Another exciting 5 days of rock throwing! Not every day was bad, but there was definitely some bad ones in there!
Day 1 was Valentine’s day and we awoke to a nice surprise on all our lockers from Catharine who’d put hearts on all the name tags! And most of the bikes as well! Thanks Catharine!! Sadly I also awoke to the surprise (not really) of being sick again. The day was a huge 162km and I missed every mile of it on the truck. It was surprisingly busy, too, in the truck! Lots more sickness than I thought. We had to stop mid-morning too for some fuel and tire changes. I think 3 tires were flat on the dinner truck, which is kind of nuts… I think they got the spares replaced in Addis here during the rest day.. Rest days are not restful for the staff! Camp was off the road a bit in the middle of some trees, very unique so far!
Birgit wore her Ethiopian jersey from the theme party and didn’t get a single rock all day. Coincidence?
Also I started taking Cipro (an antibiotic) for my recurring sickness. It seems to have helped, been fine since this day!
Dinner, after 162km for most people, was Macaroni and Cheese. No protein except the bits you’ll get from the milk in cheese. That makes sense.. Good thing I didn’t feel like eating much! Oh yeah, breakfast was kind of special too, they put red food colouring into the porridge! Happy Valentine’s! (wow this was only a week ago)
Day 2 was better, back on the bike! Birgit and I had a pretty good morning taking lots of breaks, Randy was sweeping and seemed as interested in the breaks as we were. The first one we found a bunch of other riders at, having Machiatos and Cokes, and we joined them, but of course they left immediately (no one knows how to take a long break like Birgit and I!)… The second break was awesome, we found some sort of wheel (bicycle) maker and a little bike shop for the shitty Chinese cycles that everyone uses around here! We stayed here a long while and it was amazing, no crowds formed, no begging children, it was amazing! Actually in the whole day I think we only really got one rock, later in the day. Anyways, after lunch Justin was sweeping again, our favourite.. And we (easily) convinced him to stop at Debre Markos a few km before camp for a legit break, where I had steak and fries and he had Spaghetti and Birgit had… Fries? Anyways, legit! We had semi planned on riding on (though the road deteriorated at that point, so I wasn’t pumped about it), but then Michael and Leah showed up just then! They spent an extra couple days in Bahir Dar properly exploring the penisula with the monasteries and monkeys, and hanging out with the cook, Yanez, as he took a few days off for vacation. More on that later, a crazy story! Anyways, they needed a ride, we were super late, and so we called in the truck. The road was absolute shit, I’m so glad I didn’t ride it. That night Birgit and Alex tried to solve her rim/tire/tube problems and punctured 4 tubes in the process! 4 flats without even riding the bike, omg!
Dinner was chicken based, chicken curry or stew or something, hmm.. I forget! I didn’t have a lot since I just had my steak and was still worried about chicken reaction.
Day 3 was the biggie! The Blue Nile Gorge! And a 20km time trial on the other side of it. 1400m of climbing over 20 kilometers. Wasn’t sure how I felt about racing it, I do really enjoy Birgit and I’s lazy attitude towards the days most of the time… But the day started pretty well, and it was nice and cool and fun, and rolly! The road wasn’t in the best shape, but it was cool. Oh, then the pavement ended here and there, something a lot of people were kind of upset about, since it was supposed to be a day of pavement! I think there was 6km overall that was unpaved over 3 sections. Not too bad, but if you had skinny tires on, it was kind of crappy! And a lot of people did. Lunch was about 1km down the 20km descent, something that would be pretty fun on its own! I was excited and a bit pumped, and still contemplating what to do, should I race up the hill or not? Hmm. Well, it was 10:30 and we were leaving lunch, something very rare for us, so we’d just have to see what happens. Then the first of Birgit’s tires blew.. Just as we were leaving lunch! 30+ minutes of changing later, time to leave again.. Hmm, getting a little hot now.. Oh well. On the way down the Gorge, there was a village or settlement or two, and the people were not super awesome. I got a huge rock from some asshole kids again, dinging off my spokes (supposedly without damage), and I slammed on the brakes and scared them off. A few switchbacks later, 4 kids were walking along, and I said Salem to them (Peace / Hello), and then as I come level with them, one of them throws his fucking herding stick at my wheel, trying to get it through the spokes! What the bloody hell, I was going about 50km/h at this point, man was I pissed! I jumped off the bike and scared them off, but got their stick. I broke it in half and threw one piece over a ravine… I waited then for Birgit to catch up, and wondered if the kids would return. Two of them did, since they scattered to the wrong side of the road when I first scared them… To find me there after 30 minutes (Birgit is meanwhile having her 2nd flat of the day at this time – clearly the problem is not solved) must’ve been quite a surprise! I ran after them again with the half broken stick, lol. About 30 more minutes later (I’m getting pretty worried by now but know that Randy can’t be far behind us sweeping), Mike comes by and tells me Birgit has a flat. I descend the last km to the coke stop and wait there instead, throwing the 2nd half of the stick into a different ravine. I hope that kid has to explain to his dad or someone where his stick went!
