Addis Abeba was the first big city we saw after leaving Khartoum. The thousands of peoples, cars, minibuses, tuktuks, bicycles and animals just merge together in a big humming something. I think they still call it traffic. It’s like driving in Istanbul just double the amount of vehicles, throw in some animals, destroy some roads and remove the last traffic rules there are… but again after a while you get used to it and it works just fine. The first nights we spent at Wim’s Holland house. Topher and I had to get the visa for Kenia and an extension of our Ethiopian visa. It expires on the 30th what would be ok, but we wanted to have some extra time, if something should go wrong. So we got that done and another very important thing. We got our first hair cut since we left 🙂 For dinner we went to a small restaurant called African queen. The restaurant is run by an ethiopian lady who lived for over 30 years in Freiburg and learned cooking there. Unfortunately they couldn’t make the Sauerbrauten, which is on the menu, but we got some very good food and some Spätzle 🙂 It was a very nice time at Wim’s and we met a lot of interesting peoples and learned some good advices and stories. We got in contact with Seid because my luggage system was broken … again and needed to be welded. Seid, an overlander himself, is a very friendly guy and known for helping and supporting overlanders that come nearby Addis. We moved over to Seid’s place and he offered us to help us with some maintenance on the bikes. So we changed the oil, cleaned my carbonator, got the welding done and wanted to change the spark plugs on my bike. That worked fine with the first one, but the second came in wrong and messed up the thread… A broken spark plug thread could definitely be the end of your journey. The next morning a friend of Seid with more experience came over and with him we got the spark plug in, slowly forcing it in and out, bit for bit. It worked and I really hope it lasts till I am home again 😉 We headed on and had a look at the stele in Tyia, before we found a small hotel a little further down the road. Today was a big ethiopian holyday, the day of the cross. At night everywhere small bundles of bush where set on fire. We took a walk around and it was just a beautiful atmosphere. Our next stop was the paradise lodge in Arba Minch and yes it’s like a small paradise 🙂 From the bar you have a gigantic view over the Nechisar national park, the lake Abaya and the lake Chamo.
The food was also really good and we could spent some time at the pool. We took the bikes and visited the local crocodile farm. Here they breed Nile crocodiles for their skin and you can see them in different ages and sizes. After two nights the paradise time was done and we were on the way to Moyale, to cross the border to Kenia and to take the so called hell road to Marsabit. The last 50 km to Moyale coming from Mega, where we spent the night, were already quite tough because there were constructions everywhere. So every 500 m there is a diversion from the tar mark which consist mainly of sand. Very very soft and light red sand that behaves more like a fluid than something solid. It took us awhile to master this part of the track, but I think with a smaller bike and without luggage it can be a lot of fun.Roter Sand from David on Vimeo. Road Closed from David on Vimeo. The border crossing was no problem and we were on the hell road. The first 70 km were as promised tough. A mixture of loose gravel, sand, wash board, pot holes and stones was demanding a lot from the bikes and from us. But we made it without any loss ;). Then out of nowhere it came … tar mark, for the next 50 km. The road was in a perfect condition and we just blasted over it. Tonight’s accommodation was bush camping at a nice remote place near the road. On the way through the bush Topher unfortunately hit a tree stump with his left side case. The case got deformed and tore up at the bottom, but we managed to bend it back to a certain level and closed the gap with tape. That should work till we find a better place to work on it. The rest of the Moyale road was a short run on gravel and 100 km tar mark all the way to Marsabit. Seems like this hell is slowly freezing in. So in the end we were glad about all the tar mark but also a bit disappointed. At least we got a taste of what it used to be 😉
After working an entire day on the motorbikes I couldn’t see a screw driver anymore, which is not a problem at the beautiful Tim and Kim village since there are plenty of other things to do. I brought some fishing equipment from Germany and thus we went to the lake for a nice and relaxed fishing day. Apparently they have only Catfish, Tilapia and Brasses in this lake (except of course for the Hippos, Snakes and giant Warans, also known as Dragons or Monitors).
