Pounds and Half Spice are heading out on an all new adventure today….. The Lake Placid Trail in winter. Not many have successfully completed this trail in winter due to the extremely cold weather, snow and river crossings. This will be Pounds first snow shoeing expedition. Stay tuned for updates.
On a plane back to Los Angeles. Thank you everyone who has followed along on my journey and also to those who have donated to the Trees for the Future Foundation. It was an incredible trip and I feel that I have learned a lot along the way I hope you all enjoyed sharing the experience with me. I hope to one day return and finish the section I was forced to skip in Egypt and felt compelled to skip from Addis Ababa Ethiopia to Nairobi Kenya. I am now back in California working for the forest service fighting wildfires and saving for my next adventure. Until next time, -Pounds
We went hiking in the hills above the town of Fishhoek and explored Boomslang Cave and Robinhood Cavern. I got disoriented in the cavern and almost got lost. Fortunately Arthur was within earshot and helped me find my way out.
We stayed at another police station. I was stoked that they let us camp inside as it was raining outside.
I left Lamberts Bay heading south along the coast. Yesterday Arthur had to get his wheel fixed. During our ride today his wheel broke again and he had to return back to Lamberts Bay to get it fixed. I decided to keep heading south and we resolved to meet in a couple of days in Capetown and finish the last segment together.
We turned west at Clan William and headed towards the fishing town of Lamberts Bay
It’s Snoek season in Lamberts Bay. The Snoek is a large Ocean fish similar to a Barracuda. It has sizable sharp teeth. The saliva is an anticoagulant. If a fisherman is bit it is essential to stick the bleeding finger into the fish eye to stop the bleeding. The membrane of the eye has a coagulant which will stop the bleeding. The fishermen abide by tradition and catch the Snoek with hand lines instead of nets.
Had a challenging but rewarding day. Lots of climbing and headwinds. The desert landscape is beautiful and reminds me a lot of southern California. We stopped in this small town of Kamieskroon and Kroonsig for water. We found a small coffee shop operated by a older Dutch South African man. He was very nice and insisted on giving us a whole case of canned water and a bag of candy. He also told us the town only gets water once a day for 2 hours at night. On our way out of town we talked to a man named Shane who was hitch hiking. He told us that he was traveling home to his family and works several months at a time mining illegally for diamonds. He told us he has to go home this time empty handed but when they find a diamond he makes enough money to feed his family for 4 to 5 months.
I decided to take a small off road dirt path for the remaining 20 km into the town of Garies. It was possibly some of the most fun and challenging riding I have had so far. Several times I had to get off my bike. Mokwanda (my bikes name) handled it better than expected and was no worse for the wear. The views were fantastic and it was cool riding through the small shanty town of Kheis.
Riding through the town of Kheis
Video: Click Here
Not sure what the purpose of this structure is, but I thought it looked cool.
We crossed the border late last night into South Africa. We had nowhere safe to sleep so we asked the police to stay at the station. The police have been the real heroes of this trip.
The South African border crossing. It was an easy crossing. We were through in minutes after they asked a few questions.
This is the station we camped at last night. I had a very tough first day in South Africa. I got several flats and battled fierce headwinds sometimes slowing me down to 5 mph. It took me nearly all day to travel 70km (42 mi). We camped at another police station in the town of Steinkopf.
Video: Click Here
Stopped here for lunch.
Had a nice ride down a hill into Noordoewer Namibia; not sure how you pronounce it, but we’ve been calling it “Nard Wahr”. This is the last town before we enter South Africa. I was very excited to reach the town. As we got close we passed sand dunes that seemed to threaten to bury the telephone lines. It felt almost apocalyptic. This small green town looked like an oasis.
A vineyard in town next to the river
Another beautiful day of cycling. I love the vast open Namibian desert. We were fortunate to have some cloud cover towards the end of the day which brought the temperature down.
Our campsite next to the road was crawling with scorpions. It prompted us both to swiftly jump up several times while eating dinner on the ground.
Another fantastic sunset!
“Tanzania Tire F***ers Tree”
I spent the day lying down in the shade reading desert solitaire by edward abbey. This was my first day off not in a town this whole trip. It was very peaceful. All last night the thorn trees made beautiful almost eery sounds as the wind blew through the needles. We have come to call these trees the “Tanzanian Tire F***ers”. Arthur made it to camp late this afternoon
I woke up and upon inspecting my rims discovered significant cracks radiating from the spoke holes. Arthur has the same issue. I got a new rim at this little bike shop.
Made it to the border and took a ferry across into Botswana.
Immediately upon crossing the border we started seeing signs warning us about wildlife. In Botswana we will be cycling along the “elephant highway”.
I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit Victoria Falls while in Livingstone. It was incredible!
We walked across the Zambezi river above the falls with some unlicensed local guides. We held hands for stability because the river was moving swiftly and the footing was slippery. Possibly the riskiest decision so far this trip. One slip and you could be sent down the river and over the falls. However it was a blast and was definitely memorable
It was very clear from the signs, as well as the police man present, that crossing the river was not allowed. However in a typical African fashion our guides bribed the police to let us cross
We stopped by a school for water and some of the children were eager to pump the well for us.
This river looked very enticing in the heat of the day. Unfortunately with crocodiles and many water born diseases I would not swim in the water. We had a number of significant climbs today. I took an “attitude adjustment … (caffeine pill)” and found myself listening to my breathing as I cycled up the hills and entered into a relaxing trance.
I asked if we could camp at a school and the headmaster was nice enough to give us a class room to sleep in.
We camped in the forest last night. This morning, as we were packing up, some cheerful older ladies came over to greet us. They were fascinated by the gas stove and looked at it with curiosity, as if it was some sort of witchcraft. I asked if I could take a photo of them. When I showed them the photo they were very excited and happy to see each of themselves captured in the photo. I love having these spontaneous interactions with locals when I travel.
We crossed into Zambia today! The border crossing was straight forward. I’m happy to be out of Malawi where begging and harassment were fairly common. My first impression of Zambia has been good. People have been very eager to say hello and ask “how are you?”. We spent the night in Chipata a modern city with supermarkets!
Today we rode from Chinkhoma to Kamwendo. I passed a number of flooded fields.
it’s very common to attract an audience within minutes of sitting down. I was tired from the heat and decided to take a break here. These children gathered and stared at me intensely. Mary our gypsy friend referred to this as the zombie effect. When we reached our final destination we were almost out of cash and resolved to camp at a police checkpoint for free. One of the men hanging out at the checkpoint tried to extort Arthur’s bike horn but failed when Arthur firmly told him he would not part with it.
A typical malawi meal consists of nshima (a tasteless cooked corn meal similar to grits) cooked greens and cooked tomatoes. I was lucky to also receive rice which is rarely available in restaurants here.
We had another wet cycling day in the rain. It is undoubtedly rainy season here in Malawi. The rain is a nice break from the humid heat.
We passed a number of planted pine groves which remind me of home.
I was very excited to pass a number of older women selling mushrooms they had freshly harvested from the forest. I purchased a bunch and tried a bit of each type.
Cooking and enjoying a meal next to the fire
We met a French cyclist named Michel heading north.
As it started getting dark we began looking for places to camp
Francis, the chief of a small tribe, is a tobacco/ corn farmer. He saw us looking for a place to camp and insisted we sleep at his house in an extra room. He fed us dinner and provided warm water for bucket showers. His wife, Maliwase, also made us breakfast in the morning. I had a great time and am very thankful for the hospitality he showed us.
Francis’s Farm (corn)
Francis’s Farm (Tobacco)
Some chickens roosting in the house.
The dinner that Maliwase made for us tasted great. We had boiled eggs in a salt tomato sauce with rice.
I got my first view of Lake Malawi. A lake so large it’s almost like an inland ocean. It runs more than half the entire length of Malawi.
The road was very flat today and the humid warm weather along this quiet green tunnel made me very sleepy.
We saw a whole tree full of these birds building nests.
We stopped for water at this well before camping on the lake shore. We received a very warm welcome from these children who were screaming and yelling with excitement.
I do not have much to say about yesterday. Today however we crossed the border into Malawi. We were almost immediately greeted by shouts of “Mizungu (white man) give me money”. I haven’t experienced this level of begging and expectation since Ethiopia. Once we got away from the border it cooled down a bit, however but the begging still persisted throughout the day. Bicycles are a very common form of transportation here and it’s neat to see the roads packed with bicyclists versus cars. We pushed hard into the night to find a place to camp. We searched for quite a while to find an area of thorn trees , off the road, which was concealed from the highway.
