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Published: December 3rd 2013
What a change! Women in public. Guys and girls holding hands. Beer!
The roads also changed almost immediately, twisting up in to the Ethiopian Highlands. The temperature was cooler too, which was a welcome relief after our time in Libya, Egypt, and Sudan.
We stayed in Gondar on our first night in Ethiopia. Like many places in the area it was well over 2000m above sea-level. The following day Jaap was under the weather, so I headed north for an explore in the Simien Mountains. After 100km the map said to turn right if I wanted to reached the Simien National Park. But the road was just a rutted dirt path, and I wasn't convinced. However I tried it, and it improved to a rocky dirt road. I was stopped at the gates of the park, and was informed that I needed a permit from the National Park Office 10km back, a hassle on those roads! But they called the office, and they agreed that I could drop off the money on the way back past. A National Park Ranger with an AK47 was required to escort me, and did so all afternoon on the back of my bike.
The scenery got better and better as we got deeper into the park. Massive drop offs. Jutting mountains and rock formations. Then all of a sudden Gelada (a rare species of baboon type monkeys) were running across the road in front of me. Looking to my right there were about 50 of them grazing on the grass by pulling it out with their hands as they grunted and chattered to each other. They allowed me to get quite close, working diligently to pluck grass while keeping an eye on me. I had seen a documentary about them a few years ago, and all of a sudden I was reminded that I had ridden my bike from home to a remote area in Ethiopia.
I wound higher and higher into the mountains on the challenging but fun rock road, eventually reaching 4300m!! At this highest point I was treated to a sighting of a large male Walia Ibex, a critically endangered goat tequila omelette (as I was writing this Jaap asked me to check the spelling of tequila and omelette, and the end of the last sentence was the result, too good to delete!).
day Jaap, Ron, and I split temporarily from Chris and Brett, and headed west towards Lalibela, a village in the middle of the Highlands with old churches carved out of the sandstone rock of the mountains. The roads in the area were pretty challenging stuff and Ron crashed three times, the last of which smashed his front brake reservoir. The scenery however was incredible. Wow. Jaap and I had been rather enthusiastic with our riding as this was the first real piece of off-road we had encountered on the trip, one result of this was Jaap getting a front puncture at dusk. We fixed it with about 20 locals crowded around, but 20km along the road the tyre was down again, and after dropping the bike first on its left side, then its right due to tiredness, Jaap made the sensible call to sleep on a local's porch for the night before fixing the tyre in the morning.
The following morning Ron rigged up what can only be described as a genius DIY brake reservoir in Waldia, before we headed off south towards Addis Ababa. However, 12km out Jaap's front was flat again and we stopped to fix it,
surrounded as usual by locals. After doing this we headed off, but a few km down the road Jaap stopped us, and told us that his wallet was gone from his jacket (which had been hanging on his bike while we fixed the tyre). We headed back to the spot, to try to find a nice guy with good English who had been helping us. Once back at the spot we were standing around aimlessly, not really sure why were bothering to try to track it down, when there was a POP-pssssssssssssssshhhhhh, and Jaap's tyre was down again. We had to laugh. Later we figured out that the rubber cement was not the best, which was meaning that the patches were not sticking, despite our contentious efforts at tyre preparation etc.
To cut a long story short, the local community took the lost wallet very seriously, some top security guy was called in, and the wallet was returned the next morning with only US$30 missing. Result.
After a big day, and some superb riding we got to Addis in one day, and met back up with Chris and Brett. Trace had sent a package to Addis with high
quality oil, a side-stand bolt, and a second Merino tee. I changed the oil which on a 990 is easier said than done as you need to: remove the left crash bar, fairing, left tank, bash plate, and battery cover; then replace two oil screens, the oil filter, and drain the oil from the sump and oil tank (it's a dry sump engine). It was good to have it done though.
A day's riding saw us reach Arba Minch, before a final beautiful send-off day of riding primarily off-road to the Kenyan border, and the notorious two day "Hell Road" from Moyale to Isiolo. Stay tuned.
Our video of Ethiopia can be seen here
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