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.