Mbeya to Lilongwe With Fun Times Along Lake Malawi

OK, so I’m still confident that Birgit and Leah’s (or maybe just Leah’s at this point since she still sounds excited about it) guest blog about the 7 days in Tanzania will still happen… But we just haven’t connected at the right times on rest days to get the blog going together… So now, you get the blog about the last days since I last blogged in Mbeya about Zanzibar!

TANZANIA! omg, the 115km of Tanzania I got to cycle (lol) were definitely some of the prettiest! The race was the first 60k to lunch and though I’m not racing anymore, having given back my timing chip, I pushed hard for once and was rewarded getting to lunch quickly! I rode a lot of it with one of our newer riders, Michel, from Holland. Sorry Birgit and Leah! ;)

We got rained on before lunch, which actually wasn’t too bad… it was a nicer cooler day anyways and just contributed to the awesomeness of the day… At 115k we hit the border and things had started to heat up. Still had 45k more to go and it was a little bit terrible in the heat and sun and moisture that Malawi brought us. Things across the border actually changed significantly… The kids got yelly, the terrain got flat and wet, and the first town wasn’t for 45k, where camp was, in Karonga, which was on the shores of Lake Malawi. It was a pretty nice camp and a weirdish little city… 42000 people, and despite Malawi being the poorest of the countries we’ve been to, there was at least 5 western style supermarkets and 6 or 7 large banks to exchange money at. What?!

The ride the next day was pretty wet, got poured on twice, and then it just got ridiculously hot and muggy, so I waited around lunch for Leah and Birgit and eventually decided to take the lunch truck into camp, and our rest day at Chitimba Beach! VERY nice place, so fun to be on the water, and I even went in, my fears of Bilharzia being set aside by the waves at the time in the lake… Didn’t seem like the right weather for parasite carrying snails to latch on to me.. Also fun at the Chitimba beach camp was a potluck ‘dinner’ of snacky food, cuz the kitchen closed ridiculously at 7pm and didn’t serve dinner food, only lunches… Then the next day we did a big pig roast which was delicious but lacking in quantity for all us hungry cyclists, I feel. And no sides. lol.

From Chitimba beach, it was 4 riding days into Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. The first night was to Mzuzu, which was a reasonably sized town with the biggest supermarket yet. There was a large climb to start the day, 600m or so? Was pretty, and only rained lightly all day. Mzuzu was nice though, I made a couple trips to the supermarket and had some great ice cream! :D Mmmmm.

The next day I ran the last 13k to camp and avoided the rain, even though I’d’ve liked it, I think! It was a hot run! But feels good. My mentality about the tour is changing yet again. My ironman is in 5 months basically, so I’ve started to panic a bit and am using every day as a training day now, running, riding, or resting. Eventually hopefully combining some days of riding and running too… Swim will have to wait! We camped in a soccer field that was inundated with children all day, so loud, so many eyes watching us… Still don’t like it! Felt like Ethiopia, just without the security guards we’d usually have there!

The next day was 108 km, and I gave it a pretty solid push the whole day, finishing in just under 4 hours and skipping lunch along the way.. Which I guess I did kind of regret around 80km.. haha. It was nice to push it though and be passing people! I like the training feeling and feeling strong… Still want to enjoy Africa, but I think I’m over a lot of it now, I dunno. I’ll stop when there’s something to stop at. :) I think the last rider got into camp at about 12:30pm, so it was just a ridiculous day where everyone felt like they were on a rest day. Everyone’s getting so strong now, they can push well when they want to!

Next day was 130k into Lilongwe. Which is where I am now! Interesting place for sure, lots of political stuff going on right now, I think there’s elections soon, and each party has their colours.. Sadly our flagging tape is the colour of The People’s Party… And got removed fairly quickly (with some warning from locals: “THIS IS MALAWI!” lol… people here seem friendly enough though, and the city was full of supermarkets again… Sadly still no sour enerjelly babies though, which I’ve been hunting for since Addis! UGH, I want some sour candy!

Last night we had a going away dinner at a place called Don Brioni’s Bistro… Mateo is sadly leaving us, after being there with us all the way from the start… Was a nice night and meal though! And we have 3 new riders joining here! Young David’s mom, Jennilea’s boyfriend, and Claudia’s boyfriend! Exciting dynamic shift!

Didn’t do a whole lot here.. Ate, shopped (new sandals, yay!), and relaxed. Ran today with Leah too, much fun! Two more phone calls really raised my spirits as well! :D Getting excited about home activities for sure!!!

Tomorrow we enter Zambia. Malawi is over just like that! 5 riding days takes us to Lusaka, and then 3 more to Victoria Falls where we have 3 whole rest days to do exciting things like bungy jumping and white water rafting! Our biggest day yet is on day 2, 176km. I plan to cycle it hardish as a training ride! Tomorrow I’m going to run again. ;)

I’m sure there’s lots I’m missing about these days, I gotta start taking notes along the way again!

Miss you all! Here’s pictures, everyone’s favourite part! :D See you from Lusaka!

Welcome to Mbeya! I actually took this the morning after I arrived... I was off for a run and this road was way too muddy, so I turned around and came back to pavement. Turned out this muddy road was the way in for riders later! Eep.

Welcome to Mbeya! I actually took this the morning after I arrived… I was off for a run and this road was way too muddy, so I turned around and came back to pavement. Turned out this muddy road was the way in for riders later! Eep.

Phew, at least Mbeya has the important things... Taken at the Elegante Supermarket behind the Oilcom gas station... not a bad little market.

Phew, at least Mbeya has the important things… Taken at the Elegante Supermarket behind the Oilcom gas station… not a bad little market.

I even found (and bought, but haven't played yet) Scrabble!

I even found (and bought, but haven’t played yet) Scrabble!

"Kessy Casim" shop.

“Kessy Casim” shop.

Sandro arrives very mucky!

Sandro arrives very mucky!

Leah and Birgit stretch it out. Something new on their 7 day stretch without me... Roadside yoga. Maybe by the time I post this, they'll have written their guest blog entry! ;)

Leah and Birgit stretch it out. Something new on their 7 day stretch without me… Roadside yoga. Maybe by the time I post this, they’ll have written their guest blog entry! ;)

We do this at every hotel we camp at.. I'm surprised they're ok with it! Clothes everywhere! Classin' up the joint.

We do this at every hotel we camp at.. I’m surprised they’re ok with it! Clothes everywhere! Classin’ up the joint.

Leah wonders how safe the meat this guy is selling from a box on his bike is... (not that she'd eat it, she's veggie, but it's still weird!)

Leah wonders how safe the meat this guy is selling from a box on his bike is… (not that she’d eat it, she’s veggie, but it’s still weird!)

Leah questions this guy on why he sells so many toques in Africa where it's never really cold!

Leah questions this guy on why he sells so many toques in Africa where it’s never really cold!

In one of the boringest pictures ever, this is actually two socks that I've been missing one or the other of since Sudan. Finally reunited, they now add a full pair to my quiver of socks. lol.

In one of the boringest pictures ever, this is actually two socks that I’ve been missing one or the other of since Sudan. Finally reunited, they now add a full pair to my quiver of socks. lol.

Is this the end of Dangerous Africa or just a rock fall section? We'll never know... Last miles of Tanzania!

Is this the end of Dangerous Africa or just a rock fall section? We’ll never know… Last miles of Tanzania!

Turns out Tanzania is pretty beautiful!

Turns out Tanzania is pretty beautiful!

A riverbed with water in it?! Where am I?!

A riverbed with water in it?! Where am I?!

Into Malawi now, instantly more humid... I hope this is rice patties?

Into Malawi now, instantly more humid… I hope this is rice patties?

More Malawi road side water...

More Malawi road side water…

Helen handles a beatle. Something I've definitely noticed about Malawi, lots of insane insects. Ugh.

Helen handles a beatle. Something I’ve definitely noticed about Malawi, lots of insane insects. Ugh.

Oh hi campsite lizard.. How do you like my tent?

Oh hi campsite lizard.. How do you like my tent?

Oh hi campsite shower frog.. How do you like the pressure?

Oh hi campsite shower frog.. How do you like the pressure?

One of our earlier views of Lake Malawi! Can't complain, wow!

One of our earlier views of Lake Malawi! Can’t complain, wow!

And a view from our campsite / rest day at Chitimba Beach.

And a view from our campsite / rest day at Chitimba Beach.

A frog in Chitimba... Lots of frogs here.

A frog in Chitimba… Lots of frogs here.

We found a Malawian Millipede along the beach... Chris was brave enough to pick it up.

We found a Malawian Millipede along the beach… Chris was brave enough to pick it up.

And then put it on Brad's shoulder, where it then migrated to his head... Poor Brad.

And then put it on Brad’s shoulder, where it then migrated to his head… Poor Brad.

We had a big pig roast the second day, but it still probably wasn't enough food for everyone...

We had a big pig roast the second day, but it still probably wasn’t enough food for everyone…

Checking out 'town'... Really nothing here.

Checking out ‘town’… Really nothing here.

Oh wait! There's rum! In plastic baggies! 100mL for 25c! I still haven't drank this.

Oh wait! There’s rum! In plastic baggies! 100mL for 25c! I still haven’t drank this.

Some of the TDA'rs play some volleyball!

Some of the TDA’rs play some volleyball!

More random animals! I think this was a small chameleon, hiding up by the light... Silly place to hide.

More random animals! I think this was a small chameleon, hiding up by the light… Silly place to hide.

1/3 up the biggest climb of the day, had to take a stop and get a picture here. So pretty!

1/3 up the biggest climb of the day, had to take a stop and get a picture here. So pretty!

Lunch was a different story... just far too many people! Ugh! We had to get out of dodge ASAP, the crowd was getting unruly with begging.

Lunch was a different story… just far too many people! Ugh! We had to get out of dodge ASAP, the crowd was getting unruly with begging.

Mzuzu was a nice place... Despite being the poorest country we visit, Malawi definitely has the most and best supermarkets of the whole trip.

Mzuzu was a nice place… Despite being the poorest country we visit, Malawi definitely has the most and best supermarkets of the whole trip.

A view from one of my runs this week... Lovely! Wish it had rained on me a little bit though...

A view from one of my runs this week… Lovely! Wish it had rained on me a little bit though…

The first outhouse I entered, I was greeted by this site... Thousands and thousands of mosquitoes! Ugh! :(

The first outhouse I entered, I was greeted by this site… Thousands and thousands of mosquitoes! Ugh! :(

The kids at soccer camp were a bit nuts, but a few of us took some time to go sing to them... Did it make anything better? I don't know.

The kids at soccer camp were a bit nuts, but a few of us took some time to go sing to them… Did it make anything better? I don’t know.

These rocky outcrops on the ride were quite pretty!

These rocky outcrops on the ride were quite pretty!

Like this one!! Super pretty.

Like this one!! Super pretty.

Kind of tired after giving today's 107km more of a push than normal and skipping lunch... Also looking kind of shaggy!

Kind of tired after giving today’s 107km more of a push than normal and skipping lunch… Also looking kind of shaggy!

Mateo is leaving us in Lilongwe, and him and Jennilea have been good friends for months... They tied them together and said he couldn't leave til he got out of it.

Mateo is leaving us in Lilongwe, and him and Jennilea have been good friends for months… They tied them together and said he couldn’t leave til he got out of it.

Tobacco plants!

Tobacco plants!

This was a sign from the day before's lunch that I skipped... I wonder if this stuff was on the menu.

This was a sign from the day before’s lunch that I skipped… I wonder if this stuff was on the menu.

Tobacco plants and me.. Just cuz.

Tobacco plants and me.. Just cuz.

Another "7 Eleven"

Another “7 Eleven”

Love campsites that "get it"...

Love campsites that “get it”…

This place had a cook-your-own-food place! Delicious! I made an old favourite from my childhood that I hadn't had since December!

This place had a cook-your-own-food place! Delicious! I made an old favourite from my childhood that I hadn’t had since December!

Breakfast this morning, Dave G sets a new record at the hotel, 9 eggs!

Breakfast this morning, Dave G sets a new record at the hotel, 9 eggs!

He did it! I think he went for pizza after this.

He did it! I think he went for pizza after this.

Leah finishes the run we went on together... Nice to have someone out there with me!

Leah finishes the run we went on together… Nice to have someone out there with me!

I Put a Vacation in my Vacation – Zanzibar Week

Zanzibar. We’ve been hearing about places so much on this trip, I now no longer know if I knew about this place before I came or not… But I definitely did not know it was off the coast of Tanzania, and an island paradise akin to Hawaii or the Cairns area of Australia, but that’s pretty much what it is. Also, expensive… At least by African standards!

I was looking for a way to avoid the 7 day section of dirt from Arusha to Mbeya, mostly because I’m sick of almost dying on the dirt downhills with my roadie brakes, and Zanzibar seemed like a neat place to try out. Once I found out Sigrid was going, it was an easy decision since I wouldn’t be all alone!

I flew direct from Arusha Airport (not Kilimanjaro’s airport) and straight to Zanzibar on one of the smallest planes I’ve been on.

The motorbike guy was there at the airport and I easily got hold of my 250cc honda dirt bike. After a quick stop at the bank to get money to pay him, he walked off and I motorbiked for the first time since 2005, all the way across the island to my hotel in Paje, where Sigrid and friends were staying. They’d spent a whole day relaxing already and were waiting to party that night, but after some food I kind of passed out for a couple hours, missing the party, but waking up in time to have my very first trans-continental phone call of the whole trip! Actually, the second… the first was boring and to my bank, but it was awesome to chat with Danielle back home and plan out a few months of adventures once I return to Canada! I also decided to cut my trip just a tad short since I was spending so much money doing these side trips and come home in time to do the Golden Triangle, a 3 day bike trip through BC on May Long weekend. I’m so stupid, right? I have two days off when I get home, then back to cycle touring! haha. I did it last year, my first and only trip on a bike until this one! 320 km over 3 days sounds so wimpy now, hehe… But it’ll be amazing, fun, and friend-filled! UCTCers, you guys out there? Sign up! It was fun last year! :D

Day 2 I headed back to Zanzibar Town, to the old section called Stone Town, which is now a world heritage site… Was very pretty and fun, had some great food, ran into Sigrid and friends, and left the city motoring through the alleys of Stone Town, feeling like I was in a James Bond movie as the alleys and turns were very tight and people had to move out of my way to make it through… One of the funnest things I’ve done! Getting back was a bit harrowing though, as sun set while I was out without any glasses but my sunnies. Without them, bugs filled my eyes at high speed and with them, I couldn’t see much past the outline of the road. GAH. Made it though, no incidents.

Day 3 – 5 kind of blends together in a great time of relaxing, reading (started and finished Amanda Lindhout’s House in the Sky book about her kidnapping and torture in Somalia (along with a memoir of her life before that time – helps me respect her a bit more than before for the crazy decision to goto Somalia in the first place) – great book by the way), meeting new friends (a brief interlude on that in a second), snorkeling with dolphins, and visiting a forest reserve where endemic monkeys lived! I did not go Scuba Diving, but that’s ok… it was a great week of relaxing!

After a few days of me being 2 km down the beach from Sigrid and friends, Nadia departed and Sigrid and Solveig moved down beach near me, who was at Arabian Nights, to Paje by Night. This place was awesome, and I spent most of my week there after the move. Sweet pool, sweet hammock to read in, and some new friends, specifically Francois-Louis from France who was vacationing in Zanzibar for a week to take a break from his busy life as a doctor and decide what to do moving forward… He found Sigrid and I spewing stories of TDA greatness and I really think he might sign up, I’m pretty sure he spent the next few days reading all our blogs about the trip!

More importantly, Francois-Louis provided me an opportunity to bribe a police officer! lol. We were heading for the monkey reserve together on my motorbike, but FL didn’t have a helmet… Something practically no Africans we’ve seen on this trip (and in Zanzibar) wear. He said we had to go to court the next day and pay $25 USD, which was total bullshit I’m sure, but whatever, I knew what was going on and played along for the experience. We went inside the police station and into a small room where he again explained how we needed to go to court… I asked if we could pay something there instead, and he said they didn’t do receipts at the station. No problem, I said, and his eyes lit up. It was just a couple bucks, and super ridiculous… But whatever, that’s Africa for you… I’m surprised it took until now to happen, but mostly the Tour is well planned and they know the staff is well educated on scams, so they leave us alone.

