National Geographic : 2000 Dec
"Gihon is surprised by this unexpected offering, and he is happy. He willgive you his blessing." didn't satisfy them; one turbaned fellow, nurs ing his Kalashnikov in both arms, scowled and waved our papers away, saying the best thing to do was to follow them to their headquarters a six-hour walk away. A cold, pelting rain had begun to fall, and the thought of a long walk to some distant police station made us look as unhappy as our hosts. Only Zelalem's artful diplomacy saved us. He listened patiently to every fear and complaint, let every man have his say, then carefully explained our journey to them once again. How could we be aiding Eritrea, when it lay far to the north, and we could only travel downstream? Furthermore, like them, he was an Ethiopian and a patriot. Slowly the scowls fell away. Someone asked to have his picture taken, and in the next instant the militiamen were jockeying with one another for the best camera angle and fiercest pose. When we ventured back onto the Nile, they ran along the banks to wave good-bye. For most of our journey the Blue Nile had churned along beneath the rafts at a speed of eight to ten miles an hour. But as we approached the Sudanese border, the river grew sluggish. We were nearly 40 miles from the Roseires Dam, but already it had caught and trapped the Nile. The river's frisky spirit was gone, there were no demons or kings in its depths, no rumbling stretches of whitewater. When we took the boats out at the border town of Bumbadi, we bade farewell to a river so tamed and placid we called it Lake Abay. LATER IRETURNED to Lake Tana with two guides, making my own loop around Ethiopia. We took a boat up the lake to the mouth of the Little Abay, the Little Blue Nile, where the local people also worship the river as Gihon. Although it was not the time of year to give sacrifices to the Nile, I asked if an exception could be made. The villagers agreed, and from them I bought coffee, a bottle of araki (a liquor), three chickens, and a sheep, which they duly presented to the river in a simple ceremony. When the chicken carcasses and sheep's intestines floated instead of sinking, the people smiled and relaxed. "That's a good sign," one elder explained. "Gihon is surprised by this unexpected offering, and he is happy. He will give you his blessing." The Blue Nile, in all its forms, had surprised me too. Now, sitting with these villagers on JEZB3 the shores of Gihon, Watch an interview with Vir feasting on chicken ginia Morell as she shares and sheep, I smiled at tales of the Blue Nile, and my good fortune, and see more of Nevada Wier's this last blessing from photographs at nationalgeo the Great Abay. O graphic.com/ngm/0012.