Flying to Ethiopia today

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Sideoff, Jan 18, 2019.

  1. Drybones

    Drybones Fish bones are on my truck seat cover, too

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    You and your "ewe" in a previous life. Just kidding. That rock climbing looked extremely challenging!
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  2. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    Leaving Hawzen, we were on a bit of a ticking clock to get back to Addis for our flights home. We really wanted to make one final stop in Lalibela, which is one of Ethiopia’s top tourist attractions. This is the one place that everyone we met said we must go see. The churches in Lalibela are carved down into the ground, out of a single piece of stone, and are totally unique.

    We figured one day of riding to Lalibella (about 400km), a day exploring the churches, and two days riding to Addis (660km), would put us into Addis Thursday night. Our flight was Friday night, so we’d have the day on Friday to sort out the bikes and tie up loose ends.

    We had to hunt around for gasoline in the morning. Here we are following a lady through town, who’s taking us to the local black market gas seller, because the fuel stations were all empty and roped off.

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    Tigray region is so much more chill than down south. People aren’t chewing nearly as much Khat, and you can really tell. Also we don’t get mobbed with people every time we stop. This pic is noteworthy because of all the people NOT crowded around staring while we have our coffee in peace.

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    The ride was beautiful, but we were grinding, very aware of needing to be somewhere at a certain date and time, so we weren’t stopping for a lot of pics. This is the part of a fly-in trip where if something goes wrong, we can’t afford to dick around. The backup
    plan in the event of a breakdown is: hire a truck, throw the bike in the back, and bee-line to the city. Fortunately, that wasn’t necessary.

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    Around dusk, we were still 85 kilometers away from Lalibela via a dirt shortcut, and we were turning onto dirt without knowing what was ahead, except that there were mountains. We discussed camping, but we really wanted to see Lalibela, and weren’t sure if the two might be mutually exclusive due to time.

    So we pushed on, in steep terrain, on dirt, after dark, in the fog. Which was a bit cold, but all fine in the end. We took it slow and just figured we’d get there when we get there.

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    We pulled into Lalibela around 10pm after 12 hours in the saddle. We covered 240 miles, which gives a sense of our average speed.

    This being the last major stop of the trip, we were ready for some luxury, so we booked the best room we could find on 5 minutes notice, at a place called Sora Lodge. At $125/night this was by far the most expensive lodging of the trip, but man, so worth it.

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  3. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    Ha! Exactly. It was like that.
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  4. BLucare

    BLucare What could possibly go wrong?

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    That view is absolutely ace :clap Quite a way to end this adventure.
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  5. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    Holy #$%@, that looks to be nearly vertical :eek7 :eek7.

    Outstanding set of images. As many others have said, great job on telling the story of your adventure. Really cool to hear you're going to keep the bikes and go back to explore more down the road.

    Hope travels back to the Gorge are smooth, also hope you're ready for some cold and snow as Hood River/White Salmon was walloped with snow while you were gone :eekers

    Killer report @Sideoff & @easyrider11 :thumb :thumb
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  6. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    Lalibela was indeed cool. The churches themselves I mean. They are impressive. However, like with so many famous and amazing things, because we’d heard so much about them and seen so many pics, and because we were coming off a really amazing experience visiting the cliff churches in Hawzen, the truth is that we were more excited about our plush hotel room than we were about the main attraction.

    The aesthetic majesty of the largest churches in Lalibela is reduced a bit by the large structures that were erected over them to protect them from erosion. Also the large numbers of tourists and guided groups wandering around the complex creates a bit of a theme park feel. Wherever there are large numbers of tourists there will also be large numbers of touts, aspiring guides, and children tugging at your sleeves as well, and Lalibela is no exception.

    Even with all of that, the churches themselves are still very cool. I can see why this is one of Ethiopia’s most visited attractions. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site, so very much on the international tourist bucket list radar.

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    In certain rooms, like this one, women are not allowed.

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    For us, the most breathtaking structure was this one, which is not one of the larger churches, but it doesn’t have the cover over it, so you can really take it all in. The person standing down by the base gives a sense of the size. This is all one gigantic piece of stone. Amazing.

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    This is what the inside of one of the churches looked like all full of tourists. Which is fine, nothing wrong with that, but a few hours of walking around was enough. We went back to our awesome hotel, had a delicious dinner, lounged around, and rested up for the big push back to Addis.

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  7. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    Thank you! And thanks for following along.

    Yeah wow, the snow. Hope we can get Ash’s little GTI from the airport to the gorge.

