The landscape of Ethiopia from the air looks like
the design of camouflage fatigues, brown and dark yellow, interspersed
with black and greens. It was, figuratively and literally, a breath
of fresh air. The scenery is superb. So varied... arid high plateau
to alpine pastures to rolling countryside to jagged cliffs. At night
millions of stars as there is no pollution in the air.
To coin a phrase over-used in the past: 'Zis iz ze real Afrika'.
(Hi Curly!) The 'you you you' takes a bit of getting used to. To
the western ear it sound rather aggressive. It is rather aggressive!
People here, no matter how friendly they appear are only associating
with you, because they want to share your wealth. I met nobody who
was helpful, who didn't want money.
I took a day to get the wife out of Ethiopian customs.
I paid a grand total of 8.70 Birr (US$1) to the Ethiopian Treasury.
A slight contrast to Egypt...
In places, the road from Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar
was, shall we say, rather poor. The rear sub frame decided to break
for the first (of 4) time. I found a man who did some rather dubious
welding. The sparks from the welding kit and the angle grinder worried
me. Something to do with 30 litres of fuel in the tank being in
rather close proximity. Not that it wouldn't have made a good story
for the diary!
The roads made it all worthwhile. 'It' being the
stress in the UK and Egypt. The ultimate... speeding along at 50
or 60 km/h over gravel piste with the biggest dust cloud behind
and nothing but friendly faces and great, in places, breath-taking
In Bahir Dar I visited some monasteries on islands in the middle
of Lake Tana. The lake and the scenery are tranquil. Everywhere
birds of all sizes and colours. In the morning there were ten pelicans
swimming close to the shore in front of my tent.
The road from Bahir Dar eastwards is called the
Chinese Road. A great piste: long straight, flat, niccccccce...
3400 metres above sea level, the roadside littered with abandoned
tanks and rocket launchers from past happy Ethiopian get-togethers.
Avoiding the ‘youyouyou’ types and beggars was difficult...
some others were more friendly. There are absolutely no western
tourists here. Wars (presently with Eritrea) tend to make your average
punter run a mile. The only evidence of the conflict that I witnessed,
apart from the biased anti Eritrean rhetoric in the papers, was
the many army trucks and a few low loaders carrying large covered
objects, the silhouettes of which looked remarkably similar to tanks.
The road to Lalibela was out of this world. Great
piste through remarkable terrain. It wasn't really my scene... 'The
second Jerusalem' etc etc. So, what's wrong with the first one?
I learnt many things on my travels around Ethiopia's
roads. Trees disguised as people, trees disguised as donkeys, as
trucks, as camels, as anything... Particular care should be taken
with suicidal death-wish donkeys and gormless goats.
I can now change a front tyre blindfold. Of the
6 or so times I did it, once was even in the dark (on Christmas
Eve!). I put on the well-known brand 'Golden Boy' to get me to Kenya
where I could put on a decent Michelin. The back Bridgestone is
holding up OK, but you should never say never, but I will never
put a Bridgestone on the front again! It lasted 3000km and was beginning
to disintegrate from the inside. This caused the punctures.
Lake Langano was excellent. Very relaxing, lots
of beering, fooding and chilling. I spent the time hanging out with
Guy and Marlene from Belgium, travelling RTW on a R1100GS. We debated
a name for my bike. I suggested 'Janice' (as in Joplin: too nice
a name!?), they suggested 'Helga' (German and functional...). An
Ethiopian policeman said that BMW stood for 'be my wife'.... so
the bike is now called 'wife' or 'wifey' or whatever.
At the lake there were also conference delegates
discussing solutions for the AIDS problem in Ethiopia. Our suggestions
were quite straightforward, but cannot be printed here. One delegate
also had a puncture on his moped. He thought it perfectly reasonable
that we should repair it for him as he was, he told us, a high government
official. My straightforward thought (also a cure to the AIDS problem)
to this demand also remains unprinted. He probably took the bus
The border crossing to Kenya took 40 minutes. Half
an hour to get out of Ethiopia and 10 minutes (of which, 5 were
swapping pleasantries with the customs and immigration officers)
to get into Kenya. Why isn't it always this easy?
'adventures' of the road from Moyale to Isiolo and the rest of Kenya