One Day: Blue Nile Gorge

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Hello from Ethiopia!

5:00 AM. Wakened by the alarm after a comfortable night for sleeping. The altitude has us back in the sleeping bags which were given a rest during the recent hot streak. Our desert camps in Egypt and Sudan were necessary, and we abided them happily, but the Adirondacks is our DNA, and our tent sites in Ethiopia have reminded of that. Who knew?

Next. A walk into the woods to heed nature’s call. Armed only with the communal shovel described in an earlier blog, tripped over the leg of one of our Ethiopian facilitators who sat slumped against a tree, asleep, with a Kalashnikov across his lap.  This same fellow had been the beer sales entrepreneur the previous evening – just sayin’. 

Security personnel are with us, in part, to ward off the locals who seem to materialize out of thin air, at any time, in the most unlikely places. There is no policing outside the roped off area in which our tents are pitched. This is where we walk in the woods. A thorough quadrant search is required to ensure an uninterrupted moment. Life TDA style leans toward the primitive side.  

Firearms and a lack of plumbing aside, some readers who commented that “envy” is no longer a reaction to our chronicles may soon reconsider.  This account of our day cycling through the Blue Nile Gorge may be a start. 

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Our marching orders for an epic ride

 

Within 30 kilometres of its source at Lake Tana, the Blue Nile enters a canyon about 400 kilometres long, flowing through a series of virtually impenetrable gorges cut in the Ethiopian Highlands to a depth of some 1,500 metres. Blue Nile Gorge is the world’s 2nd largest canyon. It is an awe inspiring sight.  

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Blue Nile Gorge switchbacks

The 50 km to lunch on this day were typical of our cycling patterns, with G. falling behind L. and the other riders we began the day with as the photo opportunities became impossible to resist. The photography itself accounts for only a fraction of the time lost. In the seconds it takes to ready the camera, a handful of locals will approach, with the usual “where you go”  lead in to an English – Amharic disconnect. We’ve  taken to beating them to the punch by asking where they go, to which the lack of response has led us to conclude that they have no idea what the question even means.  Still, with effort, more often than not something clicks, and a hand offered for shaking is always reciprocated with gratitude. After these exchanges, fellow cyclists are long out of sight.  

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G. and his flock

There is no hurry on days like this (lots of climbing but moderate mileage), when we are confidant that we will have time to set up camp and relax before the rider meeting and dinner. There is no masseuse waiting there for us.  No Starbucks.  No Netflix. What awaits is soup. Soup. But the School of Ethiopia is open, and tuition is free.  So we take our time, savour the ride and enjoy the lessons. Today we learned about the eucalyptus trees we have noticed riding through the countryside.

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Eucalyptus scaffolding

The prevalence and importance of eucalyptus in Ethiopia becomes quickly evident when looking at the building materials of simple homes and scaffolding used on construction sites. Astute Kiwi tour participant and former farmer Phil pointed out the many plantations which supply lumber yards where piles of eucalyptus are stacked according to circumference – no uniform 2×4’s in sight. For background on what we had deciphered in our own, we went to Google which taught us that in 1894 Emporer Menelik ordered the construction of a new capital at Addis Ababa. There was a great need for timber so Menelik endorsed the introduction of eucalyptus to Ethiopia from Australia. He encouraged its planting around Addis because it is fast growing and when cut down it grows up again from the roots. It can be harvested every ten years. 

There is much to be learned peddling across a continent. 

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Our lunch spot on the descent into the Gorge

Lenore was pulling out of the picturesque lunch location as G. pulled in with the camera shutter button as hot from overuse as the disk brakes on the bike after only a fraction of the descent into the gorge. The rest of the way down was a bit taxing due to the poor quality of the road. The views, on the other hand, were stunning.  As advertised, we happened upon Baboons sitting  roadside at the bottom of the canyon. We had been warned that these animals are several times more powerful than the average male rugby player, and that coming between a mother and its babies could be asking for trouble.  We saw several of those babies, and did not hang around for their mothers to announce themselves. 

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Baboons roadside at the base of the Gorge

We actually like to climb hills on bicycles, so the the real fun began at the base of the canyon – at the (no photographs allowed!) military bridge over the Blue Nile itself. From there it was 1360 meters of vertical over 20.05 km with an average grade of 6.8% (with several stretches of 10%+).  A formidable climb in the afternoon heat. 

G. caught  Lenore about half way up (at the coke stop) and we rode the rest of the way together, feeling strong. 

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Tent site overlooking the Gorge

The camp offered stunning views over the canyon and the group could look over the rock face to cheer on later arriving riders as they negotiated the final switchbacks that stood between them and . . . soup. 

A day to remember.  

Here is a short video of what it’s like to cycle in Ethiopia.  Thanks for indulging us.  