The plan was to first catch some Brasses and use them as a bait for the Catfish and Tilapia. Catching the Brasses was easy but we got nothing else. Kim said she could make fish cakes from the 8 Brasses we caught. Nice! It was a great spot at the lake and we were visited every now and then by a rather large Snake in the water which checked out if we were still around, saw us and left again. I guess we were in its favorite exit spot. Kim said it was probably a Cobra, which are found in this area.
As the only guests we had every evening dinner with Kim and Mabratu, who does a lot around this place.
The next day David was supposed to come, but we didn’t know exactly when so the two of us scheduled a canoe trip around the lake with Mabratu. Just when we were about to leave David arrived and joined us for the trip. We saw some Warans on the rocks and visited one of the twenty monastery’s on the lake Tana. Only males are allowed to set food on this island, this goes to the extent that only male animals are kept on the island, so now omelet for breakfast. They are still not sure what to do about the birds flying over the island. The low living standard of the monks was impressive. No electricity, not a single machine, their church bell is an old artillery shell from the days of the italian occupation. People in Europe pay thousands to escape civilization. They should spent two weeks working on one of these islands. One of the monks told us he was attacked by two Hippos an hour earlier on the way in. We (luckily) didn’t see a Hippo.
The next morning we left the village direction Gonder. We had a great time at this place. If you are ever near Gorgora make sure to drop by the Tim and Kim village.
We took a longer but way better maintained dirt road over Aykel which was pretty easy except for one deep river crossing. It is still rainy season in the north, so there is a lot of water and we certainly get wet at least once a day on the bikes.
We reached Gonder on the 15th of September, the day before my birthday but on this trip we go to bed so early that we weren’t able to stay up until midnight 😀
The next day was fully packed. We went to see the old castle in Gonder, build by the Amharic kings some 400 years ago. After that we mounted our bikes and headed direction Lalibela, which I liked to see on my birthday. But, the ride was too long and the last 60 km were offroad of unknown quality. The opinions ranged from easy going to close to impossible. So we decided to spent the night in an hotel completely occupied by Chinese workers. They build the roads in Ethiopia and are all over the place (which will come in handy at some point, but more later). The road took us up to 3300 m and we even had some snow along the road. A nice birthday present, with the amazing winding roads and breathtaking views in the Ethiopian highlands. Just the engines lose a lot of power in the thin air.
We pretty much only average 50 km/h on the good roads. We always have to search a lot for fuel, most gas stations have non or only sell it to locals. Forengis (this is how white people are called here) are directed to the black market to pay up to 3 times the regular price. This is very unnerving. In general we are considered as a wallet on wheels. Everybody asks for ridicules prices and most don’t haggle, so no deal. We have been approached countless times by completely healthy, well-dressed man in their twenties demanding money because we are white. This attitude is unfortunately tainting our in general good view on this beautiful country. The second, even worse habit here is the throwing of things at forengi vehicles. There are many people along the street and many pick up stones and sticks and either pretend to throw them, which is scary enough, or actually throw them at us. Daniel and I got hit already once each, luckily nothing serious, since we always wear the protective gear. I never thought it will protect me from mentally insane Ethiopians… Another “sport” is to pretend to jump in front of the bike. This is always a bit shocking. The weirdest thing is, they are super happy, laughing, smiling, waving and the next second they do these things. It’s very hard for us to understand.
There are very much children in Ethiopia, many stand along the street, watching the cattle or doing work on the fields (or just throw stuff at motorbikes). You honestly cannot stop in this gigantic country without a second later having a bunch of kids jumping out of the next bush screaming “youyouyou” and “give me money”.
The next morning we challenged the unknown 60 km off road to Lalibela. They were just super fun and we blasted along the dirt track, which was in general in a good condition, taking us from 3000 m, down to 1800 m and up to 2500 m again.
We reached Lalibela quite early and did the tour around the rock churches. Its 50 USD for forengis and free for Ethiopians (they are a bit racist around here). Anyway worth every penny. These 11 buildings, carved out of the rock during the reign of king Lalibela with the help of angels almost a 1000 years ago definitely belong to the most impressive things I’ve ever seen. And they are all in use, still every day services are hold in every church. A very special place. Since back in the days of King Lalibela the voyage to the Holy Land was very dangerous the smart King decided to rebuild the Holy Land in Ethiopia. You find everything significant symbolized, like the river Jordan, Nazareth, Jerusalem or Mount Ararat here.
