiopia,