You always make a rough plan on where you are heading to and what you are seeing. While in Gondar I had laid out a route through the northern areas of Ethiopia, trying to cover most of the historical sites and hopefully driving through some of the beautiful mountain landscapes, a welcome change after being in the desert since Pakistan!
Just when I thought I was going to tackle 260km of the worst dirt road in Ethiopia – from Debark to Axum – alone, I was introduced to Mitchell and Tanya, a young Belarus couple travelling on a motorcycle they brought in Addis with dreams of riding around Ethiopia discovering the real people behind the closed doors, and publishing what Mitchell captured through his lens on his website.
With anticipation about what was instore for us today, we set out at seven in the morning to give us plenty of time to overcome any obstacles that might arise and still be in Axum before dark. All the tour company drivers were seriously worried about us, and urged us to drive in convoy with them, but they had decided to leave at six and just drive on without much stopping for the views.
Starting at 2500m above sea level, we dropped down a steep and twisty road to 1500m above sea level on a hard compacted gravel road. We tookthe time to stop and take in the scenery. I couldn’t help but be excited to be here, sitting on my bike in Ethiopia, looking ahead into the distance at what was instore for me- A beautiful dirt road driving in and around green towering pinnacles. Its moments like this you want to cry for all the people who do not even know the beauty in the world beyond their back garden. But then again, if we were all the same this moment wouldn’t have been as special, sharing it with a million people.
We riding into a tiny single street village that lining the main road. Stopping outside a cafe that had a nice welcoming umbrella outside it, we decided to regain some energy and order a coffee. As soon as we shed our hot and sticky motorcycle clothing and sunk down into a green plastic chair, all the children in the village decided to come out surrounding our motorcycles. They got their tiny little fingers into everything, trying to open all my bags on my motorcycle and when they worked out most of them were locked they then started to snap the tired sun damaged zip ties and untangle my Sockmonkey from the bike.
I completely lost it, when they started to climb up onto the bike on the wrong side,which could potentially fall over on top of them! I jumped up, yelled at them and ran over the bikes. Seeing I was getting annoyed with the millions of tiny people trying to strip our bikes, the cafe owner grabs a big stick and starts to shoo/wack the children away. When that still wasn’t working, a woman came out of one of the building growling Instantly they scatter, running back into their houses leaving only a few to sit patiently on the ground next to us, only to return when we started up our bikes.
The day just dragged on. Despite the views, I was consistently concentrating on the road. Crossing deep gravel ruts, waiting for bulldozers to clear the road, riding behind billowing dust clouds, trying to pass a bus completely blind only to realize half way there was a monstrous truck looming inside the cloud heading straight from me! It was an exciting, hard working, very tiring day.
When we eventually arrived into Axum 11 hours later, I peered into the mirror and discovered I had turned from a strapping young lady into a dusty brown monster, who luckily had just found out had hot water for the first time since Luxor in Egypt! Hours later, reemerging from the now brown tiled bathroom I was a completely new person.
My bike wasn’t feeling as good as me though. One of the buckles on my panniers had decided to disintegrate, the rear stop light wires had snapped off with all the vibration and there was a cut in the side wall of my rear tire. The later was a major. I was in a small village in the far north. I hoped they sold an 18 inch rear tire. A friendly local guide reassured me I would find one in the village.
Sure enough, after and hour of bartering I found one for $40. The only problem was my heavy duty tube was too fat to fit inside so I had to put my old $4 thin Pakistani tube back in. At least I can still move. I didn’t worry so much about the other things, I had a fair idea I would be on more roads like this in the near future, so I’ll plan to fix it all after. Well for today that is the plan but it might all change again tomorrow!