Birgit and Randy show up, frustrated of course by the flat, and we have some drinks. It’s now like 1pm and really hot and I’ve lot any competitive drive I might’ve had about the ascent. The time trial starts on the other side of the bridge but I just don’t really care anymore at all. As we go to leave the coke stop, Birgit discovers… Her tire is flat! What the F?! haha.
Anyways, another change, and we start the TT. Only 5k in my competitive drive would’ve flattened out anyways since we came across a troop of Baboons! (Hamadryas baboons I’m pretty sure), and we stopped, a little unsure if we’d be welcome visitors or not. They didn’t stick close to us, but they didn’t seem to mind our presence much either. One of the bigger ones went up slope a bit (scaring Randy who was coming up from behind unaware that there were Baboons nearby at all) to watch us. It went alright! We got lots of pictures and really enjoyed ourselves, like we always try to do! Two more long coke stops later, and we came in 2nd and 3rd last respectively! Only behing Chris D who did the whole thing with his brakes engaged. I was too tired to do much at camp, but happy that the meal was a beef stew! I pigged out a bit and then hit the hay. Sadly, right beside Jos and Gabrielle who decided to have a fire and kind of smell up my tent… Oh well, life goes on.
Day 4 started well, it was pretty warm at camp, and I usually dress up to start and then take it all off 30-60 minutes into the day. I felt I could survive 30+ minutes with this, so I left all my warm clothes on the truck. Bad move! It didn’t warm up, and kind of got colder! And windier! I was dying forever… 35k of shivering, goosebumps, and uncomfortableness.. So! I came across Justin and Bina filling up the water tank and with the Hilux and decided to jump in with them… I’m getting kind of sick of cycling Ethiopia right now, even though I’ve been sick a lot of the days, it’s just all kind of blending together into a stream of yelling kids. Maybe something will have to be done about this! (FORESHADOWING!)
We had a great day and I enjoyed the Hilux much more than the dinner truck! A decision well made, I think!
Dinner was some sort of pasta dish again, I think. I had some peanuts instead and the salad.
Day 5 was the day into Addis! We’d be convoying the last 20ish km, so everyone had to meet up at the end. This of course was going to be a disaster since everyone cycles at different speeds… I was not excited about the prospect of being in a hurry, and also just not feeling it at all this morning, despite a special chocolate muesli breakfast! I took the dinner truck straight into town and got in at like 12pm! Perfect. The riders didn’t convoy in until like 3:30pm, and talking to Birgit, I definitely made the right choice. She was pressured into taking less breaks and everyone had left lunch by the time she was leaving, so she lunch trucked to the convoy to avoid being the person everyone was waiting for… Just as I suspected. Sounds like a few people were not that patient, despite knowing full well that leaving lunch early would just result in them waiting at the convoy location forever… Then the convoy was supposed to be going 20 km/h or so (downhill), but Birgit said it got up to like 45 km/h and some special people on the trip were hitching rides with vehicles and telling her she just has to get used to riding 45 km/h in a group, who cares that the last time she was in a peloton she crashed… Love that guy. He’s gone now, phew. I won’t name him, but I think the sentiment was universalish.
In Addis I decided I’d take a break from the tour for a couple days… Many reasons, but most importantly I just wanted to run a few days, and I’d heard that a lot of elite Ethiopian runners run at Meskel Square every morning… I decided this was very important to me to do while I was here, I can’t see myself coming back to Ethiopia anytime soon, so it was a good chance for this kind of thing.
The first night after the convoy we all went out for Phil’s going away dinner at a Pizza place. A new sectional (Jessica) joined us, and she’s nice, but no one really understands why she’s joined for this section, called “Meltdown Madness” from Addis Ababa to Nairobi… Through desert and lava. It’s going to be Sudan all over in a number of ways! Though we do cross the equator in a week or two, that’ll be fun! Equator party! The pizza place was very western, it was cool to have everyone there too but it just made everything longer. We somehow crammed 23 people into the van to get there too, and we were only 1 of 3 vehicles going to the dinner! I had a steak, which tasted very delicious and western, but it was soooo small… Like 4oz. Oh well. Sandro and Young David both has two pizzas each and were dying for their efforts…
The next morning a bunch of us were supposed to goto the Sheraton Addis for unlimited brunch buffet! It was amazing, but not a lot of people showed up. They had (beef) bacon, and I pigged out so much on it! By the time Sandro and David showed up (they talked about going at 7am the day before – Chris Brad and I did go at 7am) there was no more bacon. I didn’t realize they didn’t have more to cook! haha. I had tons of strawberries, pancakes, waffles, man, it was so good! After that we walked around and I thought about going in the Jacuzzi there but it cost like $35. Oh, what? It includes a massage? Ok, pull my arm, I’ll do it! Amazing! Only my second massage ever (I’m a bad runner and triathlete, it seems haha).