Anyways, it was a pretty great 5 days of rest. I had a couple runs in there, both good and amazing (though always hot), and then Sigrid and I made our way back to the tour here in Mbeya (an aside: one of the two types of sour candies I’ve been hunting since I had them in Addis was actually found in the Zanzibar airport at a little shop… how ridiculous? and where did he source them from?!), where we met up with everyone again. I hope Birgit and Leah get their blog together soon, they did take pictures for it! :) You’ll have to wait and see. 2 more days to the next rest day, this time in Malawi. I missed a lot of on road Tanzania, but I’ll be back again for sure. The people, animals, sights have all been amazing!

For now, pictures! Always the best part! Hope you like monkeys.

The pretty small Cessna that would take me from Arusha to Zanzibar, direct, in about 2 hours.

The pretty small Cessna that would take me from Arusha to Zanzibar, direct, in about 2 hours.

Views of the coast! The weather has cleared up significantly. This view and arm of the wing remind me of the first time I solo skydove in 2000.

Views of the coast! The weather has cleared up significantly. This view and arm of the wing remind me of the first time I solo skydove in 2000.

Zanzibar's port!

Zanzibar’s port!

I rented a motorbike!

I rented a motorbike!

First views of the beach in Paje. Lots of seaweed, but otherwise very white and soft sand!

First views of the beach in Paje. Lots of seaweed, but otherwise very white and soft sand!

Found this little guy building himself a hole in the sand!

Found this little guy building himself a hole in the sand!

I had food in this old fort (at the Old Fort Restaurant, as the sign says, haha)

I had food in this old fort (at the Old Fort Restaurant, as the sign says, haha)

A view of the sea from Zanzibar Town...

A view of the sea from Zanzibar Town…

Some locals pull up a very heavy looking boat onto shore...

Some locals pull up a very heavy looking boat onto shore…

Back to Old Fort for some souvenir shopping!

Back to Old Fort for some souvenir shopping!

Selfie on top of the fort!

Selfie on top of the fort!

The Old Dispensary... Now a bit of a hostel and food place.

The Old Dispensary… Now a bit of a hostel and food place.

Heading out to swim with some dolphins.. a few photos here were Sigrid's! Like this one. Local fishermen, I think.

Heading out to swim with some dolphins.. a few photos here were Sigrid’s! Like this one. Local fishermen, I think.

Some really small sailboats..

Some really small sailboats..

So peaceful out on the sea here.

So peaceful out on the sea here.

Then suddenly, DOLPHINS!

Then suddenly, DOLPHINS!

Thank god for underwater cameras!

Thank god for underwater cameras!

I swear that one is smiling...

I swear that one is smiling…

Dolphins with me!

Dolphins with me!

Sigrid's friends, Solveig  and Nadia, and myself. Solveig had gotten hardcore sunburnt the previous day, thus the crazy outfit. ;) Ready to dive back in after dolphins!

Sigrid’s friends, Solveig and Nadia, and myself. Solveig had gotten hardcore sunburnt the previous day, thus the crazy outfit. ;) Ready to dive back in after dolphins!

More dolphins!

More dolphins!

Relaxing at the Paje by Night pool.

Relaxing at the Paje by Night pool.

Off to see some monkeys hopefully?

Off to see some monkeys hopefully?

Following the guide, hoping he knows how to find them!

Following the guide, hoping he knows how to find them!

OMG MONKEYS! Zanzibar Red Colobus Monkeys, endemic to here.

OMG MONKEYS! Zanzibar Red Colobus Monkeys, endemic to here.

Cute little baby guy!

Cute little baby guy!

They're so picturesque!

They’re so picturesque!

A lion! ... No, still monkeys.

A lion! … No, still monkeys.

Dude's got a long tail.

Dude’s got a long tail.

A crazy monkey and some sort of primitive primate.

A crazy monkey and some sort of primitive primate.

Toats not a monkey. Oh, wait.

Toats not a monkey. Oh, wait.

Is this the lion?

Is this the lion?

Ok, this is legit crazy. He wasn't growling or anything, he just made this face when he squeaked, lol.

Ok, this is legit crazy. He wasn’t growling or anything, he just made this face when he squeaked, lol.

A new one for the wall at home?

A new one for the wall at home?

Another youngin'.

Another youngin’.

A different species of monkey! The blue monkey.

A different species of monkey! The blue monkey.

One more blue monkey. Sorry, I hope you all love monkeys.

One more blue monkey. Sorry, I hope you all love monkeys.

Kids playing soccer/futbol near our hotel area.

Kids playing soccer/futbol near our hotel area.

The motorcycle I rented all week! Somehow I managed to fail to get a picture of me on it!

The motorcycle I rented all week! Somehow I managed to fail to get a picture of me on it!

On the flight back to the mainland, this was in the Fastjet in-flight magazine! How fitting!

On the flight back to the mainland, this was in the Fastjet in-flight magazine! How fitting!

Nairobi to Arusha, a Little Bit Late – Mostly Just Rider Paparazzi

This post is chronologically before the Safari one, but I didn’t get a chance to write it then, so here it is now, completely out of order!

The ride from Nairobi to Arusha was only 2 days, but they were long. At least the one day I did was. lol.

The first day was 158 km I think, from Nairobi to just before the border crossing. We had a bunch of new people with us too, Heiner, Michel, Martyn, Sally-Anne, and Erma. It was fun riding with them the first day and chatting to new people. The 7 km of dirt we had that day elicited some complaints and minor mechanical problems… Hopefully the dirt post-Arusha went well for them… Perhaps Birgit and Leah’s guest post will address that! :)

The day was long but fun, and the camp was at a pretty nice place with a store, lukecold showers, etc.

The next day we crossed the border, and everyone had to ride to and across the border, since somewhere at the border they were going to be charged $250 per staff member so we all had to pretend (well, the staff had to pretend, and the rest of us couldn’t be mistaken as) staff members, so we all biked across the border. It went pretty quick considering all 50ish of us arrived at once. Sounds like the Tanzanian side had some scam going about trying to overcharge for the vehicle crossings and pocket the extra. Oh, and I rode to the border with Bina telling her about how I hadn’t gotten a flat since Sudan and got a flat in the 4 km ride to the border. Vunderbar.

On the other side, my vehicle raced ahead to flag the route, though we were delayed by the border crossing skimming off the top BS. Justin, Bina, eventually Hannah, and myself tried to find our way to the hotel in Arusha and got some bad directions from locals, so Alex (who’d been there before) and Wolfendave beat us there and officially tied for the race.

Sadly something happened with one of our riders in to Arusha, we’re not sure, but it probably involved getting hit or getting wind-blown by a vehicle, and he ended up in the ditch not remembering the accident with 6 broken ribs! :( Peter went home after Arusha, just days after his wife left in Nairobi. Sad. :( Hope you get better Peter!

We got some nice pictures of people as we went through though! Some are below.

A local rider passed us on this piece of crap bike, haha. We passed him easily on the next hill though. ;)

A local rider passed us on this piece of crap bike, haha. We passed him easily on the next hill though. ;)

My friend Niccole's initials are NMG and the town we were headed to was Namanga. These signs marked every single km.

My friend Niccole’s initials are NMG and the town we were headed to was Namanga. These signs marked every single km.

The last Tusker? I think so. Different beer brands in Tanzania. This was Birgit's, I haven't been drinking all too much on this trip..

The last Tusker? I think so. Different beer brands in Tanzania. This was Birgit’s, I haven’t been drinking all too much on this trip..

The biggest moth ever! Just over the border! Luckily haven't seen many of these since...

The biggest moth ever! Just over the border! Luckily haven’t seen many of these since…

Everyone hanging out on the Tanzanian side of the border.

Everyone hanging out on the Tanzanian side of the border.

Yanez the cook rode today for the first time!

Yanez the cook rode today for the first time!

Justin snapping a quick picture of the beautiful panorama. Forget the name of this mountain now though. I'll look it up some day...

Justin snapping a quick picture of the beautiful panorama. Forget the name of this mountain now though. I’ll look it up some day…

Birgit! Stopping in behind us, declipping from her shoes..

Birgit! Stopping in behind us, declipping from her shoes..

A military march I caught a little bit of!

A military march I caught a little bit of!

Christian

Christian

Ian

Ian

Martyn, almost missed him.

Martyn, almost missed him.

Erma

Erma

Jennilea

Jennilea

Amanda and Helen

Amanda and Helen

Cam ("Trout")

Cam (“Trout”)

Mateo, terrible shot by me but had to post him happily getting his photo taken... doesn't happen often!

Mateo, terrible shot by me but had to post him happily getting his photo taken… doesn’t happen often!

Dedan, our paralympian local rider. And his friend, probably a Bob or Bobby?

Dedan, our paralympian local rider. And his friend, probably a Bob or Bobby?

Ina

Ina

Ross

Ross

Diederik

Diederik

Chris W

Chris W

David G w/ Chris W visible behind...

David G w/ Chris W visible behind…

Sigrid

Sigrid

Chris D

Chris D

Wolfendave and Alex

Wolfendave and Alex

And again

And again

Catharine

Catharine

Mike J

Mike J

I walked around Arusha A LOT, even though there's not a lot to see there, it's more of a staging place for Safaris and Kilimanjaro hikes... But I found a cool market along the way.

I walked around Arusha A LOT, even though there’s not a lot to see there, it’s more of a staging place for Safaris and Kilimanjaro hikes… But I found a cool market along the way.

I'm rich! ... these are like $5 a piece.

I’m rich! … these are like $5 a piece.

Safari Time! Rest Days in Arusha – the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater!

I don’t even know where to begin! 3 day Safari on our break days from Arusha… 24 hours in Serengeti, a camp on the crater edge of Ngorongoro Crater, and then a day in the crater too!

Overall it was an amazing experience, so many animals! SO MANY! 7 of us were on the 3 day tour: Birgit, Erica, Sonia, Mike J, Christian, Ross and myself. The animal viewing was cool, but the guiding was a bit off. It was set up by the lunch truck driver, Steven, someone in his family organized it for us… They forgot stuff like a table and chairs for us to eat on! And kind of smelled as we shared the small vehicle with them.. Oh well, on to the animals!!! :D

I may add a list of all the animals we saw here later, I just don’t have time for it tonight and I want to share my most immediately favourite photos! Enjoy, people! May have a tiny blog later about the two days of riding from Nairobi to here… Mostly just pics of some riders. :) Tomorrow I’m off to Zanzibar for more break while the tour continues on 7 days through muddy rainy hell. Next blog about the tour will probably be a guest blog by Leah and Birgit! :D

Pictures!! :D

Hillary Clinton Shop! On the way to Serengeti.. This was on Amazing Race a few times, exciting!

Hillary Clinton Shop! On the way to Serengeti.. This was on Amazing Race a few times, exciting!

Zebra! They were way cooler than I thought they'd be... Was expecting glorified horses but got some really cool animals instead. Latest research suggests the stripes are an evolutionary advantage against the tse-tse fly!

Zebra! They were way cooler than I thought they’d be… Was expecting glorified horses but got some really cool animals instead. Latest research suggests the stripes are an evolutionary advantage against the tse-tse fly!

These ones were Thompson's Gazelles... Hard to keep straight from Impala sometimes!

These ones were Thompson’s Gazelles… Hard to keep straight from Impala sometimes!

Secretarybird!

Secretarybird!

Marabou Stork! Kind of a really weird looking bird.

Marabou Stork! Kind of a really weird looking bird.

Agh, I actually don't know what kind of lizard/gecko this is!

Agh, I actually don’t know what kind of lizard/gecko this is!

Marabou Stork again, this time with a G Adventures truck, I know a few people that work(ed) there.

Marabou Stork again, this time with a G Adventures truck, I know a few people that work(ed) there.

Thompson's Gazelle upset at each other! Or playing, who knows.

Thompson’s Gazelle upset at each other! Or playing, who knows.

"Below the layers of volcanic rock and ash that form the soil of Serengeti is a thick layer of extremely old metamorphic rock."... that's these! Called Kopjes.

“Below the layers of volcanic rock and ash that form the soil of Serengeti is a thick layer of extremely old metamorphic rock.”… that’s these! Called Kopjes.

Lion cubs having a nap!

Lion cubs having a nap!

So cute!

So cute!

Lion cubs resting atop the kopjes.

Lion cubs resting atop the kopjes.

Two bull elephants!

Two bull elephants!

Oh, they're fighting again!

Oh, they’re fighting again!

The winner taking a rest. Then they started again.

The winner taking a rest. Then they started again.

Lioness! And some big kopje.

Lioness! And some big kopje.

Another one!

Another one!

Hartebeest!

Hartebeest!

A couple of hartebeest running away... Epic skies in the Serengeti!

A couple of hartebeest running away… Epic skies in the Serengeti!

We saw a leopard! Was worried it wasn't going to happen, but I even got an 'ok' picture of it... Far too dark though.

We saw a leopard! Was worried it wasn’t going to happen, but I even got an ‘ok’ picture of it… Far too dark though.

Hyena!

Hyena!

The first night of camping in the Serengeti, mud pit! But the facilities are nice!

The first night of camping in the Serengeti, mud pit! But the facilities are nice!

Baboons, I think Olive Baboons.

Baboons, I think Olive Baboons.

More elephants!!

More elephants!!

Elephant and a topi. Perhaps a hartebeest, but fairly certain it's a topi.

Elephant and a topi. Perhaps a hartebeest, but fairly certain it’s a topi.

Elephants!

Elephants!

Vervet Monkeys!

Vervet Monkeys!

This guy was sitting so cutely... haha

This guy was sitting so cutely… haha

More baboons as a safari truck passes by..

More baboons as a safari truck passes by..

Olive Baboons

Olive Baboons

Things were this close!

Things were this close!

Woodland Kingfisher!

Woodland Kingfisher!

Wildebeest! The colours these guys make were actually pretty cool!

Wildebeest! The colours these guys make were actually pretty cool!

Can see some babies better here. Sadly, the main migration was too far away to catch up to in our 24h in the Serengeti...

Can see some babies better here. Sadly, the main migration was too far away to catch up to in our 24h in the Serengeti…

Goliath Heron

Goliath Heron

Ground Hornbill I think..

Ground Hornbill I think..

I can't figure out what this one was... Anyone know?

I can’t figure out what this one was… Anyone know?

Giraffe! They're the best! Probably my favourite things I saw this safari.

Giraffe! They’re the best! Probably my favourite things I saw this safari.

Lilac-breasted Roller

Lilac-breasted Roller

More Giraffe. Love this view.

More Giraffe. Love this view.

Hippos!

Hippos!

Ahhh, one of them are doing something else!

Ahhh, one of them are doing something else!

There's a lion in the tree and a wildebeest with a young one passing behind. Sadly this did not result in a chase and kill!

There’s a lion in the tree and a wildebeest with a young one passing behind. Sadly this did not result in a chase and kill!

Some other lions had this wildebeest killed, but they're taking a break right now from eating. Lion in the background there.

Some other lions had this wildebeest killed, but they’re taking a break right now from eating. Lion in the background there.

Another lion walks around the kill..

Another lion walks around the kill..

Rock Hyrax at the visitor centre.

Rock Hyrax at the visitor centre.

Another of those lizards I didn't know..

Another of those lizards I didn’t know..

Me and my terrible March Moustache facial hair... And some Zebra.

Me and my terrible March Moustache facial hair… And some Zebra.

African White-Backed Vulture!

African White-Backed Vulture!

Lappet-faced Vulture (or Nubian Vulture)

Lappet-faced Vulture (or Nubian Vulture)

I think this is a pretty young giraffe! The colours are different!

I think this is a pretty young giraffe! The colours are different!

More Giraffe on the way out of the Serengeti

More Giraffe on the way out of the Serengeti

Giraffe again!

Giraffe again!

Peek a boo!

Peek a boo!

A massai village in the Ngorongoro conservation area..

