Flying to Ethiopia today

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

  1. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    Looks like Ash was busy last night ^ :)

    Finally got some images uploaded to imgur. Man the connection speeds here are so slow.

    Here’s Ash in her morning sick bed ha! She bounced back fast.

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    First challenge of the of the day was finding gas. After visiting 3 stations that were all completely empty of both gas and people, we found one gallon for sale on the street, and then found a station with gas where they invited us to skip the line. All in all it probably took about an hour and a half to get the tanks filled.

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    Our first full day of riding was awesome. We started out on a dirt road leaving Hawassa, then merged onto the main asphalt south toward Arba Minch.

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    Every time we stop, a huge crowd forms immediately. This takes a little getting used to. Doing everything with an audience, I mean. It’s hard not to feel a little self-conscious under all the stares, but we’re starting to adjust to it.

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    The gas lines are absolutely insane. Thankfully we have consistently managed to find gas on the street. Either that, or weve been ushered to the front of the line at the pump. Not because we asked for it, it just happens automatically. I don’t know exactly what accounts for this friendly treatment at the pump, because we’re paying the same price as everyone else, and nobody is asking for a commission. It’s really nice though.

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    We ended the day in a lodge at this cool Dorze tribe village, where they live in these interesting little huts that look kinda like hats.

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    Ash had a close call with a big truck on a steep, blind, uphill switchback. I turned around just in time to see the most graceful tuck and roll summersault dismount I’ve ever witnessed.

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    We ended the day several thousand feet over the valley, with cool temps and a hell of a view. This room at the Dorze lodge was only $34, including two breakfasts.

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    The manager of the lodge has family in the Hamer tribe in the Southern Omo valley. He suggested we visit with them and camp there for a night.
    #41
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  2. Drybones

    Drybones Fish bones are on my truck seat cover, too

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    Ashley, a few years ago after a small crash in Oregon...so glad she is OK after this one! What a trooper she was and appears to still have the ability to "bounce back" quickly.
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    You two are off to an epic start on this adventure, it will be so interesting to follow your exploits, so I hope you can continue to provide updates like this. I'm an interested follower and former PNW rider who also owns a Zongshen peashooter. Mine is a water-cooled 250, but the only quality issue I have had with it in 3 years is the glass fell out of the right mirror, so I hope your 200s are just as well built.
    #42
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  3. GravelRider

    GravelRider AKA max384 Supporter

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    In! Great story and pictures so far! What kind of luggage are you guys using? :imaposer

    If your WiFi and cell service continue to be problematic, you can download apps that will compress picture files prior to posting. Then when you get to better reception, you can always upload the high quality versions. Just a thought.
    #43
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  4. AirDrive

    AirDrive Terminal No0b

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    I really like reports where all the participants in the ride, contribute to the report. Glad to see your contribution, Ash, and I'm looking forward to more!!
    #44
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  5. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    Next morning we went for a quick walk around the nearby Dorze village with a local kid guiding us so we could go inside some of the houses.

    These huts are pretty cool. They’re made from banana leaf and bamboo and they last about 8 years. After 8 years the termites will eat away at the base, making the house get shorter, and making it list to one side. Then they rebuild.

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    The fires inside are for warmth and coffee, there’s a separate kitchen outside for preparing food.

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    Inside the house we were surprised to find that that there’s a room for the goats and cows. They sleep inside the house at night for added warmth. This little hut has 4-5 people and a bunch of animals in it every night

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    The Dorze are known for weaving, and right next to this house was another little hut with a loom. Looms are such an incredibly sophisticated ancient tool. Every time I see one in action I’m like how TF did they invent this thousands of years ago?? It’s got to be the oldest tool of its kind with anywhere near this much complexity.

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    Out back are a bunch of ‘false banana’ trees which constitute their primary food. They only eat meat twice a year. The rest of the time they mostly eat this fermented false banana leaf.

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    Then we got on the road. We were expecting a long day of boring pavement, but instead it was actually quite beautiful, hilly, and beautiful.

