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Africa » Ethiopia
August 31st 2019
Published: February 3rd 2020
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The view from our second storey accomodation in Moyale. They prepared for a function and we watched from the top.
Next morning onwards towards the Kenya/Ethiopian Border.

We entered Ethiopia with some trepidation. Stories about stone throwing put a bit of a damper on travelling through this beautiful country. But I have also seen and learned that it’s better to look at the situation first hand before jumping to conclusions, and making assumptions. We entered Ethiopia at Moyale. The Border crossing went quite smooth. First time on the trip where our luggage gets checked properly but it all gets done in a professional way. Even the engine and chassis numbers get properly checked. On entering the border we only realised then that in Ethiopia everybody travels on the left hand side of the road. Moyale is quite a big border town. People are friendly but not really a place where I will walk around alone at night. Because it was getting late, we stayed over in Moyale. Me and Achmat got a room each on the second level of the building.with steps leading up to our rooms. The lower level also included a tavern and eatery. I enjoyed my first taste of a local beer at the tavern. The people were very welcoming especially an older lady and her daughter.
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Achmat enjoying his free Wi-Fi while it lasts before being abruptly getting cut off...
I think their son was the guy that organised our accommodation. We took a walk to town where we enjoyed our first Ethiopian coffee served black in a small cup. We enjoyed it with some locals.



They make it in the traditional Ethiopian way. We also bought some refreshments for later in the night and on the way backed I tried a mealie braaied by a hawker but found it hard and tasteless. We parked off on the steps while a function took place on the ground level.



We discover some free Wi-Fi from somewhere in the vicinity, but was quickly cut off...hahaaaa.

Next day we packed the bikes. The old lady not so friendly anymore, maybe worried that we going to drove off without paying, looking at me and showing me with her fingers that she wants the money.

We quickly arrange payment with the ‘Son’, took some photos with them.





After leaving Moyale we head north. We encounter a lot of police and army check points on the road. A checkpoint consists of a piece of rope that stretches over the road, being pulled up
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Mother Cat looking after her kittens.
and blocking the road. So after your passport is checked and they are happy, the rope gets lowered and you continue on your journey until you reach the next checkpoint and repeat the same procedure. Some checkpoints consist of a boom over the road , with a weight on the one side to make the lifting of the boom across the road easier. At quite a few checkpoints we just got waved through.

On an earlier Botswana trip we spoke to a couple that crossed Africa on their bicycles. They hated Ethiopia because of the constant attention and harassment by people on the road. People on the roads are very into your face, but I think they are mostly inquisitive and trying to be helpful, but don’t know how to express themselves to you and then there is also the language barrier. The herdsmen all carry sticks and whips and it’s mostly the youngsters that are the naughty ones, trying to hit you with the whip or throw stones- actually it’s more like gravel at you. But I must stress that the above only happens in isolated cases.

I never once felt threatened or unsafe , but I
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In Moyale Town we trying out the local traditional coffee.
can’t imagine myself travelling through Ethiopia on a slow moving bicycle. It must be a daunting task.

Travelling in Ethiopia is difficult. The villages can be quite intimidating. Lots of people and children on the roads, shouting and whistling, creating a real buzz. In the mixture on the roads are different animals, but mostly donkeys transporting something and dogs. On the roads you encounter any mode of transport imaginable. You can’t take your eyes off the road for an instant. You need to concentrate all the time. Then combine all the above with some potholed roads, road works, road diversions and then rain on top of everything. So we found the first about 500km’s into Ethiopia difficult and quite depressing.

After going so well the last 40km’s to Dilla turned into a nightmare again and quite a challenge with rain and road works. The Bikes took quite a beating. We arrived very wet and dirty in Dilla for a well deserved rest and after a few coffees we feel refreshed again! Later on after having a few local beers, I forgot about all my sorrows.

From Moyale to Dilla





Next day
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With some locals...the lady from the coffee shop on the left
in Dina after loading the bikes, securing all our luggage, we were hardly on the road and then got stopped at a roadblock. Here they conducted a proper search of all our luggage. Frustrated, but one of those things, just take it on the chin, act friendly and move on. We were just on the go when Achmets chain came off in quite a crowded street. Surrounded by onlookers, being offered some tools from the locals and getting help from them, we put the chain back on and tighten it, which saved us time by not having to unpack our tools that’s right at the bottom of our luggage.







So off we go again through villages and villages full of people. On the way we stop for coffee at this beautiful Awassa Lake in Awassa.





Awassa to Addis Ababa

Eventually we arrived in Addis Ababa, tired and emotionally drained. Found place in a expensive hotel. Not worth the money.

