Typical Hut, Gashema, Ethiopia

Spicy Food, Strange People

| Ethiopia

One must be careful when deciding who to travel with. For the last year and a half I have been mainly on my own. I do join other overlanders, but it’s always been because we have enjoyed each others company not because I have to.  Until now. On my way down to Addis Ababa, I met two German motorcyclists who had informed me about the rebel fighting going on in and around Moyale (Ethiopia and Kenya border)and how the army had just moved in to help diminish the problem. 

Just when I was wondering what to do and how to approach the area, an opportunity rose to join other overlanders and create a convoy to travel through the area. I decided to leap on board eyes wide shut and travel with two German campers (people I had met back in Egypt while waiting for the boat to Sudan) and two other motorcyclists that I had spoken to for only a few minutes the day before leaving. This was actually meant to be a treat! Oh, how wrong could I be!

The motorcyclist and campervans split up right from the word go. This was understandable, since we with motorcycles can travel a lot faster and easier in and around traffic, but we made a plan to meet up every night. First stop wasn’t too far from Addis, an overlanders camp ground beside a beautiful lake. This meant we (the motorcyclists) could take it easy and take plenty of breaks for coffee, food and photos. The day rolled out pretty uneventfully, well, except for me learning a few fast and hard lessons about who I’m actually travelling with.  Before the day was out, I started to form a picture in my mind.

Stopping for lunch in a small village along the main road, I asked what everyone wanted to eat so I could go and order it. But my team mates had never tried local food despite being in Ethiopia for over two weeks!  I gave them a crash course in Ethiopia cuisine and ordered my favourite spicy meat dish piled on top of the slightly sour oversized pancake called ingeria. I  then showed them how rip off a piece of ingeria and gather a bit of meat mixture and place it in their mouth without making too much mess. One followed suit but using his left hand. “I don’t mind if you use your ass wiping hand to eat your food but IF your been invited into a family’s house for dinner then only use your right!” laughing. He quickly swapped hands and continued to try to eat the dish which turned out to be too spicy for him and he gave up eating after a few mouth full’s.

One motorcycle had an issue, one that had been ongoing since they left home. When I heard it back firing and consistently spluttering I figured that there was something wrong with the air and fuel mixture in a carburettor. I quietly made the suggestion, but I’m no expert, it just something I would have looked into long before now. The rider responded that a lot of mechanics had checked it out and never found the problem. They just kept on blaming it on the spark plug and replacing it. He was just waiting for Jungle Junction (another well known overlanders camp in the heart of Nairobi that also has a workshop) where Chris can work his magic and finally sort out the problem. However that’s over 1000kms away with 300kms of really bad and dangerous gravel road in between!  I wonder how this is going to pan out?

It was around 3pm when we arrived at the pre-arranged meeting point. The driveway into the camp site was riddled with bull dust and deep sand patches. After northern Ethiopia, this was no real challenge for me, but I had enough sense to hang back and let the guys go first and let the dust (so to speak of) settle on at least one or the other trapped under their heavy over loaded motorcycles, crying out for help. Surprise, surprise… Every time, I leapt of my bike and helped them out.  For the first couple of times (each), I laughed at them but then it got a bit tiresome and they started to get grumpy. So I couldn’t help wonder – is this what it would be like if I was to ever do motorcycle tours and didn’t know the people or their abilities beforehand??

It was a good time to slowly set up camp in the best spot and to walk down to the resort and have a sunset beer on the shores of the lake. We were pretty happy until I received a phone call from the German side of the convoy team. “What’s it like where you are?” I told them of the nasty expat owner and of the limited faculties for the price he charges. They responded with “We have decided to stop 20km down the road and have a look at the national park, why don’t you came and join us” The three of us sat, there slightly bitter – we would have liked to have done that too, but we had already paid and set up our tent for the night at the location we had all agreed to only a few hours ago in Addis. Again my brain was wondering how well this convoy was going to work when we really needed to be together and work together. This was indeed going to be a trying few days with a team that was already falling apart within a few hours of starting out!  

This is the day of wondering. Wondering what I was doing with these people? Wondering how I was going to cope over the next few days? Wondering why a group of likeminded people cannot even stick to a simple plan? So many thoughts, so many worries about what the next few days is going to bring me. For now I have to shove those thoughts away and drift off to sleep, I’m going to need all energy and patience I can get.