Month: February 2016

African Bits & Bites

Good morning from Addis Ababa,

Addis founded in 1886 is the capital of Ethiopia. It has a population of around 4 million and is the host city for both the African Union and the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

Along the ride, some of the kids call me “Papo.” Why would they ever call me grandfather?

Another thing the Ethiopians yell as we pass is “China.” They think that everyone with lighter skin are Chinese. ( I can’t believe, they think a bunch of white folk are Chinese, but they do.) The Chinese are making a big play in many of the African countries. They build roads and in return, put up factories and buy mineral rights. The horrid thing about it is that they bring in their own scab labor from China and do not hire the Africans.

I’m excited that Mary will be coming for a visit when I get to Nairobi. She’ll have a chance to meet Julie McGowan @ Kimbilio Hospice, the wonderful charity In Kenya. If you haven’t made a donation, please do so today. Every bit helps Julie and her staff give comfort and care to the poor and dying.

Three Super Stars for Today:
Left – Jason “Bieber,” Metcalfe, single and 42 was born in Indiana, but has been living in Basel Switzerland for 15 years. He’s had the TDA on his bucket list for sometime, as well as paragliding and skydiving, which he has already accomplished. Jason keeps everyone entertained with his uptown dance moves and gyrations that he’s been teaching the Africans. He’s going all the way to the Cape.

Center – Singing Sally-Anne Dunn is 40 and lives in London, England. She’s a former financial services executive and now a life coach focusing on HR issues. Sally-Anne is finishing off the Tour of Africa and riding with us to Nairobi. She did the other half in 2014.

Right- Neil Oakley, 44 lives in Corsica, was born in the UK. A former BP executive, Neil had some time on his hands and thought the TDA would be a good way to spend it. Neil’s claim to fame is his third nipple. He’s been my riding partner quite a few days. He’s going all the way to Cape Town.

Ciao
Easy Rider

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Addis Ababa, – 30% of Trip

Greetings from Addis Ababa,  Ethiopia
We left Bahir Dar on a bus and drove 270 km to avoid the “rock throwing bastards,” in the country side. (Actually, there are not that many kids doing it, but if it’s two, or three times a day, it certainly adds a little spice to the ride.) I don’t think it would have been any different than other days, but the tour operators are playing it safe, as last year they had an incident and someone was knocked off their bike and broke their jaw.

In Bahir Dar we took a boat ride out to one of the islands in Lake Tana and visited a 700 year old monastery. It is an active Coptic Christian monastery with 26 priests and 13 monks. The monks live on the campus and grow coffee beans, as a source of income. The priests live elsewhere with their families, as they are allowed to marry. The religion seems to be a lot like Roman Catholic, but they have 16 additional books in their bible. The one I found most interesting is the “Book of Mary,” as she seems to play a very large role in their teachings.

On the return trip from the monastery we went to the source of the Blue Nile. It is a large estuary where we saw hippos lounging around.

The riding this week featured climbing out of the Blue Nile Gorge. It was only a 88 km, (55 mile) ride that day, but the last 20 km was a 1,380 m climb out of the gourge. YES that’s right, 4,550′ in 12 miles. The elevation was in the 8,000′ range. It was a son of a bitch, but I enjoyed the climbing immensely. On the ride up there were numerous families of baboons scurrying along the route.

The following day, my 62 birthday, we climbed to the highest point of the tour, 3,122 m (10,300′).

The last riding day into Addis Ababa everyone cruised the 109 km ride, but it was another big day of climbing. So for the last three days of riding in the Ethiopian Highlands, we rode 283 km (175 miles) and climbed 4,589 m (15,114′).

Rightly so, we now have two days rest in Addis Ababa. Alleluia!

Since we left Cairo we have travelled 3,738 km, (2,318 miles). That’s a little over 30% of the journey. Amazed I’ve gotten is far.

Ciao
Easy Rider

This and That from Bahir Dar

Hey from Bahir Dar, Ethiopia.

Just arrived in Bahir Dar after a short ride with a few rolling hills. (note, we are now at elevations in the 2,000 m. (6,600 ft) range).  My recovery is complete and I’m feeling great. Another rest day tomorrow, so the plan is to do the market today and get an outfit for our “Ethiopian Party” tonight. Everyone needs a lift and we thought a little theme party would be good for the spirit. Tomorrow we’ll do a boat ride out into  Lake Tana to visit a few monasteries on some small islands.

This and That;
Ethiopia has a population of over 100 million. After the Second World War there were 15 million. This population explosion is evidenced with the hundreds of kids that line the roads as we pass. Kids everywhere. At first it felt like riding in a parade, as they screamed ” Yu Yu Yu.” I was thinking it was some kind of welcome in their native Amharic tongue. Unfortunately, I found out at lunch that they were hollering “You, You, You,” the only words they knew in English. It soon became annoying as hell, as they continually yelled “You,” to get your attention.

In the Sudan, a highlight at the end of each day were the “donkey showers.” A young entrepreneur would arrive at our campsite with his donkey, and a couple of 55 gallon drums filled with water strapped on his cart. He would then sell his wares in plastic jugs for $0.50. The idea was to wash up and scrub off a couple layers of the dirt that had accumulated throughout the day. At first it was a little weird with all the kids standing around giggling and gawking at the white bodies, but soon you realized there was no escaping the notoriety.

