You You You You You!!!!!
Border crossings are always an unknown, so we got up early, the early birds catch the worm. The crossing went smooth on the Sudanese side. Once in Ethiopia we first got tested on Ebola by a head temperature measure thing. While they test us, hundreds of locals just walk between the boarders. Well, we might look more dangerous. In the immigration office was a picture of the president on the wall, next to an advertisement for beer. Oh yeah, after Sudan we were looking forward for a cold brew. But first we had to ride to Gorgora and the famous overlander camp of Tim and Kim on the shore of lake Tana. As soon as you enter Ethiopia it starts to get green and suddenly there are curves and hills and motorbike riding is fun again. Less fun is a lack of fuel, after searching for two hours in Gonder to fill our tanks, one guy jumped on Dorians bike to direct us to the so called “black market”. Such operations attract a lot of attention and while we filled up our tanks a big crowd gathered around us. To Gorgora it was another 50 km, all offroad, including a small river crossing. It was great fun and we arrived late and thirsty, but still at daylight. We decided to stay a while at the beautiful Tim and Kim Village, a bird spotters paradise. We visited a monastery with canoes, had many conversations with fellow travelers and got inspired by Kevin, a Belgian guy who works for an NGO in Mekele. He suggested to visit the north of Ethiopia, especially Era Ale, a volcano with a lava lake. So we changed our plans and headed north to Debark the entrance of the Simien Mountains. From there an unpaved road brought us 200 km further north to Shire. What a stunning scenery, green hills, steep passes, monkeys and roads that must have been built by motorbikers. Next attraction on our route was Debre Damo, a monastery near the boarder of Eritrea, which you can only reach by climbing up a rope. We found the monastery after a perfect gravel road ride. The prices they asked where typically for Ethiopia as there is always a “farengi” (foreigner) and a Habesha (local) price. So only Rolf went up the rope which was around 18 meters high. He shit his pants, but made it to the top only secured by a cow leader string.
Ethiopia is basically full of people, cattle, goats, donkeys, chickens, camels etc. and all these creatures hang out or walk on the street, this does not make riding a motorbike any easier. Food wise Ethiopians love their sour bread called “Injera” and eat a lot of meat or at least in restaurants where we ate usually. The coffee is brilliant, tasty and a whole ceremony is held to roast the beans, boil the water and brew the coffee, absolutely fantastic! Also everybody waves at you while passing with the bikes and many guys wear the Ethiopian national football shirt. To watch football we also went to a self build kind of cinema twice, but to be honest the national football team sucks.
Once we reached Mekele we signed in for an organized two day trip to Erta Ale, you drive in Land Cruisers six hours into the Danakil region to a so called military base (check the pics, yes the one with the guy wearing an army uniform), which consists a dozen huts made of lava stones. These guys are supposed to protect the tourists from terrorists, with rifles that are over 40 years old. Well we felt save and walked up the volcano for three hours in a very Ethiopian pace, it was demanding, but the full-moon was shining and what we experienced on top of the crater is cannot be put in words. You see a lava lake blubbering and spying, you smell the sulfur and feel the heat. It looks incredible and was worth more than we ever expected. Thank you Kevin for this one. We slept on the crater and went back the next day, totally exhausted but with impressions we will keep forever.
We had to do some mileage the upcoming days, all southwards to Addis Ababa. Most parts of Ethiopia are over 2000 meters above sea level, we rode over passes as high as 3’200 meters and it sometimes got really cold.
In Addis we stayed at Wim’s Holland House another famous spot for overlanders. There we met Nikki and Stephan, two Dutch with two Africa Twins also on the way to Cape Town. We talked a lot about our bikes, travel stories and experiences and decided to team up till somewhere in Kenya. We drove south to Awassa, a terrible 200km road brought us from there to Agere Mayram, where we spent a great night with the locals, chewing Chat (Khat), grilling sausages and drinking beer. The next day we made it to Moyale (the boarder town) through a jungle landscape, and like in entire Ethiopia we enjoyed the ride, while thousands of children scream “you you you you you” at us (besides pen and money the only English words they know). Despite all the power blackouts and rooms without running water, we fell in love with Ethiopia.