A massai village in the Ngorongoro conservation area..

The views everywhere were pretty sweet!

The views everywhere were pretty sweet!

Like this!

Like this!

Our camp above the crater!

Our camp above the crater!

Crater lookout again!

Crater lookout again!

Look at that facial hair, agh! I've gotten rid of it now though...

Look at that facial hair, agh! I’ve gotten rid of it now though…

Lightning at camp!

Lightning at camp!

Descending into Ngorongoro Crater!

Descending into Ngorongoro Crater!

Erica as we descend...

Erica as we descend…

Cape Buffalo!

Cape Buffalo!

And another one with a broken horn...

And another one with a broken horn…

Great crested cranes, I think!

Great crested cranes, I think!

And more great crested cranes on the ground...

And more great crested cranes on the ground…

Elephant! We were so close to this old bull.

Elephant! We were so close to this old bull.

Another view.

Another view.

And then he went after the tall branches...

And then he went after the tall branches…

So many tourists decked out in all Khaki..

So many tourists decked out in all Khaki..

Vervet Monkeys!

Vervet Monkeys!

Little baby vervet monkeys...

Little baby vervet monkeys…

Elephant!

Elephant!

Jackal! It's a jackal! JACKAL! Is it a jackal?!

Jackal! It’s a jackal! JACKAL! Is it a jackal?!

We found the black rhino! Well, one of 11 in the crater..

We found the black rhino! Well, one of 11 in the crater..

Black Rhino again!

Black Rhino again!

Hyena!

Hyena!

Finally! We find a male lion!

Finally! We find a male lion!

Male lions! Two of them!

Male lions! Two of them!

It's like Aslan!

It’s like Aslan!

So pretty!

So pretty!

And one more...

And one more…

Just so many cool animals all through the crater!

Just so many cool animals all through the crater!

Flamingo!

Flamingo!

Hippos out of the water! With a BABY!

Hippos out of the water! With a BABY!

More of the same! With an Elephant in the background..

More of the same! With an Elephant in the background..

Hippos lying in the sun..

Hippos lying in the sun..

Hippos in the water!

Hippos in the water!

Me and hippos!!

Me and hippos!!

Black Kite!

Black Kite!

More views! Wow. WOW.

More views! Wow. WOW.

Kenya! Desert to Western Life… The Extreme Transition from Northern Kenya to Nairobi

Well well! Kenya at last! :D

Mostly I think Ethiopia was just too long this year. A whole month there… in comparison, we’ve blown through Kenya in under two weeks, and it’s so much better!

The first few days were supposed to be the roughest days of the tour, Moyale to Marsabit. All lava rock roads, sometimes no roads at all, if you fall it’s falling onto lava rock and you’re cutting yourself like a cheese grater. This is a phrase we heard often, cheese grater. In reality, it was not bad at all! The vast majority of the road, probably 80-90 percent was either paved or very soon to be paved and in different levels of awesomeness for us to ride on. Sometimes it was just hardpacked and level and that was enough, sometimes it was fully paved and tarred and dried, sometimes it was a temporary side road that was shitty but nothing resembling the cheese grater fall roads we were told about. It was 3 days that was supposed to be hell, but next year it could easily be done in two, I’m sure almost all of it, if not the entire thing, will be paved by then. It’s odd though, cycling the 20-25k long paved sections with just one or two cars being seen over a period of hours.. Also there was a surprising amount of roadkill (even a Hyena), given how much traffic there was… Odd!

Camp at Sololo on day 1 was pretty nice, and the ride there had a tailwind most of the way to it, I think, and so even though it was rough road the whole time it was a lot of fun! Leah and I cycled a lot together, lots of good convo, and then a little bit of funny since we were talking about falling and then BOOM she falls to the ground. Quite a bit of scrapes on her from it, but she was a trooper and went on for the day! She loves her bike. Lots of other accidents too, which was weird, it wasn’t nearly as hard as a lot of days in Ethiopia. Michael and Kam both had some pretty big accidents… There’s a pic here at Claudia’s blog. It’s in German, but the picture is crazy. I have a pic of Mike below but I missed a chance to get a pic of Kam.

The next day was a slog. Lots of unpaved, a fair bit of up, and I just was over the offroad. If you’re thinking of doing TDA in the future, ignore two things they recommend everywhere: no suspension, and steel bike. Get an aluminum hardtail mountain bike. There’s just way too much offroad. We had bucket showers that night at the windiest camp ever… I just rinsed my feet, legs, arms, etc. Not much. Kam walked a lot this day because of his accident the day before, and he wanted exercise… He planned to just walk a bit, but Erwin was missed at lunch check-in (he was fine, they just didn’t see him come through), so the trucks were searching for him instead of picking up Kam and I think he walked through the desert for 24k alone and with limited water. No pavement! Then he got picked up.

There was a TT on the third day, 45k from camp to lunch, and it was all headwind. I went for it a bit anyways, just to see what I could do… I felt I was pretty competitive, given how casual I take most days… I was only 6 minutes behind Ina (2:16 to my 2:22) and I finished ahead of Young David and Sandro… Wee! Maybe that’s my additional rest, but it was still just nice to see that I could push it. I didn’t want an official time, so I took the lunch truck so I’d get 12h anyways…

We drove ahead to Marsabit where we camped at a convent, and had a rest day there as well… The convent was a nice place, really. They had slow wired internet which I magic’d into a wifi hotspot using Jennilea’s laptop and it was awesome, so many people were on it, it was great. Otherwise there wouldn’t have been internet there! The town was a bit sketchy at night… The best bar and restaurant was also a brothel, we didn’t spend much time there… I did find a beef dish and some chips though! Also some ice cream, chips, etc! Amazing bits!

Next day had a lot of hot in the forecast and all offroad again, so I took the camp truck and told them to drop me off 15k before camp so I could run it in. I got dropped off, but it turned out to be 5k not 15k. Oh well, it was still an ok run, and it was soooo hot, so maybe it was better I didn’t run 15.

The 2nd day past Marsabit was our transit-past-the-bandits day… And was supposed to be a sleep-in day. There was a very crystal clear rule about being quiet until 7am. The bus wasn’t leaving until 9am, breakfast wasn’t until 8am, and it was stated ridiculously clearly that taking down your tent at 6-something would make you very unpopular. Two people had their tents down by 6:15. I was awake randomly and chatting on my phone, but others got woken up by this, and I just think it’s crazy bullshit that people couldn’t obey this one simple rule. 6:15 is 1:45 before breakfast, maybe just WAIT A GODDAMN MINUTE. haha.. Birgit actually got woken up on purpose at 7:13 because someone thought she was oversleeping… Despite me being awake like 10 feet away from her and both of us were visible since neither had our rainflies on. WHY?! Her alarm was set for 7:15 anyways, but it’s just… I don’t get it. Let people sleep! We didn’t leave our tents until 7:30 and still were completely packed up and ready by 7:54, 6 minutes before breakfast was served. Everyone was sitting around impatiently despite the clear timing instructions!

Anyways, the bus trip was fun, we saw a Waller’s Gazelle / Gerenuk, which I think some people mistook for a Giraffe. There was also apparently Zebra that I missed… Mostly it was a nap.

We pulled into Isiolo at the Rangeland Campground pretty early where everyone enjoyed some Nyama Choma and wifi. It was another pretty nice camp with good showers. Birgit and I taxi’d over to Isiolo and found some ice cream, chips, and picture opportunities.

Next up was an amazing ride up and over the edge of Mount Kenya, the second biggest Volcano and Mountain in Africa. Nice views all day and two people even saw a big bull elephant! Agh, can’t believe I missed it. It was 35k of climbing followed by 35k of downhill. For 10k of the downhill I averaged over 50 km/h. I hardly even stopped for lunch, just two pieces of watermelon… Then into Nanyuki for chips and meat! Stocked up on meat for the next day when we were going to have a big BBQ! Delicious excitement!

Nanyuki’s hotel was Sportsman’s Arms… It was pretty nice and the Equator party we had (one night before crossing the equator) was amazing! We all went swimming really late at night (all meaning the coolest people – ;))… Sandro paid hard for it in the morning, maintaining his EFI with a massive hangover. Alex had to scout the route alone in Nairobi too, again with a killer hangover. I was fine, raced 2k to the equator and then trucked into camp at Savage Wilderness Camp, where there was supposed to be rafting, but the water levels were crazy low and the guide told us basically that it wouldn’t be fun right now (thanks for his honesty! Saved us a lot of money!) so we didn’t do it. I had my best IT fix here too, where I fixed the visa machine at the campground… I’d never even used one of these back home but it was clear to me what the problem was… Fun!

From there we biked to Nairobi! 115k overall or something, with a convoy for the last 20ish km. Birgit had a flat tire of course! So she got picked up quick by the Land Cruiser and the rest of us continued on, got stuck in taxi-strike related traffic jams, and eventually made it here to Indaba Campground, where both 3G and wifi are amazing! Wifi needed some setting changes for most people because they tried to limit us to 10 users at a time… And it wasn’t working for most! Other than that, it’s been great. Hamburger and Chips for a quick lunch yesterday… Then at night we all went out for many birthdays and going-aways to Carnivore, an amazing local restaurant that’s Brazilian BBQ style, all you can eat meat deliciousness. I tried Ostrich and Crocodile. Croc was better, kind of like a gamey chicken. The mall near the campground had a great supermarket too, and a Froyo store! Nairobi is so western! It’s such a huge huge shift from northern Kenya! Still no Kindle or Kobo or other eReader on sale though. I’m so sad mine broke. I did find a new book though, Cloud Atlas, a few days ago.

Today we went to an Elephant Orphanage and it was amazing… Amazing! Such good pictures and cute little elephants! Check out the pics below!

Tomorrow we cycle on to the border, then Arusha the next day. Apparently (details are lacking) I’m signed up for a 3 day Safari at this point with about 8 others, it’ll be super fun! Then maybe (almost definitely) 7 days in Zanzibar scuba diving and swimming instead of biking 7 days through more offroad in mainland Tanzania! SO EXCITED. Sigrid and some of her friends are also going I found out, so I’m even more interested in going!

That’s that! :) All caught up! Stay tuned! Hopefully updates are more common now! Sorry for the lack, lately, friends!

MISS YOU ALL!!!

Picture time! 98 of them!

The roads start out rough and corrugated again, but this day was actually really fun! I'm not sure why... Perhaps just the quiet and solitude after the mayhem of Ethiopian kids.

The roads start out rough and corrugated again, but this day was actually really fun! I’m not sure why… Perhaps just the quiet and solitude after the mayhem of Ethiopian kids.

Michael was offroading and crashed and ripped his tire right off the rim. Tubeless problems.

Michael was offroading and crashed and ripped his tire right off the rim. Tubeless problems.

Luckily he was ok! Beaten up but happy and wanting to ride more.

Luckily he was ok! Beaten up but happy and wanting to ride more.

Me in disbelief about Michael. Glad he was ok!

Me in disbelief about Michael. Glad he was ok!

Rough road. I think this is Ian, Leah, and myself up ahead of Birgit.

Rough road. I think this is Ian, Leah, and myself up ahead of Birgit.

Encountering cows and road construction at the same time is fun!

Encountering cows and road construction at the same time is fun!

One of our first (maybe our actual first?) Kenyan coke stops. Probably the best, too, really. This is what I imagined when I thought of African coke stops.

One of our first (maybe our actual first?) Kenyan coke stops. Probably the best, too, really. This is what I imagined when I thought of African coke stops.

Steve, Myself, Ian, Leah, and Peter. And some locals who were excited to be selling us coke and other drinks.

Steve, Myself, Ian, Leah, and Peter. And some locals who were excited to be selling us coke and other drinks.

Our two truck drivers, Noah (from Zimbabwe) and Steven (from Tanzania) and a member of the Kenyan Tourist Police... They're serious business.

Our two truck drivers, Noah (from Zimbabwe) and Steven (from Tanzania) and a member of the Kenyan Tourist Police… They’re serious business.

Here's another angle with Birgit. I think I only meant to post this one, but oh well!

Here’s another angle with Birgit. I think I only meant to post this one, but oh well!

Justin's got some great tan lines going on... I've got competition!

Justin’s got some great tan lines going on… I’ve got competition!

Our first true Kenyan sunset, just outside of Sololo.

Our first true Kenyan sunset, just outside of Sololo.

I saw something shining in the dark, turned out to be this spider in a hole, ready to pounce!!

I saw something shining in the dark, turned out to be this spider in a hole, ready to pounce!!

Birgit and Alex, team teethbrushing!

Birgit and Alex, team teethbrushing!

Birgit took this just after I stood up... was going far too slow for this sand and fell over! I'm really good at these falls.

Birgit took this just after I stood up… was going far too slow for this sand and fell over! I’m really good at these falls.

Road construction! This will be paved tarmac very very soon! Next year's Meltdown Madness section will be Paved Awesomesauce instead.

Road construction! This will be paved tarmac very very soon! Next year’s Meltdown Madness section will be Paved Awesomesauce instead.

Another day, another flat. One flat in a day is a great day for Birgit.

Another day, another flat. One flat in a day is a great day for Birgit.

Why thank you, I will definitely cycle in this little lane!

Why thank you, I will definitely cycle in this little lane!

Road closed, Kenya (and Ethiopia, really) style.

Road closed, Kenya (and Ethiopia, really) style.

Birgit found a camel with a weird pattern on its neck... Wonder what was up.

Birgit found a camel with a weird pattern on its neck… Wonder what was up.

These Samburu women were not happy about this picture... Ooops.

These Samburu women were not happy about this picture… Ooops.

Birgit enjoys a hot electricityless coke stop.

Birgit enjoys a hot electricityless coke stop.

I struggle in the offroad. I wish the tarmac was complete!

I struggle in the offroad. I wish the tarmac was complete!

Donkeys and camels, something that's followed us all the way from Sudan.

Donkeys and camels, something that’s followed us all the way from Sudan.

Birgit and the camel and donkey. We just liked how they were lying together.

Birgit and the camel and donkey. We just liked how they were lying together.

The saddest site for me. Well, Birgit's bike is nice, but the end of tarmac is sad.

The saddest site for me. Well, Birgit’s bike is nice, but the end of tarmac is sad.

Alex, repairing tubes... Like every day.

Alex, repairing tubes… Like every day.

These huts were interesting... Wonder why they're covered like this.

These huts were interesting… Wonder why they’re covered like this.

Camels! Nice pic, Birgit.

Camels! Nice pic, Birgit.

The headwind on TT day was so strong it ripped the lunch truck's tarp. :(

The headwind on TT day was so strong it ripped the lunch truck’s tarp. :(

Post TT selfie. Dirty!

Post TT selfie. Dirty!

Sandro, Young David, Helen, and Jennilea... At a volcanic crater before Marsabit.

Sandro, Young David, Helen, and Jennilea… At a volcanic crater before Marsabit.

Mateo drew this forever ago, but it remains the case pretty much. Mateo's cartoons are awesome.

Mateo drew this forever ago, but it remains the case pretty much. Mateo’s cartoons are awesome.

Alex headed into Marsabit

Alex headed into Marsabit

More rough road. I think I'm gonna run a bit instead of ride!

More rough road. I think I’m gonna run a bit instead of ride!

Sadly I got dropped off 5k before camp and not the 15k I wanted, but it was 47.8 degrees, so maybe it was ok.

Sadly I got dropped off 5k before camp and not the 15k I wanted, but it was 47.8 degrees, so maybe it was ok.

Baby goat! So cute! And so baby that he still has an umbilical cord!

Baby goat! So cute! And so baby that he still has an umbilical cord!

Samburu women! So colourful!

Samburu women! So colourful!

Alex looks like he's straight out of Dead Space (a video game, for those uninformed).

Alex looks like he’s straight out of Dead Space (a video game, for those uninformed).

There was a school assembly I missed trying to fit too many things in...

There was a school assembly I missed trying to fit too many things in…

Leah's on the bus thru bandit territory!

Leah’s on the bus thru bandit territory!

A mosque in Isiolo, it was nice! I liked that town.

A mosque in Isiolo, it was nice! I liked that town.

Near the Isiolo Market.

