I’m back from the Lake Tana Island Shopping Mall Experience and I’m annoyed!
I like Bahir Dar but the Ferrangi scamming here is by far the worst I’ve encountered.
A slight overcharging in such a poor country is to be expected but when you literally find yourself buying the locals fish for their lunch it’s time to stop and take stock.
Remember my previous blog about the ‘Nati’ phone call and the tour?
Well, if you recall I paid 650 for a 320 trip (which in fact is simply the boat journey and nothing else)
Paid to a scruffy little git in a beanie hat. More on him later.
Beanie Hat followed me to the dock chatting about his night, under the fond impression I wasn’t aware he’d ripped me off. Because Ferrangi are stupid and naïve of course.
We have an unlimited supply of 100 birr bills and all live in huge mansions, far away in the Utopia that is Ferrangiland.
I boarded, carefully away from the locals in case I saw how much less they’d paid.
The other passengers were:
We pottered around the bay for ages for no clear reason as Kenyan Guy got some artistic shots of his girlfriend’s ears.
Eventually we headed out into open water, squashed into one corner (hey, I’m not complaining Ben!) as Kenyan was monopolising half the boat for his triple XXX rated shoot.
Eventually we hit a wave, almost drowning the girlfriend as she was posing upside down at the time with her legs in the air.
The rest of the ride to the first island was spent with him comforting her, plucking weevils out of her hair, and mourning the loss of his expensive camera.
We arrived at the first monastery and began a trek through an uphill shopping mall consisting of plastic crosses and sinister zombie looking Jesuses.
An entrance point manned by a grumpy priest in yellow relieved us of 100 Birr.
A tout appeared.
He nodded and began following me.
It seems despite the entrance fee to the monastery (a large circular type hut) the museum is closed as someone has lost the key to the generator.
“You give me 150 birr! For tour!”
Unfortunately, I’d lost the rest of the group and was somewhere on a tropical island with no clear idea where my boat was so I reluctantly paid him, despite his ‘tour’ consisting of pointing out a coffee tree.
“You give me tip now!”
He whined and whinged for a few minutes before realising he wasn’t getting any more cash out of me.
“I must go now!” *Sad face*
Bullshit. I was losing patience.
Back on the boat to the second island.
Another uphill plastic cross shopping mall extravaganza and an identical circular hut with some drawings in it.
Another Priest appeared, holding a cup of coffee to extract 100 birr.
Two more of these and the non-local element of the group were growing frustrated. (The locals didn’t mind, they didn’t seem to be eligible to pay the fees)
It was raining heavily, Kenyan’s girlfriend’s legs were cold and the gays were bickering in Italian. (No idea what it was about but clearly Sulky’s fault)
“One more island!”
The only thing the driver had said the entire journey, in English or Amharic.
This island was at least slightly different.
Only kidding. It comprised of a circular ‘monastery’ and a ‘museum’ plus stalls selling plastic crosses.
I bought a bottle of strange tasting water and relaxed on the jetty.
Ben appeared next to me.
Turns out he’s an eighteen year old languages student studying Spanish, English and Greek.
He’d driven all the way down through Egypt and Sudan and managed to avoid getting Sulky abducted by Al Qaeda. (Not all journeys can go without a hitch)
Back on the boat, one of the locals ‘befriended’ me.
The driver announced we would stop for ‘fish’ and we pulled up on a small island which genuinely was different to the rest.
It comprised of a circular monastery, museum, stalls selling plastic crosses AND a restaurant!
I use the term ‘restaurant’ loosely. It was a canvas roof under which a woman cooked whole fish on a fire. They also charged a 20 birr admission fee for Ferrangi.
To the restaurant, on top of the monastery charge, the guide charge and the tip the driver fondly expected he’d be getting.
‘Friendly Local’ appeared next to me and chatted, enjoying his two fish.
Sulky began coughing and I crossed my fingers.
Time to leave and it seems my four (!) fish came to 50 birr.
‘Friendly Local’ skipped happily back to the boat, stomach full at my expense.
Kenyan had decided to set up an impromptu photoshoot involving his girlfriend’s ears and some fish carcasses.
The generic locals were just being Ethiopian,
Ben was helping Sulky extract another bone.
Eventually we re-boarded, Sulky still coughing and headed through the rain back towards the mainland.
We arrived back at the dock, Sulky having not been taken by a croc or hippo on the way.
Beanie Hat was lurking.
“You missed the Waterfall tour!” (We’d spoken briefly about an afternoon trip to the Blue Nile falls yesterday)
By now, I was totally fed up and wanted out of the rain and a lunch consisting of pizza. (No chance to the latter)
“You pay penalty!”
It seems Beanie Hat thought I should give him 100 birr as I’d missed the Waterfall tour departure thanks to his company’s boat being slow.
I refused to pay.
“Is penalty my friend!”
I told him where he could stick his penalty and he informed me that I would have to pay when I come back to do his tours.
Crap business sense there in that I’ll simply use one of your rivals?
This stumped him. He hadn’t thought of that.
He followed me up the street shouting about giving him 100 birr.
This, the man who was boring me with tales of his girlfriends and asking me to join him for Tej just yesterday.
I lost patience.
“Do you want to feature in Lonely Planet, Bradt, Wikitravel and my own site?”
He brightened up, we were pals again!
“OOOKKKK!!! MY FRIEND!!!!!!”
“As a scammer, liar and con artist”
“I go now!”
He gave me a disappointed look, turned and slipped on some mud.