Flying to Ethiopia today

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

  1. easyrider11

    easyrider11 Adventurer

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    Ha! It’s happening again. It’s about 2315 here in Ethiopia and I’m still awake while Pete sleeps soundly - told ya, this is just how it goes with us.

    I actually am quite tired though, we had a long day of riding. Want to sneak in a quick post here before I doze off.

    This is the best trip of my life so far. Absolutely no pause before stating that, I really mean it. Ethiopia is incredible.

    I am still digesting everything that we experienced in the South Omo Valley. I’ll do a photo dump soon to share my perspective and offer up a few thoughts too.

    As a sneak peek, here is one of my favorite photos I took there.

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    So many stories to be told.

    Gah! I have so much to update here, but for now I thought I’d simply fill you in on today’s happenings. I was so full of stoke when we got off the bikes this afternoon, I started typing immediately and couldn’t wait to sift through photos and share.

    I’m laying down in my own room tonight, feels weird! Ha! - but the beds are tiny (for Pete) and the rooms only cost $3/night so we decided to get two - it’s likely we will both sleep more comfortably this way. Although, I have so many mosquito bites idk how much I’ll be sleeping. Why on earth do they always itch more at night? Is it just me or does anyone else experience that?

    There is music playing loudly in the streets right now, I sort of like the gentle buzz of activity in the background, it’s soothing to me somehow.

    Ethiopians sure like their night life. Everywhere you go, even in the most remote areas, when evening hits there are neon lights and music alive in each town centre. Usually accompanied by one pool table and a bunch of plastic chairs.

    Since we don’t partake any longer we haven’t been frequenting this particular scene, but like I said, I like the buzz of activity.

    This hotel is super chill, with an awesome restaurant across the street (same ownership). We had a mixed plate of vegetarian dishes served with injera and one order of beef tibs - also with injera for dinner. Oh, and Fantas of course!

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    Everything here comes with injera, which is a slightly sour, fermented pancake like substance made from tef (grown in abundance here locally!). It usually comes laid out beneath whatever you’ve ordered, and then additional rolls are served on the side. You tear off a piece and use it to make a little food packet with your right index thumb and middle finger. Delicious. After my food poisoning, it’s taken me a while to enjoy the local food again, but I think I’m finally there! Win.

    Here is a photo from outside the hotel.

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    You know when you look at the map and you think you can picture what the road ahead looks like? Twisty, mountainous goodness - or so you’re hoping. Well today, my estimations were 100% correct.

    Damn was it fun! Definitely one of my favorite riding days of the trip thus far.

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    We spent most of the day winding up and over the lower choke mountains, then noodling around the base of the mountain range. We started in Jinka and ended the day around 6 PM in this small town called Gesuba. If you can even believe it - we rode for 7 1/2 hours today, making it only 120 miles. But who’s counting anyway?

    The road was incredible, the ‘keep you on your toes but still chill’ vibe... ya know? Brakes on these bikes are a bit squishy, it’s more a theory of braking than actual braking. So that caused a bit of butt clenching as we made our descent, for me anyway. I can’t speak for Pete (:

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    Oh! But Pete WAS almost taken out by an ambulance that came drifting fast af around a blind corner while detouring around a big construction project. It was one of those moments where you have to lift your hands to the sky a bit afterwards, thanking your higher power for lookin’ out.

    Looks like the construction frenzy might be a Chinese project, based on seeing a Chinese engineer overseeing the progress - that begins to explain why kids keep yelling “China, China!” at us when we ride through the cities. We have to correct them saying “No China!” It’s hilarious. Always results in a fit of laughter all around.

    We stopped to help a local out by loaning him our air pump today. Pretty flipping impressive to watch how quickly he fixed and replaced the tube, sure puts me to shame. All he used was a string. Crazy!

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    Hulet buna - my new favorite thing to say in Amharic. It means two coffees.

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    The young girl in red (pictured above) served us the most fantastic cup of coffee (or cups, I think we each had two!) during a quick midday stop n stretch.

    She had the sweetest smile and a lovely warm energy about her. After a large, mostly male crowd had formed around us, everyone chattering away as they joined in on the faranji sighting, the girl shouted to me “I love you so much!” blushing and shying away, without hesitation I said “I love you too!” reaching out as we embraced for a long hug.

    It was one of those moments you definitely want to remember.

    I think I cried like 3 times today. Either from being overwhelmed by laughter, beauty, gratitude, or some combination of the three. Almost had to pull over one time, tears obstructing my view. Can anyone relate? Or am I just a complete weirdo. I always say “I’m just having a moment”.

    Happens to me a lot when we’re traveling.