Near the Isiolo Market.

A church in Isiolo. Quite the mural.

A church in Isiolo. Quite the mural.

Mount Kenya, the second highest mountain / volcano in Africa. I think it's more technical to climb than Kilimanjaro too.

Mount Kenya, the second highest mountain / volcano in Africa. I think it’s more technical to climb than Kilimanjaro too.

A sweet little stop and mural along the way.

A sweet little stop and mural along the way.

The biggest supply of coffee in Africa yet. 1L when Birgit and Alex ordered it.

The biggest supply of coffee in Africa yet. 1L when Birgit and Alex ordered it.

Uh oh.

Uh oh.

This was just such a pretty and amazing day!

This was just such a pretty and amazing day!

Jess takes a break and walks some of Mount Kenya.

Jess takes a break and walks some of Mount Kenya.

Cows are confused by cyclists.

Cows are confused by cyclists.

Alex stops at the sunflower field.

Alex stops at the sunflower field.

Apparently Justin was confused as to why Birgit and Alex were stopped here... Sunflowers, yo!

Apparently Justin was confused as to why Birgit and Alex were stopped here… Sunflowers, yo!

Nanyuki ice cream supplies! I LOVE THIS PLACE.

Nanyuki ice cream supplies! I LOVE THIS PLACE.

Enjoying my ice cream in Nanyuki!

Enjoying my ice cream in Nanyuki!

Holy shit, and bacon?! Where am I?! Am I still in Africa?

Holy shit, and bacon?! Where am I?! Am I still in Africa?

Hunting for sour candy.

Hunting for sour candy.

These birds have been with us for weeks... Some sort of starling, I think... the colours and reflections are amazing.

These birds have been with us for weeks… Some sort of starling, I think… the colours and reflections are amazing.

Another!

Another!

At the equator party, the night before we cross the equator! I found some hair!

At the equator party, the night before we cross the equator! I found some hair!

Crossing the equator! Pretty exciting!

Crossing the equator! Pretty exciting!

Myself, Birgit, and Leah... 1st 2nd and 3rd to the equator. RACE 4 LIFE.

Myself, Birgit, and Leah… 1st 2nd and 3rd to the equator. RACE 4 LIFE.

Me taking pictures of the racers racing off like they tend to do.

Me taking pictures of the racers racing off like they tend to do.

My bike was the only one left around so others were taking pictures with it. Here's Noah, our dinner truck driver.

My bike was the only one left around so others were taking pictures with it. Here’s Noah, our dinner truck driver.

And Kam, with my bike too. His was on the truck since his crash...

And Kam, with my bike too. His was on the truck since his crash…

Justin and Bina sweeping as we pass in the Hilux.

Justin and Bina sweeping as we pass in the Hilux.

Camp at Savage Wilderness

Camp at Savage Wilderness

This suspension bridge was swingtastic!

This suspension bridge was swingtastic!

Some geckos chowing down on bugs at the lights.

Some geckos chowing down on bugs at the lights.

Cycling down a 3 lane divided highway was an experience we'd never get back home! Entering Nairobi and suddenly everything is becoming super western.

Cycling down a 3 lane divided highway was an experience we’d never get back home! Entering Nairobi and suddenly everything is becoming super western.

Looking back at Birgit... This would be so illegal back home (Deerfoot biking?)... sketchy.

Looking back at Birgit… This would be so illegal back home (Deerfoot biking?)… sketchy.

Were we leaving a corruption ridden zone?

Were we leaving a corruption ridden zone?

More highway!

More highway!

Kenyatta University, I think this may be the biggest.

Kenyatta University, I think this may be the biggest.

Our convoy is about to begin!

Our convoy is about to begin!

The view at the front.

The view at the front.

We even got a tunnel!

We even got a tunnel!

Then the traffic jam hit.

Then the traffic jam hit.

Just chilling out in Nairobi's CBD.

Just chilling out in Nairobi’s CBD.

IT WAS ALL WORTH IT, I HAVE FOUND MAKE-YOUR-OWN-FROYO-CUPS.

IT WAS ALL WORTH IT, I HAVE FOUND MAKE-YOUR-OWN-FROYO-CUPS.

And unlimited meat by the sword carving at Carnivore! What a restaurant. Damn, I forgot to buy a shirt here.

And unlimited meat by the sword carving at Carnivore! What a restaurant. Damn, I forgot to buy a shirt here.

Ice cream and waffles for breakfast? Don't mind if I do! Can I get 10 pieces of bacon on the side too please? Thanks!!

Ice cream and waffles for breakfast? Don’t mind if I do! Can I get 10 pieces of bacon on the side too please? Thanks!!

Me and the babiest elephant!

Me and the babiest elephant!

Birgit and the babiest elephant!

Birgit and the babiest elephant!

Oh man, even baby elephants drinking water is super cute!

Oh man, even baby elephants drinking water is super cute!

Warthog and water lilies!

Warthog and water lilies!

Warthogs in Nairobi's national park.

Warthogs in Nairobi’s national park.

OMG the elephants were just so cool!

OMG the elephants were just so cool!

Birgit and the babiest elephants!!

Birgit and the babiest elephants!!

Never too many elephant pics, right?

Never too many elephant pics, right?

OK, we're getting there... There's been a lot.

OK, we’re getting there… There’s been a lot.

OK, but this is so cool! More elephants come for the feeding!

OK, but this is so cool! More elephants come for the feeding!

The biggest (oldest) elephant of the bunch. He had a limp, too. Sad.

The biggest (oldest) elephant of the bunch. He had a limp, too. Sad.

This elephant must have been pretty hot and/or itchy... He was very into rolling around in the water and getting more water shoveled onto him by staff.

This elephant must have been pretty hot and/or itchy… He was very into rolling around in the water and getting more water shoveled onto him by staff.

OK, bye elephants!

OK, bye elephants!

Cool warthog closeup! As I stood up he shocked the hell out of me though, ahhhh! He kind of made a noise and ran away, almost into Birgit! OOPS.

Cool warthog closeup! As I stood up he shocked the hell out of me though, ahhhh! He kind of made a noise and ran away, almost into Birgit! OOPS.

MORE FROYO

MORE FROYO

Catching up on blogging: From my Addis break to the end (F**k-Yeah) of Ethiopia!

So my plan weeks and weeks ago in Addis had been to catch the USA/Canada hockey game which seemed impossible, and then head towards the group who was in the south of Ethiopia and catch up with them in Yabelo after enjoying a couple days in Shashamane.

In reality, it started off really well!

I couldn’t find the game at the aforementioned Global Hotel and found out it wasn’t playing on Supersport at all (the satellite sports channel that seemed to be the only option), so I was really down about it and the Global Hotel internet went down, so I returned to my hotel without saying bye to my American friends (sad) and tried to connect to an audio stream there, only to find CBC wasn’t streaming during the Olympics due to rights issues, ugh.

This Swedish guy came by the lobby area and got on the staff to look through the channels they got on their free Egyptian based satellite service, and low and behold with a lot of work we found it! On Abu Dhabi television, in Arabic, but it was the game! And Canada won!! :D

The next morning I discovered online that most of the buses leave at 6am (and it was currently 8:30am), but I tried for the bus station anyways… Thinking I’d find a way, certainly… I paid very little for the taxi from my hotel to the bus station which made me realize that even though I got really good at negotiating rates down from what the drivers originally wanted in Addis, I still overpaid for every other trip. The bus station trip may have also been an overpayment, but it was like 45 minutes long and cost only double what my 5 minute trips had cost before… I came into the mayhem of the bus station and within 30 seconds was thrust on a bus which the driver assured me was headed to Shashamane. It was crowded and hot and I didn’t have a real seat (though I was sitting)… We stopped along the way in Lake Ziway and it was just filled with beggars and kids who followed me around asking for my coke bottle while it was still full of coke. Didn’t like the rest there. Shashamane came soon after, and I easily found my way to the hotel I wanted to stay at, Zion Train Lodge. 5 minutes after checking in Birgit texted me saying she’d ran out of phone credit but just filled up then and just got to Shashamane with the lunch truck to pick up some “sick” cyclists (note: this is a rasta town), and I could get a ride to camp if I wanted. I discovered that I did want that! So I quickly explained my situation to the hotel and they were totally cool with it (that place looked awesome, too!).. So I rejoined the tour!

The lunch truck was super late getting in and everyone was pissed cuz dinner was late. Then it rained and thunderstormed and was a really cool night! Noah (the camp truck driver) was alone when he got to camp and had to make up a story for the locals to get them to let us use their land, so he told them he was from the Military and they needed the land for the night. They believed him somehow despite the fact that he didn’t speak Amharic and we were all white cyclists that joined later. We heard the security (local land owners we were paying) later talking about being military for the night.

Talking to Birgit and Leah, I missed some cool days! Mostly one cool day! They camped in a national park instead of where they were supposed to because the old campsite was demolished when they got there. The new site overlooked two lakes, had ostriches and hot pools! What the F?! lol.. Oh well! I’m glad they had fun, I really needed the break! There’s some pics from their days without me below..

Rejoining, I was pretty energized and had a great day, helped by the coolness of the day! We only really rode to lunch since Birgit was feeling sick and we jumped on the truck, then played some frisbee at the end. It was a delicious night too, we had BBQ chicken (yay little pain again), and then pigged out on carmelized bananas and kettle corn that Justin made. So delicious! Great night! Funny to look back on it now (more on that later) as such an indulgence.

The next day we rode into Yabelo which was a shithole as far as rest days went. There was drinking the first night, lots of it. Sandro dove through his tent and had to get it repaired the next day. Bradley got a new nickname, Badley. ;) Good times. I ate!

The next day was another good bike day for me, though there was headwind and cloud the whole day (actually this is probably why it was so good)… Where we camped there was “singing wells”, wells dug into the ground for water that apparently could be quite deep… The one we explored had water about 30 feet down (pics below) and was a fun time just climbing down. We saw lots of termite mounds this day too, mostly red dirt, but then when we got to camp the dirt was grey and there was grey mounds there! Very cool!

I can’t remember dinner that night, but basically it’s not mattering much anymore… I eat all the high protein meals, and the low/no protein meals I supplement with nuts (note for future riders: there’s a lot of high carbs no protein meals on this trip).

After that it was border crossing day and I went ahead with Bina to organize sim cards for Kenya in Moyale, across the border. The Ethiopian side of the border was insanity with lots of people trying to change your money for terrible rates and sell things for too high prices for those wasting their last birr. The power went out at the visa office so we had to sit there in baking heat far too long. When they finally stamped us out, Bina’s excitement was palpable. So funny. We were all so happy to leave… My favourite thing for the last couple days of riding was people asking “WHERE ARE YOU GO?!” and saying “KENYA!!!!” with the undertone of “Out of Ethiopia, bitches!”

Kenya was so nice in comparison! The immigration office had an English joke on the wall, the dude spoke perfect English, it was air conditioned… We didn’t get harassed til many minutes into the town, and then I think it was just Moyale craziness, being too close to Ethiopia… since it’s been amazing since! We camped that night at KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) campground, and it was pretty sweet. Showers and everything… Then on to the Kenya adventure! (Next blog, to come, soon! … like, today)

Final thoughts on Ethiopia:

  • Never again will I donate to anyone giving handouts in Africa. Samaritan’s Purse towns (towns with signs saying they handed out those damn shoeboxes from back home) were terrible. The kids were far worse. The key is empowering Africans to make their own difference in their life. Provide training, funds for public works perhaps, that kind of thing. They need fresh water, employ some Ethiopians to make more water treatment plants and give them the skills they need.
  • I really don’t know what the key to ending the rock throwing is… But it sucks. It sucks worse than you ever thought. We were all warned.
  • What sucks even more than rocks is the kids just screaming all day every day. You’re on the bike for 5-10 hours a day and they scream for 80+ percent of it. YOU YOU YOU. MONEY MONEY MONEY. CHINA CHINA CHINA. (China’s building the roads so they think you’re China since you have money? I don’t know). And then you never know if there’s a rock coming or not.
  • They can’t be that hungry when they turn away bread and want your banana instead.
  • Everyone gets sick in Ethiopia. I was sick every couple of days for the entire month. This sucks.
  • If they continue this route and it’s still unpaved, make sure you have shocks or at least cross brakes. Don’t rely on your roadie brakes, they’re useless and you’ll come close to dying on 2500 meter descents over hard rock roads.
  • I don’t think I’ll be back anytime soon, especially after comparing it to Kenya.
  • It really is a beautiful country if you find somewhere quiet to enjoy the scenery.


  • PICTURE TIME! Pictures from Addis to the Border. Enjoy! 65 this time. Lots Birgit’s, as always.

    Birgit and Leah posing on a big ass tree at one of the camps I missed!

    Birgit and Leah posing on a big ass tree at one of the camps I missed!

    Liked this picture of Leah. Hopefully she does too!

    Liked this picture of Leah. Hopefully she does too!

    Birgit got some sweet pictures of the creepy birds we kept seeing around the road south of Addis.

    Birgit got some sweet pictures of the creepy birds we kept seeing around the road south of Addis.

    Definitely vulture related! Anyone know for sure?

    Definitely vulture related! Anyone know for sure?

    I whole tree full of the creeps!

    I whole tree full of the creeps!

    Ugh, so creepy!

    Ugh, so creepy!

    The coolest blue lizard! I saw one of these too, but my picture wasn't nearly as cool as this one Birgit took!

    The coolest blue lizard! I saw one of these too, but my picture wasn’t nearly as cool as this one Birgit took!

    Some of the ostriches they got to see at camp 2!

    Some of the ostriches they got to see at camp 2!

    It's pretty crazy that these things just exist here..

    It’s pretty crazy that these things just exist here..

    A hot pool! Probably too hot for bathing...

    A hot pool! Probably too hot for bathing…

    Flamingos! Are you kidding me?!

    Flamingos! Are you kidding me?!

    Meanwhile I'm back in Addis watching hockey! ;)

    Meanwhile I’m back in Addis watching hockey! ;)

    The police in Addis are cracking down on seatbelts, so every taxi driver does this. WHY NOT PLUG IT IN?!

    The police in Addis are cracking down on seatbelts, so every taxi driver does this. WHY NOT PLUG IT IN?!

    Leah in Shashamene. Rasta time.

    Leah in Shashamene. Rasta time.

    Meanwhile I'm in this crowded bus...

    Meanwhile I’m in this crowded bus…

    It was *this* crowded.

    It was *this* crowded.

    Shashamene. The 12 tribes of Israel! Rastafarians are an interesting breed. I read the whole wikipedia article on the way there, check it out!

    Shashamene. The 12 tribes of Israel! Rastafarians are an interesting breed. I read the whole wikipedia article on the way there, check it out!

    My hotel, for 5 minutes, the Zion Train Lodge.

    My hotel, for 5 minutes, the Zion Train Lodge.

    There were some cool room options for a little bit more money.

    There were some cool room options for a little bit more money.

    And the couple that runs it was super nice. Alas. Next time! (note: no next time)

    And the couple that runs it was super nice. Alas. Next time! (note: no next time)

    Leah loves riding her bike. Seriously! She's one of the happiest riders on the tour.

    Leah loves riding her bike. Seriously! She’s one of the happiest riders on the tour.

    Some great big nice churches, even in towns where everyone is super poor.

    Some great big nice churches, even in towns where everyone is super poor.

    My own attempt at a creepy bird photo. Failish.

    My own attempt at a creepy bird photo. Failish.

    Justin passes us in the Hilux with the water trailer.

    Justin passes us in the Hilux with the water trailer.

    Birgit and Leah having a great day as well!

    Birgit and Leah having a great day as well!

    A fun little cookie stop. More people watching us. Forgot how annoying that was.

    A fun little cookie stop. More people watching us. Forgot how annoying that was.

    Then a few seconds down the road, a cool little coke stop.

    Then a few seconds down the road, a cool little coke stop.

    Oh yeah, they had these super hard donuts. Good though.

    Oh yeah, they had these super hard donuts. Good though.

    Showing the shop owner(s) some pictures from the past couple days. They loved it.

    Showing the shop owner(s) some pictures from the past couple days. They loved it.