One of the managers went out of his way to assist us. Direct us to the local eateries and also organise a taxidriver at a fair
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Posing with the owner's "son"..before heading off
price to take us around in Addis Ababa.

Not far from our accommodation within walking distance, is a local hangout, the Canvas Restaurant. A modern place. Achmat go for the pizza! Good service and a nice place to relax after a few hectic days.

Addis Ababa is a vibrant city where a lot of infrastructure development is going on. Literally hundreds of new buildings are being erected, mostly by using bamboo scaffolding.

In Addis Ababa we did some tourism things. Visiting some sites. We visited the National Museum where we saw the famous “Lucy” skeleton and we visited the Saint Mary Church Minilik and Taitu’s Memorial located on a hill in Addis Ababa.







Parking for the bikes was always a priority and to secure them and our luggage left for the night. Most places where we stayed had armed guards outside and they also then looked after our bikes for the night. It’s basically impossible to offload the bikes at every overnight stop. So as you travel, you sort your valuables and most essential stuff out and keep that in one bag that you take off. Plastic packets
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Packed and ready to go..
became a luxury. The rest of the stuff stays behind in your panniers on the bike and you secure it as best as you can and you hope for the best. Not once on the trip did they steal or fiddle with our bikes or luggage as we travelled through some really difficult areas.



Sometimes I even had a full petrol container strapped on during some overnight stays, but not once did anything go missing. Imagine leaving your bike with some luggage overnight in central Joburg. There will be nothing left the next morning. Your bike and luggage will be gone. Ethiopia is beautiful and green. At the time of our journey through Ethiopia all the rivers were in flood. The Grand Renaissance Dam that is getting build on the Blue Nile is causing diplomatic tension between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia, because of the possibility that that will lead to a water shortage in their respective countries. Predictions are that it can lead to a major conflict in the region.

For all the challenges of Ethiopia, the coffee made up for it. Coffee was excellent and something to look forward to after long days in the
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The road from Moyale to Dilla...caravan of camels
saddle. I was getting used to the traditional Ethiopian coffee served black in a small cup and saucer. Coffee making in Ethiopia is an art form and the ceremony that goes with it.

We left Addis Ababa for Debre Marcos in quite a ‘dark’ mood. Not knowing what to expect and not looking forward to travelling through busy villages again. We were pleasantly surprised. From barren and dry country side now its turns into beautiful mountainous areas and better roads.

The villages and towns are quieter here than to the south of Addis Ababa. Travelling was now definitely easier. We went over a beautiful pass, a horrendous tar road full of potholes, long ruts in the road, but absolutely worth it. Amazingly there are baboons all along the road collecting food from all the cars and buses. They actually ran next to the buses, waiting for the passengers to throw food out of the windows to them. It’s unreal to see. I actually saw one small baboon getting trampled by a bus. Police and Army stops also less frequent and less intimidating.

We arrived in Debre Marcos, finding great accommodation. Clean and with Wi-Fi.

Debre Marcos to Amanuel, then onto Bahir Dar where we enjoyed a coffee break next to Lake Tana.The Tuk-tuk driver that took us to the lake then direct us out of town and the we carry on towards Gonder,

Gonder

The local Ethiopian food is great and their Cold Gold Babesha Beer is absolutely my favourite.

Northwards we went until we arrived in Gonder where we planned to stay and visit some sites.Gonder is a lovely city in the northern part of Ethiopia and comprised of quite a few historical sites. We went to the Fasil Ghebbi Fortress and palace compound.We also visited the Debre Birhan Selassie Church as well as the Fasilides Bath site.

Gonder to Metema

From Gonder to Metema on the border we really experienced a week’s adventure in one day!

We decided to leave early so that we could make up good time and arrive early at the Ethiopia/ Sudan Border. We got up at about five in the morning, packed our luggage, strapped it on the bikes and at 6am were ready to leave. Rain Coats on and prepared for the rain.

The KLR was dead. Frustration is not the
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Stunning scenery
word. The previous day we had the bikes washed and something must have gone wrong. Now I had to unpack the bike again, loosen the side panels and the seat to get to the battery and electrics. The battery was completely dead. With some help from a local “mechanic” we found that one of the fuses was damaged and hopefully that was the reason for the dead battery. We could not find jumper leads and so I bought a blue electric wire for 100 Birr to try and jumpstart the bike assisted by a local’s pick-up truck, but with no luck. We push start the bike and it takes and while bike is idling repacked everything and off we go ,hoping that the battery will get charged on the next 200km’s ahead of us to the border.

Eventually three hours later we are on our way. Now in peak traffic, muddy roads packed with people and animals again. Scenery is beautiful and on some mountain passes we took some great photos.