Our guide in Lalibela strongly suggested us to also visit the oldest church around here, Yemrehanna Kristos, some 40 km north. So the next day we took the dirt road there and it was worth it. Again a very nice and spiritual place in the mountains. Around 500 human skeletons of people who wanted to be buried here are scattered around the church.
We had to take the same road again, plus the 60 km from Lalibela to the main road. We start to really like the dirt tracks 🙂 Our next destination was Bahir Dar, at the south end of the Lake Tana, but this couldn’t be done in one day so we slept in a Hotel on the road again. While unloading the bikes Daniel noticed a broken connection of his luggage system. That’s what you get from the fun on the dirt tracks 😀 Luckily we found a guy who get this part welded and he charged only 30 Birr (around 1 €, finally not a forengi price). With the fixed rack we made it to Bahir Dar where we found a nice place to sleep directly next to the lake.
From Bahir Dar it’s not far to the Blue Nile Falls. Surprisingly this was a very bad road again and on the way back it started to heavily rain, thus making the road not any better… We are very happy about our nice off road tires. They do a pretty good job. Who ever said you can mostly travel through Africa on tarmac must have used a different route.
From the falls we headed in the direction Addis Ababa, since we only left at 2 in the afternoon it would have been impossible to reach there in one go. The area was pretty remote and only dirt roads for the next 200 km. Luckily Daniel hat a hotel along the route in his Tracks4Africa GPS system. Like I said, bush camping is very difficult with all these people around. We reached the location of the hotel some 30 min before sunset. Unfortunately there was no trace of any hotel or anything comparable, just corn fields. Bummer… Opportunities were running out with the setting sun. Driving at night on the dirt roads is suicidal and the next hotel was some 80 km away. We continued riding in the hope to find anyplace suitable for a bush camp. Than we passed a Chinese road workers camp. They didn’t speak any English but we could make them understand that we would like to pitch our tent in their compound and that was ok. Daniel and I slept in a small hut and David preferred to pitch his tent. At night the gates were closed and only some prostitutes came in and out but obviously they knew the way to which rooms they want to go. At night a strong thunder storm hit us rendering the small hut as not the most suitable place to sleep since the rain found its way through the roof. Daniel and I quickly pitched a tent inside the hut and could get some rather uncomfortable sleep.
We left pretty early the next morning to reach Addis. First we had to tackle some 170 km of dirt road with changing grades of badness. Additionally, plenty of animals and people were on the road again. I said over our radio intercom, which we all use, that at this point I just want to get out of Ethiopia without killing someone or something. 10 min later David hit a rooster. That poor guy was done. No chance to avoid the animal. We stopped, the locals were just shrugging their shoulders. Seamed to be no big deal. David gave the owner 100 Birr, apparently more than its value and everything was fine. Sadly, this animal died for nothing. If an animal is not killed in the religious right way it will not be eaten.
The road got worse, at some point we reached a pretty deep river. Daniel just blasted through while David and I watched. Daniel somehow made it through and got almost stuck on the underwater rocks. It looked in no way like we would like to do the same. We found a way on to the bridge which was constructed over the river and crossed the river on that bridge. Not easy either, but still better than going through the river and get stuck there.
Finally we found some tarmac and continued towards Addis along the Nile Gorge. An amazing place. The road descents from 3000 m to 1200 m up to 3200 m again. At the bottom it’s pretty warm and baboons are all over the place.
The drive took a lot of time and 100 km out of Addis we had two hours before sunset. Doable, right? Nope. We should have just called it a day and find a place outside Addis to sleep. But we were so eager to make it to Addis that we pushed on. We reached the city boundaries at sunset and it started to rain (of course). We were looking for the “Wim’s Holland House”, a famous overlander place in Addis. The city is a mess right now since they build a new train track crossing the whole town. Many streets were not existing anymore or in an even worse condition than any off road we’ve done so far. That’s not a joke. So in the rain, the pitch dark, on the worst streets ever with no proper navigation and after 13 hours on the bikes, in an 7 million city we managed to find Wim’s at some point. What a great moment! We had a good dinner and a beer and went to bed right away. My advice, enter Addis at daylight!