After the massage I wandered a bit waiting for Leah and Birgit to meet up with me (didn’t ever happen) and found a huge grocery store that sold the best sour candy ever (gone already, sigh), found Meskel Square, where’d I do some running later, found a cafe called Calgary Cafe, and generally got pissed off with Taxi Drivers who wanted far too much to take me to the market. I went back to the hotel instead and hung out with my friends for their last day in Addis before they left without me! The meals at the golf club where we were staying were pretty good anyways…
My first day alone came next, wow! Kind of crazy not seeing everyone! I might even miss them! I went for a run around my hotel, my first since January in Gadaref with Birgit and Alex… It felt so good to be out again! Then I went to the market, tried to find a Kindle for hours (and failed), and just generally took it all in. It was a crazy crazy huge place and I didn’t even touch the surface… 7100 shops or something! Crowded with people everywhere you look… and I was the only white person I saw in 3 hours. lol. Exciting!
I walked around some more after that and found myself at the Hilton, where they were having a special Thursday-only BBQ meat buffet, though I ended up skipping this in favour of just having a huge bowl of ice cream and a milkshake. SO GOOD!! And then off I went to try and find some place to watch the Olympics, a task proving harder than I ever expected. The Hilton had nothing, but I know of this sports bar I short 4km hike away… So I headed there. They have sports alright, but they were playing the NBA game and not excited about switching it to Olympic hockey… I went next door to the Global Hotel to steal some internet and discovered that they have satellite there! And I even met some Americans interested in watching it! Surprise! Plans made to come back tomorrow (today as I’m writing) and watch!
Today was spent running early in the morning at Meskel Square, a very very cool experience!! So many runners, and they all run one little ‘row’ of the stadium and then step up and run back, step up, run back, etc etc. The path like this is about 4k I think, but my GPS watch didn’t like the constant turning around. I pushed myself and was happy to find I could still run fast, though my fast is average to just above average for the Ethiopians at this square in the morning! I did get a really nice compliment from a guy that was behind me for a while before I pulled away though… He may have been coaching some others or just an older friend, but after he finished and I was stretching at the top, he said I was “very very strong”, awesome! Then an even cooler thing happened, I met an Ethiopian guy that lives in Calgary!! (my home town for those that read this and don’t know me)… he’s lived there for 18 years or something, Alex is his name, and we talked for a while about the irony of meeting him here. He’s here for a couple months on vacation and then going home to Calgary again. So interesting! He may come meet me tonight, but my phone doesn’t work to text him for some reason, so I’m unable to contact him.
I watched most of the Ladies Ski Cross in the morning, which was super exciting and saw two Canadians in the finals.. Just as the finals were about to start, the channel at my hotel cut to horse racing instead. Canada ended up with Gold and Silver! How cool would that have been?!
The plan tonight was to watch the Canada/USA hockey (semifinal) game, here at the Global Hotel where I’m stealing internet again… But I think I discovered that Supersport (the only possible channel to get the game on) is showing short track speedskating instead tonight… A disappointment for sure! There’s a small possibility we can stream the game in super terrible quality, but it might be the only option! Or we’ll just have to miss it. Meeting my American friends in a couple minutes to talk about it.
And that’s that! All caught up with the life of Scott in Africa! I’m meeting up with the tour again after this little segment of stages in Yabelo, probably Monday night. I’m headed to Sheshemene tomorrow where there’s a community of Rastifarians inhabiting an area they call Jamaica. After that I’m not really sure. Depends on if Birgit meets me there tomorrow… Hopefully we’ll see some nearby reserve with some… Gazelle-like creatures. Damn, I forget what they’re called! I don’t care, as long as it’s a nice break.
See you all soon! GO CANADA GO! Last days of the Olympics! Next update may take a while, apparently no wifi in Yabelo, the next rest stop location!
Now for the pictures! 74!
Oh yeah! An edit: I didn’t tell the story about our cook who was on his 5 day vacation. When he left Bahir Dar, about an hour outside of town his minibus hits a donkey cart (and driver) and tears his leg off! What the F?! Then the driver runs away and takes a car off somewhere! Meanwhile the donkey cart driver dies and our cook has to goto the police station with the rest of the passengers for questioning… then pay for a new ride to Addis! So sad and crazy! #africa
Happy Valentine’s Day Porridge!