    Ok if I’m honest, happens to me a lot in life in general. Ha! I’m a sap.

    Here are some pics of the kids who helped us locate our hotel this evening. We spent about 45min or so hanging out with them, I even taught them how to ‘floss’. And no I don’t mean floss their teeth. If you don’t know this dance, look up flossing dance on YouTube or something. Or ask your kid (if you have one, that is!).

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    These two were very mischievous. They look it, huh?

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    Very rowdy bunch they were. We wrestled, danced, haggled, counted to 100 in English... so many activities!

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    I love that you can barely see Pete peeking out between them. So full of beans!

    Riding into the countryside as we make our way north is proving to be very rewarding. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

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    For now - I sleep. Fingers crossed.
    #61
  2. liv2day

    liv2day Life is all about how you handle plan B Supporter

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    Outstanding commentary @Sideoff, especially the sentiment captured above. It sounds like your trip has been amazing thus far, on several fronts. The images you captured/posted reflect very candid moments for the people you're interacting with - I don't imagine it's the same from the folks getting off the tour buses, etc.


    This image in particular caught my eye - quite the juxtaposition with a phone (at least, it appears to be a phone) shoved into the waist of traditional clothing.

    Stay safe and keep the great updates coming, they're a pleasure to read :nod :nod
    #62
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  3. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

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    x8gJaRvh.jpg

    What's the story with the scars on her back?
    #63
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  4. easyrider11

    easyrider11 Adventurer

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    The scars are from being whipped with sticks. Every female in the tribe can be seen with this lattice work of scars - every female over the age of 12/13 or so... it’s sobering.

    If you do some googling you can read about the Hamer Tribe and the famous Bull Jumping Ceremony. Before the ceremony, female family members offer themselves to be whipped by a group of young boys, ‘whippers’. So they spend the morning getting drunk on local beer, and then to kick off the bull jumping they bloody their backs... it is voluntary, but I suspect there is a lot of pressure to participate. And beyond participation, pressure to taunt the whippers during the beating, turning up the heat and amping up the boys.

    This particular girl pictured is probably about 15 years old, unmarried and all of these scars come from the pre bull jump whippings.

    In the Hamer tribe, wives are routinely beaten by their husbands as well. Violence is not in short supply here, as you can see.

    The Ethiopian government has ruled for the whippings to stop, and made such demands, but it is their culture, and they don’t seem to be stopping.

    Heavy shit.
    #64
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  5. Drybones

    Drybones Fish bones are on my truck seat cover, too

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    Pete needs to video the dance lesson next time. Is that flossing the same dance as the "backpack kid"? Thanks for the late night update!
    #65
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  6. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    ^ Like ash said, the whippings. All the women have brutal scars. That was one of the things that had us doing mental summersaults.

    People visit the area in search of authentic tribal culture. They want to see a traditional bull jump ceremony. Not a theatrical one, the real thing. And they pay for it. In the ceremony, women are beaten. Based on tourist interest and money, which the jumper’s family gets to keep = more ceremonies happening and more tourists watching each one. If we ask whether we’re ok with that, I mean with tourists paying to see women beaten and scarred, someone will quickly point out that ‘hey, it’s part of their culture, so none of our business, and besides, the women beg for it.’

    You can almost imagine the scenario with a camera wielding tourist: ‘ hey could you try to hit her a little more over to the left, kind of down the rib cage? The light is just perfect on that side of her body.”

    If we find a part of the US where brutally beating your wife is common, and part of the culture, is that ok? And could we maybe pay some money to watch the beatings, and take pics? Also it would be great if they could do it a little more frequently, because a lot of people are interested in seeing this.

    Just up the road in the Mursi tribe (the ones with the massive lip plates) we’ve heard & read that women are stretching their lips to ever-greater extremes, because that’s what the photo taking tourists want to see. They’re competing with each other for pay-for-pic tourist $$, which is now the tribe’s main source of outside revenue.

    On the other hand who are we to come into this area looking for authentic tribal culture and then bitch and moan when we see it. We don’t get to pick and choose, right? It’s sort of ridiculous to picture all these western tourists looking for the ‘real thing’ and then being like ‘oh wait, not THAT real! Can you tone down the reality just a little? We’d love it if you could focus on the part of your culture that we westerners don’t find offensive. And by the way, could you please ask the warriors to spend their money on spears instead of Kalashnikovs.’ Silly, right?