We took the day off in Mbeya to rest. I was happy not to be riding in the torrential downpour. I purchased a basket for my bike and got my frame bag repaired by a tailor.
I purchased the largest avocado I’ve ever seen and feel somewhat accomplished having been able to devour the whole thing in one sitting.
We parted with Mo and Mary this morning. We wanted to make it to the city of Mbeya today and they weren’t willing to push that far. This is a picture looking down into the town of Chunya where the road turned back to pavement
On this Mountain spine, I felt like I was at the top of the world. We looked over miles of flat land to the south towards Malawi. The descent into Mbeya was exhilarating.
A large truck got stuck in the mud. In order to get the truck out these guys are cutting down bushes and shoving the branches under the tires to gain traction.
Obama is almost more of a celebrity here in Tanzania than back in the United States. They even have chewing gum to honor our former president.
These kids on the bike rode with us for a bit today. On a downhill stretch they almost collided with me as they past at a reckless speed.
The mounds are a sign of the paved road to come.
Before leaving town we both had a spectacular breakfast from the street vendors in Rungwa. I had rice beans and chips and eggs. Shortly into the day we met two other cyclists named Mo and Mary. We have not seen any other touring cyclists in weeks. They seemed just as excited to meet us as we were to meet them. We cycled with them for the remainder of the day and we all camped together. They are from Germany and Poland and proudly identify themselves as gypsies. Both work for 2 months out of every year at a winery and spending the rest of their time on the road typically spending less than $5 per day traveling.
We stopped in a small town for lunch and to obtain water for camping. Here you see a local drawing water for us from the Kisima (“well” in swahili) with a bucket and rope.
A tobacco plantation. The small building is used for drying the tobacco.
We cooked dinner and slept here. Sharing stories over a fire, we listened to Mary play her ukulele and sing a few songs in Polish and German.
We rode through a number of small towns and along the game reserve. The road condition was worst today and Arthur took a bad fall in a sand pit damaging his bike bag. The tse tse biting flies were intense through the reserve. I went faster than I probably should have to get away from these persistent disease carrying insects and had to swiftly correct my bike as it fishtailed in sand. We made it to the town of Rungwa after a long day and stayed at a guesthouse. Arthur hates this dirt road. Even though it’s a real challenge at times and my body is taking a beating I’m glad we chose this path. I enjoy the challenge and how rural this stretch feels. Its refreshing to get away from the frequented tourist areas. Many of these small villages haven’t seen a white person in weeks if not months.
A shepherd chasing his herd and whacking the animals into motion with a stick so that we can pass.
We saw many of these hanging logs throughout the day and later learned that they are beehives.
The reserve and home of the dreaded tse tse fly.
We got a late start on the dirt road south out of Itigi. I found this chameleon on the road and picked it up. He was very friendly until Arthur touched him on the back and then he hissed and was very unhappy. We made camp in the forest that night.
The road was at times was unrideable and required us to push our bikes!
January 24th through 28th we rode from Arusha Tanzania to Itigi Tanzania, 450 kilometers, where I took the day off on the 29th. We were warned by the owner of the guesthouse where we stayed on January 26th, that one of the towns we were passing through called Gehandu was very dangerous. He explained that an aggressive tribe likes to kill westerners and are armed with spears. Fortunately we had no trouble passing through the town and people were very friendly. I take all the fear mongering I hear from locals in small towns with a grain of salt. Its not uncommon to meet people that hold prejudices about their neighbors. I passed through a number of small villages and was greeted frequently by friendly people and asked questions about where we are going. I ate rice and beans at just about every meal. The last 25 kilometers of the road into Itigi were dirt. I ride cautiously on these dirt roads because my bike frequently fish tails when I hit sandy spots. After Itigi, the next 500 kilometers are dirt and will be challenging. We are also riding along a game reserve. I’ve been warned by locals to avoid early morning and late afternoon riding because there are lions.
We crossed the border today into Tanzania. The boarder crossing overall went smoothly. However the guard told us we needed to purchase yellow vests for our safety. Many of the truckers drive like maniacs and we both know that a yellow vest is not going to change anything. Arthur told the man that they would have to physically detain him and drag him back to the border before he would consider purchasing or wearing a yellow vest. The man left us alone at that point and stopped pressing the issue. We stopped in the town of Longido for the night where I was enthusiastically greeted by a large group of adolescents.
A termite mound preparing to devastate the telephone pole.
Expansive views as we ride towards the Kenya Tanzania border.
We stopped for the night in Bissil only 55 kilometers from Tanzania.
We stayed at a guesthouse where we met these two guys of the Maasai tribe. We passed through a number of Maasai villages throughout the day.
Goats eating someone’s cabbage through the fence.
With recent terrorist attacks I wanted to avoid Nairobi as much as possible. We took the southern bypass road which skirts the city. This is a picture of one of the slums.
We stopped briefly in Nairobi for a tune up and to get new bar tape and shifting cables. These are the bike mechanics.
We rode into the night to make it out of Nairobi to Mlolongo. I took this photo the following morning. The food was great and lodging affordable.
These cheesy posters I’ve been seeing near Nairobi always make me laugh.
We had a great time with Ben and his family. They were very nice and cooked up an excellent feast for both dinner and breakfast. We had interesting conversations about politics and current events. It was hard to leave this morning.
Arthur stops to reconsider the amount of gear he is carrying on his bike.
Nice looking cactus. Rode through the rift valley (divergent plate boundary where Africa is ripping apart) today. It was beautiful.
On the climb up to the town we slept in near Kijabe Kenya. This mountain is one of many active volcanoes in the rift valley. It is named Mt. Longonot and erupted in the 1860s.
In town tonight I tried a new food called Mukimo. It’s a mix of potatoes and vegetables and tastes great!
The posts on my blog for the next several weeks will be in the format of photos with descriptions.
Interesting parking job!
We were invited to stay with Ben Mutua and his family (a family friend) in Nakuru, Kenya. As it was getting dark I ran over a nail. Arthur and I were able to replace the inner-tube with some effort. By this time it was dark and Ben came and picked us up and drove us the remaining 8 Kilometers to his home.
We had to wait until 8 a.m. for the Safaricom cell phone sim card office to open, so I could purchase a plan. It felt nice sleeping in and the place we stayed in last night was quiet. My only minor complaint is I got electrically shocked when I turned the hot water on this morning for a shower. Just outside of town I bought chapati beans and matoke (cooked unripe bananas) for breakfast. The rest of the day was peaceful aside from one incident. A man yelled for me to stop my bicycle near a shop. I continued riding past him and he proceeded to sprint after me. The ground was flat and I easily outdistanced him. I wasn’t too concerned because he was smiling, but I still didn’t like being chased. I understand that people often have questions they want to ask but I don’t always feel like stopping to answer. Often I like to keep going once I have a good pace. Most of the day was a gentle uphill until we reached Maseno. People were overall very friendly. I had a number of people wave and ask me where I’m headed. I also stopped to talk with another cyclist heading south, named Tania. From Maseno we descended 400 meters over 20 kilometers into Kisumu. On the outskirts of town we were able to negotiate a reasonable price for a hotel room. We went searching for dinner and found an appetizer of lentils inside fried crispy dough. Two nice Kenyans named Lillian and Paul showed us a restaurant where we bought chapati and beans. We talked with them over dinner and learned that they are both in school. They both would like to visit the United States one day, but say it’s extremely difficult to get a visa. Talking with them both tonight made me think again about how fortunate I am to have been born in the United States. We have met a number of people on our trip who talk about how much they would like to emigrate to America. In other news there was a recent terrorist attack in Nairobi. Our friends, the Canadians, were nearby but fortunately were unharmed. We still have 4 days before we will arrive in Nairobi. Hopefully the violence has subsided by then.