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    We stopped for a soda at a little village, and were immediately surrounded by an audience, as usual. But there were these kids on the outside of the crow that were dressed in these really creepy outfits with cardboard masks over their heads. Some even had plastic bags over their heads under the masks, and it was HOT. Whenever they tried to come closer to the circle they were shooed and swatted away by the other kids and adults before they even got close.

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    I have no idea what was going on here. Our first thought was that is was some kind of ritual, like a coming of age thing or maybe circumcision. But that wouldn’t explain being shunned by the rest of the town like that. We reached out on FB so see if anybody knew, and the best explanation was that it was a punishment for something bad that they or (more disturbingly) their parents did. Anyway, it was trippy.

    I’m writing this report on my phone in our tent camped in an Hamer tribe family compound in the Omo valley. The sun is not quite up yet but there’s some first-light on the horizon, and an nice cool breeze blowing through the tent. The children and a few adults are awake. So are the roosters. And a goat with bells on his neck who I think is just doing circles around our tent ha!

    We’ve been here in the Omo for the last two days. Many, many thoughts about this place, both good and bad. As soon as I can get more pics to upload I’ll get them posted.
    #45
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  6. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

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    Love seeing Ash up and at 'um.
    #46
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  7. flyingdutchman177

    flyingdutchman177 Adventurer

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    I will be following along with great interest as I plan to visit Ethiopia on my African tour coming up.
    Have fun you two.
    Be safe
    Ed-venture!
    #47
  8. BillUA

    BillUA Las Vegas, NV

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    Really enjoying the report. Thanks for bringing us along.
    #48
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  9. yokesman

    yokesman Long timer

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    Im enjoying report until, Im an old man so when I see your riding clothes I have to say something, AGATT, at Least a padded mesh pants n jacket. Our friends at church have a son, that normally doesnt live with them, at their house healing from a tumble in Thailand.
    My tumble in the mountains 50 years ago, my knee still itches often n weeps blood very easily.
    #49
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  10. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    Great set of updates @easyrider11 and @Sideoff! The fuel situation is nuts, though it's cool you've been taken to the front of the line. Can't imagine spending 1.5 hours looking for gas, glad you didn't run out whilst hunting :eek7

    The shot of that hammock from the lodge you stayed at looks sweet, perfect place to kick back with a book and some good whisky.

    Fantastic pics from the village you stayed in and what life is like there. Hard to imagine having your livestock share the same room for sleeping at night, not sure I'd get any shut eye at all. Adapt and overcome, though likely not in a single night - especially if there's a goat with bells walking around your tent...lol.

    So neat to see pictures and read about your experience thus far. Glad @easyrider11 wasn't injured in the spill.

    And the pic of the guy with the cardboard box on his head? Weird. Interesting method of shaming if that's the case. Not quite like making your kid wear a sign and stand on a corner, but imagine it's effective.

    Ride safe, looking forward to the next update :thumb
    #50
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  11. eakins

    eakins Butler Maps

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    #51
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  12. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    We decided not to bring full riding gear on this trip. It’s hot, the bikes are small, and we spend a lot of time walking around off-bike during the day. Wearing full riding gear would be very uncomfortable. Our average speeds are slow, and we ride conservatively. That said, it’s still risky. Were wearing leather boots and relatively tough high-abrasion vented mountaineering pants. That said, if one of us goes down hard it will suck. I’m still looking for the perfect riding kit that works on a trip like this.
    #52
  13. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    I hope so too. When people make fun of Chinese/Indian bikes or imply that they’re shitty, I feel like they’re missing it. These things are amazing. The Chinese and Indian motorcycle companies are now the largest in the world unit-wise. Bajaj (an Indian company) owns almost half of ktm.