Happy Valentine’s Day sticker!
Some locals change the flats!
I love this guy’s shocks… Check it out! Do you think they actually do anything?
Italian tank! Left over from WWII occupation of Ethiopia, I guess!
Our first day at camp, before the perimeter line was set up. They just love to watch us!
A pretty rock feature I missed being on the truck.
Not sure what Birgit’s proud of here, probably a significant climb! I wasn’t around… But there’s lots of pics of her here, so it must’ve been something special!
Day 1′s campsite. I enjoyed this field.
Our first stop on Day 2, with other riders for a bit! Pier, Sigrid, Sonia, Brad, Ian, Steve, and myself!
Whenever Birgit asks to take someone’s photo in Africa, they say yes and then pose with a frown. :(
Birgit loves these little cushions!
More cushions, with me in the background. Just before our second stop.
Lots of pedestrians on the highway as they go towards the market on market day (usually Saturday)
I’m glad I fixed my other glasses, like them way better than these ones!
The wheel shop!
The bike shop!
A religious local, maybe a nun or something?
Our peaceful coke stop… Look at me all alone!
Lunch was a pretty nice spot too, and not many Ferengi watchers!
Day 2′s camp was actually legit in some trees! Very home-like.
One of the unpaved sections of day 3. It’s almost there! I wanted to ride down this wall, but it seemed like a dangerous idea!
The Blue Nile Gorge! (on the way down)
Birgit and the Blue Nile Gorge!
Claudia and Kim cycle by while I’m waiting for Birgit on the descent!
There she is!
Birgit’s 2nd flat… Picturesque!
Me wielding the broken stick daring the kids to come back! Got, this bugs me.
It was pretty pretty! Wish it was a little less foggy though!
The coke stop at the bottom of the hill. Still pretty pissed about the kids throwing that stick!
Millenium celebration at the Blue Nile Gorge bridge? Maybe it was remade then…
The bridge itself, and Birgit! We were told pictures were allowed, but then they seemed to be fine with it (army dudes nearby)
Me and the Bridge!
A Baboon scares Randy as he cycles past!
It was just so cool to see animals like this outside of the zoo!
I think this was the one that I pictured with Randy, but Birgit got a slightly different angle.
They came in all kinds of sizes. We didn’t get any good pictures of the tiniest babies though.
A few hundred meters up the road, still Baboons! Took this as I cycled by and he watched!
Love that ginormous bridge in the background! It’s totally fallen apart. Apparently never used and quite the embarrassment. Still on the Blue Nile climb!
Cycle 3-5 km, take a break. Our motto for the Blue Nile Gorge!
Some nice features along the way though for sure!
We killed it!!! ;)
Day 4 kitten surprise!
Please stop touching the bikes, guys!
Ian enjoying a break, since I was cowering in the warmth of the Hilux by this point.
Justin and Bina and I stopping for drinks… Taking it easy in the Hilux.
Rider meeting again!
Planning where to meet everyone again with Randy.
While Birgit cycles on and finds another gorge!
Leah and Birgit at the border of Addis Ababa
Rest day wonder! Sheraton Addis, an Oasis!
Pool? Yes please!
We caught the gardener pruning! Erica holding a rose.
It was pretty alright… Especially for Africa. Perhaps not the nicest hotel, but the nicest hotel and most western experience in forever here!
You needed to go through metal detectors and Xray (bags) before being allowed in. Also the first few rows of parking were closed. Worried much? Wonder what’s going on.
Even in a bustling metropolis like this, a guy carrying a goat.
Presidential Palace on the left. Apparently I wasn’t supposed to take this photo.
Meskel square, where so many Ethiopians run and work out in the mornings and after work!
Calgary Cafe?! That’s.. odd!
Phil! We’re gonna miss you, buddy! Phil’s been with us since Khartoum and he left yesterday!
Love stuff like this. 7 Eleventh. No association, I am sure!
Inside Addis Mercato, a church of course!
Hmm, and a mosque!
These mannequins were creepy.
Love the placement of some stores… Butcher, then suddenly mobile electronics!! No kindles anywhere though. :(
Part of the shoes sections… Just miles of shoes.
Yup, donkeys in the city too!
Different kinds of food stuffs..
A strange scrap metal area near my exit of the Mercato.
All the taxis in this city are pretty crazy! And maybe a little sketchy.
Found true ice cream at the Hilton, was such an amazing surprise.. though a tad expensive, well worth it! Best treat since I left home.
More of Meskel square, this time people are running!