    Chris on his repaired bike. Hopefully he's got a new frame arriving in Arusha.

    Chris on his repaired bike. Hopefully he’s got a new frame arriving in Arusha.

    Ina and Birgit enjoying a great spot at camp... With the donkey shit. :S haha

    Ina and Birgit enjoying a great spot at camp… With the donkey shit. :S haha

    BBQ Chicken day!!!

    BBQ Chicken day!!!

    And kettle corn. Again, thanks to Justin!

    And kettle corn. Again, thanks to Justin!

    There was a fire on the hill near us. I forgot about it til this picture, so it clearly didn't burn or smoke us out!

    There was a fire on the hill near us. I forgot about it til this picture, so it clearly didn’t burn or smoke us out!

    Alex looking hot in his pants. Birgit unimpressed with porridge again (probably, I'm just guessing).

    Alex looking hot in his pants. Birgit unimpressed with porridge again (probably, I’m just guessing).

    An all too common site here... Accident city!

    An all too common site here… Accident city!

    So much roadwork going on! All of the time!

    So much roadwork going on! All of the time!

    The road is half done!

    The road is half done!

    This was a cool coke stop too after like 15km of unexpected pavement. I should've taken a picture of the concrete squat "toilet" though. Just a hole into a huge huge concrete underground.

    This was a cool coke stop too after like 15km of unexpected pavement. I should’ve taken a picture of the concrete squat “toilet” though. Just a hole into a huge huge concrete underground.

    Alex enjoys his 10th flat of the day and decides to run it.

    Alex enjoys his 10th flat of the day and decides to run it.

    Oh snap, more unexpected pavement! The best.

    Oh snap, more unexpected pavement! The best.

    Termite mound! Some neat designs from them.

    Termite mound! Some neat designs from them.

    Never enough pictures of myself on here, so here's one while we took a break somewhere.

    Never enough pictures of myself on here, so here’s one while we took a break somewhere.

    Termite mounds galore!

    Termite mounds galore!

    Birgit and a termite mound!

    Birgit and a termite mound!

    Birgit tries to take a non-nonchalant picture of Samuru tribespeople. They're very colourful!

    Birgit tries to take a non-nonchalant picture of Samuru tribespeople. They’re very colourful!

    More riding photos, because they're fun!

    More riding photos, because they’re fun!

    Birgit wanted a picture with this huge tall mound.

    Birgit wanted a picture with this huge tall mound.

    And of course this meant she got a flat.

    And of course this meant she got a flat.

    We found the camels again!

    We found the camels again!

    Oh man I hated this coke stop. The people were just too ridiculous!

    Oh man I hated this coke stop. The people were just too ridiculous!

    So Africa. Though more lake than normal. Pretty sites before Yabelo!

    So Africa. Though more lake than normal. Pretty sites before Yabelo!

    I thought we were pretty much in Yabelo, so I was celebrating with a selfie... But we had another 6km to go. Sigh.

    I thought we were pretty much in Yabelo, so I was celebrating with a selfie… But we had another 6km to go. Sigh.

    My one picture from Yabelo. Like.

    My one picture from Yabelo. Like.

    Grey termite mound!

    Grey termite mound!

    Checking out the singing well! Michael, Ian, Young David.

    Checking out the singing well! Michael, Ian, Young David.

    Let's go down, shall we?

    Let’s go down, shall we?

    Yes please!

    Yes please!

    There was a huge frog at the bottom.

    There was a huge frog at the bottom.

    Packing up the truck the next day...

    Packing up the truck the next day…

    My bike rides one of the trucks to Kenya... I thought this was such a pretty picture of it!

    My bike rides one of the trucks to Kenya… I thought this was such a pretty picture of it!

    Michael enjoying some offroad!

    Michael enjoying some offroad!

    In Moyale Kenya, I went to a canteen ran by prisoners who were about to be released. Kind of a halfway out thing. Was good beef.

    In Moyale Kenya, I went to a canteen ran by prisoners who were about to be released. Kind of a halfway out thing. Was good beef.

    Another angle. Same canteen. Prison Canteen.

    Another angle. Same canteen. Prison Canteen.

    Anyone know this bird? Seen at camp in Moyale!

    Anyone know this bird? Seen at camp in Moyale!

    Internet problems!

    Well, sorry for the extreme lack of posts lately, but we just haven’t had solidish Internet in forever! I’ve been back with the tour since the day I left Addis, I caught up with everyone thanks to Birgit in Shashamene. Lots of things have happened since then, and we’re long into Kenya now, staying in Marsabit at the moment. Hoping to catch up with all the details and photos in a couple days when we get into 3G cell coverage!

    Look for the next updates then, but check out my instagram on the right if you really need a fix.. A lot of patience has allowed me to post a few pics there! :-D

    Cheers!

    Bahir Dar to Addis Ababa Through the Blue Nile Gorge Complete with Baboons!

    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! :D

    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! :D 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! :D

    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 Porridge!

    Happy Valentine's Day sticker!

    Happy Valentine’s Day sticker!

    Some locals change the flats!

    Some locals change the flats!

    I love this guy's shocks... Check it out! Do you think they actually do anything?

    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!

    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!

    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.

    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!

    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.

    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!

    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. :(

    Whenever Birgit asks to take someone’s photo in Africa, they say yes and then pose with a frown. :(

    Birgit loves these little cushions!

    Birgit loves these little cushions!

    More cushions, with me in the background. Just before our second stop.

    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)

    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!

    I’m glad I fixed my other glasses, like them way better than these ones!

    The wheel shop!

    The wheel shop!

    The bike shop!

    The bike shop!

    A religious local, maybe a nun or something?

    A religious local, maybe a nun or something?

    Our peaceful coke stop... Look at me all alone!

    Our peaceful coke stop… Look at me all alone!

    Lunch was a pretty nice spot too, and not many Ferengi watchers!

    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.

    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!

    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)

    The Blue Nile Gorge! (on the way down)

    Birgit and the Blue Nile Gorge!

    Birgit and the Blue Nile Gorge!

    Claudia and Kim cycle by while I'm waiting for Birgit on the descent!

    Claudia and Kim cycle by while I’m waiting for Birgit on the descent!

    There she is!

    There she is!

    Birgit's 2nd flat... Picturesque!

    Birgit’s 2nd flat… Picturesque!

    Me wielding the broken stick daring the kids to come back! Got, this bugs me.

    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!

    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!

    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...

    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)

    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!

    Me and the Bridge!

    A Baboon scares Randy as he cycles past!

    A Baboon scares Randy as he cycles past!

    It was just so cool to see animals like this outside of the zoo!

    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.

    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.

    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!

    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!

    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!

    Cycle 3-5 km, take a break. Our motto for the Blue Nile Gorge!

    Some nice features along the way though for sure!

    Some nice features along the way though for sure!

    We killed it!!! ;)

    We killed it!!! ;)

    Day 4 kitten surprise!

    Day 4 kitten surprise!

    Please stop touching the bikes, guys!

    Please stop touching the bikes, guys!

    Ian enjoying a break, since I was cowering in the warmth of the Hilux by this point.

    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.

    Justin and Bina and I stopping for drinks… Taking it easy in the Hilux.

    Rider meeting again!

    Rider meeting again!

    Planning where to meet everyone again with Randy.

    Planning where to meet everyone again with Randy.

    While Birgit cycles on and finds another gorge!

    While Birgit cycles on and finds another gorge!

    Leah and Birgit at the border of Addis Ababa

    Leah and Birgit at the border of Addis Ababa

    Rest day wonder! Sheraton Addis, an Oasis!

    Rest day wonder! Sheraton Addis, an Oasis!

    Pool? Yes please!

    Pool? Yes please!

    We caught the gardener pruning! Erica holding a rose.

    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!

    It was pretty alright… Especially for Africa. Perhaps not the nicest hotel, but the nicest hotel and most western experience in forever here!

    More Sheraton!

    More Sheraton!

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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!

    Meskel square, where so many Ethiopians run and work out in the mornings and after work!

    Calgary Cafe?! That's.. odd!

    Calgary Cafe?! That’s.. odd!

    Phil! We're gonna miss you, buddy! Phil's been with us since Khartoum and he left yesterday!

    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!

    Love stuff like this. 7 Eleventh. No association, I am sure!

    Inside Addis Mercato, a church of course!

    Inside Addis Mercato, a church of course!

    Hmm, and a mosque!

    Hmm, and a mosque!

    These mannequins were creepy.

    These mannequins were creepy.

    Love the placement of some stores... Butcher, then suddenly mobile electronics!! No kindles anywhere though. :(

    Love the placement of some stores… Butcher, then suddenly mobile electronics!! No kindles anywhere though. :(

    Part of the shoes sections... Just miles of shoes.

    Part of the shoes sections… Just miles of shoes.

    Yup, donkeys in the city too!

    Yup, donkeys in the city too!

    Different kinds of food stuffs..

    Different kinds of food stuffs..

    Bustling!

    Bustling!

    A strange scrap metal area near my exit of the Mercato.

    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.

    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.

    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!

    More of Meskel square, this time people are running!

    Technical Difficulties on the Blog Resulted in a Serious Lack of Hippo Photos!

    So I have no idea what happened, but some technical issue resulted in about 20 photos being missing from my last post, including the best ones, 4 hippo photos! I think it also disabled comments for the post. I’m reposting the hippo photos cuz they’re my favourite and I can’t believe they were missed, I was so happy with them!!

    I’m in Addis now. More pictures and blog posts later!

    Hippos! OMG!

    Hippos! OMG!

    Hippos! OMG!!! A family!

    Hippos! OMG!!! A family!

    Hippos! OMG!!!!!!!

    Hippos! OMG!!!!!!!

    OMG!!!!! Hippos!!!!

    OMG!!!!! Hippos!!!!

    Lalibela Through Sickness, Health, and More Terrible Children to Bahir Dar on the Edge of Lake Tana

    SO! 3 days outside of Lalibela and we’re in Bahir Dar, how much riding did I do? About 1.3 days. :(

    I woke up on Day 1 with a sore throat (which remains), but that wasn’t a big deal… Away we went anyways! The first 25 km blew by quickly and was pretty fun, exiting the city, entering the countryside again… So far so good with rock kids, wee! Just before the pavement disappeared at a bridge at 20k, there was some unruly children and a couple scary dogs, but we survived it and soldiered on. Probably our first break around 25k is when I started to feel a bit weird. I quickly disintegrated after that. The next 5k was hell, and I even fell off the bike on some slanted gravel bits, with Kam right behind me, I almost tripped him up too! Nearby kids were laughing and screaming and running towards me still wanting money, I got out of there quick, only to find shittier kids 500m down the road, who threw stones at me as I passed. I spun around to give them the stare and got pegged in the side with two stones from what looked like 20-somethings on a hill nearby. WTF?! Adults throwing stones now?!

    From there I only made it a few more km as I tried to keep up to Birgit and my energy dropped and my stomach started cramping and I felt terrible once again. It continued into the night and all through it. Sigh! I don’t even know what supper was, just as I started to feel better in the afternoon, after a long ass sleep in the dinner truck, I got up to go feed myself at supper and my stomach descended into chaos again. Can’t figure it out! What is with this country that keeps making me feel like this?! Ughhhhh.

    Day 2 was spent on the truck, which was reasonably fast at least since the road was entirely paved. Did a lot more reading of the Sports Gene, which I’d put off for a couple months for some reason. Great book still, and ironically the chapters I was reading had to do with the running tribes of Ethiopia and Kenya, how fitting!

    On the bright side for me, and the dark side for everyone else, day 2 was hell from the children. All kinds of stories circulated camp this night, from Peter getting hit in the face with a stone and his lip bleeding, to Birgit getting one in the eye (sunglasses) and scratching the sunglass lens, to Dave G scaring the kids by turning around and they dropped all their blankets and sticks and he took them down the road and redistributed them to the next nice kids he found… I think 3 people rode into camp with sticks they’d taken from horrible kids, none of them used them as far as I know, just took them and make sure kids saw them as they rode by, it seemed to stave off attacks, but perhaps made things behind worse? The jury is still out.

    Day 2 also saw the peak altitude of the entire trip, and actually the highest point of any TDA tour to this date! 3256ish meters, I believe. There’s a pic of the lunch truck at that spot below, but it was pretty unassuming and uninteresting. I’d still have loved to ride it though!

    Dinner was Beef Stroganoff and I dipped my beef in ketchup, almost a meal I’d have at home! So delicious! Exactly what I needed and I really felt better this night!

    Day 3 saw the return of my health and spirits (and frost! omg it was below zero when we woke up and only 2 degrees celcius when we started riding! Though like 10km later it was probably 20 degrees again) and I got back on the bike for the 100ish km ride into the rest day in Bahir Dar! It was probably the best day of the tour so far for me. It was so nice to be back on the bike, and Birgit, Leah, and I rode along with the sweep, Justin (of Justin and Bina) and we just took the morning easy and fun, stopping for coffee twice, ride for an hour, coffee for an hour, ride for an hour, coffee for an hour… Ride to lunch.. lol. It was just a lot of fun with the 4 of us! We got to lunch so much later than everyone else, but oh well, it was enjoyable! Afternoon was swept by Hannah (who ended up getting a double-fist sized rock in the ribs from some kids 4 feet away and getting knocked off her bike :(), who I didn’t know was riding behind us. She was stopped at a TDA truck when we passed (she’d started a bit ahead) and Birgit was feeling unwell, so she got in the truck and I assumed Hannah was in there too, riding up to catch Leah and I, but alas, she was riding alone and once again, girls at the back sweeping get attacked. Still don’t understand this policy. :( Luckily she seems ok now and was in good spirits later at the THEME PARTY that we had when we got to the hotel! Oh yeah, and the afternoon ride, Leah and I just cranked it out and didn’t take any stops, it went by so fast, we got into Bahir Dar and was rewarded by seeing Hippos from the bridge that crosses the Blue Nile just as it exits Lake Tana! We were looking for Crocs and pretty much entirely missed the Hippos for the first while until a local was pointing out the “Elephants” (wrong word) to us. AMAZING! I love Hippos. We (Birgit, Irwin, and I) went back today on the rest day for more pics with a better camera and got rewarded with some more movement from the hippos as well. Amazing experience! Though it was weird that there was a car wash immediately behind them on the shore, where people used the Blue Nile water to wash and drain their cars… Lovely. :(

    Anyways, the party the night of Day 3 was pretty fun, a bit of a gong show. I found a local scarf and went wearing that and some boxers I found in town as well, since I love the scandalous outfits. Maybe there’ll be a picture below if I can find a good one. ;) We partied a lot at the hotel bar and then moved to a club down the road where the cover was a whopping 50c USD after we talked him down… As I later read today, all the girls in bars in Ethiopia are probably prostitutes, and it doesn’t have the same social stigma it does back home. Bahir Dar, being a big University town, has a high number of them apparently and the AIDS rate here is approaching 1/4 of the population! :( In the same section of the book it’s also talking about how female genital mutilation rates are something like 73% of the population of women too. Sigh. So sad! Ok, sorry, that was a weird aside because some of the guys at the bar got hit on by the prostitutes, but anyways, it was a fun night, no one slept with prositutes to my knowledge, and everyone had a blazing good time.

    Today we got royally ripped off by a common local scam that I didn’t even realize until I was getting on the boat. There’s island monasteries all over Lake Tana here (Bahir Dar is on the edge of the lake), and it sounded super cool and worth doing! At the party last night people were talking about a tour to see the monasteries and I was definitely onboard with this, and got up early to go do it! As we were getting on the boat, I discover it’s 400 Birr ($20USD) and only going to include one monastery. The guy who brought us there isn’t taking us any further. I assumed last night and this morning that it was a hotel-planned event, but I think it was just a guy off the street earning a huge commission by bringing all these suckers on this tour. It was not worth 400 Birr, and we didn’t even have time to walk around the peninsula and see the monkeys there. It was a nice monastery, but a waste of the morning really. After that Birgit, Irwin, and myself shared 30 Birr in Tuk-tuk fees to get to and from the Blue Nile bridge where we spent over an hour observing and photographing the hippos. 10 Birr each, basically. A worthy investment!! Amazing. AMAZING!