    They’re total work horses. They sell millions in these developing countries at incredibly low prices - like $800-$2,000 brand new - and people beat the shit out them hauling farm animals and 5 people to a bike, even towing stuff, and never service them or do oil changes or check valves, and they just keep on going and going. They can be taken apart and rebuilt overnight with new pistons and rings and gears or whatever. Parts are available everywhere. They’re so basic that even a simpleton like me can diagnose a lot of common issues and fix them on the side of the road. I’m a big fan.
    #53
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  14. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    Whoops, had to delete a double-post. Lots of connectivity issues here!
    #54
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  15. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    The south Omo is really something. I’m still not sure how I feel about the whole thing. I dont just mean because of the tribes and the way they live. I also mean the interaction between tourists - us included - and the tribes. There is a lot of bad behavior happening on both sides of the equation and I feel like I could sit here and write a hundred pages of musings after only four days here and I would still be completely wrong.

    Visiting this area is not a light-hearted, highly-curated, cultural tourist experience. At least it wasn’t for us. The people are living in challenging, subsistence-level circumstances, with their own hopes, dreams, and aspirations, which I suspect sometimes extend far beyond the Omo. They’ve been doing it their way for thousands of years, and they’re not looking for anyone’s sympathy or help. Which is not to say they’re content. They could probably care less if the tourist traffic stopped tomorrow, except they like the money, at least what small amount trickles down.

    It’d be pretty hard to visit this area and not be disturbed by comparisons to a ‘human safari’ or petting zoo, with 4x4s pulling into little villages, tourists jumping out and shoving their cameras into people faces, snapping pics, poking and prodding at things, then wiping down with hand-sanitizer, leaving behind some small change, and being whisked away in a cloud of dust by unscrupulous tour operators, back to their comfortable lodges for a big Ethiopian dinner where they can talk about how to keep the primitives primitive, and the tragedies of commercialization, over a cocktail. The whole thing feels kind of fucked up.

    A guy we met there said that one of the new hotels put a community water pump just outside the fence, so their guests could watch the local tribes come to the pump for water in the mornings, while the guests sit and eat their breakfast safe on the other side of the fence. If that’s not analogous to a safari lodge perched over a watering hole, I don’t know what is.

    There no question about ‘authenticity’ or whether the tribal experience in the Omo is genuine. This is how they live. Hundreds of thousands of people. So many that even with more tourists ‘discovering’ the Omo, and new guides and hotels popping up, it barely feels like a drop in the bucket.

    Some of the richest people in the world visiting with some of the poorest, usually separated by a camera lens, is a situation ripe for conflict and problems. My favorite moments were when we broke out of that mold and were able to have moments of mutual cultural fascination. Like when the women - who are very into body modification like scarring - discovered Ashley’s many piercings. Or when we connected with people over the bikes, which are a near-universal conversation starter. Or when they took our phones and started flipping through our pictures from home. Or when they turned the lens around and started taking pictures of us with our own phones.

    Describing the Omo as some sustainable indigenous paradise with primitive tribes who have it all figured out and don’t-need-no book learnin’, money, or technology anyhow would be complete BS. We were asked for pretty much everything we own by nearly everyone we met: our money, bikes, shoes, shirts, phones, toothpaste, medications, skin cream, water, food, and everything else that came out of our pockets. In terms of authenticity, that’s part of it. So are the loaded Kalashnikovs on the shoulder of every tribesman who can afford one. So is the latticework of whip scars on every woman’s back.

    I’m not even sure words like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ apply here, or for that matter ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ It just is.

    We’re still processing. It’s one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been, not only because of the tribes, but also because of the clash of civilizations and cultures. And the irony that the challenges of surviving in the Omo - harsh conditions, lack of natural resources, lack of water - are actually the key to the survival of the traditions and culture of the people there. If they manage it right, those traditions and cultures could eventually become a great source of material wealth. For now though, it all has a wild-west, gold-rush feel, and I doubt that much of the money being earned makes it into the hands of the individual tribespeople.