The view from the roof of our hotel in Busia Kenya
I didn’t sleep well last night. Around 4 a.m. several people decided to sit on the balcony outside my room, drink and blast music. I had to ask them several times to lower the volume. I woke up around 5:30 a.m. ate some jackfruit that I had purchased yesterday and bananas dipped in peanut butter. We were out by first light, 6:40 a.m., and bicycled 120 kilometers to Busia Kenya. It was an easy ride with less than 500 meters of elevation gain. At one point during my ride a bag fell off my bike without me noticing. I was relieved when a nice man in a mini bus caught up to me and gave me the bag that had fallen off. I was also invited by some locals to check out their rice milling machine and drying operations. I made it to the Kenyan border by 3 p.m. I had a hard time finding and contacting Arthur. I hung out at a restaurant for a couple hours until he responded to my texts and gave me a call. We found an affordably priced guest house and got dinner at the market. I’m excited to find out what Kenya has to offer. I really enjoyed Uganda. The people were nice and the scenery is lush and beautiful.
I was not sure why, but there was a field of brush on fire
The guys who gave me a tour of their rice operations
This morning we didn’t start bicycling until 12 noon. It took us some time to find a bike shop to tune Arthur’s bike, which wasn’t shifting gears properly. We were directed by a local to a bike shop in the cellar of a large building. They were able to fix the issue and Arthur also found a wallet to replace the one he had lost. We stopped just outside of town at a grocery store to purchase water. We didn’t want to filter the tap water in Kampala which has an odd taste. Arthur dropped his wallet in the store. Luckily someone turned it in. The first 20 kilometers were hellacious. Traffic was intense and I had to weave through cars and ride on the sidewalk when I could. The shoulder of the road was bustling with motorcyclists and minibuses trying to get around the traffic. The motorcyclists are the biggest hazard because they drive recklessly. Once we escaped the traffic the rest of the ride was more pleasant. We rode through some villages and through a portion of the Mabira Forest. This brief jungle section was awesome. Large vine covered trees towered next to the road and the jungle provided a reprieve from the day’s heat. We were not allowed to ride on the main bridge into Jinja, which is for cars only. Instead we took a small bridge for bicycles and motorcyclists. On the bridge we stopped to take photos of the dam and city. A Ugandan military guard approached us and threatened to arrest us for taking photos. According to him there was a sign before the bridge that informs people that taking photos on the bridge is prohibited. Neither Arthur nor me saw such sign. He accused us of being terrorists and took our phones and passports. We walked with him across the bridge and he made a quick call. He informed us that he would drop all charges and let us go if we bribed him. At this point I was tired after cycling through the heat of the day and getting frustrated because I just wanted to find a hotel and relax. I thought it would be entertaining if I messed with him a bit. I played along like I was going to give him some money, and then offered him a couple bananas instead knowing that he wouldn’t be interested. I feigned surprise that he didn’t want any bananas and next offered him a piece of Jackfruit. Arthur did a great job of communicating that we weren’t going to give the man any money and called him on his bluff. “Go ahead take us to your superior and arrest us we’ve done nothing wrong”. The guy gave us back our passports and phones and we were on our way. Arthur negotiated to get us reasonably priced rooms at the Maria hotel.
Contraband photo that the Uganda official forgot to have me erase on my camera.
A Dam in Jinja
Another contraband photo of dam
Last night I had a difficult time sleeping. The bar was blasting music until 12 midnight and the hotel owners dog broke off its chain. The dog was howling and barking outside my door all night. I hit the snooze on my alarm and got up 30 minutes later at 5:30 a.m.. One of my panniers lost a critical screw yesterday. I was able to find a replacement in Kyenjojo at an auto repair shop and my bag appears to be fully functional again. The day was overall uneventful. We rode through a number of small towns. Arthur stopped in Kyegegwa for lunch. I ate a bit of pineapple that I had bought earlier in the day, and continued on. I take less time for lunch breaks than Arthur but he tends to cycle a bit faster and catch up to me. This system of me leaving before him has been working out well. We Intended to stop in Kasambya, which would have made today a 140 kilometer day. However, there was nowhere to stay in Kasambya so we continued on another 13 km to Kakungube village. There was lodging at the local bar in Kakungube, but the accomodations were mediocre. Under normal circumstances we would have kept looking for lodging but it was getting dark and we were both exhausted. The bar was the only place in town to sleep, had no electrical outlets to charge electronics, had no running water and the bed was gross.. We were each given a half gallon of water to take bucket shower with. I asked for more water as I was filthy from the ride, but the request was denied. While there was not enough water to completely rinse off the soap i had lathered on, I was relieved nonetheless to be somewhat cleaner. For dinner we went to the local street vendors and secured chapati, eggs, and beans. I also purchased iced ginger sweet tea from a woman. Buying street food has been one of my favorite experiences on this trip. When we returned to our rooms we were both cornered by a prostitute soliciting her services. I politely declined and went to bed. Today we cycled a record distance of 89.8 miles
We ate chapati and beans in town for breakfast then left around 10 a.m.. A few hours into the day we made it to Fort Portal and stopped for lunch. I purchased and finished an entire container of mango vanilla ice cream and Arthur ate real meal at a small restaurant. We finished the day in Kyenjojo. It was 80km and I wanted to go further, but Arthur had a tough day and it was getting late. We resolved to bike further tomorrow.
Critical screw in my pannier(bike bag) missing
We left Rubirizi today and headed into queen Elizabeth Park. The roads were in poor condition. In the park I spotted an Elephant (unfortunately the picture didn’t come out on my camera) and also saw several water buffaloes. Midday it was swelteringly hot and humid. I stopped at a roadside store and purchased a pineapple drink and some water. After my first drink of the pineapple juice, I thought I had been poisoned. The drink tasted like cherry cough syrup with menthol. I asked some of the locals and was relieved when they told me the drink is supposed to taste this way. I gave one of them the drink and continued on. Towards the end of the day We found a bar/lodge establishment. The bar lady told me the rooms were 115000. I knew this was too high and told her so. I was willing to pay 10000 ($2.70) for my own room. That’s what Arthur and I had spent for our own rooms over the last couple days. It was one of the easiest negotiation I’ve ever taken part in. She seemed content with my offer and accepted immediately with no counter offer. There was a sewing shop in town and I was able to replace my broken shorts zipper again. This is the third zipper that I’ve put on the same shorts pocket and hopefully the last replacement I will need. I had an egg burrito and beans for dinner. Around 11 P.M. I heard some banging on my door. A local man, I had talked with earlier in the day, said Arthur had run off into the distance, and in a drunken rage threatened to fight the locals when they asked him to come back to the hotel. I was able to find him and convince him to stumble back to the hotel. His wallet and room key were gone, but fortunately he didn’t have anything in his wallet aside from a few dollars and the receptionist had an extra key.
Straddling the equator
Tourist trap and crazy folk medicine at the equator
The guys who cooked us breakfast this morning
These large birds are everywhere in Uganda
Kids enjoying the water
We left Ntungamo this morning and took a shortcut which saved us at least 50km to Ishaka. The first 20km were rough dirt roads. Locals waved as we rode passed small villages. An hour into the ride I passed a particularly excited bunch who were laughing and standing by the road. A woman reached out and touched my leg as I rode by. It struck me as strange but I think she was just really excited to see a white person. It took us nearly 3 hours to bike the 20km of dirt. My bike and body took a beating and it was a relief when we made it to smooth pavement. In the town of Kitaga we had lunch. I had African tea which is common here in Uganda. It’s hot milk with tea and sugar. I really like it, but miss the fresh coffee of Ethiopia. We stopped for lunch just in time. Just as we were sitting down it started to rain lightly and about a minute later it came down in torrents. The street gutters quickly filled and I watched in awe under the shelter of a nice tin roof. Its supposedly the dry season here in Uganda, but dry is just about the last word I would use to describe the weather we’ve been experiencing. It passed quickly and were back on the road. I bought passion fruit at a small stand. A woman with a child in her arms asked me where I was from. When I told her America, she asked if I would take her child with me. It saddened me to see the sincerity in her eyes and I wish I could have. It’s hard to believe that a mother would be willing to make the sacrifice and give away her child so he could have a better life.