Ethiopia is 62% Christian, 33% Muslim and the rest a mix of religions. It was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as their state religion.

In grade school the kids learn Amharic and then in high school English.

Ethiopia is also where the coffee bean originated.

It is also considered the region from which Homo Sapiens first set out for the Middle East and beyond.

Three superstars for today are:
Left – Clive Smith, age 48 from the UK. Clive is married with two kids and is a cycling coach for over 60 schools in his part of London. A former banker, Clive did the “Hippie Trail,” with the the TDA in 2011. ( It’s the cycling tour of India). He will be departing in Adis Ababa.

Center – Jean Brown is married and lives in Chicago. Her two girls are 12 & 7. A well healed traveller, Jean has lived in South Korea and Tunisia. She’s a Girl Scout Mom and if I had to guess her profession, I’d say a secret service agent. She’s doing the entire tour.

Mike Carter, “Crash” is 55 and from Toronto. He joined us in Khartoum and will be riding to Lilongwe, Malawi. Mike has his own visual communications business and is an avid mountain biker. Proud father of two great sons, ages 24 & 21.

Ciao
Easy Rider

Khartoum to Gondar, Ethiopia

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Greetings from Ethiopia,

We just finished likely the toughest stretch of the tour. It was eight days of riding, in some very difficult conditions. Temperatures each day were over 100 F (41 C) and the roads bone shaking and unforgiving for three of the days.
I’m sitting in our hotel lobby writing this blog and recovering from a violent 12 hour illness, something I’ve heard about, but never experienced. I had absolutely no control over my body, as evidenced by doing the dirty deed on the side of the road with about 30 kids and a number of adults watching.
Day 1 and 2 were warm ups for the grueling off-road conditions for days 3, 4 and 5. We rode 185 miles the first two days on decent pavement and then the fun began. Three days and about 275 km (170 miles) on a gravel, sandy and uneven surfaces. About 80% was washboard, (a mountain biking term). If you don’t know what a washboard is, then ask your Mother. If she doesn’t know, then ask your Grandmother. Mountain bikers call it washboard because of the similarity to a washboard used for laundering cloths many moons ago. The surface is corrugated and relentlessly bumpy. It shakes every bone in your body. In any case, I was pedaling for over 17 hours for days 4 & 5. For those two days, everything that could go wrong, went wrong. I was lost twice, that cost me a couple of hours. I had 3 flats one day. My riding partner one morning stopped 7 or 8 times for diarrhea, once requiring a wardrobe change from the waist down and then that afternoon my new riding partner flatted 4 times. Tough, tough, days. Surprisingly, day 6 & 7 were a different story, as I felt pretty good and handled the pavement and climbing into Ethiopia quite well. Then it was all down hill, as far as my health was concerned. That night at about 4:00 am I was sick, sick, sick. I spent day 8 in the truck waiting to get to our hotel, for the two days of rest in Gondar.
Despite these difficulties, there were some memorable highlights. In every small village we rode, the villagers all came out on mass to greet the strange looking foreigners on two wheels. Smiles, waves and warm welcomes abounded, especially in the Sudan.
Day 6 we entered our third country and breezed through the Ethiopian border and regrouped at the bar / brothel that was about 50 meters from the border crossing. Some of the riders having a real sense of satisfaction of their accomplishment and others ecstatic about being able to get a beer after 17 days of being in Sudan, (no alcohol in a Muslim country).
We have now travelled over 3,000 km.
In closing, I have to commend this fine group of people that have melded together like a close family. Everyone is supporting each other and genuinely concerned with the health and well being of their fellow adventurers. About 60 – 70% of us have come down with some sort of illness. My guess it will be no problem hitting the 80% mark, as anticipated by our tour operators.
Loving a bed and shower. It’s heavenly.

Ciao
Easy Rider

New Stuff from Khartoum

Hey from Khartoum,

Rest day, so I thought I’d send a few photos and a brief blog.

Did You Know:

  • The Canadian embassy in Khartoum is hosting all of us for dinner tonight. Aren’t those friendly Canucks great?
  • There seems to be a chocolate syndicate forming in the group. Myself, Douwe, Katja, Rob, Brenda and Emma always have cravings for any type of chocolate after dinner. Once in a while we’ll let others in on our stashes, but usually we don’t have enough to go around, so as Rob says, “you look after me, I’ll look after you.”
  • The Sudanese buses are a real hazard on the roads, as they flash by inches away from your bike. They must be traveling at speeds of at least 150 km/hr…..Scarry.
  • Did you know that the Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt?
  • So far we’ve completed about 18% of the trip. We are now about 2,135 Km, (1,324 miles), from our starting point in Cairo.
  • The toughest stretch of the tour is coming up with eight straight days of riding. Six of those days is off-road, the last two climbing in Ethiopia.
  • The Muslim Brotherhood is in power in Sudan and they banned the circumcision of young girls a few years ago. Despite being illegal, most girls still have it done. Otherwise their families would be ostracized from their community. It’s a horrible tradition from the time of the Pharos.
  • In Arabic, Sudan means “black people.”
  • The origin of the word Khartoum is uncertain., but many think that it means “elephant trunk,” in Arabic and refers to the shape of the piece of land that extends between the Blue and White Niles.
  • Sudan is under USA sanctions and has been on the “terrorist country” list for 25 years. Ridiculous.