    A lot of people really want to paint - and a lot of other people want to see - a picture of peaceful pastoralists living a simple life in sustainable harmony with nature, blissfully (and intentionally?) free from the stress and conflict of our modern world. And that if it weren’t for the encroaching and corrupting influence of civilization - mainly through tourism - they would continue living this happy, uncorrupted, peaceful life forever. I’ve had this kind of narrative drilled into my head since I was kid. It persists, I want to believe it. That kind of thinking sells tours. I’m sure we’ve all heard the ‘poor but happy’ story about a thousand times.

    When I suggested in a FB post that not everything is peachy, and that there is extreme poverty in the Omo Valley, three people pushed back. Two (both of whom know this area much better than me) mentioned the number of cows and goats owned by the tribal elders - and the relatively healthy appearance of the people in our pics - as evidence that the tribes are not poor. I want to argue back with what I feel is a mountain of evidence to the contrary, but I’m not sure that accomplishes anything. Better to just describe the whole experience as ‘thought-provoking.’
    #66
  7. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    I have one!! And it even captures a kid in the corner of the frame trying to get into my tank bag and getting busted by me doing it ha! Until we get WiFi tho I won’t be able to upload...
    #67
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  8. yokesman

    yokesman Long timer

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    If you can get something like wd40, it makes it easy to get that last mossy, wont kill it but they cant fly with the oil on their wings , drop them over something that will make them standout.
    #68
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  9. BLucare

    BLucare Inmate At Law

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    I am in like gin for this one :beer Man, the more I see of Africa, the more I want to go there. Thanks for bringing us along, guys!

    ^ This 'graph caught my eye. Isn't it interesting how we measure "wealth" with our western lenses, even if we don't realize it? We often take for granted our good health, and many of us place too much "value" on material things. << I'm guilty of both of those. It all brings to mind that saying about "teach a man to fish, and feed him for a lifetime." A pile of cash-money would be finite, and frankly, probably kinda useless to an Omo tribesman. But, at least according to your friends (and I would tend to agree), livestock, land, and good health are infinitely more valuable to the Omo than we would consider those things to be here. It's all about context, I guess.
    #69
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  10. crash111

    crash111 Been here awhile

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    Excellent RR, thanks so much for posting it up, great, great pics that really capture the local people especially. I was born in Eritrea, lived there until I was 8, so I can relate to some of your comments about the whole environment. The food is so delicious, still probably my favourite if going out to eat. The injera is sour and really compliments the food.

    Anyway, stay safe, enjoy the whole experience and thanks again for the great posts!
    #70
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  11. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    After a chill rest day in Jinka, we headed up over a mountain pass, and down into another long valley, on our way north toward Gesuba via Sawla. The road out of Jinka was plenty rough with steep, rough hill climbs and killer views. Based on the reactions of the people on the side of the road, I would say that not many foreigners go this way.

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    Ash mentioned earlier the guy who flagged us down for an air pump. I have never seen this before, using thread for a tube repair. Great trick!

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    The huge crowds that form whenever we stop are really something. Stop for coffee, meet the whole town. The other day we had over a hundred people gathered to watch us take coffee, so many that there were two or three people with sticks keeping the crowd back. I’ve experienced this elsewhere in Africa and Asia but never quite at this level.

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    When people notice Ash’s belly button piercing it always causes quite a stir.

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    A $3 hotel room, the only show in town. With a shared pit toilet and a bucket of water for washing. In small towns, we’re happy to find a room at all. $3 is a new record for us.

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    #71
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  12. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    I woke up to some intense hip pain. Could barely get out of bed at first. I had a big surgery on this hip 20 years ago and sometimes I have random issues crop up either with the hip or with the muscles and ligaments around it.

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    In this case I think it was just due to the bikes being small and me being tall. I’m sitting in a pretty crouched position on the bike, and we’d just had a really long day with some big climbs and descents. It was just sore and had locked up overnight. A bunch of Advil and stretching and moving around got it working again, and a few hours later I was good to go.

    Climbing from the Omo Valley up into the highlands, the feeling changes from one of scarcity to one of abundance. Lush green valleys, ample water, cool temperature, and beautiful little mountain homesteads with terraced subsistence farming and livestock wandering everywhere. Also, incredibly friendly vibes. When we ride through a small village people jump up and give big waves, cheers, and whistles.

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    This is the crowd watching us have coffee in one village we stopped in. All the people in the street had gathered to hang out with us.

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    After another long day we stopped in the small town of Gesuba for the night. Again the best place in town (ie the only place in town) was $4 a night. Shared pit toilet, a bucket of water, and no privacy whatsoever, but we were stoked to find it, and totally exhausted.