 

 

  33 comments for “One Day: Blue Nile Gorge

  1. Doreen A. Croll
    February 23, 2019 at 10:21 pm

    Wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. February 23, 2019 at 10:37 pm

    So happy you’re enjoying the experience!
    Pedal on!

    Like

    • February 24, 2019 at 6:32 pm

      O.K.! Thanks Robin.

      Like

  3. Michael Fraser
    February 23, 2019 at 10:49 pm

    Great video G. Looks like you are having fun with the ntive people.

    Like

    • February 24, 2019 at 6:32 pm

      Sure am. Thanks Mike.

      Like

  4. Paul Rapoport
    February 23, 2019 at 11:31 pm

    Amazing stuff. Loved the video. We read every word every time and have the keenest anticipation for the next instalments.

    Like

  5. Amanda Clayton
    February 24, 2019 at 12:41 am

    Loved the video! Still envy!

    Like

  6. February 24, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    Fantastic video Gerald. You took us along for the ride with you.

    Like

  7. DENISE
    February 24, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    Gerry
    Love saving your posts for bed-time reading…
    Thanks so much for transporting us with you!
    Now, for the electronically challenged, how are you getting your internet feed?

    Like

    • February 24, 2019 at 6:28 pm

      New SIM card every country and WIFI where we can get it. Struggling most of the time – expected better. Thanks for reading D.

      Like

  8. Anonymous
    February 24, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    Spellbinding stuff Gerry. Every paragraph.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. raymyquan
    February 24, 2019 at 1:59 pm

    Great blog, nice to hear from you, keep on peddling!

    Like

  10. Suzannne
    February 24, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    Love the joy of the native people despite their obvious monetray poverty.

    Like

    • February 24, 2019 at 6:26 pm

      The rural population is just fine. No television to spoil their perception of a satisfactory existence.

      Like

  11. February 24, 2019 at 6:11 pm

    The experience is so intense it’s like packing in several lifetimes. How will you ever return to ordinary life? Bring home a piece of eucalyptus wood and a baboon for me. Kisses to Lenore.

    Like

    • February 24, 2019 at 6:22 pm

      That is a well documented problem. Played 9 holes of golf today in Addis Ababa to stay grounded. I’m not going anywhere near those baboons. Thanks for writing.

      Like

  12. Liz
    February 24, 2019 at 10:55 pm

    What is the reasoning behind no photos? I was surprised to read that you enjoy a climb. Thanks for sharing the journey.

    Like

  13. Susan Heseltine
    February 25, 2019 at 1:21 am

    Hi Gerry! Loved your video and especially the photo of you and “your flock”!! I am sure all the kids love you!!! Keep the posts coming! We love the peek it gives us into your epic journey with Lenore! Be safe, you two!! xoxo

    Like

  14. February 25, 2019 at 6:09 am

    Note to tour leader – don’t give the gun to the beer salesman. Bad idea!

    Like

    • February 25, 2019 at 3:49 pm

      Up for consideration.

      Like

  15. kimp74
    February 25, 2019 at 9:34 am

    Magic!!! Wish I was there. X

    Like

  16. The Dream
    February 25, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    The best line in the video – Ethiopian “Where you go?” Gerald, “Capetown South Africa”. If only we could see the confused look on the questioners face afterwards… 🙂

    Like

    • February 25, 2019 at 3:46 pm

      Indeed. I usually give the name of the next big city. Any answer is appreciated.

      Like

  17. Fred Argue
    February 25, 2019 at 8:02 pm

    Thanks G for the wonderful photos and updates. The capture of the Daily White Board paints a good picture of your day.

    Like

    • February 26, 2019 at 11:12 am

      Thanks Fred. We live and die by the white board.

      Like

  18. February 25, 2019 at 8:19 pm

    I am amazed you can produce your usual dramatic video and get it to us tout-de-suite- whereas we could barely find wifi anywhere on our cross-Canada road trip last summer…

    Like

    • February 26, 2019 at 11:12 am

      Challenging – new SIM card every country and sketchy wifi on the off days.

      Like

  19. C&C
    February 26, 2019 at 5:06 pm

    Love the video…….

    Like

  20. Stephen Lee
    February 26, 2019 at 6:10 pm

    All good; maybe if you could have had the uphill first?? Keep on keepin’ on!

    Like

    • February 27, 2019 at 4:19 am

      Will do. Thank you.

      Like

  21. Meli Webb
    February 28, 2019 at 9:16 am

    “Cannot travel slow enough…” love it Gerry and Lenore – so enjoying your journey! As always – inspiring!!! xx

    Like

    • March 1, 2019 at 2:34 am

      Thanks Meli. Hello to the gang in Australia.

      Like

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