climbs, climbs and more climbs!
15.02.2009 35 °C
We are now in the middle of Ethiopia and as promised some more details on this country.
First of all the border between Soudan and Ethiopia:
I can only described it as a mad place! A mixture of military presence, with shifty people that would take your wallet away from you in a flash, as well as the kids selling klinex and gums AND then one get to the official business of visas - well to get to the visa office, we had to go through a fence and an unfinished house and then get to a precarious little building where three people look at yr passport, shuffle papers to write in, and god knows what else - for some of us the process took 2 hours and more BUT in the mean time - riders were drank beers sitting outside - what a contrast - and believe me there were a lot of beer since riders had been deprived of that precious substance for all the days we were in Sudan! A lot of catching up to do. AND THEN we got to camp - which believe it or not was an old "abatoire" (slauther house for animals). Really imagine the worst and you will be close to reality. Just to illustrate: I had half a cow leg beside my tent, and saw two snakes as I went to pee in the bush! But hey this was just for one night and then the sun rose the next day and I was fine and happy!
Cities crossed so far:
Some of you said they would like to follow trip with cities - so we entered Ethiopia through Gederaf (I think) and then we went on through Gonder, Bahir Dar, Debre Markos, Fiche and now Addis Ababa.
In the previous entry I wrote about the pastoral lands: Cows, horses, sheeps, rolling hills (actually often much more than rolling hills with daily elevation - climbing up to 800 meters some days!). Passed Bahir Dar we were rolling among forests of eucalyptus, as well as flower trees - lilas, etc. The smells were so vivid!
We did climb the Blue Nile Gorge - and I did it : 22 km of climb - actually - 1400 meters descend (45 minutes) and then the ascend of 1400 meters (we must be crazy - (by the way we had done 50km in the morning to get to the Gorge - total climb for that day was 1900 meters and I did it all! Result: I had to stop 8 times that day for diarah but still managed to climb and felt pretty good when I reached the top. The Blue Nile Gorge is like canyons amplified by 10! BEAUTIFUL. Go and look at the pictures on the TDA website! Funny sceneries: Sheeps in a truck all piled up - no wonder the meat is so hard here, two little boys going down in a soap box- scary.
The rest of the days have been on pavement with again "rolling hills" - this is what TDA staff says when we start the morning - but by the end of the day many of us agree that these are not rolling hills - rather climbs!!! We climb and climb but it is so much worth it.
The people we are crossing:
The woman are still doing the traditional tasks - it is very common to see old women with HUGE stacks of wood accross their shoulders walking long hours- or younger women with jars made of clay full of water - these are being carrying on their back with a scarf accross the shoulder, there are also the women carrying very heavy bags of food and grains on their head. The men work in the fields, keep cattle together or some time seem to be doing nothing - sorry but that's the truth! And then the kids - I have already told you a lot about the kids - and some riders are getting quite frustrated with the kids. From my side, I try to remember that I am the one coming to their country with my expensive bike and clothes - and for all the children that throws rocks at you, ask for money and always repeat the same things (you, you, you, give me money, where are you coming from, where you go? what is yr name" - we must see more than 1000 kids per day along the road and in the fields), there are also those shy kids who only want to say hi and see a farenji (this is how they call foreigners)! These are the friendly smile and beautiful eyes that just make you forget about the rocks! I should also say that many time the adults will chase the kids with rocks and sticks so I guess the kids have learned it from somewhere! PLus, tourists are giving $$ to the kids - so then the kids expect all foreigners to give them something and this is a big part of why we get rocks!
Despite above, I still manage to stop at villages and along the roads to take pictures of people and try to exchange smiles and say "amasa ganallo" - not the right spelling but it mean "thank you"! So much magical moments! I hope the pictures will translate the beauty of these people!
Addis Ababa is not a bad city at all - but we are here on a Sunday so less people. Went to the ethno museum - on the University campus - I highly recommend! Bahir Dar - the previous town is also quite nice - as a feeling of a bohemain city with a little market that is quite fun.
[b What is Next[/b]?
We are leaving tomorrow for the south - 4 more days before Arba Minch which should be on bad pavement and then more more fun coming ahead. As of Addis Ababa, we are starting a new section called "Meltdown madness" - that is the end of Ethiopia and the crossing to Kenya - which will be on very bad roads (not paved) for 10 days or so - Hot, very hot, bad roads, gravel, big potholes, and more more more more climbs - we seem to be climbing to the sky only to go down and climb again! I asked for it and I am enjoying every single moments (almost ...) Hopefully I will be able to go through these off road days without riding the truck. This is really the most challenging section of the Tour (we are being told) - the South of Ethiopia is also where you find more than 100 tribes - We are on the main roads so I am not sure how much we will see of the different cultures but I hope! Will see . I have not yet try "chat" which is a mid "halucinogen" - I may try it during the Meltdown madness" section to keep me going
Hard to believe that we have done already 5 weeks - crossing part of Egypt, all Sudan and half of Ethiopia. Some of it as gone by very fast just trying to adapt to the "bike and tent routine" - I feel like I have still so much to learn and experience from these countries!
Food - Addis Ababa is heaven for pastries: Believe it or not - it is a little like Montreal - i.,e lots of cafes and terrace with bakery and pastries - except that there are more people than in Montreal - I hate a lot of sweet today! Muim!!!!!!!
But I have also gone for Injera - traditonal Ethipian food which is a big sour batter with all kind of dishes on it - eg: vegetarian (lentils, vegetables, etc) or meat in sauce - you eat with your fingers with peace of the sour batter. I am not quite sure how to describe - but some of you know as we have Ethiopian restaurants in Montreal and Ottawa - If you have not try it then go for it - DELICIOUS AND a lot of fun to share with others - very social meal.
Claude: Yes I get your messages - and for all the others - thanks for the comments / messages on the blog or hotmail. It is fun to imagine you in the snow
Sonia and Orimou who are getting a little fat again - while Fargo (my bike) is (I think) very happy to be rolling along! It is a great bike for this trip.
I must go to bed - it is 2020 - I am late - we usually go to bed by 1930 - read and sleep at 2030!!!!