After a couple of days in Khartoum I left the capital with Ethiopia visa in hand. The day south started quite slow with massive traffic for about 200km south of Khartoum. There are not so many trucks and busses that clog the roads it is just that the cops drive at 40km/h and on a single lane road it creates havoc as the trucks cant overtake each other so everyone is forced for 100km to drive at 40km/h. Makes no sense but so does a lot of things in Ethiopia.
I slept in a small town called Gadaref that night. There is nothing to report except that there was one hotel that I could sleep in as the others were quite dodgy. Given that they only cost $2 its sort of expected. Nonetheless the people are really friendly at these hotels and they do the best they can with what they have. I treated myself to some fresh bread and Nutella for dinner. Nutella has become my staple food on this trip.
I left Gadaref and took on the 200km to the border town of Metema. The landscape started to change slightly. It was greener, there were some farms and a lot more cattle than in the north. It was still quite barren and only a couple of hundred meters above sea level.
The border was simple and easy especially on the Ethiopian side. They knew exactly what to do with the Carnet and after 15 min I was in. I was treated to my second rainfall on this trip. Once before just outside Dolisie in Congo and now for the second time on the other side of Africa. Good luck I would say.
I headed down the mud covered Chinese tar road and pointed the bike in the direction of Gondar. Now, after al the stories and complaints by other overlanders I was quite apprehensive about the people and what was waiting for me in this mountain country. Three things changed from the word go. It was raining and cold, there were people everywhere and I started climbing in altitude for the first time since leaving the Alps in Northern Italy.
I was amazed at how friendly the people were. It was a different friendly than Sudan. Kids will run out of the wood work and wave and try and run along the bike shouting “you you you you you”. There were cattle strewn all over the roads and 5km did not pass without driving through a small village of some sort. I was starting to wonder what all the fuss was about…
I reached Gondar and got a nice small hotel next to the road. It was cheap, clean and they served beer. Sold! I checked in, got out of the rain and tried to warm up. Its bloody cold in Ethiopia, strange as just on the other side of the border its deep in the 30′s.
I spent 2 days in Gondar and headed for the town of Bahir Dar. It was a leisurely drive, only 180km. I was really bummed through because I was planning to go up to the Simien National park and hike for 2/3 days. The weather didn’t play along so I was going to be stuck in clouds with no view and only rain. So I had to skip…
I reached Bahir Dar and the bike was running on fumes. I couldn’t find any petrol anywhere and then found a station with a massive que. Before long I was surrounded. People everywhere, all pushing and pulling to get a view of the gps, speedo or whatever they found interesting. Some also found my gear interesting, pulling and touching my boots and jacket. Strange people, no regard for personal privacy. It was harmless though and I didn’t mind.
I filled up and drove around and spotted Ghion Hotel. It was right next to Lake Tana and at $10 a night I was happy to spend it there. They have a nice restaurant/bar overlooking the lake. I spotted some Fish Eagles and Pelicans and for the first time again since West Africa some lovely coloured birds. Soon after arriving I was bored so I got a local guy to take me to one of the islands to go and look at one of the 12th century monestary’s that Lake Tana is so famous for.
I reached the island and headed inland to find this monestary. I must have walk passed it twice as it is not what one expects. Its a rondawel with a iron roof. I guess it was found in the 12th century but the building dates back only 40/50 years I guess. It was closed due to the locals fasting and I guess using it for prayers. I went back and told the guide that its ok I don’t want to intrude on their prayers and that we can head back to the mainland.
I headed back and tried to use the ultra slow internet that the hotel had on offer. It was a battle so I decided to retreat to the haven of my basic hotel room that was dry and warm.
The next morning I was up at 5am and packed the bike for the 560km to Addis Ababa. It was to be a 9 hour day. The travelling is really slow as the roads are full of people and animals. I got my rain suite on and headed south passing charcoal factories and the smell of burning wood really set the mood for what was to be a lovely days riding.
It was only from 11am that I started to meet the other side of Ethiopia. The people become less friendly, shouting stuff at me when I passed them in a village and also the famous rock throwing from the kids next to the road. Its a mixed affair as some of the kids/people are really friendly and they wave and give me a thumbs up. The others can be spotted from a mile away as you see them preparing the whips and picking up stones as you approach. In the beginning I was trying to stay calm and just ignore them but due to my short temper it wasn’t long before I tried to run them over. It was more fun than trying to stay diplomatic. Its quite easy, when you see a group of kids preparing their assault I simply open the throttle and aim the front of the bike at them. It works like a charm as they drop everything and dive of the road to safe their life. I was having a good time as the odds were in my favour.
I’m making it sound worse than what it is as they aren’t attacking bikers or tourists. They throw stones at everything. The dogs being the preferred target, then the cattle and then each other. I saw more kids throwing rocks at each other than they did towards me. They seem quite bored sitting on the road all day watching the cattle so target practise on a guy wearing a lime green rain suite seems the right thing to do.
I pushed on and started to realise that fuel is an issue at the moment. I could find anywhere. The petrol stations where all empty and I had to settle for some fuel on the black market. It was $2 a liter but what could I do? Also I managed to get the best fuel consumption out of my bike to date. I managed to get close to 400km on the one tank. That helps when fuel is so limited.
A Land Cruiser pulled up and I guy said hi. He asked where in Joburg I was from and I said Roodepoort. He laughed and said he was from Roodekrans. That’s a suburb only 5km from my house. Random hey! He said good bye and I took on the last 150km towards Addis Ababa.
When I arrived in Addis like always it was a wet affair. I was soaked and standing and fighting through the traffic was hectic. I opted for the open lane next to the road, the pavement. I was tired and just wanted to reach Wims Holland House, the famous overlander spot in Addis. After 30min I was there and managed to get the only room they had available. I had a hot shower and got down to what overlanders do. Drink beer.
I have been here now for 3 days. The internet in Ethiopia is so slow and backwards that its a mission to get anything done. So I opted for some bike maintenance. I got the tyres changed yesterday, changed the oil and tightened some loose bolts and just trying to get the bike ready for Northern Kenya.
So sorry for the short blog but its the best I can manage at the moment.
Cheers from a very wet Ethiopia.