Portuguese Bridge


Today we went 100 km north of Addis to a spectacular canyon where 4oo years ago the Portuguese built a stone bridge. The drive north out of Addis is fascinating. You rise up first through an extensive forest area, where donkeys and locals carry firewood down to Addis for sale. There is a panoramic view over Addis from this wooded hilly area. Next you pass  into rolling hills and grasslands on an immense scale. There are clumps of traditional Ethiopian houses with cattle, goats and horses grazing. Small boys herd 30 cattle down the road into oncoming traffic. Occasionally there is a small market town and locals walk their two goats to market. The roads are full of people and animals and not so much traffic. I would say it is much more attractive than the south road which is choked with trucks and is more developed. The northern country is higher at about 3000 metres and you definitely feel it when walking uphill.
Eventually we arrived at a sharp escarpment, and a canyon on a scale of the Grand Canyon opened up. I believe this was the Blue Nile Gorge, and at the bottom was a river which was clearly massive in the wet season, but now in the dry season was meandering in the much larger river bed. We drove on until we came to the Portuguese Bridge. We walked down through some fields to arrive at a stream and rock pools where women were washing clothes. This stream then dived down into the canyon 100 meters below. There stood an ancient bridge joining the two valley sides. We walked over and stood on the edge of the Gorge. I declined the offer of standing on a cliff edge overhanging the valley. On the way back we visited the monastery of Debre Libanos. Debre means Saint and the Saint Libanos was one of the first monks to spread Christianity in the Highlands of Ethiopia in the 13th Century. There has been a church here since then although it was destroyed in wars between Muslims and Christians. The current church was built by Haile Selasie in 1961. The Lion above was taken from the wonderful stained glass illuminated by the bright sunlight. This was a spectacular trip and reachable within 90 minutes of Addis.

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2 Responses to Portuguese Bridge

  1. Anna says:

    The countryside looks beautiful. You don’t look too happy on that ledge!

  2. Linda says:

    Correction- you write that “Debre means Saint and the Saint Libanos was one of the first monks to spread Christianity in the Highlands of Ethiopia in the 13th Century.” -Debre- actually means “mount” (as in mountain) and -Libanos- means “Lebanon”. The name of the saint who founded the monastery there is Tekle Haymanot. The word for “saint” is actually -k’idus-.

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