Africa, Russia, Mongolia and China
Find the Source of the Blue Nile
On a journey through Egypt in 2002, I sailed on the Nile River for five days, a location almost 4,000 miles from where I now found myself.
Ever since that time, I have been intrigued with the Nile and where it starts its mystical journey.
Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile was a mystery that taunted explorers for years. There are a few rivers that dump into and source Lake Tana, but the Blue Nile begins its long journey from the south end of the lake.
Our boat motored passed papyrus boats loaded with firewood to be sold at the market. They were stacked so high that I winged at the thought of trying to paddle across the huge lake with the hopes of making a few dollars.
I asked what a boat cost?
? Bir” says the guide, who once paddled a wood boat.
How long do they last?
“Two weeks,” he responds again, “after that they are finished.”
After buying or making a boat and selling the wood I calculate they make about 400 Bir a month, or about $50. Every time we passed a boat, they smiled and waved. I conclude a shared respect and love for the open space of the lake must transcend language barriers.
We made three stops on Lake Tana to visit monasteries that date back to the 14th century. Monks draped in yellow, orange or burnt red garments much like their predecessors 400 years ago show us the ancient buildings and artifacts so precious to their faith.
The last stop on our morning tour: the location where the Blue Nile begins its long journey through Africa and eventually ends up spilling into the salt waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
It is a very unassuming spot, as I glance over to a boy paddling in the water with a papyrus kayak. But, when I take a closer look over to the bank, and study it for just a moment, I notice the ripple of current waters spilling over rocks adjacent to the shore. My heart jumps quietly. Wow, I say to myself, there it is, the subtle start of a majestic journey rich in history.
I reach down to touch the greenish gray water to feel the wetness, as if confirming to myself that it is real and not a dream. If only waters could tell stories.
Not far from Lake Tana, the water crashes down 90 feet over the Blue Nile Falls. Once so spectacular that it adorns the back of the Ethiopian 1 Bir note, the waterfall has been reduced to a trickle of its once former self. Ninety-five percent of the water is now diverted to a hydroelectric plant. It was with a mixture of awe and sadness that I sat watching the falls from the viewpoint. You can clearly see what once was, and are left hungry for a moment of the legend of Tis Abay or smoke of the Nile.
My fascination with Lake Tana led me to book a two day ferry that carried cows, goats, barrels, bags of corn and people to various spots along its lake shore.
At one of those stops, I met a teacher called Medhanie. I asked Medhanie what he wanted to share with the American people, he replied: “We don't only need fish from America, we need to be taught how to fish. This would help us be great like America.”