    Sitting on the runway in Addis now, about to take off for Frankfurt.
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  8. scrubb

    scrubb Master of Mayhem

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    @Sideoff @easyrider11

    Thanks again for an amazing journey Pete and Ashley! You both rock! Have a safe flight back, and be careful with all of that snow in Portlandia. I am in San Diego, and we are getting hammered with storm after storm down here. And with more to come! Let me know if you guys ever make it down here, and I'd love to buy you both a brew and have a chat about your journey(s).

    BTW, this pic is just amazing to think that was all carved out of stone so long ago. It almost looks like Ashley could just reach out and touch it with her foot until you mentioned referencing the size compared to the person below. I still think that Ashley could have gapped it with a running head-start if she wanted to. Just channel her inner Mission Impossible Ethan Hunt. :)


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  9. eSTes1300

    eSTes1300 Adventurer

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    You’re doing everything right. Except staying longer. I could name many places to go, but i will just say have a good meal at villa verde, the cottage, or Castillo’s. Next try Kenya, Malaysia or the mountain West.
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  10. SpiritAtBay

    SpiritAtBay Been here awhile

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    Oh, I hate to see it end!

    Thanks so much!

    Safe journey home.
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  11. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    Leaving Laibela, it was two full days of riding to Addis, our final destination.

    Ash has had this camo trucker’s cap that she’s been wearing on the trip so far, and which she keeps attached to the back of her bike on her luggage so she can put it on when we stop. Because it’s visible on the outside of her bags, nearly every time we stop someone asks her for it. Little kids have tried to steal it at least a half dozen times. It’s amazing that she still has it.

    I looked up from my bike and saw Ash give the hat to a boy who was watching us. I’m not sure why she picked him, after being asked at least 50 times on the trip. I don’t think he asked for it. Maybe Ash can chime in on that.

    He was stoked.

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    It’s amazing how much the chains on these bikes stretch in a single day of pavement grinding. We have to check and adjust them every single day.

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    A sporty new Chevrolet kept zipping around us then falling behind when the road got rough. He was driving erratically, but that’s normal. We were the only vehicles on the road. Ash was in front. I watched the car zip ahead then suddenly slam the brakes at a deep pothole which the driver apparently hadn’t seen.

    Ash locked her brakes, pumped them once, then locked them again. She slid directly into the car’s rear bumper. There was no avoiding a crash. Her back wheel lifted into an endo, then the whole bike tipped to the left and landed with Ash underneath. Her helmet took a loud ‘crack.’ I heard it over the music in my headphones.

    Ash was trapped under the bike. The driver and I lifted it, and she popped up and walked off to collect herself without hardly a word. The bike and car both had minor damage but no big deal. The driver split as soon as he saw Ash walking. Her head hurt, her vision was blurred - probably a minor concussion - and she was shook, but the helmet did it’s job. All’s well that ends well.

    This was Ash’s first crash on pavement. She hit a car and walked away. That’s a stroke of luck. The next morning she was better, just some sore spots, a headache, and minor vision problems that were gone by noon. It could have been much worse. Small bikes = slow speeds. The trip goes on.

    This is Ash, resting after the crash.

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    We got back on the bikes and rolled into a town called Dessie just after dark. All the hotels were full, but we found a room on our third try.

    After the crash, our ride back into Addis was smooth. We arrived on time, by Thursday night, with 24 hours before our flight to wrap things up, pack, and figure out a plan for the bikes.
  12. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    A month of travel, from the Southern border with Kenya to the Northern border with Eritrea, on 200cc Chinese-made dualsports. Our odometers broke, but I retraced the route and it totaled 3,736 kilometers, or 2,321 miles.

    Arriving at our final destination safe & sound. On Valentine’s Day. It’s a good feeling.

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  13. black 8

    black 8 coddiwompling motographer

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    Glad to hear that Ash is none the worse for wear and another chapter added to an an already awesome adventure...

    safe travels home...

    and cheers to both of you...
    :beer
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  14. dano619

    dano619 Long timer Supporter

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    Just an EPIC ride/life report, thanks for taking us along!!
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  15. jays100

    jays100 Been here awhile

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    Great ride, thanks for taking me/us along! Glad you’re safe.
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  16. pzvt

    pzvt Been here awhile Supporter

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    Awesome rr. Nicely done.
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  17. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    Right on! Stoked you guys enjoyed it!

    Fitsum and Babé came up to meet us on our last day in Addis, with a pickup truck for the bikes. Our original plan was to sell the bikes, but as the trip wrapped up, Ash and I started thinking more and more about returning next year for a second trip, for all the reasons mentioned earlier.