Happy to have shelter during the torrential down pour
A dirt road segment
A large papyrus field
Beautiful tea fields
Watching steam rise from the jungle after a recent rain
After packing up and drinking coffee, Arthur, Gilles, and I were on the road. The hotel owner who brought us hot water to make Arthur’s powdered coffee requested that we pay him. Arthur told him he was crazy and that there is no way we were going to pay him for hot water. He didn’t argue further and we left. We rode for 27 kilometers to the border where we entered Uganda at the town of Cyanika. I’m happy to say the border crossing process was quick and a lot less painful than our experience entering Rwanda. On the Uganda side we bought a chapati and egg burritos and continued on. We rode with Gilles until Kisoro where we parted. He wanted to stay and hike with the Gorillas the following day. Shortly after, I accidentally clipped a woman with my bike. She went spinning like a top and fell. I felt terrible and apologized profusely. Fortunately aside from a bruise she was o.k. A couple miles later we started a climb. On our way up the mountain it started to rain. The rain kept me cool and felt great. The climb was terrific. We went through pine and bamboo forests and had excellent views of the landscape. Near the top I was very hungry and we were fortunate to come across a trading center where Arthur and I bought eggs, fried beans, and chapati. On the way down we got our first views of Lake Bunyoni. We decided to take the direct route and follow the lake along a dirt road to Kabale. The road was in decent condition and I enjoyed watching the sun set as we rode along. Around 7:30 p.m. the sun had set and it was dark. We were still 15 km from Kabale. At this point Arthur and I had been harassed by a number of children. They were friendly and I stopped a number of times to answer their questions “where are you from” “where are you going” and to say no to the begging for money and pens. However, no matter how long I stopped, when I started biking again they would chase and grab at my bike following me for hundreds of meters. I didn’t have time to waste and quickly tired of the games. I yelled for them to go home which had little effect aside from a few laughs from the parents and other adults nearby. Thankfully when it got dark all the children disappeared. I turned on my bike light and put on my headlamp and we rode several hours into the night. The stars were beautiful and I had occasional views of the lake lit up with the white lights from local resident’s huts. I could see lightning in the distance. The road descended the last couple miles into Kabale. It was an exhilarating descent and required all of my attention to avoid hitting potholes and bumps. In Kabale we found an affordable hotel and walked down the street for food. A man we saw earlier in the day at the border, nicknamed “Big Daddy”, was impressed with our progress and offered us a free drink if we wanted to come to his bar. I was too tired and crashed after dinner.
Local bikers overloaded with potatoes
An awkward group photo with our friend Gilles before we parted ways
The dirt road along the lake
We took the day off in town. Arthur could barely walk from the hike yesterday. I wasn’t feeling great myself. I also got a haircut. It wasn’t the style I asked for. However, I was not surprised. I’m convinced the man cutting my hair was high on some sort of drug. Most likely Khat, a popular stimulant in this area of the world. His hands were shaking violently and he was cutting my hair frantically. I was thankful it looked somewhat even when he was finished.
The man who tuned my bike and his family/friends
We decided to hike Mt. Bisoke today. Mt. Bisoke is an active volcano on the border of Rwanda and Democratic Republic of the Congo. I awoke at 5 a.m. and packed my bag. Arthur and I found motorcycle taxis and got a ride to the park headquarters where we paid the park fees and drank some coffee. We were required to hike as a group with several other foreigners and went with a scout, ranger, and several armed men to protect us from “the animals”. The armed guards were more likely due to the fact that we are walking to the border of the Congo. The hike was a blast. It started gradually. We walked through farm fields of white flowers which are used to produce an insecticide. Soon after the real climb started. The total ascent to the top was about 1000 meters (3000 ft). Most of the climb is direct straight up the mountainside which was steep and muddy. After 3 hours we made it to the top. I had already finished all my bananas and peanut butter by the time we reached the top. Gilles, our cycling friend, was nice enough to share some of his and his friend Carolyne’s lunch with me. The clouds cleared at the top and we could see the caldera (collapsed crater of the volcano). The descent was more difficult than the climb up. Going down used the same muscles in my legs that were already sore from bicycling. The mud was slippery and I fell several times. When we made it to the bottom I was exhausted but happy to have experienced the hike.
Today was challenging. We rode 90 kilometers to to the town of Musanze. There was almost 2000 meters of elevation gain. I had a great time. I’m relieved to be out of Ethiopia. I haven’t had anyone throw rocks or threaten me in this country. People have been friendly. We had several groups of children run next to us on foot and wave. I find that it’s difficult for me to let my guard down after my previous experiences in Ethiopia. However, the kids here seem well intentioned. For several kilometers we had a local follow along on a bicycle. He didn’t speak any English, yet still talked to us in his language as if we could understand him. As we got close to Musanze, I came across numerous bicycle taxis. One of which followed me up the hill. The man was surprised to hear that we rode all the way from Kigali. When I made it to the top I was thoroughly tired. Even though it was only a small climb it had been a long day.
I’m impressed by what these locals can carry on their bikes. I’ve also seen men with up to 100 kilograms of potatoes dragging their feet to slow down their bikes
Arthur getting chased by a bunch of children.
We awoke early to go mountain biking. Amirit picked us up in his van and we all went down to the dock at the edge of Lake Victoria. Here we met several other cyclists and we all boarded a small canoe like boat with an outboard engine. We crossed a finger of the lake and landed at our mountain bike destination. Here Arthur and I paid for a motorcycle ride to the bike shop to rent some bikes. The rest of the day was awesome. We rode all over along the lake on a dirt single track and through brush at times. I rode at exhilarating speeds down the hills, occasionally barely in control. We rode past small banana, jackfruit, and pepper farms and through sections of jungle inhabited by monkeys. We spent several hours riding before we returned to town and got motorcycle rides back to the hotel. Our bicycles had arrived at our hotel and after some deliberation agreed it would be best to jump on a bus tonight at 9 p.m. to Rwanda with the bikes. By the time we bought the tickets we had to scramble to walk our bikes a kilometer to the bus station and then return to pack our bags in time.
View of Kampala shoreline from boat
Bikes piled on the boat
The boat ride over with mountain biking friends
ll the guys I biked with. Photo taken by Paul Amirit
Jackfruit Tree Taxi ride back
Most of the day I hung out and slept. Arthur and I met a nice man named Paul Amirit who had just finished worship inside the Sikh temple. He invited us to come with his friend to a movie and to go mountain biking tomorrow. The city of Kampala is possibly the most western city I’ve been in so far. There are high rise buildings in the city center. Modern conveniences, like grocery stores, are also available on almost every street corner. Kampala is culturally interesting because the country of Uganda welcomes refugees and people from other countries. Therefore the city consists of a mixture of Ugandans, Indians, and Somalians. There are mosques as well as Sikh temples and Christian churches all over the city. Dinner tonight was fantastic. I had sweet and sour vegetables with yogurt inside a crunchy bread roll at a small Indian restaurant. I had never tried anything like it before. Amirit picked us up and I finished dinner on the way to the movie theater. We saw Aqua man which was entertaining. It was nice to have a mental break from the stress of our lost bicycles.
Traditional Ugandan food. Rice, beans, matoke (cooked green banana) and chapati (bread dough cooked in oil)
I stayed up all night updating my journal and sending pictures. I was very excited when the van arrived this morning. We packed up and the taxi driver strapped both bike boxes to the roof. I was a bit apprehensive that they would fall off given the shoddy way the driver strapped them down. Fortunately we made it to the airport without any issues. Checking our luggage with Kenya airlines was anything but simple. We had to pay for the airline to wrap our improvised rice bag luggage in plastic film. It took nearly 1.5 hours to check the bikes. The Kenyan Airway manager demanded that we pay in USD however American money is very difficult to acquire here in Ethiopia without losing a lot in the exchange. By staying firm and saying I wouldn’t pay in USD and telling him he would have to accept the currency of Ethiopia he finally conceded. When we boarded the plane I was relieved to have made it in time for the flight and also to have a few hours aboard to relax. The flight had good food and we were able to secure exit row seats on both flights. I was very happy to be on a flight out of Ethiopia, however I had the uncomfortable feeling that I was escaping Ethiopia too easily. When we landed my suspicions were confirmed. The airline was insistent that our bikes were not “lost” only “missing”. This verbiage did little to assuage my fears and we would spend the next 2 days waiting for our bikes to show up. With some haggling we got a taxi to Kampala the capital of Uganda. With services like taxis that are readily available I’ve found it’s best to offer a price well below what they are asking and when they decline walk away. Often these guys are desperate for business and are more willing to negotiate when they know you are prepared to take your business elsewhere. When we made it to Kampala we found an affordable hotel for 40000 or about 10 USD for a room in the old district. The streets here are bustling with motorcycle taxis. I would say there are easily 2 or 3 times more motorcycles than cars. The “Boarders”, as the Ugandan locals call them, fly through the streets at sometimes reckless speeds and bob and weave through traffic in hordes. This makes crossing the street as a pedestrian a somewhat treacherous endeavor. Not even the side of the streets are safe. When cars get backed up in the streets the Boarders take their bikes up on the sidewalk. After settling into our hotel, The Rock Classic, we headed out for food. We found a street vendor in front of a bar cooking meat, french fries, and eggs. I bought several egg Chapati burritos and sat in the bar to watch the soccer game. The bar was booming and it was entertaining to watch the game as rowdy Ugandans stood up and yelled whenever a goal was made
Not stoked about how these bikes were strapped down but fortunately they didn’t fall off during the drive.