    The rest of the day was filled with juice, cake, attempted burgers, and some snack purchasing. Bahir Dar is an interesting place, it almost feels like Hawaii or something, except everything is still in Amharic and everyone wants to rip you off. When I was buying my scarf, this guy who spoke English started following Pier, Leah, and I around the market and interjecting with helpful translation when unasked for. I think he was upping the prices everyone was telling him and taking a cut. I got ripped off on my scarf too. It’s all a matter of single digit dollars, really, but it’s just bullshit. We all miss the people of Sudan who were super friendly and would never try and screw you over. In fact, many times they didn’t allow us to pay for things or actively gave us things from their store just because they wanted to share. Expecting nothing in return. So different a border can make people!

    Also, my throat still hurts. Damnit.

    I really like Birgit’s Facebook update about the last couple days, so I’m gonna share it with you blog readers too!

    “””
    Saw three hippos in their natural habitat in the Blue Nile today, wohoo, so exciting!! Greetings from Bahir Dar, located at Lake Tana where the Blue Nile starts. After three very hilly (meaning very alpine conditions switch backs) cycling days, summiting at 3253m and camping at below 0 degree Celsius we arrived in the Ethiopian riviera- a little gem full of fresh fruit juice places with 4-layered fruit juices, all you can imagine food and some nighttime entertainment. Yeah, so needed. You must have seen all the pix from my fellow soccer players, aka riders. Wearing a kids-sized soccer outfit in a night club let’s you forget all the pain and sweat of the last days…

    I need to revise my comment from the last rest day that I am feeling almost 100%. Cycling the TDA, eating African food, heat, cold, still a sore shoulder/collar bone from the accident a month ago, camping at below 0, not feeling toes and fingers because they are numb from riding or numb from the cold, dizziness because it’s too hot, too cold or too high altitude, eating too much or not enough, being mentally exhausted from the stone-throwing kids etc, etc all just doesn’t sum up to feeling ever 100%, ever. TDA and 100% healthy are as polar opposite as possible!!!

    Ethiopia turned into a love-hate affair for me. Those kids are really giving me a hard time. There is always a first, but once a kid threw a fist-sized stone straight into my eyes after beating me up with a stick, I simply lost my temper. Never ever have yelled at a child that much in my entire life. Didn’t even know I knew that many swear words. Luckily I always wear sunglasses, so only have scratched up my glasses but things would have been very different without my eye protection. There are amazing kids around that stand at the side of the road, cheering, clapping, chanting and creating a festival-like atmosphere for the few seconds we share together when cycling past them, but then there are those hundreds of kids welcoming you with a chorus of ‘money money money’, ‘youyouyou’, ‘pen pen pen’ or, the more advanced version of ‘where are you go’, ‘what is your name’ or ‘what is your age’ followed by stones and rocks … Africa is not for sissies!!!
    “””

    Pictures are what make the posts, especially when I’ve been sick, so here they are! Again, a collection of Birgit and I’s.

    Some lovely scenery I missed, cowering in the dinner truck like the sick man I was.

    Some lovely scenery I missed, cowering in the dinner truck like the sick man I was.

    Birgit and Kam rode together the rest of Day 1 and apparently had some awesome sky cooperation.

    Birgit and Kam rode together the rest of Day 1 and apparently had some awesome sky cooperation.

    We really weren't here long before this photo, already a crowd!

    We really weren’t here long before this photo, already a crowd!

    Our security for the night, unsure which is scarier, the AK47 or the whip he's carrying.

    Our security for the night, unsure which is scarier, the AK47 or the whip he’s carrying.

    Birgit and Leah leaving for their ride on day 2 while I get ready for the truck.

    Birgit and Leah leaving for their ride on day 2 while I get ready for the truck.

    Leah overlooking a sweet ass view!

    Leah overlooking a sweet ass view!

    The lunch Truck at the highest point on TDA 2014.

    The lunch Truck at the highest point on TDA 2014.

    Leah making friends like always!

    Leah making friends like always!

    Leah basking in the sun at 2 degrees as we set out to beging our ride on Day 3.

    Leah basking in the sun at 2 degrees as we set out to beging our ride on Day 3.

    I'm glad Birgit got a picture of this sweet rocky mountain cuz it was sweet and I totally failed at stopping to get one (downhill).

    I’m glad Birgit got a picture of this sweet rocky mountain cuz it was sweet and I totally failed at stopping to get one (downhill).

    Justin and I at coffee/coke stop number 1.

    Justin and I at coffee/coke stop number 1.

    All the coffee cups lined up for the ceremony.

    All the coffee cups lined up for the ceremony.

    Mixed juice drinks! No water, just crushed juices.

    Mixed juice drinks! No water, just crushed juices.

    Hey, a different angle of the last picture!

    Hey, a different angle of the last picture!

    This guy got some leftover food at lunch. He probably needs it.

    This guy got some leftover food at lunch. He probably needs it.

    Leah and Myself riding our hearts out on Day 3... Birgit took this from the truck as she went by! I do actually bike sometimes! Cafe Roubaix!!

    Leah and Myself riding our hearts out on Day 3… Birgit took this from the truck as she went by! I do actually bike sometimes! Cafe Roubaix!!

    Stocking up on my vitamins!

    Stocking up on my vitamins!

    Alex and Birgit enjoying even more juice. Probably one of the coolest bits of Ethiopia.

    Alex and Birgit enjoying even more juice. Probably one of the coolest bits of Ethiopia.

    These dried peppers are all over the place in Ethiopia, even the smallest towns have them visible as we cycle by!

    These dried peppers are all over the place in Ethiopia, even the smallest towns have them visible as we cycle by!

    Starbacks Coffee!! lol.

    Starbacks Coffee!! lol.

    3 of the soccer team at theme night (theme was dress like a local)..

    3 of the soccer team at theme night (theme was dress like a local)..

    Oh my.

    Oh my.

    Oh wow, we almost have a full roster!

    Oh wow, we almost have a full roster!

    Leah and Wolfendave

    Leah and Wolfendave

    Birgit and German Dave

    Birgit and German Dave

    Mateo, horsing around! Er, donkeying.

    Mateo, horsing around! Er, donkeying.

    The craziest bird this morning on the way to the boat for the trip to the monastery!

    The craziest bird this morning on the way to the boat for the trip to the monastery!

    Ethiopia has more birds than any other African nation. I don't know the names of any of them.

    Ethiopia has more birds than any other African nation. I don’t know the names of any of them.

    Some of the boats waiting to take tourists to the monasteries of Lake Tana.

    Some of the boats waiting to take tourists to the monasteries of Lake Tana.

    Everyone looking so alert in the morning after the big party.

    Everyone looking so alert in the morning after the big party.

    Birgit and Jennilea walking through the forest to get to the monastery. We saw Mertola Maryam I think?

    Birgit and Jennilea walking through the forest to get to the monastery. We saw Mertola Maryam I think?

    Jill, Sonia, Ross, Anne, Kim

    Jill, Sonia, Ross, Anne, Kim

    Coffee fruit, out to dry!

    Coffee fruit, out to dry!

    So colourful!!

    So colourful!!

    Another nameless bird. This one was hiding under the monastery roof. Cool.

    Another nameless bird. This one was hiding under the monastery roof. Cool.

    Sudanesus's future as an Ethiopian Monk.

    Sudanesus’s future as an Ethiopian Monk.

    More Ethiopian paintings inside the monastery... they all start to look the same, sorry I'm not an art history buff!

    More Ethiopian paintings inside the monastery… they all start to look the same, sorry I’m not an art history buff!

    Us learning stuff for way too many Birr.

    Us learning stuff for way too many Birr.

    Kam joins the band.

    Kam joins the band.

    Abercrombie! I really wonder where locals get their clothes. Looks like a lot of thrift shop things.

    Abercrombie! I really wonder where locals get their clothes. Looks like a lot of thrift shop things.

    Birgit looking unimpressed at the 1 stop expensive boat trip.

    Birgit looking unimpressed at the 1 stop expensive boat trip.

    Pelican!!

    Pelican!!

    Hippos! OMG!

    Hippos! OMG!

    Hippos! OMG!!! A family!

    Hippos! OMG!!! A family!

    Hippos! OMG!!!!!!!

    Hippos! OMG!!!!!!!

    OMG!!!!! Hippos!!!!

    OMG!!!!! Hippos!!!!

    A Kingfisher, I was told!

    A Kingfisher, I was told!

    This guy was shouting at us to cross the Croc infested water and get closer to the Hippos. Then later got naked and yelled at us and shook his junk at us. Sorry, no pics of that part, though he is naked already here.

    This guy was shouting at us to cross the Croc infested water and get closer to the Hippos. Then later got naked and yelled at us and shook his junk at us. Sorry, no pics of that part, though he is naked already here.

    More birds!

    More birds!

    All the Tuk Tuk drivers take their hands off the wheel and cross themselves as they pass a nearby church thing.

    All the Tuk Tuk drivers take their hands off the wheel and cross themselves as they pass a nearby church thing.

    Chise Burger and French Frice please!

    Chise Burger and French Frice please!

    Market bags of stuff!

    Market bags of stuff!

    Birgit coming down the super spicy isle... We sneezed a lot here!

    Birgit coming down the super spicy isle… We sneezed a lot here!

    Spice is serious business!

    Spice is serious business!

    Spices and oil/water buckets!

    Spices and oil/water buckets!

    Obama Trading company, lol.

    Obama Trading company, lol.

    Odd seeing signs like this around town!

    Odd seeing signs like this around town!

    We really know how to bring down the stars of a hotel! Laundry lines... and tents on the roof.

    We really know how to bring down the stars of a hotel! Laundry lines… and tents on the roof.

    Crazy Ethiopian Children, Rock-Hewn Churches, and Some Rough and Tough Riding Through Ethiopia! Axum to Lalibela

    Day 1 I was just too exhausted to do anything, a common story on this trip! I wrote about this day on day 2, when I was equally exhausted, but needed some social connection, even if it was delayed by lack of internet. ;)

    Day 1 was a big mix of paved and dirt and we started pretty late really, someone was having stomach issues, but we won’t go naming names! We started at like 7:35 or something, long after everyone but Michael, who always relaxes, something many of us could learn from! The day was slow for Birgit, especially on the climbs, but we slowly reeled in people and finished the morning ahead of about 10 people… All who decided to take the lunch truck. The afternoon saw temps back in the 40s despite the apparent mid 20s highs… There was some huge climbs in the day, one of us walked, one of us cycled it all, but it was overall just a terribly challenging day, especially after 6 days off really due to sickness of varying types and rest days!

    Our day took over 9.5 hours, with lots of stops of course, cuz we love stops, but god damn it was just killer hot and exhausting! The sweep caught up to us again, but she hates hills so we told them to drop her off at the top and we’d survive. Justin and Bina (staff and married to each other; also two of my favourite people on the trip) kind of hung out in the truck and slowly ascended the hill, taking some pics of us here and there. Being swept stresses Birgit out so much but I don’t mind. Hannah was the actual sweep this day and we found out she was never supposed to have to bike, they told her she was biking after she already accepted the offer.. Cuz there was too few people to staff the tour to regular levels so everyone has to do much more work than normal. Normally the nurse (Hannah) would have just been the nurse, unless they wanted to cycle, sounds like!

    I got slapped on the ass too, last village of the day. Birgit told me I needed to gain weight, they mistook me for a girl! lol. It wasn’t super pleasant. Poor women of the world! Was just some idiot kid like usual, but ugh.

    Rocks were rare but ever present. Almost worst than the rocks are the kids that run beside you for like 5-10 minutes at a time, yelling the same unknown Amharic phrase at the top of their lungs! I need the Amharic phrase for “Shut up and leave me alone!” It’s hard enough climbing rocky dirt hills without some kid screaming at you the whole time. The novelty of being a celebrity has definitely worn off! They also yell Ferengi (foreigner) and run out of every house and field when we pass. Yes, we are foreigners, thanks for noticing, ahhhh! haha. The other thing they like to yell is “China!” cuz China builds the roads and invests a lot in Africa, so they think we’re China.

    Dinner was one of my least favourite meals, lamb stuffing. All bread, little lamb. Oh well.

    Day 2 started with 20km of paved that flew by like no one’s business! I think I may have hit 70 km/h on one of the downhills in the morning, and was soaking it up! Then the dirt started that will take us all the way to Lalibela. At km 62 tomorrow (day 3) the dirt road gets much worse, apparently for the rest of the way to Lalibela, so all of day 4!

    Overall I guess Day 2 was ok… Took us 9 hours again but we had a significant number of stops. So many that despite Leah officially joining us for the day, she abandoned us around km 95 and we took km 99 coke stop without her, where again the sweep caught us. We take breaks and people get on the trucks, we are gonna a continue to finish last, and we have decided it’s worth it for all the cultural experiences of the towns and the photos we get along the way as well! Being swept is nothing, they’re all pretty casual about sweeping and not pressure at all, just need to convince Birgit that it’s ok! Michael stops every few km and does random amazing exploration on the road or goes into houses or climbs trees or investigates random abandoned buildings and they put up with him. We can take some breaks and get swept, whatever. :)

    Many more rocks today though none super terrible.. At one village they threw rocks at us then came and sat outside the shop for like a half hour while we enjoyed the coldest coke stop of the entire trip (by and large most of the coke we get (and other sodas) along the ‘highway’ (lol) is warm)… They chased us out of town yelling something. All the experiences rolled into one!

    There’s these ropes laid across the road at most villages that are used as some sort of security stop for trucks, so the vehicles can be stopped to be inspected or something… I hate hate hate riding over the rope though when someone is near it. Always worried they’ll pull it up just as I get there and clothesline me. Luckily never seen a kid near one though!

    1800m climbed Day 1 (biggest climb of my life I believe, Golden to Castle Junction is only 1550 or so, and paved!).. Day 2 was a mere 1300 (though the downhill of 1800+ was a worse problem)… Day 3 is supposed to be a colossal 2500+ meter climb, hopefully we can finish it! Only 84km but all of the climbing (3 big ones) is on dirt, with the last one being on worse (corrugated) dirt. Fun. =\

    Trying to smile through it all! Tomorrow we camp at almost 3000m above sea level! Tonight is a mere 1300 I think! Hopefully the elevation will bring cooler temperatures too! Gah!

    Almost forgot, two crazy things happened in Day 2 as well!

    Chris D’s bike frame cracked, just around the seat post hole. It’s an aluminum frame and his seat post just wasn’t long enough, despite him asking the shop for a longer one, they said it would be ok. It wasn’t. Though apparently an amazing carbon and resin patch job last night made it usable today from lunch, after it had some extra cure time in the sun this morning! Awesome work by the mechanic and good thing that Helen has some carbon patch kits! Turns out her and Sigrid have carbon fibre frames.. Crazy! So much recommending against them… And fucking suspension! The TDA documents all suggest not bringing suspension and then we spend 100s of miles on the worst roads possible! lol. Also would’ve loved to get some tips on bringing a bike with cross brakes! I’ll get into that in a minute though! (side note: rumour has it that Cannondale is shipping him a new frame to Africa, hopefully it makes it through customs in time to get it!)

    The other big event was new riders Steve and Kim (couple from Vancouver and Yellowknife respectively) were having a bad day yesterday, mostly Kim, just too hot and too far for like their 3rd day, totally understandable, and they were walking and waiting for someone to send back the truck for a ride. An Ethiopian truck with a few people in the back pulled over and offered them a ride. They accepted (this is common enough, no worries), but then the truck stalled on a hill, tried a few times to restart and then started rolling backwards down the hill. One or two of the people jumped out but Steve and Kim and others remained and went into the ditch and through a thorn tree or something! Got pretty scratched up and shaken emotionally of course! Ahhh! They both took Day 3 off.