Petrol at Maganan with friendly Mohammed



We get worried now about our fuel situation. It’s a bit further to the
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Beautiful Scenery
Border than what we expected.

Eventually we reached a petrol station but there is no petrol in the pumps. Luckily they are selling petrol from containers. We buy some petrol or benzene as it’s known, al 5 litre jug at a time and then pour it into the bikes with some type of funnel. I try to start the bike but no luck. The guys at the petrol station push start me again and off we go towards the Border of Sudan. Just before reaching Metema the border town, at one of the many police control points that consists of a rope across the road, some money exchangers approached us offering us Sudanese pounds for birr or dollars. One guy stood out from the rest. He was wearing short yellow soccer shorts and introduced himself as Dave.

I explain to him that I have already exchanged some money in Gonder and won’t be needing more.

He was quite pushy and by this stage of the trip we were quite weary of anybody offering his services or help because in most cases money is expected in the end.

Reaching the border and still concerned about the starting
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Achmet with his bike
problem I decided to rather get it checked out before entering Sudan. Out of the blue a Tuk-tuk appears and out climbs Dave in his yellow soccer shorts. I tell him about the starting problem and he says he knows a good bike mechanic next to the road that can assist. In the meantime I still kept the bike idling. I decide to follow Dave and not far from there we reached a mechanic repair shop set-up next to the road.

Once again side panels and seat is off and the mechanic starts checking the wiring and battery again. The battery is totally flat, so myself and Dave, now my fixer, decide to take a taxi 30 km’s back to charge the battery while Achmet waits for us at a “guesthouse” until we are sorted.

While waiting for the battery to charge, Dave take me around the town wher we enjoyed some local food. We shared an injera with different kind of meats on it. Dave is a real character, we feeding each other, as is the local tradition.The Ethiopian people are very friendly. As tradition, upon entering a local eatery, in most cases the locals invite you
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Arriving in Dilla wet and dirty
to join them or offer you some of their food.

After the battery was charged we return with a taxi again and the battery was fitted back into the bike. In the meantime the mechanic decides to take the bike for a test ride to see if it is charging now. Instead of just taking the bike up the road he made a U-turn riding passed us again right into town. probably to show off.

Now worried, we wait for his return but as time passes we expect the worse. News from town reaches us that there was some sort of accident in town involving a motorbike. Now stressed out, Dave and I took a Tuk-tuk to town. As we get closer to the central part we saw the bike standing in the middle of the road on its side stand surrounded by local people, police and army guys. It was a two way lane road and it was standing in the middle of the right hand side lane.

There was no sign of the mechanic. The motorbike seems fine and we don’t really understand the situation. With the crowd around the police decide that it is better if I take the bike and meet up with them at a later stage. They were worried about the crowd getting rowdy.

We fetched Achmet and while on our way to alternative accommodation that Dave has arranged for us, we got stopped by the Police and told to meet them at the Police Station. We followed them and they informed us that we will have to leave the bike at the Police Station because it’s now evidence in a hit and run case. Only then did we get the full story. The mechanic had hit a small child and then just left her and the bike in the middle of the road and run away.

Now while the Police are out looking for the guy, we can only get the bike back when they catch the mechanic and he has resolves the matter with the girl’s family. And now, on top of everything it’s Saturday, so we must come back the next day.

Metema



So the KLR gets left and off we go to our accommodation. During the night the rain comes pouring down and I am constantly thinking about my poor bike
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Achmat's chain come off in a busy road..
standing out in the open at the Police Station.

We were very worried and just hoping that the child was not too seriously hurt.

At least the bike was not badly damaged, but still not starting.

The Sunday morning, we arrive early at the Police Station, just to be told that we must return an hour later because they are occupied with the prisoners. Dave organises us some breakfast and coffee and afterwards we return to the Police Station again.

Dave organised another mechanic and we worked on the bike at the Police Station. He got the bike going and after leaving the bike idling it seems that it is charging the battery now. After switching it of it starts on its own. Some good news at least. In the meantime we consult the police commander on duty and explain to him our predicament and our urgency to leave and to get to Sudan and also state the fact that we weren’t involved in this matter at all. We state the fact that the mechanic used the bike without permission and then after the accident, ran away. There were also about thirty witnesses seeing the mechanic
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The locals on the road
driving the bike and hitting the child. He told us that he could not make a decision on his own to release the bike and that we must return the next day, Monday.

So the whole day we just spend loafing around, frustrated and not knowing what to expect the next day.