Happy to be leaving Ethiopia
Kampala street food
A number of events occurred over the last couple days. Arthur and I were on the fence about whether we were going to cycle southern Ethiopia. Adrien, Simon, and Tomas had already booked a flight to Uganda to avoid the region. Our original planned path routed us through the border town of Moyale which has erupted in inter-tribal violence within the past few weeks. We had heard reports of burning buildings and dead bodies on the streets of Moyale. We were of the belief that changing our route to go further west, through Lake Turkana instead, might allow us to avoid such the violence and bloodshed. We spent several days talking to several different diplomats, people on the streets and the local police. Almost everyone advised us not to travel further south. It was an Ethiopian government official, named Tetebe, who finally convinced us to abandon the idea when he mentioned civilians being killed in several of the towns as well as grenades being thrown. He said biking through the region was like going through a pack of wolves that may, or may not, attack. As difficult as it is to concede to skipping the southern half of Ethiopia Arthur and I agreed it was not worth the risk and booked flights to Uganda. In town I also lost another phone to theft. I had it mounted on my bike for navigation. A man who had just given us directions to where we needed to go, went to shake my hand. When I shook his hand he pulled me off balance and snatched my phone out of the mount. I threw my bike down and chased after him. I didn’t stand much of a chance in flip flops and threw them off. As I chased him over a garbage dump barefoot, he turned up a busy street and disappeared. My feet were badly cut up during the barefoot chase. I spent a couple hours talking with the police, which I figured was a waste of time , but a local had insisted they could find my phone. Nothing came of it and the next day Arthur and I headed to the Mercato, or market section of town, to fix Arthur’s phone which was broken and find a new one for me. Our stay was not entirely negative in Addis Ababa. The Ethiopian traditional food in town is phenomenal and I drank fresh avocado, and mango juices almost every day. A nice man at a bike shop also helped us out by giving us boxes to package our bikes for the plane. I was also able to relax and do a lot of reading.
One of many fantastic juices I drank in Addis Ababa.
The nice woman who fixed my shorts and bike bag zippers.
Watch out Ethiopia I have a stick!
Today we had less than 80km to make it to Addis Ababa. Tomas felt sick and took a bus to town. I awoke excited because once we made it to Addis we planned on taking a few days off. Overall the day was uneventful. We had heard the Canadians had difficulty with locals riding this stretch the day before. Whenever I sensed potential harassment from somebody. I made a gesture to grab for my stick. This seemed to speak louder than words ever could. People left me alone. Riding through towns, I noticed that peoples eyes seemed to gravitate towards it. Some people pointed at it and smiled. I seem to get more respect with the stick. Many people in Ethiopia especially in the country side carry them. Throughout the day a number of people smiled and pointed as if to say look at that white guy on the bike he also whacks or threatens people with sticks. One guy in a truck ahead of me proudly waved his goat skinned covered stick out the window which I interpreted as him saying welcome to the club. Before reaching town I had one last climb followed by a long descent. Cars were backed up for miles bumper to bumper. I weaved through cars until I made it to the top where I found military officials stopping cars. I’m not sure what they were looking for but was glad they didn’t stop me. I rode swiftly down the hill and into the piazza district where I located the Baro Hotel and retired for the day.
After yesterday, I was tired and slept in until 6:30 this morning. Arthur left without breakfast but I stayed behind with Adrien, Simon, Tomas at roadside shop in Dejen for eggs. We each asked for 5 eggs but only got a small amount. They all left and I ordered another meal of Shiro (an Ethiopian traditional food) which consists of powdered chickpeas,onions, garlic and tomato. It typically comes with Injera but I ordered it with normal bread. I am happy to say its been over a week since I’ve had to eat Injera and I hope to finish my trip without eating any more. After these two meals I felt full and ready for the descent into the Blue Nile Gorge and the 1400m ascent that follows for 20km. The road down was treacherous. Large grooves had been worn into the pavement over time. Potholes and bumps were abundant and the road frequently turned to gravel or rocky dirt for small patches. I had to brake often to avoid gaining too much speed and becoming air born upon hitting bumps. The road was steep and my brakes and bicycle rims quickly heated up. I was a bit nervous that I might melt the brakes from all the heat. I passed a number of large trucks which were traveling slowly down the road to avoid hitting potholes and in order navigate the sharp turns. By the time I reached the bottom I was ready for a change and excited to start climbing. I crossed over a bridge and a police checkpoint. The police waved there hands and gestured for me to stop. I waved at them and pedaled away. It sometimes feels like the police are out to make your life difficult and I didn’t have the patience this morning to empty all my bags out or explain my trip itinerary. I was also fearful after my experience in Egypt that they might tell me I couldn’t cycle on this road. Thankfully they did not follow me and I began the ascent. Along the way there were a number of baboons and I stopped to take pictures of them. It was neat slowly climbing out of the gorge. I was only able to pedal 6-7 km/hr (4-5mph). The Blue Nile Gorge is Ethiopia’s version of the Grand Canyon in America. The road had a number of turns and often opened up to large views of terraced farm landscapes. Halfway up the climb I stopped in the small roadside town of Filiklik. Tomas caught up and we both sat down for lunch. I bought some biscuits and ordered scrambled eggs, a coke, and two coffees. I talked to a couple of locals including one crazy Ethiopian who had his shirt pulled up and stomach pushed out and kept talking to me in amharic as if I could understand. The other guy I was talking to spoke English well and told me not to mind the crazy man. We watched as hordes of children in matching uniforms finished school for the afternoon and walked up the street for lunch. By the time we finished lunch it was getting warm out so I took a few pitchers full of water and poured them all over my clothing. The remainder of the ascent went smoothly. A few children were asking for pens and money but they were not aggressive. I made an effort to wave, smile, and keep the children engaged in conversation as I pass, to minimizes my chances of getting stoned. An hour or so later I reached the top. I noticed my front wheel was wobbling and stopped to tighten the bolts. 4 or 5 teenagers crowded around to watch me and ask questions. I don’t like being crowded especially when I am preoccupied working on something. I struggled with this earlier in the trip when I was in Sudan. I have since become accustomed to it and have accepted that its just part of the experience being a white man traveling through rural villages in Africa. A kilometer after tightening my wheel, I arrived in Gohatsion and caught up with Arthur and Tomas. The two Canadians have taken a bus to another town further south. Adrien has been throwing up and feeling ill the last couple days. We suspect its altitude sickness. I checked out a number of hotels and settled on one that was clean, large enough to hold my bike in the room and only 100 birr (less than 4usd). I had a hell of a time communicating with the two kids running the hotel. While inexpensive, the trade off at this hotel was that there was no running water. Instead I used a bucket of water to flush the toilet and wash my hands. I ordered an egg sandwich and Shiro for second lunch and relaxed for the remainder of the afternoon. We only biked 40km but we hadn’t anticipated making much progress and were all happy to have made it up the gorge. I had a vegetable sandwich for dinner at a hotel across the way. Upon returning to my hotel one of the kids hovered over me as I unlocked my room and he cut a nasty fart that unfortunately got trapped in my room as I shut the door.
Near the top of the climb.
Baboons on the ride up Blue Nile Gorge.
This morning we passed a town with women carrying pots of water on their heads. Tomas noticed his rack was broken and used some tape and a hose clamp to make a temporary repair. I had some kids chase after me and ask me for money. I have found that if you talk to the kids, wave, say hello, and spout a fair amount of gibberish they more often than not refrain from throwing rocks at you. Knowing that the day was not going to be easy, I let Thomas and Arthur ride ahead and I rode at a slow pace for the first 400 meter climb. We had 1400m of climbing to do in 114km. Adrien had bad food poisoning again and took a bus with Simon ahead. We stopped for breakfast in Amanuel and had some eggs. In Debre Markos, I purchased some tasty toasted barley and peanut mix and continued on until I caught up with Tomas. We ate vegetable pasta in a small town. We finished the day’s ride in Dejen, the town at the cusp of the descent into the infamous Blue Nile Gorge.
