addis ababa to isiolo.
‘you know you’re in a good part of the country when the kids throw mangoes at you rather than the traditional rocks’ – me
Currently writing this from Isiolo, Kenya where the kilometer count is 4800km (a lot.) Since the last update we left the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa and headed through the southern parts of the country taking in some of the lakes, forests, plains and more fields of agriculture. We’ve passed through tiny straw hut villages to towns that seem to be run by drunks.
The last week in Ethiopia has been as I imagined days of this trip to be along with some grueling days in Kenya spent cycling over 400km on dirt ‘roads’. I’ve eloquently described all of this in classic literature point form below. In a short articulate summary its been very African.
People – From kids yelling ‘you, you, you’ to the various people we’ve met in Kenya with perfect English, who said British occupation was such a bad thing. It’s really nice having a fluid conversation with a local minus the hand signals as it enables a good understanding of their lives, country and to order g&t’s. From the local folk literally mobbing us when stopping for a drink to the local villagers (men and women) literally running away as soon as they see us to now seeing locals dressed in traditional wear i.e. a lot of jewellery and not much mingling with people in shirts and tie, very interesting sight.
Villages – We have passed through so many to the annoying point of not being excited at the site of a straw hut anymore. A lot of the smaller ones in Ethiopia feature numerous NGO signage as you enter nominating which organization/country offered what. Have certainly seen several that still require a lot more assistance.
The dominant communities seen so far in Kenya have been simple huts for nomadic herders and their camels. Tiny places in the middle of nowhere which one would presume could be relocated to move with the food.
Health – Gavan was sick for a few days before reaching Addis with some type of ‘that meat didn’t taste right’ illness. He persisted through with the riding as only he could. I also got sick in a feverish way which was diagnosed by the hotel manager as either ‘malaria or typhoid’, lab tests at the very local clinic revealed another case of food poisoning. Back on the bike it was.
Mentally all is going well besides missing loved ones, fish and chips and pub cricket. Certainly in the mindset of waking up each day and jumping on the bike as a matter of routine. It’ s the vehicle (so to speak) that has allowed us to experience each country to date in a very intimate detail, getting to see the subtle changes that form from one end of a country to the other whether this be the people, lifestyles, landscape etc…
Bikes – they literally feel like an extension of our bodies now. They’re running like a dream especially considering the treatment we’ve unintentionally put them through. We have new tyres and other required parts awaiting us in Nairobi which will assist us in going forward. They currently feature a nice sheen of a red dust coating.
Accommodation – from a lodge featuring wild animals as pets overlooking a national park to a police tin shed to the roof of a telephone receiver. This last resting place was underneath the stars with armed guards in the middle of absolutely nowhere, certainly a surreal experience that I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.
Food – we have aimed to differ our intake of tibs (lamb chunks) to twice a day and trying to mix it up with fasting plates or authentic spaghetti bolagnese.
In certain sections of Southern Ethiopia we were fortunate enough (blessed) to indulge in a plethora of mangoes and bananas. I literally couldn’t get enough after a constant meat (and chocolate bars) diet along with the fact they were 5 cents each. The sweetest mango would be the one that was thrown to me from a donkey led fruit cart.
Now into Kenya we’ve sampled several dishes in between the simple but refreshing rice and beans to the more adventurous goat intestines.
Drinks – most importantly I had a coffee, my second ever. It was in a small town (hosaina) located in the renowned coffee growing highlands of Ethiopia, in a straw lined hut, as part of an intimate traditional ceremony and served by a petit lady. The coffee was black and by professional accounts (Gavan) was very authentic and bloody delicious. Please note that this is the abridged version and am only too keen to expand on when someone next asks me for if I’d like a coffee. Oh and apologies to my cycling friends but I’ll be returning to my post ride chocolate thickshakes once home.
On the subject of stimulants we also managed to try some ‘khat’ earlier on the same day. The leaf is to this area of Africa as to what coca is to South America. We got to town a few seconds faster despite the constant internal chatter!
Wildlife – goats, vultures, elephants, ostrich, impalas, baboons, monkeys, camels, goats, wildcats, warthogs, goats, dic dics (yes at 33 I laughed at the name), antelopes, hyena and lynx. Shane did have a terrifying run in with a wild warthog which left him bloodied. Please note that when I say wild I mean pet and bloodied is relating at when he scratched himself whilst trying to escape its staring by running up a nearby tree despite the said ‘beast’ simply walking off. I have since confirmed despite Shane’s claims that warthogs don’t breath fire.
Roads – Leaving Addis they have gradually gotten worse from smooth highway to something resembling the aftermath of a volcano eruption i.e. very rough. We have had to change to the left side of the road due to now being in a commonwealth country, something that we require some reprogramming of our instincts.
This last section named the ‘great’ north highway (ridiculously) took us from the Ethiopian border 400km into Kenya, taking 5 days with an approximate average of 12km/h. To say it was rough would be an understatement, to say it was a rocky path to begin with a then a lot more rocks (boulders) and sand were added would be more fitting.
It wasn’t so much of a physical test besides the constant jarring but more so of a mental one but more so of a mental one due to the concentration that it required. Questioning constantly of which path to take whether it be to take the either the puncturing sharp rocks, the jarring boulder path or the final alternative being a journey of corrugations which resembled a old rollercoaster ride just not in a fun way. For this entire section we have had rotating armed guards i.e. police 4WD loaded with 6 to 8 armed guards. These were advised for procautionary measures due to some unrest although in the end was more beneficial as a food and water couriers. All of the guys were really nice i.e. letting us sleep in their bases, guarding us 24 hours and letting us hold their guns.
Camera – my s95 (small camera) had an accident the other day and has now decided not to work. This leaves me with my 5d (bigger camera.) I was a little upset as its been the one that simply lives within arms reach for quick access and has taken most of the shots on the site to date. I’m aiming to rectify this situation once in Nairobi and in the mean time Shane has been nice (very nice) to lend me his. For a ‘photographer’ not to be able to document this experience is a tad annoying.
Communication – I don’t really have any due to not activating my phone prior to departure, sorry for my lack of correspondence to emails and all of the appreciated comments. If anyone knows a way around this please let me know. This said not being constantly connected is quite nice.
That’s me done, since getting back on the tarmac we have reached a hotel which offers more then a mattress and pillow if lucky therefore I am about to be served my third milkshake. In the next two days we will hit the 5000km mark and then its onto Nairobi (hoping legit massuers and pedicures await) before heading into Tanzania. As for my upcoming birthday I am more then happy to receive gifts once back…