    Dinner was… hmm. Oh yeah, Mutton Curry! Good, but too many bones! :)

    Day 3 was hell for sure, and it beat me again. The uphill I was doing well at, passing people, feeling good, but jesus am I over the downhill on these roads. I almost die every time if it’s over a very light downward grade! I just can’t hold on to the brakes anymore over the rocks, my hands feel more and more bruised and weak every downhill, hurting so much! To top it off, at one town I was poked with a stick, hit with the stick, and hit with rocks! What the flying F, kids?! I wanted her to swing the stick one more time so I could grab it and break it! It’s really hard to keep your cool through these events. Just some serious terrible.

    I gave up at 42k today (something like 1600m of vert), 2k from lunch, everything hurt just so bad (from not braking and having no suspension) and I was sick of almost dying every downhill haha. I stopped as the truck passed and asked if there was room and then fell over in my pedals too and scratched up my leg… ridiculous! lol. That was the end if my day. No one else rode on from lunch either (that was there when we were), so Birgit quit too (tho she is enjoying the downs and hating the ups). We cycled 2k more into town and had juice and coffee and coke and I tried to find a burger or fries or cake or something salty and failed.. Oh well. Was a fun couple hours.

    I was pretty sure I wouldn’t ride Day 4! 2500m of downhill, double what Day 3 had. I’d also really wanted to see as much of the churches in Lalibela as possible, it’s like the only place I knew about in Ethiopia before coming! Also just getting to camp before the 9 hour mark would be amazing. Rough days this week!

    Bina had a terrible morning too! I don’t know why the fuck they keep putting girls on sweep, especially tiny ones like Bina (she’s 90lbs and pretty short – and blonde, something special locally). Some kids pulled her off her bike and we’re throwing fist sized rocks at her asking for money. They didn’t back down either like most do if you make an aggressive motion towards them. Sounded horrible, poor girl! Fuck I hate so much about the people here sometimes. Then you get the odd really nice or cute experience that’s hard to remember through all the painful ones! Grr!

    Been trying not to swear since mom told me my grandparents are reading this, but this kind of behaviour deserves some swears! (Sorry Nanny and Papa ;))

    Dinner was all vegetarian, like most days before rest days for some reason. Chickpeas and some sauce that was hottish. It was ok.

    Day 4 was solidly on the truck. Along with basically everyone else. 7 people rode the whole day, and maybe 10 rode from lunch. Everyone else got rides to Lalibela. Just too much and everyone was excited to get here. Sadly it still took 5 hours on the truck, and we barely beat the lunch truck riders! Oh well!

    Got some great food all over the place and then ran to St. George‘s church to see it (pics below), after a not so quick stop at the ticket office where we had to pay !!$50USD!! to see the churches, and then to the bank for Birgit, and then we took the longest way ever to find the church, which was actually right by our hotel, oops. Also, closing at 6pm means closing at 5pm (not literally, but in this case), sooo, we missed out on seeing the inside and had to do that at the end of the rest day.

    We went to the most amazing restaurant for dinner after that though! Ben Abeba, which is pictured below. A Scottish woman runs it with an Ethiopian partner, and it was just a huge amazingly architected gem on the edge (literally) of Lalibela. Such views, omg! Check it out below and make sure you stop in if you ever go. Cheap amazing food too and so much fun! Go at sunset!

    Today was a busy busy day! Birgit and I (and Amanda, and Michael though they kind of left separately) went to see the church masses at 6am! It was pretty incredible, so many people and so much confusion on our part, but I’m really glad we did it! Then we spent a while looking at the nearby churches, went to have some breakfast and only found some weak French Toast and Machiatos (and Pepsi), and then went back, all in all, probably 4 hours of churching in the morning. Turns out the church clusters are much closer than previously expected and we saw all 3 clusters and most of the churches. St. George is still my favourite, though some of the others have some more to offer inside… like Bet Medhane Alem, where the most worshippers were in the morning! Lots more inside there. St. George ended up being kind of weak inside, we saw it at the end of the day.

    I again stocked up on snacks for the next couple days (cookies, chips, peanuts – cooked this time, omg. At least our last uncooked gross peanuts were found by Noah the truck driver and ended up being roasted and salted to deliciousness). Then stuffed myself with steak and fries for dinner! MMMMmmm! :D

    Now I’m writing the blog. Seems weak when I write it out, but hopefully the pictures below are somewhat worth it. I have lots more, but I don’t want to bore everyone to death with church pics. Just enjoy the ones I decided to post! :D

    Really liking all the blog comments too, guys! Thanks for them! I do check them every chance I get and they’re super exciting! Hello to all my cyclist friends’ friends and families too, I guess lots of you are reading! :D

    Picture time! I really like this set of pictures! As much of a downer some of this post is, it sure has been pretty!! Way prettier than ever expected! :D

    Miss you all!

    Me taking a break on the road and taking some pictures for the blog! :D

    Me taking a break on the road and taking some pictures for the blog! :D

    I really liked this switchback, lol.

    I really liked this switchback, lol.

    Three cyclists descend down our next switchback. Some clapping children on this one, no rocks for us but I heard others got some! I think the riders were Sigrid, Ross, and Chris C.

    Three cyclists descend down our next switchback. Some clapping children on this one, no rocks for us but I heard others got some! I think the riders were Sigrid, Ross, and Chris C.

    Birgit posing in front of the picturesque switchback!

    Birgit posing in front of the picturesque switchback!

    And me! With my Cafe Roubaix shirt. Love that place! Go visit in Cochrane, AB, Canada!

    And me! With my Cafe Roubaix shirt. Love that place! Go visit in Cochrane, AB, Canada!

    Birgit telling a kid that no, she doesn't have pens, chocolate, money, or other things. Yes, we're Ferengi (foreigners), yes we're going to Lalibela just like the other 50 people you've asked.

    Birgit telling a kid that no, she doesn’t have pens, chocolate, money, or other things. Yes, we’re Ferengi (foreigners), yes we’re going to Lalibela just like the other 50 people you’ve asked.

    Pretty sure this is a little church we found in the middle of our ride.

    Pretty sure this is a little church we found in the middle of our ride.

    A coke stop on the sunny side of the road (boo!), though we didn't want to leave our bikes unattended so the lady that owned this place actually brought out chairs and a table for us, lol. Oops.

    A coke stop on the sunny side of the road (boo!), though we didn’t want to leave our bikes unattended so the lady that owned this place actually brought out chairs and a table for us, lol. Oops.

    Kids watching as we drink coke. We're amazing, drinking coke around the country! Ticket cost is nothing. If we're lucky, they don't throw rocks as we leave.

    Kids watching as we drink coke. We’re amazing, drinking coke around the country! Ticket cost is nothing. If we’re lucky, they don’t throw rocks as we leave.

    This is our flagging tape the crew leaves on poles and plants to guide us through towns. It's on these guys' heads instead. This happens a lot. Also, sometimes they think we're marking their village for rape and murder, so they remove them. Awesome.

    This is our flagging tape the crew leaves on poles and plants to guide us through towns. It’s on these guys’ heads instead. This happens a lot. Also, sometimes they think we’re marking their village for rape and murder, so they remove them. Awesome.

    Leah enjoying a little coke stop.

    Leah enjoying a little coke stop.

    Taking a break with some goats. Some kids came later and gave us some berries. Then asked for money and pens.

    Taking a break with some goats. Some kids came later and gave us some berries. Then asked for money and pens.

    The berries the kids gave us!

    The berries the kids gave us!

    Leah and Birgit discussing something while I take a break a few meters behind. Slog day!

    Leah and Birgit discussing something while I take a break a few meters behind. Slog day!

    Protecting my gear on a coke (pepsi) stop! I have two bottles every stop and still my weight plummets!

    Protecting my gear on a coke (pepsi) stop! I have two bottles every stop and still my weight plummets!

    Some awesome greenery! It's not the rainy season so everything here is a little brown!

    Some awesome greenery! It’s not the rainy season so everything here is a little brown!

    Day 3 super climb. Birgit walking in the foreground, probably Leah in the background.

    Day 3 super climb. Birgit walking in the foreground, probably Leah in the background.

    Holy crap, I do still ride my bike sometimes! So aero!

    Holy crap, I do still ride my bike sometimes! So aero!

    Birgit took this as I got into the Landy for the ride to lunch. When they asked if I wanted a ride, I fell over and scraped my leg, ridiculous. Was not my day! Too hot, damnit.

    Birgit took this as I got into the Landy for the ride to lunch. When they asked if I wanted a ride, I fell over and scraped my leg, ridiculous. Was not my day! Too hot, damnit.

    Peter lent me his bike to go into Sekota from lunch since mine was already packed on the truck. The non-roadie brakes were AMAZING.

    Peter lent me his bike to go into Sekota from lunch since mine was already packed on the truck. The non-roadie brakes were AMAZING.

    Sigrid, Jos (newish sectional rider who's done TDA before), and Birgit enjoying a stop in Sekota instead of cycling in the afternoon.

    Sigrid, Jos (newish sectional rider who’s done TDA before), and Birgit enjoying a stop in Sekota instead of cycling in the afternoon.

    The kid behind me here is wearing a bike seat as a hat. Yup.

    The kid behind me here is wearing a bike seat as a hat. Yup.

    Day 4, basically everyone decides to take the truck, so the truck is completely packed with bikes, lol.

    Day 4, basically everyone decides to take the truck, so the truck is completely packed with bikes, lol.

    Camp time! Everyone hit the internet! (seriously, we have enough Africa and co-cyclist time, lol)

    Camp time! Everyone hit the internet! (seriously, we have enough Africa and co-cyclist time, lol)

    Birgit taking photos near the cemetery that we end up walking by 800 times in the 2 days we're here..

    Birgit taking photos near the cemetery that we end up walking by 800 times in the 2 days we’re here..

    Green shoes are pretty common here! lol. These shops are funny.

    Green shoes are pretty common here! lol. These shops are funny.

    Africa!

    Africa!

    St. George's Church, my favourite of Lalibela.

    St. George’s Church, my favourite of Lalibela.

    Birgit and St. George's during the golden hour before sunset.

    Birgit and St. George’s during the golden hour before sunset.

    Love the Obama 'Gife' Shop. lol, Engrish.

    Love the Obama ‘Gife’ Shop. lol, Engrish.

    Ben Abeba (Mountain Flower - Scottish and Ethiopian words respectively) restaurant. What an amazing place here in Lalibela! An absolute gem!

    Ben Abeba (Mountain Flower – Scottish and Ethiopian words respectively) restaurant. What an amazing place here in Lalibela! An absolute gem!

    Sunset at Ben Abeba! Outstanding!

    Sunset at Ben Abeba! Outstanding!

    Worshippers on Sunday morning in Lalibela. Everyone in white! You can make out a priest up front too maybe.

    Worshippers on Sunday morning in Lalibela. Everyone in white! You can make out a priest up front too maybe.

    Birgit posing with a terribly translated German sign about not taking photos with flash.

    Birgit posing with a terribly translated German sign about not taking photos with flash.

    Lots of praying while having your head against the wall. Don't really understand it!

    Lots of praying while having your head against the wall. Don’t really understand it!

    Birgit taking pictures of locals taking pictures of her. Yes, I took a picture of this happening.

    Birgit taking pictures of locals taking pictures of her. Yes, I took a picture of this happening.

    Boy I love to stick my tongue out at everything! Putting my shoes back on after a stop in a church, lol.

    Boy I love to stick my tongue out at everything! Putting my shoes back on after a stop in a church, lol.

    I totally blend in to the crowds at the churches this morning in my blue jacket and yellow shirt when all the worshippers are wearing all white! ... eep!

    I totally blend in to the crowds at the churches this morning in my blue jacket and yellow shirt when all the worshippers are wearing all white! … eep!

    I imagine this is a UN-related effort to save the churches from rain erosion. It's pretty bad on top of some of them.

    I imagine this is a UN-related effort to save the churches from rain erosion. It’s pretty bad on top of some of them.

    Outside of the churches... More proselyting!

    Outside of the churches… More proselyting!

    Even more people have showed up now.

    Even more people have showed up now.

    They're multiplying! We still look out of place.

    They’re multiplying! We still look out of place.

    Blending in!

    Blending in!

    The cemetery we keep walking by. Jacaranda trees in the background! Purple is pretty!

    The cemetery we keep walking by. Jacaranda trees in the background! Purple is pretty!

    Pretty sure these 3 stone piles are other graves too... Eep! Right off the main road. Like, 1 foot off.

    Pretty sure these 3 stone piles are other graves too… Eep! Right off the main road. Like, 1 foot off.

    Birgit enjoying two machiatos at breakfast while we ate the only thing we could understand on the menu, French Toast... with natural local honey.

    Birgit enjoying two machiatos at breakfast while we ate the only thing we could understand on the menu, French Toast… with natural local honey.

    Climbing up from a tunnel into a church. Tight staircase!

    Climbing up from a tunnel into a church. Tight staircase!

    Most of the churches have these weird paintings just sitting on the floor at the front of them. I thought the 3 guys on the left there looked like they came from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, lol.

    Most of the churches have these weird paintings just sitting on the floor at the front of them. I thought the 3 guys on the left there looked like they came from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, lol.

    I thought these were public toilets for once (omg the smell!) but the girl got mad at Birgit when she left that I didn't pay, so Birgit paid for me. 1 Birr.. about 5c.

    I thought these were public toilets for once (omg the smell!) but the girl got mad at Birgit when she left that I didn’t pay, so Birgit paid for me. 1 Birr.. about 5c.

    Looking down on Steve and Kim and other tourists! Steep drop! No fence. Africa!

    Looking down on Steve and Kim and other tourists! Steep drop! No fence. Africa!

    Birgit on a bridge. The highlight of the Southern cluster, I think. This and the tunnels, though I wish they were longer and more extensive!

    Birgit on a bridge. The highlight of the Southern cluster, I think. This and the tunnels, though I wish they were longer and more extensive!

    Some of the rock carvings inside the churches are pretty amazing!

    Some of the rock carvings inside the churches are pretty amazing!

    Birgit after saying "Oh look, another church in a hole."

    Birgit after saying “Oh look, another church in a hole.”

    A big bird of prey we found near the last of the churches!

    A big bird of prey we found near the last of the churches!

    And a lizard!

    And a lizard!

    Great photo of Michael enjoying the shit out of a coffee pour!

    Great photo of Michael enjoying the shit out of a coffee pour!

    These two kids, just carrying some skins around. Looks fresh!

    These two kids, just carrying some skins around. Looks fresh!

    Found some more cyclists on our way down! Ian, Jill, Erica, Claudia, and Pier! All bloggers you can find on the right at the top! ;)

    Found some more cyclists on our way down! Ian, Jill, Erica, Claudia, and Pier! All bloggers you can find on the right at the top! ;)

    Spotted Kam from miles away in his red shirt. Big zoom lense for this one! lol.

    Spotted Kam from miles away in his red shirt. Big zoom lense for this one! lol.

    Kam checking out St. George's painting at the front of the church. Some guy nearby was offering blessings for money.

    Kam checking out St. George’s painting at the front of the church. Some guy nearby was offering blessings for money.

    Just outside St. George's!

    Just outside St. George’s!

    Kam and I just outside of St. George's Church.

    Kam and I just outside of St. George’s Church.

    Bones in a hole near St. George's... Weird! Apparently a Jerusalem tourist from the 1600s who visited and was embarrassed at how much better Lalibela was, so they died and stayed there. /disbelief.

    Bones in a hole near St. George’s… Weird! Apparently a Jerusalem tourist from the 1600s who visited and was embarrassed at how much better Lalibela was, so they died and stayed there. /disbelief.

    A sweet bird in a hole by St. George's

    A sweet bird in a hole by St. George’s

    Ethiopia has the most species of birds out of any place in Africa! This is Birgit's pic of it.

    Ethiopia has the most species of birds out of any place in Africa! This is Birgit’s pic of it.

    Contemplating the placement of this water and vegetation at the bottom of the hole that you can find St. George's Church in.

    Contemplating the placement of this water and vegetation at the bottom of the hole that you can find St. George’s Church in.

    Kam down the entrance from the tunnels to the St. George church... hole.

    Kam down the entrance from the tunnels to the St. George church… hole.

    Kam and Birgit as we leave St. George's for the last time.

    Kam and Birgit as we leave St. George’s for the last time.