This view reminds me of Kansas
These guys have my respect taking down a large tree without the use of power tools
Today was fantastic. Its wheat and pepper harvest time and we’ve been riding through rolling farm land hills. The kids were pleasant for the most part, and I can happily say it was a uneventful day. There was some begging for money and pens and I had one fist sized rock thrown at me , but it thankfully flew through my spokes without doing any damage. I got into a good rhythm listening to my breathing, which felt meditative, as I climbed up a sizable hill. We stopped in the town of Demebecha for the night. I had quite the experience finding the right hotel room. I locked myself into the first room and couldn’t get out because the lock was damaged. I had to pass the key under the door to a hotel worker who unlocked the door. The second room he showed me the same thing happened. At this point I was becoming increasingly angry and frustrated. Fortunately the third room had a new lock which was fully functional.
A bunch of hay stacks I saw right before almost getting hit by a large projectile rock.
Canadian friend Adrien riding through the heat of the day.
This morning upon entering the bathroom I was greeted by clouds of buzzing mosquitoes. Thankfully I had a mosquito net on my bed last night. Up to this point the mosquitoes have not been bad. Bahir Dar is situated along lake Tana, which along with a new invasive plant growing in the lake, serve as a perfect breeding ground for the mosquitoes. I took a quick cold shower and we were on the road. We had breakfast at our hotel and caught up with Tomas and the Canadians who had left before us from the town of Merawi. I asked the guys to keep an eye on my stuff while I searched out a pit toilet to pee. I would normally just urinate behind a bush, but In Ethiopia people seem to be everywhere it’s hard to have any privacy. When I returned I noticed that my Garmin GPS was gone. I walked up to a man who had just passed my bike and said hello while looking at his pockets for the familiar bulge of my GPS. Some other locals came over and could see that I was disturbed and asked me what the problem was. I told them what had happened and they incorrectly assumed the man I was talking to had stolen it and started smacking him. I tried to intervene, and they stopped eventually after interrogating the poor man. A crowd quickly formed around us at the cafe. A local man came up to me and said don’t worry we will help you out. After 15 or so minutes a teenager came up and passed my garmin to the man who returned it to me and apologized on the kids behalf. I was so relieved. Overall the whole experience was stressful, but it was uplifting to feel like this Ethiopian man and village was looking out for us. The man told us that they were not bad people. Shortly after leaving this town Tomas broke his chain. We all stopped and helped him put on a new chain. The rest of the day was pretty peaceful and people were very friendly until the last 20km. From Adis Kidani until we made it to Injibara we encountered more hostile stares and rock throwing from the locals. I passed a group of school children in uniforms who jeered at me and one girl who was carrying a branch roughly 3 times her height wacked me with it. I stopped my bike and was deciding how to respond when I saw the adult chaperone of the school children staring at me menacingly. I resumed riding, not wanting to test the man, as he looked ready to put a knife in my back. It seems like this sort of behavior is condoned. I later learned that Simon had rocks thrown at him by the same group and when he went to throw some back the same man looked at him and shook his head.
Farmer tilling his field with oxen.
Finishing the day … riding into Injabara.
We biked to Bahir Dar today. We had a number of school children throw rocks at Arthur and me. None hit me thankfully but Arthur got hit in the back and got off his bike to chase the children. The horn I have is often enough to stun the children long enough to distance myself. I still had a pleasant day of cycling and enjoyed the rolling green hills. We stopped at the Paradise cafe in Wereta and enjoyed breakfast. Mid meal I watched a power line transformer explode and send arcs of bright white sparks into the air. A group formed to watch the spectacle. The pole soon caught on fire and men started throwing dirt at the transformer to try and smother it. The power went out across the neighborhood. We continued cycling. As I got close to Bahir Dar I passed a college of agricultural and climate sciences. The city of Bahir Dar is neat. It’s interesting to see modern buildings again and a western resembling city. The people of Bahir Dar seem to have an unhealthy obsession with having clean shoes. On almost every street corner there were hustlers offering to clean my shoes
Ethiopian traditional homes. Eucalyptus wood and mud sealed houses with tin roofs. Eucalyptus is not native to Ethiopia but grows quickly and has been planted everywhere for timber
We left Gonder for Addis Zemen. Adrien and Simon our two Canadian friends were several days ahead of us as they didn’t go on the Semien mountain tour and had agreed to wait for us in Bahir Dar. It’s odd to admit it, however after traveling for more than a month now, it feels like I’m suffering from culture shock. Ethiopia is very different from Sudan. Throughout the day I had a number of children throw rocks at me when I refused to give them money. There was even a man in his 20’s who threatened to throw a large rock at me until I acknowledged him and shook my head to say no don’t throw that at me. He laughed and dropped the rock. Little did I know at the time that this would not be the last time I was threatened by an adult. Before our second large climb of the day, the three of us stopped to eat some bananas and bread at a café . We attracted a small crowd of children who were intrigued by us and watched our every move. On the climb up, several young adults took an interest in the bread and bananas strapped to my bike. I told them a number of times that they could not have my food. I was tired from the climbing and in no mood to acquiesce to the constant nagging. Today I’d encountered demands by Ethiopians for money, office stationary items such as pens and several other odd request. The people are not starving in Ethiopia it seems more like an expectation that since I’m white I should give them stuff. If I agreed to every request I would likely be walking the streets destitute and completely naked. Anyway, the men started grabbing for my food on the bike and I was close to exchanging punches. I never thought I’d be close to getting into a fight over oranges but I had had enough. Luckily it didn’t come down to fighting and I kept pedaling up the mountain. I summited the peak and screamed at a kid who angrily chased me for the bananas strapped on the back of my bike, even after I told him no several times in a calm mild mannered tone. Today I learned to conceal my food within my backpack so it is not visible while riding. The descent into Addis Zemen was exhilarating and I was able to reach 30 to 40 mph with fantastic views which made the climb up well worth the effort. We found a cheap hotel for 100 Birr per room or about 4 us dollars per night. I ate pasta and eggs for dinner and enjoyed a beer at a bar playing reggae music.
Awesome rock pillar on side of road during descent into Addis Zemen
Tomas, Arthur, and I had a great couple days hiking in the Semien mountains. We were joined by several cooks and tour guides, a Canadian, and two German tourists. The scale of these mountains is incredible. They were formed over 25 million years ago by a shield volcano that deposited magma over 3 km thick. over time erosion has created spectacular several thousand foot sheer cliffs. The park is a world heritage site and has some of the highest mountains in the African continent. From the top I could see miles of terraced hills and farmland. We saw a number of wild baboons and antelope. Every night I ate incredible cooked meals. We camped In open meadows (not the best for condensation) I awoke soaked one night and the next night with a sheet of ice over my tent. It was chilly at the high elevations. On the last day we summited Imet Gogo Peak at 3926 meters.
December 13 Pictures:
Farmers still use traditional methods to harvest barley in the Semien mountains. Horses or other livestock walk in circles over grain to process it.
Our guard holding a very old rifle that was passed down to him. He loved having pictures taken of himself.
December 14th Pictures
December 15th Pictures
Rock scramble to the top of Imet Gogo peak.
I took a rest day today and arranged a 3 day trek through the mountains for the next few days. I walked around Gonder and caught up on journaling. I also got the chance to try some honey wine which is called Tej. I’m having a difficult time with the people here in Ethiopia. The kids have been fantastic for the most part so far. But there’s a vibe of resentment towards foreigners especially here in Gonder. I had an intoxicated Ethiopian man walk behind me tonight as I was returning to my hotel and say “I don’t care about you. This is my country!”
We were not allowed to continue on bicycle to Gonder and instead took a police convoy with a man on a sniper rifle and several other men standing armed and alert with fingers trigger ready semiautomatic rifles. The streets were empty. For most of our 60 km to Gonder we saw very few people. A few miles into the ride one of the men accidentally released his clip on his rifle. It consequently fell onto the pavement scattering rounds everywhere. The man was chastised for his mistake and we waited while several men jumped out and collected/counted all the rounds to assure that they found every last bullet. This whole incident inspired little confidence in our escorts. I can thankfully say that the ride was uneventful and the military personnel were all very polite. They even shared some of their energy ration biscuits. I wouldn’t be surprised if these snacks have a 100 year shelf life they were pretty plain and made the USA MREs seem extremely flavorful in comparison. Nonetheless it was nice having bland food that didn’t upset my stomach. When we arrived in Gonder someone snatched my phone while I was assembling my bags on my bike. I had a tough day. Getting a new phone involved first buying a phone that didn’t work and having to return it to the con man and argue and yell at him for an hour with a couple of local guys that were helping me out. I was able to get most of my money back. I then purchased what I thought was a new phone only to discover several days later that the phone was hacked and had spyware installed on it.
