As I boarded the Lake Tana ferry at 6 on a Sunday morning, I found myself surrounded by cows, goats, stacks of large white bags of corn, firewood, empty plastic jugs and other mystery items covered in blue plastic.
My fascination with the source of the Blue Nile prompted me to book a ticket on the slow-moving ferry that bounces along the shoreline of the lake. I later learned from the captain of the ferry why the shoreline is always visible.
“The boat has no instruments, not even a compass to guide the boat, so I must use my eyes,” said the ferry captain as he guides the boat on the largest lake in Ethiopia.
I said a short prayer that no fog appears.
My visions of a comfortable quiet ride were soon dashed; my first class ticket bought me a space on a bench inside a large room at the front end of the boat, in a compartment that was crammed with people who all eyed me in wonder.
The horn of the ferry blared out to announce was is time to leave familiar shores, and away we went across the greenish gray water loaded to the gills.
After securing my bag with a cable and lock to my bench, I wandered the small ferry to explore and see what was to be discovered. I found a small nook where two clever girls had set up a tea shack, and found a little refuge from all the attention my presence had brought.
After two stops and several hours of moving across the lake we pulled into the dock at Konzula where we would spend the night. Unfortunately someone forgot to tell me that first, so I sat on the boat watching everyone walk up the hill to the town. By the time I got to the village, there was one room left at the hotel, next to the toilet.
After securing my room, I walked back down to the lake to watch the sunset. I found a quiet and beautiful spot along the shore that had some boulders perfect for sitting and watched the sun move closer to the horizon of Lake Tana. I closed my eyes to feel the cool breeze move across my face.
After about 10 seconds I hear “you, you, you.” I slowly opened one eye to see a cute young girl, who then says, “are you sleeping?” Turning around I see she is not alone, but accompanied by about 25 others.
It was the end of my brief quiet moment. After a visit with my new friends, and watching the sunset over the lake together, I headed to my hotel.
My $1.50 room was small, and the dirt floors were covered with blue plastic, which was fine with me, but the small hole in the wall that connected to the toilet wasn't so nice. It allowed a constant stream of odor to fill my room so strong that when I turned my head in the night to the wrong side it would wake me up gagging.
After finally falling asleep, I was awakened again to something running across my pillow and the top of my head through my hair. I told myself it was a spider and went back to sleep hoping the morning would soon follow.
Early the next morning we boarded the ferry again as we made our way to Gorgora on the north end of Lake Tana. I helped load large bags of grain onto the boat much to the laughter of people who were not used to a white tourist chipping in to help.
Day two started with the sun piercing the quiet gray horizon on still waters. At each stop people got off and on, animals traded places, as the ferry slowly started to empty.
At the last stop I helped raise the anchor with the hand crank. The crowd we left at the dock whooped with delight, and roared with approval when we finished and I gave my strong man pose.
The last leg of the ride finally gave me what I longed for; a quiet and empty spot on the boat where I could sit alone and soak up the clean breeze of Lake Tana. And for a moment, I saw the mysterious Lake Tana and all is hidden treasures. Too soon we pulled into the last dock and back on land I went for good. Leaving the familiar shores of Lake Tana, I glanced over my shoulder once last time to view the source of the Blue Nile and the waters that one day would find the shores of Egypt.