Greetings from Africa,
I’ve never watched the TV reality show SURVIVOR, but would think that many of our days here in Africa could certainly fit a story line that would be picked up by the network. Here’s a look at a day last week after two rest days in Addis Ababa. I was in the truck that morning, as it poured rain. I had been struck with a second bout of an Ethiopian stomach bug on the first rest day and spent the second day in my fancy hotel, just a few steps away from my toilet. I road the bumps and potholes in the back of the support truck, as my fellow riders battled the traffic, donkeys, rough roads and a two hour downpour out of camp. Because I was not riding, I arrived the campsite about noon and we were immediately greeted by a bunch of local kids screaming and chasing our vehicle. The scene was right out of national geographic. A sprawling lake with a volcanic mountain in the backdrop, a few massive trees that shaded the campsite and all types of wildlife. The most interesting were the flocks of Maribou Storks, a prehistoric bird that stands about four feet tall and must have a fifteen foot wing span. There were the usual cows, donkeys and goats strolling around. As you can imagine, despite this magical backdrop, the camp site was flat and sandy and had animal droppings and who knows what other feces littering the surroundings. Cow paddies, fish heads, donkey dung and goat shit always made each step a careful dance step around the camp. I pitched my tent under a beautiful, massive, fig tree. Another national geographic photo in itself. That evening it was a bustling scene of activity. A couple of bulls performed a mating ritual, the Maribou storks lounged around and the donkeys and goats roamed throughout the soccer match that the village kids were enjoying. So now the scene is set, a mystical African setting with a stinky, filthy undertone.
As usual, I had a difficult time getting to sleep, but as I began to doze I could hear the wind building and soon it was just howling. My tent was flapping in all directions an then I noticed a sandy, grizzly feeling on my finger tips. I awoke, turned on my light and my sleeping bag and the inside of the tent was coated with the filthy, sandy soil, smell and all. I decided to wait it out and then I heard what I thought were heavy rain drops. They were sporadic and splattered as they pounded down. I then figured out, they weren’t rain drops, but bat shit from the huge, draping fig tree overhead. Hundreds of bats were hanging in the tree. So now, my tent is full of stinking, disgusting sand and the tent is being pummeled by bird terds, the size of silver dollars. I awoke thinking the worse. Scrambling around in the dark, with the aid of my head-lamp, I managed to clean things a bit and get things packed and ready to roll. The sun slowly came up over the lake and the unimaginable beauty overwhelmed my senses. I soon forgot about the filth and saw God’s gift to those lucky enough to stop and enjoy it. Yes, the difficult times of this trip are frequent and trying, but pale in comparison to the wonders of this beautiful continent.