Police escort to Gonder was fun even though I was a bit apprehensive at first.
Today was epic but brutal. We cycled through some beautiful mountains and had a 800 meter climb in a 10 km stretch. I struggled to make it up the climb. All day kids yelled “you you you” which means hello and ran next to us. I enthusiastically waved back and responded the same. I passed many kids and saw one girl pick up a rock but she was so excited that I was saying hello and acknowledging her presence that I think she forgot entirely about her intention to throw the rock. An excited kid also grabbed onto the back of my bike and pushed me up a small portion of the hill. The roads were well paved and very quiet with few vehicles; a sign of the political unrest. In the recent past, cyclists were forced to skip this whole section due to open gunfire and ethnic fighting. I saw a number of men in groups carrying rifles throughout the day. I smiled and waved to most of them and they were all friendly. I stopped and gestured with one group to ask if it was safe to proceed and they seemed to think so. I also passed a flipped 18 wheel truck blocking the highway with an armed man seated inside. He didn’t want his picture taken. I wondered why they left the truck blocking the road and came to the conclusion that it was likely a blockade left there strategically to allow the armed men to control who can pass through. Just as it was getting dark and within a few miles of our goal the town of Aiykl I came upon a military checkpoint where we all had to stop and were required to stay. We all slept in an empty cement floored building for the night. We had pasta with some of the military men whom openly told us we would pay more than other military personnel because we were Ferengi or foreigners. This was my first experience paying the “white man tax” which is quite common in Ethiopia. We were also adamantly told not to go outside at night. I could only postulate why. I had another incidence of food poisoning and pooped in a bag in the corner of the room fearful that if I went outside I might be mistaken for a rebel and shot.
Sunrise in Ethiopia
Getting chased by pack of children asking for money
We awoke early and cycled 35 km to the following town with a hotel. We breakfasted in a small village on our way. I felt like the main attraction for the village this morning. Just about every child and many of the adults crowded around to watch us eat. I got my first taste of Injaru with beef. Injaru is a wet sour bread that in my opinion makes a better science experiment than a food. We decided to call it a day in Shehibi, as the next town was 100 km away through an area known to have recently had ethnic fighting between different tribes. I have no desire to camp in this region. We visited a few different coffee shops that were roasting fresh beans in pans. The coffee here has been spectacular. The Sudanese love to load their coffee with cardamon and a ridiculous amount of sugar its great to have normal tasting coffee. Whats a bit concerning is the number of local Ethiopian men that walk around town armed with AK47s and other semiautomatic rifles.
We got an early start for the border The riding was fantastic. We rode through beautiful plains and climbed a small hill before the border. The first real hill we have encountered of the trip so far. Egypt and Sudan were very flat. Upon arriving in Galabat the border town on the Sudanese side we took care of all the paperwork and bureaucratic steps involved with exiting Sudan and entering Ethiopia. On the Ethiopian side we got our fingerprints taken and what I presumed to be an infrared thermometer gun pointed at our foreheads to test us for Ebola. Thankfully I don’t have the Ebola. In the Ethiopian office was a calendar showcasing a picture of a cold glass of beer. As if to say welcome to Ethiopia we aren’t Muslim and we drink beer. We stayed in Metema Ethiopia that night and celebrated. Some shifty money changers followed us to the hotel and I got shorted a few dollars in the exchange.
The women of Sudan wear colorful clothing which is a welcome change from all the black shrouds of Egypt
The landscape is changing.
We left mid morning because Doka is only 81 km away which shouldn’t take more than 5 hours to bicycle. We have to sleep in Doka because it is the only town between where we are in Gedaref and the border town of Metema in Ethiopia. We had heard that this whole border area is unstable as border areas often are in Africa and decided we shouldn’t camp. Much of the day we spent taking breaks at a number of different coffee shops and small cafes along the route. The road went to shit 20 km before Doka and we had to swerve all over the road to avoid giant pieces of pavement that were missing. At times the road looked like a half completed child’s puzzle. I felt even worse for the cars and minibuses that braved the road. They were unable to travel much faster than we could on bicycles. We arrived in the town of Doka around nightfall and checked into the camp we were staying at. It was basic but surrounded by a corrugated gated fence which made it worthwhile. We slept on cots under a straw roof and found Falafels for dinner and some snacks for the next morning.
I awoke at 3 am and was out by 4:15 am so I could get to the town of Gedaref early enough to get my Ethiopian visa. I didn’t sleep well last night as the police came in several times to arrange furniture for another guest who arrived later in my room. It took longer than I anticipated to bike the remaining 90 km to town because I was riding against some nasty winds. I made it to town by 10:30 am and met Arthur and the Canadians at the consulate to get our visas. I bought some grilled chicken and ice cream for lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon at the Motakwil hotel. I later headed out alone for dinner. I found some more Foole and got some hard boiled eggs shredded on top. It tasted great I don’t think Ill ever get sick of eating beans. There hasn’t been a lot of variety in my diet while travelling through Sudan but I’m normally pleased with the meals. I’m thankful that I enjoy beans. The Canadians don’t share the same love for beans and have been having a difficult time finding other food choices. After finishing my meal a Sudanese man named Munadil and his father sat down at my table. They insisted that I share their meal with them. I politely declined as I was already full but hung out with them as they ate. Afterwards Munadil bought me tea and I enjoyed talking with them both and hearing their stories. They live 15 km outside of town on a farm and were nice enough to invite to stay with them for the night. I wish I could have stayed with him but I couldn’t because we are all leaving in the morning for Doka.
Nice man I met at dinner in Gedarif named Munadil
I awoke this morning hoping I would feel well enough that I could bicycle. If I couldn’t bicycle I would be forced to skip the section from Wad Medani to Gedaref (the next town) in order to make it to the Ethiopian consulate to get my visa before they close for the weekend (Friday Saturday for Muslim countries). Thankfully I felt well enough to give it a shot. I need to bicycle 230 km in a day and a half which is ambitious considering I have not eaten much in the past few days. Arthur and the Canadians did not feel well enough to bicycle and agreed to take the bus and meet me in Gedaref so I’m cycling this section alone. I left the imperial hotel by 4:30 am and faced some strong headwinds for the first couple of miles. After the sun came up I heard some gunshots nearby and was relieved when I saw it was just a farmer killing a goat. Shortly after while I was looking down at my phone I hit a sizable pothole which sent me flying. Fortunately aside from a couple scrapes I was fine. I put a few holes in one of my bags and destroyed a pair of headphones but was on my way again after cleaning my scrapes and re-seating my bike chain on the cassettes. I stopped at a police checkpoint briefly for a cold mango drink and continued on. At 10:00 am I rode through the small village of Fao. I was making good progress and decided I had earned a break having cycled 82 km (50 miles). I stopped at a small building on the side of the road to order some food. Upon entering the restaurant most conversations quieted down and people turned and stared at me. This is fairly common as the small towns I’m travelling through get few foreigners. I met the stares with a smile and polite wave saying “salam” which means hello in Arabic. The people responded in kind and most returned back to their conversations. I ordered some Foole which came with fresh tomatoes and bread. By the time I saw the man put the tomatoes in the beans it was too late to say no. I took a chance and ate the Foole anyway. After this last bout of food poisoning I’ve become reluctant to eat any uncooked vegetables or foods. I was eager to keep going because it was still cool outside and finished my meal in 15 minutes. Just after leaving Fao, Arthur, and the Canadians caught up in their bus and stopped for one of the guys to defecate behind a small bush. The ride looked unpleasant, the 3 of them and their bikes were crammed in a small minibus. I talked with them for a few minutes before I was off again. I saw a Sudanese man on the side of the road and slapped his hand. He said something in Arabic and when I continued riding started yelling and sprinting after me while motioning for me to stop. Suffice it to say I had no intention of stopping for this mad man. He was a fast sprinter and began to gain on me as I tried to pedal away. It should be easy to out pedal someone on foot however accelerating with 100 lbs of gear and into the wind is often slow going. As I looked back I couldn’t help but smile from the thrill and adrenaline of the chase which seemed to further infuriate the man. About 100 meters down the road the angry man began to tire and I out cycled him. In these journals I make an effort to give an authentic account of what my trip has really been like both the positive and negative experiences. I don’t want to give the wrong impression of Sudan. this was the only experience I’ve had this far in Sudan where I was a bit concerned for my safety. Almost every day I have truck drivers pass me by and ask if I’m ok, people often greet me with enthusiasm and welcome me to their country. I overall feel safer in Sudan than I do back home given how I’ve seen the Muslims of Sudan look out for me and each other. Life is difficult here in Sudan and there is an established age old tradition of hospitality. As I continued on I cycled past mountains and through a pass which opened up into sweeping plains. It was now becoming increasingly hot and I had to cycle another 25 km (15 miles) before I came upon a small roadside town. At this point I had ridden 140 km. Tomas the Irishman informed me that the next town wasn’t for 45 km. It was only 1:30 pm but I didn’t have the energy to continue on. I found a place to sleep in a small hut and slept all afternoon. As it was getting dark I was told I had to register with the local police. The police were nice enough to let me stay at the police station for my safety (not really given a choice). It’s kind of embarrassing but its fairly common when I tell Sudanese people I’m from America they respond with “America #1”. Its not unlikely that the local police feared the repercussions should something happen to an American in their town. Regardless it was the nicest place to stay in town having electricity, a cement floor and four walls and I was thankful.