The Monday we are off early to the Police Station arriving at 08h00, just to be told to return again after 30 minutes because now they finally got the family of the child to come to the police station as well and meet up with us and the police and decide on the way forward.



In desperation to get the bike back we decide that this is the best way forward, even if we have to contribute towards the medical costs of the child, just to get the bike back and carry on with the trip. Achmet is a good negotiator and tells them that we are actually also victims in this incident and that all of these delays are costing us a lot of money. The mechanic the actual culprit is still on the run. Luckily the girl was not badly hurt,
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Heavily loaded KLR with some local children
only her wrist was bandaged up, or so we heard.

We explain to them that we will contribute 1000 birr to their medical expenses. But they are not happy with the amount but eventually after some more negotiations we settled on 2000 birr. The police officer really tried to resolve the matter for us and eventually after he got signed statements from the family, they said we can take the bike.

Now the bike is not starting again! Some police guys pushed us out through the mud and eventually I got it started again. Off to our accommodation to pay our bill and load the bikes we then leave for the Sudan Border. In all the madness of the last few days we never checked our Sudan visas and when reaching the officials we got informed that with all the delays our visas have expired and they can’t allow us in.

The nightmare hasn’t ended. The only place where we can renew the visas is in Addis Ababa, over 1000 km back.

So we hit the road back. No option than to go back to Addis Ababa. Miserable weather on the way back to Gonder.
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Local shopkeeper on the road to Awassa

Outside Gonder with dusk approaching fast we start to look at alternative options. Not looking forward to travel in the dark on dodgy roads which are already risky in the daytime never mind night time. At the Gonder Aiirport about 30 km’s outside Gonder we decide to take a chance and see if it will be possible to leave the bikes at the airport, fly on an internal flight back to Addis Ababa, renew our visa and then fly back to Gonder to continue our trip. That will save us quite a few days on the road and save us from travelling the same road back and forth. So as we enter the airport we had to go through security, miserable and wet still dressed in our rainsuits, taking off our dirty boots and other stuff. We eventually book tickets to Addis Ababa for the next morning at quite a cost but in no mood to really think about the other options. The lady at the booking office was really helpful and tried to phone and assist us with accommodation close to the airport but the only place available was something like 80 Dollars a night, which by now is
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Achmat relaxing at Lake Awassa
completely over our budget.

We plan to sleep at the airport but are told that the whole airport closes down. So she phoned and found us a more an affordable option in Gonder. She even arranged a lift for us with their company vehicle into Gonder that dropped us off at our hotel. The security officer arranged parking for the bikes right inside the airport premises and asked security to look after the bikes for the night.



Back in Gonder

The next morning the hotels courtesy vehicle transported us to the airport to fly to Addis Ababa.

Same day as we arrived in Addis Ababa we rush to the Sudan Embassy only to encounter massive queues of people waiting to enter the embassy offices. We push and shove and eventually entered the offices and after some wait we eventually got noticed, only to be told to bring copies of our documents to the embassy the next morning.

We returned early to submit our forms and documents, paid another 68 Dollars each and expected to receive it back the same day. No chance, we can only fetch them the next Monday because the next
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Enormous pelicans at Lake Awassa
day is the Ethiopian New Year and with all the accompanying holidays it will only be ready on Monday at 14h00. We tried to object but no discussion, so we left. Spending nearly a week in Addis Ababa with all the other expenses really hurt our budget and cost us a lot of valuable time.

Eventually the next Monday after finally receiving our passports we flew back to Gonder, finding our bikes still safely parked and well looked after.

Once again the friendly staff at Ethiopian Airlines assisted us with transport to our hotel. Early the next morning we were back at the airport thanking and saying goodbye to all the friendly staff, packed the bikes and departed for the Sudan Border again, hopefully to cross into Sudan this time! We ride with extra caution to prevent anything from going wrong again.



Outside Metema we met up with Dave again and he accompanied us to the border. Immigration went smoothly except for the custom guy that took two hours to return from lunch. But we are grateful it’s only two hours. While waiting for customs we had lunch with Dave for the last
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Beautiful view
time in Metema.


Additional photos below
Photos: 150, Displayed: 40


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Green scenery after heavy rains
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Green fields and stunning scenery
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Enjoying supper at the Canvas Restaurant in Addis Ababa
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20190902 The Canvas Restaurant

Achmat enjoying his pizza
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The beautiful interior
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A popular local hangout...beautiful interior
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View from my room
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Different view from my room
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The National Museum of Ethiopia
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Visiting the Kidish Maryam Church
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The gate outside the Kidish Maryam Church and Menelik Palace
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Our taxi up Mount Entoto with Achmat posing
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The view from Mount Entoto


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