Ciao

Easy Rider

 

Khartoum, Sudan – rest day

 

 

Greetings from the capital of Sudan, Khartoum. Khartoum is the second largest city in Sudan. It is located at the confluence of the White Nile, flowing north from Lake Victoria and the Blue Nile, flowing west from Ethiopia. Population is 5 million.

We arrived to the city in a convoy and a police escort. It was an easy 88 km (55 miles). Traveling as a convoy is the safest way to get in and out of a busy city.

We had 4 good days of riding with favorable winds, so the cycling gods were with us. The desert camping the past three nights was mixed. The second night was horrid. The wind was howling and the fine sand was once again blanketing everthing inside the tent. The third night was a dream. The wind died down and we camped just outside a little village. It was magical watching the sunset that evening, after lounging around in a tea house for a couple of hours in the afternoon.

The day was not without incident, as Steph was knocked off her bike by kids throwing stones and whipping her with a sugar cane stem. Unfortunately, she was riding alone, but as soon as she fell the kids ran away. The truck was moments behind her and gave her a lift to camp. She has a few scrapes and bruises, but was back on the bike today and led the group out of camp for about the first 25 km. She’s a tough lady.

On the off day, Katja and I wandered through the market in old town. We tasted some of the local cuisine, but stuffed ourselves with “Snicker Bars.” That seems to be the treat of the trip. Ther’re tough to find, but  when someone does, they could be traded for gold, amoungst the other riders. Maybe not gold, but at least a tube or two.

 

Two guys are leaving us. Dave Hocking planned on only doing this first section, but Larry McNeil decided to head home. He’s had some health issues right from the start and hasn’t road much at all. They’ll be missed by the gang.

Fun Fact: Paul Taylor from the UK has climbed all, SEVEN SUMMITS. For those not familiar with them, he has summited the highest peaks on all seven continents, including Everest. Evidently, there are less than 200 people in the entire world that have ever accomplished this feat.

Today’s Fout Stars:

left – Cohen Hocking, 23, living in Prince George, BC. Traveling the first section with his dad Dave, Cohen will be with us to Addis Ababa, where he’ll meet up with his girlfriend. They’re going to hike in Ethiopia, before heading to the DRC to see the mountain gorillas. He’s a real adventurer, that’s says traveling through Africa on bike, is the “coolest” way to see things.

center – Davis Hocking, 51. Dave has just completed the first section of the TDA and will be leaving us tomorrow. Dave lives outside Vancouver and runs a manufacturing and installation company of counter tops.

right – Larry McNeil – 63 lives in Denver. Larry confesses to be a retired professional nerd. Cycling is a passion, as 3 years ago Larry spent 3 weeks in a coma after a cycling accident. His brain started to hemorage and he successfully went through surgery, that brought him back from a near death experience. Larry got back on his bike and signed up for the TDA. He had read about this adventure 10 years ago.

standing – Steve Chatterton, 64 resides in St. Paul, Minnesota. A retired electrician, Steve has done numerous triathlons, marathons and many self supported cycling trips throughout the USA. He’s divorced and has two daughters.

Ciao

Easy Rider

 

 

Today’s Super Stars and photos

 

Greetings,

Top left- Ahmed Nayer, an Egyptian that I’ve rode with a couple of days. Ahmed is a network engineer for Cisco Systems. There’s 5 Egyptian riders, riding from Cairo to Abul Simbel.

Upper middle – My home away from home, at one of our early desert campsites.

Top right – Four of the 6 lady riders that are doing the entire trip. From right to left, Brenda, Emma. Martina and Sally Anne, (actually Sally Ann did half the trip in 2013 and is finishing it up this year).

Bottom right – The captain and I, doing a sailing cruise along the Nile.

Bottom left – Today’s “Super Stars”

( top left) Martina Kroos, 40 from Bad Salzuflen, Germany. Martina is a fitness coach and runs a health club in her hometown. Why did she decide to do the TDA? “Loves Afrcia, why not on a bike?” She is raising money for Shelter Box, a disaster relief group; http://www.lipperininafrika.wordpress.com

Paul Taylor, a 47 year old from Lancashire, England. He says that that is where they speak “proper” English. Paul runs a car garage, when he not training for some “off the charts” athletic endevour. The “terminator” is a three time iron man and certainly a favorite to battle it out with Rupert, if he decides to go all the way. Paul is going to make that decision in Nairobi.

Emma Houterman is a partner with Paul and lives in Amsterdam. An incredible athlete, she is a leading contender with Katja for the woman’s title. She was born in Rawanda where her father engineered a major highway. She’s always  wanted to come back and see the continent. Emma is raising money for Doctors Without Borders, http://www.justgiving.nl/en/mobile/mobile#pages/22gg5

Easy Rider,

Mike