We continue our drive north from Bahir Dar, to Gondar - one of the three ancient capitals of Ethiopia, and in its heyday around the 15th century. Our drive takes us along the shore of Lake Tana, and we see some unusual scenery. For a start, rice-growing is big in this area - something that was only started a few years ago on otherwise useless low-lying land close to the lake. We stop at one point to take an iconic Ethopian photo - rice fields, a grove of Eucalyptus trees and an stick and mud hut.
Gum trees are everywhere here - and quite often the scenery reminds you of Australia. The gum trees were introduced back in the 1950s as a means of preserving the native trees, while at the same time providing the necessary firewood and building materials.
We are booked into another lodge at Gondar, where we will stay 3 nights and 2 days. On the first of our days, we do a day trip to the Simien Mountains - we reach an altitude of around 3600m on the day, or only slightly higher than Cusco. Climbing uphill is a bit of chore, but then the scenery is breath-taking as well. We do a short trek at one point to view a small "bridal-veil" fall, and we stop to see the monkeys at work and play. They eat the grass - roots and all - and are quite tame. You can walk amongst them and take photos, so long as you don't approach too close or make any sudden moves.
On the way back to Gondar, the traffic is held up for several minutes by what turns out to be a wedding party - apparently it is the tradition for the bridal party to stop their car in the middle of the road, everyone gets out and dances around the car for a few minutes, while the cameraman records it all for posterity. Everyone takes it good-naturedly, and eventually the traffic gets moving again.
We are not sure if it is the wedding party, or another, but when we arrive back at our lodge, there is a wedding reception in full swing - right outside our hut. These Ethopians sure know how to have a good time - they invite us to join in the dance. Helen accepts the offer, but decline, mainly due to the shortage of females to dance with.
The next day we have a guided tour of historic Gondar - there is an amazing collection of old historic churches and castles here in Gondar, dating from the time of King Fasilidi in the 14th-15th century. Who knew that Ethiopia had such an interesting history, and such a depth? And we are just scratching the surface - apparently when we go to Lalibela, we will step back another 500 years or so into history.
Our guide is very knowledgable, has a good grasp of conversational English, a world view and a sense of humour. Eventually we get on to politics, and the subject of the UN comes up. What is his view of the UN? Suprisingly, he says that the UN is one of the big problems here in Africa - that they want to prevent countries from developing and improving their standard of living.
I am hugely impressed with this - if people here have figured that one out all by themselves, then they have a very bright future indeed.