    To satisfy our curiosity, Fitsum called a broker in Hawassa, who offered an immediate-buy price of 50% of the original purchase price of $2,800 per bike, or $1,400 each. We’d spent $3,400 per bike including all the paperwork, transport, expediting fees, registration, insurance, contacts, etc, so our net cost per bike would’ve been $2k apiece if we’d sold them on the spot. If we’d waited a few weeks and searched for a direct buyer instead (no broker), maybe we could have gotten $500 more. But anyway, we decided to keep them.

    The issue with selling these particular bikes is that BMP is still a little-known brand inside Ethiopia (even though they’re Zongshen bikes assembled in Addis), and not many of the locals know about them. 200cc is considered a really big bike - bigger than necessary - and less fuel efficient. Also, dualsports are not popular in Ethiopia, even though it seems like they should be. Most of the locals want Indian, street-oriented bikes like the Bajaj Boxer or the TVS Apache. Dualsports are for police and government workers. They’re not sexy.

    We knew from the start that these bikes would cost more to buy and be harder to sell at the end. If we had chosen Boxers, we could have sold them for close to what we paid new, and it would be very easy to find a buyer. That’s a noteworthy data point for anyone planning a trip like this. Boxers are awesome, indestructible, go-anywhere bikes. I couldn’t help but notice that the two things we spent the most time fiddling with - rims and chains - have been completely eliminated on the Boxer, replaced by cast wheels and a belt drive.

    We definitely could have done this trip on a Boxer with knobbies, but it wouldn’t have been the same. It was nice to have a larger engine, and also - with me being so tall - the larger frame and more upright riding position helped. Maybe it cost an extra thousand dollars per bike to ride dualsports. For someone on a tight budget: I bet you could do this trip for around $500/bike, by buying a lightly used Boxer that already has a plate. The Bajaj will tractor up, over, and through anything, with as much gear as you can possibly stack, and probably have zero mechanical issues the entire time.

    Since we’re keeping the bikes, we’ll be amortizing the cost over at least two trips, so that’s cool. I doubt they’ll depreciate much. Ash and I are very curious about Ethiopia’s neighbors, like Djibouti, Eritrea, Somaliland, and Sudan. This is as good a chance as we’ll ever have to visit. Next year.

    Back at the hotel we unpacked everything from the bikes and repacked into roller bags and duffles.

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    We met up with Babé & Fitsum for breakfast.

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    Ash accidentally broke her brand new Riy-Don shades. And only a week old!

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    We got the bikes cleaned and ready for storage. We filled the fuel tanks, added stabilizer, changed the oil, turned off the gas, and drained the carbs. Hopefully that’s enough to preserve them for a year. The batteries will be toast, I’m sure.

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    We went to this ‘motorcycle mall’ in search of a new rear rim for Ash’s bike, but with no luck. Few bikes in Ethiopia still use spokes. We’ll have to get a new rim directly from BMP when we return. That, or bang the old one into shape and re-lace it.

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    Ash got these two new trip ‘souvenirs.’ I’ll let her explain :)

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    We loaded the bikes into Babé & Fitsum’s truck for the trip to Hawassa, and Ash & I headed to the airport for our flights home.

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    7 hours to Frankfurt, then a 9+ hour layover for engine maintenance. Here’s sunrise from our airport campsite in Frankfurt.

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    Thanks to the maintenance delay, we missed our connection, and airport-camped again in SFO before catching a flight to Portland and driving home to the gorge. We pulled into our snow-covered driveway a few hours ago, at 3am US Pacific time, after 41 hours of travel. Now it’s 5:30 and I’m still awake, of course

    Sitting on the tarmac in Addis, Ash and I both got a bit misty. About leaving Ethiopia, about parking our trusty little Chinese bikes, and about saying goodbye our new friends. We invited Babé & Fitsum to join us in Oregon for the UnRally this summer, so perhaps that will happen. I hope it does. No matter what, we’ll be back next year, and the journey continues.

    Thanks for all the great feedback and comments, and for keeping us company throughout the ride. I’ll miss these daily posts. If anyone is planning a similar trip and has questions, hit us up.

    To be continued...
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  18. SpiritAtBay

    SpiritAtBay Been here awhile

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    Thanks for the follow up - taking us all the way back home.

    Looking forward to hearing from Ashley.

    Can I be so nosy as to ask what treasure Ashley brought home-the rolled up something visible on her bike?

    Fantastic journey.
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  19. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    ^ The souvenirs are two new tattoos :) That rolled up thingy on the back of her bike is a yoga mat. When it comes to staying fit on the road, Ash is much more disciplined than I am.
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  20. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

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    Simply outstanding! Thanks.
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