    We’re still here, in a town called Jinka. We spent two nights at the house of our friend Tsehai’s friend in the Hammer tribe. We also made a day trip down to the Omo river, about 25k from Kenya and 25k from South Sudan, to visit the Dassenich tribe. That’s the farthest south we’ll go on this trip, now we’re headed north again.

    I can’t think of a place I’ve visited that got my head spinning so much. Glad to have a chance to write some thoughts. I don’t have any conclusions, except that it’s a very confusing, complex, and thought-provoking place.

    Here are some pics. Except for the first few from the ride south, the rest are pretty much all from inside the family compound of our hosts in the Hamer tribe.

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    We all piled into the main house for coffee in the morning, served in these big dried gourds. The coffee is made from the husks not the beans, and tastes pretty good. More like a strong tea than the thick coffee served everywhere else we’ve been so far.

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    #55
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  16. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

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    Absolutely amazing! I can only imagine the level of communication.
    #56
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  17. squadraquota

    squadraquota mostly harmless

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    Quite a post, Pete…the mere fact that you observe these extremes and give it thought rather than judgement makes you a good man in my book. Thank you both for sharing with us.

    A sad but perhaps related fact that was in the news last week; the wealth/possessions of 26 richest persons amount to the same total as that of the poorest half of the planet’s population. 26 own as much as 3,6 billion…a sad fact that perhaps puts some of your observations in perspective
    #57
  18. G&T

    G&T Adventurer

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    Indeed, substance behind what you hear, see and feel. There is a quote that resonates with me, “The deeper you go, the deeper you get”. Keep it coming...
    #58
  19. miguelitro

    miguelitro I like the ads, in fact, give me more ads.

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    I've done my share of traveling and this picture reminds me of of those rare times of truly connecting to the place, time and people. Great photo!
    Mike
    #59
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  20. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    We spent two nights with the Hamer, but made a side trip to visit with the Dassenich for a day in a town called Omorate. It was about a 75k ride each way from Turmi. It’s amazing how different the tribes are from one another, all in a relatively small space.

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    The Dassenich live on the banks of the Omo River where it’s hot, windy, and dusty. I assume because of the wind and dust, they live in these small shelters that are like a mini dome. Some are covered in wood, some in sheet metal. The doors are tiny, and covered in cowhide.

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    Here we are at the Omo river, as far south as we’ll make it this trip.

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    The next morning, we packed up and said goodbye to our Hamer hosts, and headed North to a small town called Jinka, we are now.

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    Sometimes we’ve been handing out stickers to kids as a little novelty gift but they almost always seem to end up on foreheads, stomachs, and arms. Not what we intended but still... pretty cute :)

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    Yesterday we decided to just rest and chill in Jinka, catch up on work, change the oil on the bikes, find gasoline, stock up on supplies, do laundry... stuff like that. Also my stomach was messed up so I wanted to let that pass. We found a chill little hotel called Eyob for $20/night and have been here for two nights. Jinka is a nice little town, and the temperature is cooler because of the altitude.

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    There’s a road North from here that goes from Jinka to Sawla to Selam Ber, and then finally Sodo, through a place called Maze National Park. It looks small and interesting. We’ve heard mixed reviews: one guy said the road was completely closed, and another said it takes 9 hours to go 120km. But mostly we’ve heard it’s passable by motorbike and isn’t all that big of a deal, so that’s what we’re going with. It’s the only route north from here that doesn’t involve backtracking.

    Gas is getting a little easier. I heard the blockage on the Djibouti road has been resolved. For the last few days we’ve been buying all black market gas for $10-14/gallon since there were no filling stations. The station in Jinka ran out the night before we arrived, and yesterday things were still pretty intense at the pump. People don’t line up, they just crowd in from all angles and jostle for position, yelling and shoving. Many are chewing Khat which adds a level of intensity to the whole interaction. Yesterday we watched two guys go after each other at the pump, and meanwhile no gas was flowing, so everyone else started getting more worked up too. I’m hoping we’ll find gas in this next section, since there aren’t any cities for a while, and we will definitely need it.
    #60