80km from Bahir Dar to Dangla
90km to Finote Selam
82km to Debre Markos
70km to Dejen
44km to Goha Tsion
71km to Fiche
113km to Addis Ababa
550km in total from Bahir Dar to Addis Ababa
13,513km in total since leaving London.
Getting to Addis Ababa has been a battle with the hills but also against the persistent sickness for both myself and my cycling buddy Alex.
The highlight was the crazy but very beautiful 44km from Dejen to Goha Tsion known as the Abay Gorge where the Blue Nile cuts through the mountains. It took an hour to fly down and six to crawl up.
Prior to the gorge, Alex was very ill so we stayed an extra day in Dejen where we had been treated to a birthday coffee ceremony with Johannes, a local Ethiopian, and I tried Teller, the local (and very strange) beer, courtesy of another guy called Fanta, who was visiting from Dallas, Texas. It costs virtually nothing but the strength and the flavor depends on who has brewed it. I enjoyed it. The day also coincided with St George’s day and there was a great procession to the magnificent church, with dancing and some very colorful parasols. Quite a thing to see in such a small town.
The other days feel like a blur right now so it seems more appropriate to describe a general view of cycling the hills of Ethiopia. It is a rural country which is still 80% farmland and mostly subsistence farming. It is surprisingly green and there have been tranquil moments with horses grazing in fields and many miles of golden fields of straw and hundreds of cows, donkeys, goats and sheep. We have seen donkeys (and people) carrying back-breaking loads and we have seen live sheep tied to the top of minibuses. Animal rights do not seem to exist here.
But also Ethiopia also has the highest rate of child employment in the world. What you have to remember is that in rural populations a large family is always an advantage as the children tend to the fields and the cattle and eventually look after the parents. It was no different in the west before industrialization.
The difference in Ethiopia is that the kids here also see westerners as a source of money and handouts. The constant shouting of “ferengi” (foreigner), “you you you” and “money money money” can become annoying and incredibly tiring. Although I think Alex was grateful when some kids pushed him up one hill!
We have not had many stones thrown at us but yesterday one kid threw a stone which hit my thigh and I saw red and chased after him. But these kids really can run and he was far away before I had even got off the bike.
Running is the national sport and we saw runners as we approached Addis Ababa, and pictures of famous runners such as Haile Gabreselassie. Reaching the final peak above Addis, we also met two young cyclists who guided us to a hotel.
Modern and shiny Addis Ababa with its huge buildings, banks, and streets busy with people in clean clothes using mobiles and talking in perfect English feels like a different world to the hills, farms and dusty towns outside.
It has been mentally and physically challenging to get here and it is time to rest a few days and prepare for the route to Kenya.