Bus from Gonder to Bahar Dar cost 20 birr, took 3.5 hours.
Stayed at the Ghion Hotel on the lake, bargained the 80 birr room down to 60 birr. Ghion has a great restaurant -- steak sandwiches with awazi, fried fish (asa dulet)! -- and a beautiful garden.
The hotel arranges boat trips to the island monasteries -- a half day cost started at 135 birr per person, we offered 100 birr and enough people wanted to come (seven) that it was accepted.
The half-day tour lasts from 8am to 2pm. In addition to the 100 birr, entry fees cost 80 birr for the four churches on the tour (20 birr per church). Visit Bét Mariam, Bét Giorgis, and Ura Kidane Meret. Great paintings inside the churches. The last visit is to Kebran Gabriel, a beautiful old church with a friendly priest who proudly shows off the monastery’s treasures. Unfortunately, no women allowed onto Kebran Gabriel -- later discovered the women could’ve gone to a nunnery on a nearby island (no men allowed) while we visited the monastery.
Balageru Cultural Club
-- a great bar with azmaris, just up the street from the Ethio Star Hotel on the first corner south from the hotel, on the east side. Great for a night out. Entry plus a beer is 10 birr. Lots of fun -- two krar players, one guy on a wicked drum set, and three dancers (one male, two female). The place is packed and all my new friends there tell the asmari that I’m from Canada -- the asmari sings something (I only recognize the word "Canada") and the room roars with laughter.
Just to the east of the Ghion, next to the ferry landing is a nice outdoor bar, great for a beer at sunset.
has a nice restaurant -- with lasagna!
A daytrip out to the Blue Nile Falls ("Tis Abay") took seven hours. Got a shared jeep (5 birr, 1 hour) and arrived at Tis Abay at 8am. Paid the 15 birr entrance fee. Beset by guys who want to be our guide, but the route is very clear. Guidebooks say it’s hard to find, but they’re wrong -- just follow the road across the street from the ticket office. Follow the paved road that eventually branches off to the left, crossing the water channel to the new powerhouse. You’ll see a church on the right and will follow a fence on the left. When the fence ends (the paved road will have a sign "No Trespassing" as it continues into the hydro-electric plant), turn left onto a trail where a bunch of guys will look at your ticket and fight over being your guide. Tell the guy who wins the fight and clamps onto you that you don’t need a guide -– it won’t matter because he’ll follow you anyway. There’s an additional fee for a video camera and if you whip one out at the falls without the permit he’ll scream bloody murder. He’ll also scream bloody murder when you get back on the bus without paying him. Follow the trail over the 17th Century Portuguese Bridge and head upstream to the falls. A very nice walk, beautiful forest, and birdlife. (I’m NOT turning into a birder, I swear!) You can turn back at this point or complete the circuit -– descend to a stream where some enterprising boys have some soft drinks cooling in the water. You’ll have to pay them 1 birr to arrange the rocks so you can hop over the stream (smart kids, they scatter the rocks after you leave for the next tourist to pay!). Some nice viewpoints on this side of the falls, keep heading on the trails upstream to the boat dock. They want 20 birr per person to cross the river in the motor boat, but I bargained them down to 10 birr.
Bahar Dar to Addis by bus
-- there’s the "short" route via Mota (50.70 birr) and the "longer" route via Debre Markos (57.70 birr). I chose the Mota route -- the bus stops overnight at Gebre Guracha. Gorgeous scenery along the way. Lots of paving and road construction so someday it might be possible to do the trip in a single day. It took two hours to cover the 30km through the Blue Nile Gorge. Glad I got a front seat on the bus, the views are fantastic. Got a 20 birr room in Gebre Guracha -- our luggage is kept on the roof of the bus (bus crew sleep on the bus so its safe) so I slept in my clothes. The second day is only 4 hours to Addis, arrive at 10:30am.