Small traditional mud hut village
It was loud last night. I woke up periodically as people were talking or entering the cafe right past my cot. I remember waking up at one point and seeing 2 Sudanese men wrestling in the dirt nearby.
we were out riding by 5 am and stopped for coffee and Chai tea at a small village along the way. A nice Sudanese man insisted on paying for our tea. Midway through the day we found a place to buy Foole and eggs. It was difficult finding the motivation to keep going given how hot it was at this point but I was excited to get to a hotel in Wad Medani. Before leaving the cafe I grabbed a pitcher of water and poured it all over my clothes. I was half worried the locals at the cafe would be offended by me wasting water but I think they found it humorous instead. As I was almost to Wad Medani, I got stopped by a bunch of bored Sudanese police at a security checkpoint. I was somewhat delirious from the heat and frustrated when I got asked the same questions by 5 different men at the checkpoint but relieved when they finally let me go. I crossed the Nile on a bridge and observed a bunch of men baking mud to make bricks. We all decided to stay at the Imperial hotel. A somewhat rundown hotel but still luxurious compared to what we were used to so far in Sudan. It had air-conditioning, power outlets, 4 walls, a shower, western flushing toilet, and glass windows.
Locals and tea vendors
In anticipation for Ethiopia, the 5 of us ( 2 Canadians, 1 Irishman and us 2 Americans) decided it would be safest to form a group. We’ve heard a number of horror stories about Ethiopian kids banding together and throwing rocks and pushing sticks into peoples bike spokes as they are riding. We’ve met a couple that avoided Ethiopia all together and heard of a man who broke down crying from all the abuse he had endured. Also there has been some recent instability within Northern Ethiopia. We hope to ride all of Ethiopia unless we decide it is too dangerous and not worth the risk. We anticipate arriving at the Sudanese\Ethiopian border in approximately 1 week. Although I’m apprehensive about riding through Ethiopia, I’m also looking forward to cooler temperatures and tree cover.
We got a late start today and encountered significant headwinds as we were making our way out of Khartoum. We decided to bike the East side of the Nile southward as we had heard that the West side has high traffic. It was brutally hot today and we stopped at a border checkpoint for cold soda. I don’t normally drink soda back home but it is really nice when riding through the heat. We later stopped for lunch at a roadside cafe and shared a plate of fried lamb, squash potato dish, lentils, and bread. We cut the day short at 46 miles and decided to stay at the cafe overnight as it was already swelteringly hot and we were all tired. I inflated my air mattress and slept outside with my sleeping bag on a metal frame bed with canvas strips tied across for suspension
Excited to see more trees.
Beds we slept on next to cafe.
Meal at cafe, lamb, bread and some other dishes.
Birds on side of the road.
Khartoum rest day
I awoke and made a marathon out out of breakfast. I had 2nd, 3rd and 4th servings and half expected them to kick me out for eating too much of the hotels complimentary breakfast. I spent several hours in the morning tuning and cleaning my bike so that the chain and derailleurs run smoothly. I also talked with Paul, an unexploded ordinances expert, who works in Darfur and Libya destroying landmines and bombs. Later, we went along with the Canadians to a Greek pool in town to go swimming. For dinner we all went to a Syrian restaurant where I got to try Baba ganoush for the first time. Later a local man and friend brought over some date liquor which we tried (I wont write his name because alcohol is very illegal here in Sudan).
In the morning I drank some yogurt that I had been making for a couple days and swallowed my daily malaria pill. I also had a few pieces of bread. Two days ago I added powdered milk, water, and a bit of yogurt for the bacteria cultures to get it started. The drink was sour and very good. I hope to continue making this yogurt drink which tastes great and I’m hoping might make my stomach a bit more resistant to becoming ill. Throughout the day we passed through checkpoints. Typically I ride fast through these checkpoints and wave to the police and hope they don’t ask us to stop. We lucked out today and didn’t have to waste time stopping for any of the checkpoints.
Mid day we arrived in Omdurman, a neighboring city to Khartoum. It felt overwhelming after spending the last couple days in the desert with very little visual stimuli. People were everywhere walking through the streets buying food and fresh produce. The roads were clogged with cars and trikes puffing out black clouds of smoke and people riding on donkeys. It was difficult navigating through the traffic and we had to make our own route because google routed us through dirt alleyways and terrible quality roads. It took us what felt like several hours to make it to Khartoum and the Acropole Hotel. Once there, I walked all around the area. I have now developed a near insatiable appetite from all the biking and ate 4 bowls of street food for dinner. I had corn starch sweet puddings, beans and some type of grain, and fruit salad. At our hotel I met two Canadians named Simon and Adrian as well as an Irish man named Tomas. All of whom are cycling to South Africa.
Purchased a watermelon and attached to back netting on bike.
Riding into Khartoum across bridge. Surprised to see western style sky scrapers here in Sudan. All other buildings up to now have been made from mud or brick.
Street vendor corn starch pudding
Some more street vendor pudding.
Beans and some sort of grain.
Last night was very loud. I got sleep but could hear large trucks driving all night. We could have stayed at a mud hut but the conditions seemed primitive and not any better than camping. the floors are dirt and the rooms are open to mosquitoes with no electricity or plumbing. Mid day when it had become unbearably hot we found a couple small buildings and bought some Foole. We were surprised to learn that even the cats here eat Foole. We met Arbdu Haman a 24 year old computer scientist who belongs to the Grayat tribe that consists of 2000 members all related by a common ancestor and all residing in the Bohat region (20km long section of road claimed by this tribe). He told us that life is hard for his people and that he aspires to move to Australia or Saudi Arabia so he can provide a better life for his family. He wanted to know how America was different from Sudan. We learned that the wet season of Sudan comes after winter and is the time of year that people can milk goats and camels and till fields with wheat, tomatoes, and beans. Arbdu said this time of year is cold and he has to wear more clothing. Its hard to imagine what summer must be like if 80 to 90 Fahrenheit temperatures are considered cool. We were invited to stay on a cot but politely declined having not yet cycled as far as we wanted and continued on. We found a promising looking campsite an hour before dark and dragged our bikes a farther distance away from the hwy behind some small sand dunes. Within minutes a group of kids showed up and watched us set up camp. Arthur made the mistake of giving them some candy. More showed up and soon demanded more to which Arthur declined. We politely asked them to leave us alone because we were both exhausted and needed some rest. We ignored them and they started throwing rocks. Arthur was angry at this point and chased the group of children half a mile back to their house where he tried to tell an older man on the property that the children were harassing us. Fortunately the kids did not return that night. However an hour later in the night a car drove up and stopped close by. Two men proceeded to yell at each other in Arabic. I feared that they were talking about us and was a bit concerned. 5 minutes later the car drove away and I was able to fall asleep.
Sunrise November 28th
Honky (Arthur) chasing kids into the distance.
Foole loving cat.
A place we stopped at for lunch and met Arbdu Haman and other tribe members