Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa marked the end of the second stage of our Cairo to Capetown adventure. Our odometers have clicked over the 3000 km mark.
We have said it before: big cities get in the way on bicycle tours. Addis is home to 3 million plus and it is a congested mess. Thirty riders convoyed in and out of the city, 2 abreast, behind our support vehicles. This is not anyone heres’ idea of fun, but it proved a safe and efficient way to get to the Addis Ababa Golf Club, our location for an off day. Addis stands in stark contrast to the spectacular rural countryside we had enjoyed riding in the morning. 4 cell phones would be brazenly stolen from our ranks in the next day and a half as tour participants ventured into the city. We came here to discover Africa. Unfortunately, this is part of the experience.
Ethiopia has often been called the original home of mankind because of various humanoid fossil discoveries. The famous Lucy was discovered in 1974 in the Afar region of the country. The specimen is an early australopithecine and is dated to about 3.2 million years ago. We met Lucy at the National Musem and were surprised that she stands barely 3 feet tall. We limited our touring to museums, abstained from the downtown nightlife and came away unscathed. And yes – some of you may have been asking yourself – G. did play 9 holes in Addis. Our off day was above par in all respects.
We traded 4 sectional riders for 4 new ones in Addis. The transfusion of new blood has been good for the core group going “all he way”. We have now met 2 people who have summited Everest in our lives, both of them women. A year ago we met Pam from Fla. who likes to have a steak every night for dinner. New rider and Everest conquerer Irena from Moscow is also a committed carnivore. She told us of a woman who died on the mountain in the same group as her own successful Everest bid. With a heavy Russian accent, she put the tragedy down to “She was vegetarian – not strong enough!” Our contention in this space previously that “stronger is better” aside, we are not making a statement here. Although . . .
Sectional riders are occasionally used as “mules” by TDA staff and the participants themselves. When Jonas left us in Khartoum G. bought his shoes and headlamp. This time around, Tom from Montreal is leaving, but he was will return in Nairobi to complete his journey to Capetown. When he does, he will have items for at least a half dozen participants, including a cot from MEC for Lenore to replace a thermarest mattress she is unhappy with. It is hard to source or repair forgotten/broken/stolen items when constantly on the move in remote areas. We consider ourselves lucky.
TDA calls section 3 – Addis Ababa to Nairobi – Tribal Lands. The section features diverse changes in scenery and riding conditions: from plateau to desert to savannah. We returned to rolliing countryside after escaping the city to arrive in an area interspersed with alkaline lakes, including Lake Koka where we shared our camping area with magestic Marabu storks that stand taller than Lucy. We are now near Lake Langano camping with ostriches and wart hogs at the Abisata-Shula National Park. We’ll visit the wildlife sanctuary at Yabello before leaving the country.
The border from Ethiopia into Kenya at Moyale will mark the beginning of Kenya’s Dida Galgalu lava rock desert. The scenery will be desolate as we complete the current 8 day run, the longest of the tour, with a rest day in Marsabit, Kenya. That market town is set on the slopes of an ancient volcano. The route then descends again into the arid lands that are home to the Samburu people and their herds of camels and cattle. From Isiola, the route traverses the western slopes of Mount Kenya, before crossing the equator in Nanyuki, which is a short day’s ride from Nairobi, East Africa’s largest city.
Lots to look forward too. Thanks for anticipating it all with us. Here are a few shots from beautiful Ethiopia.