Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ethiopia Part II - the Blue Nile Falls and pool in Gondar...

Smoking Water - the translation of the Ethiopian name of the Blue Nile falls - and you can see why. We were there towards the end of the rainy season, hence the large flow rate and the brown color showing off the rich sediment coming from the highlands.

The Blue Nile Falls

The first stone brisge in Ethiopia, built by Indian engineers supervised by Portuguese missionaries

What my Dad calls a "fake fig tree"

As one of the foremost tourist attractions in Ethiopia, the path to the falls is full of children trying to sell you stuff. They are quite talented with languages and high-pressure sales techniques, but still cute, somehow.
The scenery is very green indeed, because this is the rainy season. During the dry season, the countryside will become brown and dusty.

The road to Gondar was peppered with interesting geological oddities.... The following are volcanic plugs (according to my own amateurish geological opinion). These form when a column of magma hardens, and then the sedimentary rock around it erodes.

Credit :  http://www.unmuseum.org/devtowergeo.htm

Gondar itself is quite a large town, and is the capital of medieval Ethiopia, where King Fasiledes established himnself over the country in the 16th century - pictures of his palace :

The royal kitchens, alas now empty :(

 This is the royal pool - one day a year, the basin that surrounds the building is filled with water and pilgrims from all over Ethiopia come to bathe in the blessed water.

The pool
And finally, a different kind of pool - the kind that is played throughout Ethiopia, which they simply call "straight" - after our tour of the Gondar architecture, I asked my guide to take me to one of the many "pool houses" in Gondar where I had my first experience shooting pool in Ethiopia. These pics are from my cellphone, please excuse the quality...

The Dagem Modern Pool House

In front of the pool house is a major "line taxi" stop - a bit hectic, but it is he main mode of urban transportation in Ethiopia.

The "pool houses" in Ethiopia usually only have one table. It works by challenge - you say you want to play, and the person in charge calls you when it's your turn. After the match, if you win, you stay on, if not, you pay for the loss. You do not pay for wins :)
I lost my first rack - my opponent asked me to play again, and the lady took note that I had lost a game. I won the second game. My opponent then proposed a "bist" match - thanks to the help of a railbird who spoke good English, this meant that the third game would be played for the entire bill - meaning the loser of the third match would pay for all three racks. I won! Nothing to pay this time!

The lady sitting down is in charge of racking the balls and counting how many games you lose....

I had never played this game called "straight" before. A basic run down of the rules...
The balls are racked like this, with the three ball up top and the cue in the kitchen :

The official way to rack a game of "straight"
This is a rotation game, meaning the first contact has to be with the lowest numbered ball on the table (the 3 on the break). The balls are worth their numeric value in points.
If you fail to make contact with any ball, your opponent scores two points. If you make contact with the wrong ball, that ball's numeric value counts as points for your opponent. The game is quite interesting as there are definitely tactical approaches to it - one of the problem is that the balls so often sit in their starting positions that divots form under them, making them sometimes near impossible to "walk" down the rail, and significantly affecting the banking behavior.
Pool is doing very well in Ethiopia - in the center of all the towns we visited their were several pool houses. Even inthe middle of nowhere you would often find them. The other major game, locally called carambola, is everywhere as well. For another post!

In part III, the Simien mountains and Lalibela! Stay tuned, there will be baboons!

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