Here in Addis we have some stuff to do and try to leave towards Kenya on Friday the 26th.taking the infamous Moyale route. Supposed to be the hardest off road on this trip. Let’s see if this holds true against Addis at night. Internet is hard to come by here and mostly too slow to update the blog. You’ll find some additional infos, pictures and even videos on our friends site www.motorrad-tour.info
We wanted to stay a couple of days in the youth hostel in Khartoum to get some rest and to meet up with David. Unfortunately the power supply shot down in the first night so the fans weren’t working anymore. Like with everything else there are to side of the story. For us it was a very sweaty and sleepless night, but for the mosquitos it was a feast… big time.
David had some trouble to get his bike off the ferry in Wadi Halfa and it was not quite clear how long it would take in the end. So we decided to hit the road again and wait for him a little bit more downstream in Ethiopia. The landscape changes a lot while crossing Sudan vertically. When you leave Khartoum you’re still in a desert, but 100 km to the south it suddenly starts to get green. At first there is very light green colored grass, that makes the whole landscape look like it was in pastels. The green gets darker with every km you travel south and more and more plants appear. (Some nice pictures from the Afri Pi)
We had a good run (10.09.14) and stopped 60 km in front of the border for our first “bush camping” in Africa, next to a field 😉 of cause we asked for permission before we put up the tents. In the evening our camping site was visited by some ethiopian guys who were walking all the way from Ethiopia to Khartoum. We didn’t find a common language so we don’t know exactly why, maybe to find a job. It is a tough thing for them to do, because it is a really long way with a climate getting hotter and hotter and the only thing they were carrying was a wooden stick. No equipment, no supplies, no water… we shared some food and water with them, gave them some pounts and whished them good luck for the rest of their journey .
The border crossing in the morning was surprisingly easy without any hassle and after less than 3 h we were good to go. Maybe it helped that one of the customs guys thought that Topher was looking like Thomas Müller :p ( I, Topher, was not happy with that) or because it was the first day of the new year in the ethiopian calender. With a “Melkam Adis Amet” (happy new year in amharic) you had all smiles on your side 😉
Our next stop should be the Tim&Kim village in Gorgora at the lake Tana, but because we were already low on fuel and didn’t want to use the black market gas on the road we took a detour over Gonder to find a proper gas station. This was unfortunately not a good idea. Although we did get benzin (the third gas station had it) the gravel road from Gonder to Gorgora (50 km) was in a really bad condition due to the raining season. There were many ups and downs and we had to cross many deep mud puddles and small rivers which were over floating the street. At some time I got stuck with my front wheel in knee deep mud while trying to cross a mound. Pulling the bike out again was a mayor pain in the a… One puddle got Topher, cause it was a lot deeper than expected. He went through it and shot out on the other side (dribbdemudpuddle) up a small hill. There he wanted to lay the bike to the side but it still had too much momentum. It turned over and came to rest standing upside down. Luckily Topher had no problems getting off the bike right in time. He then pushed the bike back to the side and with the help of some locals we were able to get it upright and on the road again. The result of this maneuver was a broken windshield, a missing right mirror, a damaged mounting of the toolbox in front of the engine and a not so amused Topher. But there were no injuries and the bike was still working perfectly so we kept on going. We mastered the whole 50 km in 3 h and arrived 20 min before sunset totally exhausted but very happy at Tim&Kims village and were welcomed with an ice cold beer. Probably one of the best in our lives.
After a refreshing night in a bungalow we cleaned the bikes and started the operation on Topher’s bike. As you can see she survived and is almost as good as new. The toolbox was easily reattached, the two parts of the windshield are held together by three big screws and the mirror got some tapeing. In the end it wasn’t too bad, just pure type two fun.
Coming soon: Days at the lake Tana, meeting David, getting to Lalibela and hopefully some fast WiFi…