    This was one of two rooms for rent, located in a basement directly under a busy bar. We had people shining lights through the windows all night to look in. At one point someone even stuck a stick through the window bars to move the curtain aside to get a better look. I went out to take a piss in the night and busted the girls that work at the bar standing at the window outside the bedroom staring at Ash in bed. Even the little kids wandered in at one point when we’re weren’t paying attention and were trying to get into our bags. It was a trip, but mostly (although not entirely) harmless intent. They don’t get a lot of foreigners coming through.

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    At this point I was wondering if maybe we could do three nights at three hotels in three towns for less than $10 total. But alas, we ended up in a decent-sized town called Bedelé, so it was not to be. We splurged on an $11 room and had to end our cheap-streak with 3 nights for under $20, and this killer view.

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    After leaving Bedele, we were on the road for only maybe an hour and a half of easy asphalt, and for some reason we were both totally exhausted. We made it to a town called Nekemte. After Nekemte we have 250k of dirt with no sizable towns, so we decided to stop mid-day, get a nice hotel ($16), and just chill for the afternoon. We ate a big lunch and passed out. Then did some errands around town, had a big dinner, and passed out again. Must’ve been really tired.

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    This morning I’m up at 3:30 as usual, having coffee. Mosques and churches are playing their morning songs over competing loudspeakers, dozens of dogs are having a morning bark-war, and I can hear the occasional human voice, motorcycle, or truck engine starting up. It’s kind of a surreal cacophony of background noise. The temperature is cool and pleasant, and I can see a clear sky full of stars through the glass doors of our room. Ash is as asleep as I wish I was.

    This is my morning coffee ritual on this trip. It’s not possible to bring fuel canisters on an airplane, and a multi-fuel stove like a whisperlite is fine for camping but is pretty sketchy in a hotel room, due to the need for priming, which creates a big flame. Instead I found this little portable water heating element for around $10 on Amazon.

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    It takes about 30 seconds to bring this pot of water to a boil. It took longer when I tried it at home in the US, maybe due to the different type of outlet power.

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    Add coffee grounds and let it sit for a minute or two.

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    Then pour through this reusable MSR-brand camping coffee filter to separate the grounds, leaving most of them in the pot.

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    It makes a pretty good cup of hotel coffee, which is nice, since I’ve been starting my day a few hours before everyone else.

    We’re gradually working our way north toward some of Ethiopia’s more famous tourist sites in places like Gondar, Axum, and Lalibela. We’re not on a time schedule, and we’re not fixated on seeing anything in particular, but at the same time we’re also aware that two weeks of our four week trip are behind us, and we want to feel like we covered a good part of the country while we’re here. So at the moment our mission is to keep pushing north and see where that gets us. On bigger bikes we’d cover a lot more ground, but there’s something nice about a small bike, chill pace, and lots of stops to look around and take pics or whatever.

    Here in this screenshot you can see where we are by the location marker. The loop track is just something I made up as a possible route for this trip. The green arrow shows what we’ve done so far. So we have a lot of riding ahead if we’re going to finish the loop, but we’re not married to it. We can always cut if off and make it shorter.

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    #72
  13. Space_man

    Space_man Been here awhile

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    Absolutely inspiring journey, IN!
    #73
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  14. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    Thank you! It’s been fun to post this RR, we’re really enjoying it.
    #74
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  15. de crowe

    de crowe de crowe

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    great ride report, keep it coming and ride safe
    #75
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  16. JoeBiker25

    JoeBiker25 Been here awhile

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    Just brilliant! Your pics and commentary are highly thought provoking and inspiring! The people in Ethiopia are stunning and your photography richly captures their majesty and pride in their culture. Really touched to read your 'human petting zoo" analogy and I had to think hard about how many times I have been that "rich tourist" with the big camera enthusiastically photographing someone else's abject poverty!
    Keep up the amazing RR and ride safe!
    #76
  17. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

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    This is simply epic! :clap
    #77
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  18. Grestil

    Grestil 2+2=unicorn

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    I like your its not all about the bikes reporting style. I tend to just pass through places and avoid people. The crowds would freak me out! Forced social interaction! Ahhhhh! Anxiously awaiting another glimpse of Ethiopia through your eyes.:lurk
    #78
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  19. NSFW

    NSFW basecamp4adv Super Supporter

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    for us who can't or won't even see Ethiopia, there's so much to learn about the country and people from this RR. pure raw and real.

    really interesting and entertaining.
    #79
  20. Wildebeest90210

    Wildebeest90210 Long timer Supporter

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    Just the best thread on ADV just now, great pics and story...Good luck with the crowds, I've been called a Baboon in Africa and a Safed Bandar (white monkey) in India and had my legs stroked for being hairy round a camp fire. Really enjoying your trip.
    #80