Hello everybody in Brezh, Oc, Wales, the Southwest, China (and whereever you are). This is Gonder. Gonder, Ethiopia. 2.450 meter up in the sky, all climbed by bike. At the end of a long and exhausting week we spend two very much deserved rest days in the former capital of Ethiopia.
Our eight days of horror started last Thursday when we left Khartoum. During the night the temerperatures never dropped lower than 30 degree (thats Celsius, not Fahrenheit!), and it was the beginning of a hot week. First day back on the road we hit the 40-degree-mark, second day the 50 degree-mark fell. Not so comfortable when you sit on a bike and have to cycle 150 or more kilometres. The water in the bottles gets hotter and hotter, the heat gets almost unbearable and you just cycle from one coke-stop to the next. On the first two days we made close to 300 kilometres until we hit off-road first time on the third day.
Discussion had been high on the best tyre for the road. I chosed the marathon plus in 32 wich come out to be the best decision. All mountain biker which much bigger tires had a lot of punctures while I could cycle all day without caring for my bike. It got worse the fourth day when we cycled off road for the whole day. 100 kilometres on a horrible road almost constantly washboard or deep sand took its toll as many of us fell from the bike. I hit my knee but was lucky enough to escape with a minor injury. Punctures were much more – Tory and Luke both had ten puncutures on just 100 k. I again could cycle all day without being bothered.
But it was hard. Very hard. The heat, the trail, the sand, the constant „babababa“ of the washboard are driving you just crazy. I’ve never been as exhausted in my whole life as on the fourth day. And don’t forget that there is no shower waiting for us at the end of the day but a plain camp in open sun and dirt. Any idea how we lokked after this eight days? No, we looked worse…
Well, that was before the fifth day…
Then we had about 30 km nice trail with some up- and downhill sections I really enjoyed. I could speed up to 30 km/h and was first at the lunch truck. Those guys there weren’t even ready for us driver and that it was me and not one of the „real racer“ who appearded first gave me some curious looks. Four kilometer later my day got worse when I missed a turn and drove uphil for about six kilometres until I realized I’m on the wrong track. So I had to go back and add another 12 kilometres to an already packed day with more than 50 kilometres horrible track. This time it was a little bit like a very dry agricultural field with big gaps and patches of soil you honestly couldn’t cycle on well.
Those three days had been included in the tour to give us an impression how it used to be cycling thorugh Africa until the Chinese started to pave the whole country. So in comparison to former years our journey really is a holiday adventure…
Day 6 brought us back to much appreciated tarmac. We just flew to the border between Sudan und Ethiopia which is not more that a rope that you go through by showing your passport – after you passed serveral offices of the immigration on both sides, that is.
Ethiopia is much different to Sudan. People are much more open and always try to get in contact with us. Gone are the days were we left by ourselves in Sudan and enjoyed a little privacy… First nigth camp in Ethiopia gave us a good impression, but it got more exciting in the second camp which had even been roped off to prevent the youth of the nearby villages to invade our small tent camp. A little bit disturbing as we’ve been told always watching our belongings as there vanished a couple of things in the last years.
Cycling in Ethiopia is different as well. After 3000 km in the flat desert we all were happy to see the mountains of ethiopa which gave us a welcome change to the boring days on just one straight roads. Of course, its more than just hilly and we do have quite a bit climbing coming up in the next weeks, but I don’t mind.
Much more of a problems are the kids. I got spitted at, got stones thrown at me, got frequently asked for money and got hassled quite a few times. It’s only a few of them, but it makes you to watch for everyone when you enter a town. As well as you have to watch the traffic. It compromises everything. donkeys, cows, goats, dogs, cars, trucks, pick-ups – whatever. And nobody cares for the other – you just have to defend your own space.
On the morning of the eight day my body signalised me enough is enough. After some beans in the dinner the night before I had a troubled nigth and decided to skip the day. So I jumped on the truck and rode to the next camp here in Gonder where we are now having a two days rest. Since arriving I’ve much recovered and ready to attack again on Monday, when we head for Bahir Dar.
That’s for now. Hope, everything is well. Hear from me again as soon as possible.
P.S.: For pictures please look at the german update „Acht Tage in der Hölle“. With the internet here is just to slow…