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

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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

Dongala Market

Good morning,

Rest day, so I slept in until around 8:00 and then strolled into town for breakfast. At the little place I stopped, I had two eggs, two pieces of flat bread, a few trimmings, a plate of deep fried, breaded dough ,(I think) and a warm glass of what I’m guessing was goats milk. Cost $1.00.

The people in the market were very friendly. No begging, or pestering, just the locals greeting me with hand shakes and warm welcomes. Everyone wanted to known where I lived. A few people spoke a little English. Lots of activity and merchants selling everything from home hardware to beautiful fruits and freshly cut steaks.

Clive Smith, one of the English chaps, was almost arrested yesterday for taking a picture in the barbershop. I guess he was desperate to have his hair trimmed, so ventured into a local establishment. Little did he know, that after having someone snap a photo of himself and his barber, that the police would come and interrogate him. They lead him to their vehicle and held him for about 30 minutes. He needed to produce his license to take photos. WHAT, a license to take photos? Yes, at the border we all had to buy a license for about $20 to take any Kodak moments. Do you think this country is a little  back-asswards; maybe just a little.

FYI: One thing you can’t find in Dongola is toilet paper. We searched high and low, in every type of store, hoping to land a little ass-wipe. It’s very important to pack a little TP in your day bag, for the so called camp sites. It’s a rarity to find a camp with facilities, so when you need to do your daily duty, a shovel, some TP and maybe even a wet-wipe, really come in handy. (For those of you inquisitive types, the reason why there is no TP, in most of the Sudan, is that their toilets have small hoses beside the bowl, or sometimes the hole in the floor. A little squirt and you’re ready to roll.)

Talk later, need to get a little packing done and maybe a nap..

Ciao,

Easy Rider

Into Sudan

 

Hey from Dongala, Sudan

Another 4 days of riding behind us and a rest day in beautiful downtown Dongala. Once again I’m keeping up my goal of doing EFH (Every Fu…ng Hotel), on the rest days. The riding has been quite good, with paved roads and a helping wind for most of the time. Only one really tough afternoon with a brutal headwind. The camping has been a different story. Desert camps the last 3 nights and windy. My tent was inundated with sand last night. Not one of the most comfortable situations, when everything is coated with a layer of sand. Actually, quite miserable. We crossed the border in Wadi Haifa, Sudan. The border crossing was no easy task, as to be expected. It took the group about 4 hours to get through.

I’m feeling quite good and have really been trying to pace myself. My daily objective is to ride at the pace where I don’t exhaust myself, but that has a lot to do with the weather and road conditions. As mentioned, the wind has been in our favor most days and the roads good. That is about to change as we go deeper into Sudan.

The Sudanese people are living up to their billing and are fantastic. Smiling, laughing and doing whatever they can to help. The other night when we camped along the Nile, we wandered into  a nearby, small community and had tea with the locals. They laid out the red carpet and were extremely happy to have us join them.

To date we’ve road just over 1,089 miles  (1,757 km) in 14 riding days.

Today’s Three Super Stars,

Rob Hart, 29 living in London England. Rob displayed a fine tenor voice, as he accompanied Sally-Ann the other night, while doing the pots & pans. He’s an accountant for the UK government and has been to Africa numerous times. He just can’t get enough.image

Craig Thompson, (CT) is 29 and lives in Stellenbosch, SA. Craig is in the golf business and is an endurance athlete. He loves travel and wanted to see more of his home continent. Craig is raising money for UNOGWAJA, a group that supports various charities, that empowers people all over Africa. His site is http://www.facebookcycle4changeafrica.com

Graham Whelan, another one of the 29 year olds. He’s an electrical engineer and resides in Buckingham, UK. Graham spotted the TDA tour on the internet in 2007 and put it on his wish list. Graham has the name of his recently deceased grandfather on his bike and is riding in his memory. He is also raising money for the Oxford Radcliffe Hospital Heart Department , http://www.justgiving.com/grahamwhelan

Connectivity to the internet has been non existent to very spotty, so don’t expect regular updates.

Ciao,

Easy Rider

 

Out of Egypt

 

Hey from Abu Simbel,

Day off in Abu Simbel, a small town built around the famous temples. They were discovered in 1964 and were removed and reconstructed in 1968 to make way for Lake Nasser. The Lake was a result of the High Dam in Aswan. The temples are magnificent and the best I’ve seen on the trip.

We have now completed day 10 of riding and gone about 1,250 Km ( 775 miles). The first two days coming out of Luxor were along the Nile. The fertile slopes of the river support many small towns. The people were lined up in every village, welcoming us. Young, old, male and female, the people extended their warm welcome as we passed. Even the trucks and cars gave friendly honks and waves as they sped by. The third day of riding was a little different, as we headed back into the desert. The first 60 Km were with heavy cross winds and I took cover with my Rancho Feliz bandana (dust mask) covering my nose and mouth. (Many thanks to Gil Gillenwater for the bandanas). I swear I had a pound of sand in my right ear, before we headed south and had a tail wind most rest of the day . The day finished in a desert camp with the winds howling. Everyone pitched in helping others set up their tents. I went to bed with about two inches of sand encirling the inside of my tent. The fourth day was in heavy tail winds , on good roads……. Loved it.  Once again I extended my objective of EFH  (Every Fu…g Hotel), on the rest days, by finding a very nice hotel, near the campsite.

Today’s Three Super Stars

top left: Douwe Cunningham, 30, lives in Brussels and was born in Scotland  He is fluent in English, Dutch, German, French, Russian and enough Japanese to pick up a gesha girl. Douwe was disheartened with his work in the shipping industry and decided to pack up and head to Africa. This talented young man will be looking for a job when he’s finished the trip. Resumes on request.

Max Chiswick is 29 and lives in Chicago. Max just finished a Masters in Israel. He’s spent some time in Africa a few years ago and had to come back. The most amazing thing in my mind about Max is that he had never clipped into pedals before this trip. The first time, was day one, on the TDA……Talk about an adventurer.

Stephanie Thornton is 28 and from Toronto. She had been working as a nanny in Scottsdale, Arizona. She had spent time in Kenya, Africa, working for an NGO and would love to get a job after the trip working for another NGO. Certainly an adventurer and brave woman, she clipped into her pedals for the first time last July and rode 500 miles from Toronto to Ottawa along the Trans Canada Trail.

Tomorrow we’re on the ferry to Wadi Haifa, Sudan. A short day of riding about 80 Km. The Sudan will be a long stretch, with some very difficult conditions. However, my friend Nola Reynolds, who did this trip in 2012, said it was her favorite section of the ride. “The people were fantastic and couldn’t do enough to make you feel welcomed,” said Nola.

Ciao,

Easy Rider

 

 

 

Photos

 

Top left: sailing the Nile. The captain and I.

One of the 5 Egyptian Riders, Ahmed Nayer, a network engineer for Ciso.. We worked together a couple of days in the wind. Thanks Ahmed.

Bottom left: Four of the Ladies, Brenda, Emma, Martina and Sally-Anne.

My home away from home. Desert Camping, not for the faint of heart.