    Over the mountains and through the hills, Gondar to Axum, Ethiopia

    WOW! The views on this section have been stunning! There was three days of riding, but I only did a day and a half. I did the first half of the first day and started to feel bad again, and then felt good that evening, woke up, felt good, ate, and crashed back into sickness. The third day I finally felt strong again and rode the whole amazing day! Anyways, here’s some stuff that happened!

    Day 1 started off so well! A great downhill from the hotel through the rest of town, and into a nice gradual uphill (that would eventually surpass 1000m of climbing even before I quit at lunch!). Around 35k or so, though, my stomach issues came back with a passion and cramping and terribleness ensued!

    Birgit had tire issues early in the morning (her Mustang rims have been hell on this trip post-Sudan; same rims have provided problems for 2 other riders as well)… So with this 30 minute delay, by the time I had the stomach issues, the sweep was upon us. We stopped for a coke stop (I asked for a toilet here and was led through some slummy houses to an unmarked steel door which had a hole in the ground inside, and smelled terrible. I’m pretty sure this was surrounded by local houses. An experience, for sure!) and I had some more Buscopan which definitely helped, but it was a long ass ride from there to lunch at 68k where I decided to call it quits.  Anyways, beautiful scenery, and a lot of asshole children. One group was throwing boulder sized rocks off a cliff at the sweep as he went by, I think they were only throwing regular sized rocks at us lots of young people and kids try and push you or pull you off the bike too, and or throw or swing sticks! Lovely place.

    We took some pictures at this lookout and there was a small group of tourists there too with a private land cruiser and guide and the guide is keeping the kids away while they were enjoying the lookout but then they go to leave and the stupid Western woman in the car rolls down the windshield and dumps out pens and candy and shit.. no wonder every child in this country sucks! lol. Ok probably not every child, but this kind of behaviour really does not make anything easy for us! We can’t just roll up the windshield and drive through, and instead get rocks thrown at us  or sticks swung or the like when we don’t give them stuff. :-(

    At lunch we arrived to a cordoned off lunch truck, supposedly keeping the masses at bay, of which there are crazy amounts basically everywhere we stop for more than a few seconds. Kam’s backpack was well within the cordoned off area but was briefly unattended and got stolen! His passport was originally thought to may be in there (but days later spoiler: he had it in the truck like he was supposed to, phew!) along with $100 USD and 1000 Birr (another $50). His camera too.. and the backpack itself, clearly. He and Randy and one of our local staff went to the next town and got the police (who didn’t have a car so we brought them back in one of the trucks) and they interviewed a bunch of the kids, many aggressively.. Then took a bunch of kids back to town for more? Something, anyways. It seems the kids identified the thief, and a few days later we found out they found them (2 of them), and the backpack and all the contents. Good news, right? Kind of! Kam had to go back to get them on a local bus with one of our local guys, and he has to press charges to get it back. Clearly the kids deserve punishment, but we all kind of worry about the level of punishment they’ll receive. In Sudan it would’ve been some hand cutting-off, it won’t be the same here, but it’ll be hell for these two for such a dumb decision. It’s hard, because on one side, you hate almost all the children here, but on the other, they’re dumb kids, they probably don’t deserve to have their life ruined so Kam can get his stuff back. Alas, third world judicial systems. :(

    After lunch we took the truck and eventually stopped again in a town for a coke stop where the truck was immediately surrounded by about 100 begging people, harassing us, trying to open the door, etc etc. Birgit and one of the new riders, Kim, went down the road for coffee before all this started and we had to hold down the fort til they got back. Bina was overwhelmed with attention, being a small attractive blonde female, and had to retreat to the truck. Eventually the crowd found the water taps and suddenly like 8 people were lined up with water cans! What a crazy place this is. There’s good people here and there but we are all kinds of souring on the Ethiopian countryside so far! Very beautiful and never boring, but bordering on dangerous… or at least uncomfortableness!

    The last 19km into camp was all offroad downhill, with litterally 100s of metres of drop just off the edge. So pretty though! Everywhere you look, amazingly pretty mountains. Love the views, and it’s definitely far from the boredom of Sudan! If only I could get better and ride more!

    The top story of the day was that German David got a dead bird thrown at him in the morning! Always an adventure!

    Dinner was a great beef stew! I’m pretty sure this was one of my first classic stews. We had a spanish stew before, but the ‘sauce’ was mashed potatoes. This was more real. I had lots and lots of beef. Need to get my weight and protein intake back up!

    Day 2 opened up well for me, but immediately turned to terrible after some food, so despite being dressed to ride, I threw my bike up on the truck and got on for the worst ride of my life. We started with 3 people in the dinner truck but had grown to 10 by the time we hit lunch, which we didn’t get to until almost 5 hours later. Lunch was at 50-something, I think. That’s right, the truck was averaging around 10 km/h. The whole day took 7 hours, and we were crammed in there like sardines. People that started at lunch (at noon, because that’s how long it took the lunch truck to get there too) wanted a pickup as well, but we were full. The day turned out to be the hardest of the tour yet, according to pretty much everyone that rode part of it. Birgit and Leah were troopers and finished in 11 hours, 1 hour under the max if you’re racing (you get 12 hours for sitting in the truck), and right on the verge of being picked up due to sunset. AMAZING WORK, guys! And everyone else that rode part of the day. It was killer hot and terrible, I can’t even imagine how bad my too-skinny tires would’ve performed, though with the alternative being those 7 hours on the truck, I’d’ve given anything to have been able to try! I think the total climb was over 2000m, all of it was dirt and rock, and it was definitely another day for the mountain bikers, though Dave W won the day without shocks and actually verged on beating the Hilux (Toyota Pickup) to the finish line. Almost 2 hours before the dinner truck made it there. I guess we know who fast David is now? ;) — German David is going to hate this.

    So, top things I learned on this day: If you’re going to ride in the truck, have a book (thank god that Cam (Trout) lent me a book the night before, a really great one called Thinking, Fast and Slow — Great book so far, can’t recommend it enough), and if you don’t have to ride in the truck, don’t f’in ride in the truck. It sucks! Riding is much better, even if you’re weak and the sun is strong. ;)

    Stories from the truck: It’s basically impossible to be bored here, hardly a moment without yelling or screaming at the least. We just stopped in a village for a few minutes and basically that entire time was filled with shouts of “you you you you you” and “money money” or “you pay”.

    Also weird, just after the town, upstream of where the river goes through town, which I assume provides some drinking water to the people, others are bathing in the same river.. Good stuff! :(

    The day ended at a soccer field which was our camp for the night. Lots of coke and beer was had by the riders (most people are loving the fact that beer is now back on the menu in Ethiopia vs Sudan (which is a dry country – Islam!), and I set up Birgit’s tent and sleeping cot for her, before I ever thought it would take her past 6pm to get there! I have a great picture I’ll post below of how dirty she was when she came in… What a trooper! Happily I was feeling really good at this point, and was inducing some positive thinking to feeling better for the morning, which worked out! I ride the next day, weee!

    Dinner was pasta, sigh. I ate a lot of nuts instead and the salad was pretty great, lots of carrots, pineapple, maybe raisins? I forget now. Gotta get better at taking notes!

    All hail the finishers of the day!

    Day 3 saw me back on the bike again, hooray! 128km of dirt and pavement, though all the dirt came in the first 20km, the entire downhill (god damn is it hard to gooffroading downhill with roadie brakes! My hands were killing me trying to grip. It’s a bit better in the drop bars, but then you’ve got your weight further forward… And without suspension, no matter which way you do it, your arms are dying! :)

    The climb back up the other side of the valley (aforementioned to be probably 600-700 metres) was a great workout, I felt so good to be back in the saddle, and I stormed up, breaking a few times for photos and pictures of Birgit as she caught up from behind (she was well-deservedly exhausted after her 11 hours of hell the day before!). We found the first coke stop at 22km and had the best Texas-sized donuts ever (well, it was just some fried bread, and no toppings, but it was a nice surprise) and some cokes. Locals got a little crazy near the end and were surrounding us after everyone else left, so we motored on. The next 20 km flew by as I related experiments mentioned in my new book to Birgit, keeping our minds off the kms. She set her odometer to time-mode so she couldn’t see how far we were going and mine had been forgotten in the truck, so we were blind to the miles, and perhaps this is a better way of doing it!

    We caught up to Leah after a second coke stop as she was changing a tire and joined forces for the rest of the day. Another coke and fresh juice stop in the next town, just before lunch, and the day was really looking good! After that first hill it was really back to Sudan-level hills, just with much more to look at. The people were nice to us this day too for the most part, though Leah got pushed off her bike by 3 girls, wtf? Just where do these kids learn that this is acceptable?

    Lunch was fruit heavy for me, and we went on, doing a couple more climbs, though non as significant as the morning, perhaps something like the Cochrane Hill, if people know the Calgary area. This provided many awesome downhill moments too though, and being paved, it was going much better for me! I drafted behind a bus and then a truck on two different downhill sections and ended up having a conversation in the middle of the highway with the truck driver. He’d heard of the tour before and wondered if we needed drivers! lol… Was a pretty unique moment, I think. He was on his way to Adwa (spelling?) which I think we go to in a few days. We were booking it down that hill, too. I had a nice area of no wind behind him and he was well aware I was there, having fun with it as well!

    Anyways, a few more hills later and we arrive in Axum! Chris D and the sweep, Hannah somehow missed Axum entirely and ended up in a town 20km further down the road and up another hill! They had to turn around and find their way back, arriving after dark at 7:30pm or so. I think they’re having troubles with the sat phones, otherwise this should’ve been solved with a ride in the truck, not another 20km of cycling back to town.

    The restaurant here at the hotel we’re camping at (we really know how to bring down the number of stars a fancy hotel is worth) was ridiculously slow last night, 2 hours to get my beef, and I was nearly passing out of starvation (I am aware of the issues with making this statement in Ethiopia, but I do not care! I *was* starving. And these people do not need handouts, they have an amazing country out there, what they need is contraceptive education (6 children per woman is unsustainable), and perhaps a hand with farming techniques, but so far the land looks very arable, and the last thing they need is hand outs from Westerners!).

    Today I walked around town a little bit, buying supplies and being harrassed to come into shops or pay kids for nothing, quite enjoyable. I missed out on the tourist activities this morning, but the best of them, some local church, was closed for a 3 hour lunch when the group got there anyways. The rest was rubble and some sites I walked by already. Oh well, too much to do and really not feeling the vibe of the town here! I’ll go back later for more supplies and food though. ;) Also, I bought some postcards! Shit. Forgot about writing those. Perhaps I’ll write them between here and Lalibella and send them from there. Need something to do at night without internet… That, and my book, of course. Wee!

    One more Ethiopian weirdness I was just reminded of by Chris D on Facebook: “Fun facts from Ethiopia. Here, the year is 2006. They were late getting the news that Christ had been crucified. Also, although my watch reads five to one in the afternoon, here it’s really five to seven. Sunrise is zero o’clock, lunch is at 6 and dinners at 12.” this was so confusing the other day when it was 12:30pm and I was trying to find some stuff in Gondar and everyone kept telling me to come back at 8 o’clock! It was driving me nuts… “8? There’s no way this government office is going to be open at 8 at night! wtf is going on?!”… Then finally someone showed me his watch, which by this time said it was 7:20 or so… Or 1:20pm (13:20) to the rest of the world. Crazy!

    Oh yeah, and in Axum last night, around midnight saw the beginning of some sort of late night (all night, it was still going when I woke up at 7 or so) chanting session over loudspeakers. I have no idea what it was about, but I think I hear it again now! What the what?

    A reminder that there’s more pictures and some commentary on my instagram, ohsnap365, and twitter!

    Picture time!! Mine first and then Birgit’s! Usually they’re mixed together but I couldn’t find her today. Her’s are probably better in a number of ways (especially since I was sick), so make sure you scroll down at least 30 photos to see her 26! :D

    Mountains! So pretty, omg! Definitelyh not Sudan anymore!

    Mountains! So pretty, omg! Definitelyh not Sudan anymore!

    Birgit taking photos at the lookout!

    Birgit taking photos at the lookout!

    Where Kam's backpack got stolen. So many kids! Surrounding us.

    Where Kam’s backpack got stolen. So many kids! Surrounding us.

    One of the police (not the detective asking questions though) is the guy second from left. You can make out the huge gun he's wearing. No car though, priorities!

    One of the police (not the detective asking questions though) is the guy second from left. You can make out the huge gun he’s wearing. No car though, priorities!

    Birgit and Bina in the lunch truck.

    Birgit and Bina in the lunch truck.

    Our drive on day 1 down to camp, the last 19k of unpaved.

    Our drive on day 1 down to camp, the last 19k of unpaved.

    Quite the little drop off!

    Quite the little drop off!

    We all got out and took some photos. The pictures don't do it justice!

    We all got out and took some photos. The pictures don’t do it justice!

    The next day, we cross water, wow! Not Sudan either, unless it was the Nile. haha.

    The next day, we cross water, wow! Not Sudan either, unless it was the Nile. haha.

    More river and green!

    More river and green!

    This smash of the dinner truck window happened on the drive up in December. It's really difficult and expensive to fix, so our driver Noah puts up with it for now (right hand drive).

    This smash of the dinner truck window happened on the drive up in December. It’s really difficult and expensive to fix, so our driver Noah puts up with it for now (right hand drive).

    Many ranges!

    Many ranges!

    You can kind of make out Young David and Irwin there on the switchback! TOUGH DAY!

    You can kind of make out Young David and Irwin there on the switchback! TOUGH DAY!

    I liked this little cluster!

    I liked this little cluster!

    The masses gathering at our finish line..

    The masses gathering at our finish line..

    German David finishes the day on skinny tires as new Steve finishes his day as well.

    German David finishes the day on skinny tires as new Steve finishes his day as well.

    The bathroom was situated in a pretty amazing location!

    The bathroom was situated in a pretty amazing location!

    Our camp was in a soccer field.

    Our camp was in a soccer field.

    That was outside of a school. Abandoned, it looked like?

    That was outside of a school. Abandoned, it looked like?

    Some neat stuff on the walls though!

    Some neat stuff on the walls though!

    I'm thinking the right wall there may have been a calendar?

    I’m thinking the right wall there may have been a calendar?

    The trucks at sunset at soccer camp.

    The trucks at sunset at soccer camp.

    Unloading some bikes from the trucks.

    Unloading some bikes from the trucks.

    Dirty dirty Birgit after her long 11 hour day!

    Dirty dirty Birgit after her long 11 hour day!

    They're ready to pave the left side here. Alex and Birgit coming up on the right.

    They’re ready to pave the left side here. Alex and Birgit coming up on the right.

    Birgit gets passed by the dinner truck on the way up the paved switchback on day 3. Love this photo!

    Birgit gets passed by the dinner truck on the way up the paved switchback on day 3. Love this photo!

    You can make out our downhill path on the far side of the valley. Taken from the almost-top of the paved side.

    You can make out our downhill path on the far side of the valley. Taken from the almost-top of the paved side.

    Chris D decides to bike after lunch! Sadly him and Hannah got lost and did an extra 40k (20k each way) past Axum, omg!

    Chris D decides to bike after lunch! Sadly him and Hannah got lost and did an extra 40k (20k each way) past Axum, omg!

    Leah entertains some nicer children on one of our coke stops. Great to interact with non-begging children for once!

    Leah entertains some nicer children on one of our coke stops. Great to interact with non-begging children for once!

    Some guys change a Tuk-Tuk tire in Axum today. Just lift it up and change it, yo!

    Some guys change a Tuk-Tuk tire in Axum today. Just lift it up and change it, yo!

    Jennilea took this photo the last night in Gondar... Pretty sweet sunset photo, nice work Jennilea!

    Jennilea took this photo the last night in Gondar… Pretty sweet sunset photo, nice work Jennilea!

    At the scenic outlook where the Western lady threw stuff at the children. Awesome view though, nice posing, Birgit!

    At the scenic outlook where the Western lady threw stuff at the children. Awesome view though, nice posing, Birgit!

    Me! Picturesque location!

    Me! Picturesque location!

    Randy sweeps us up...

    Randy sweeps us up…

    Birgit took some photos at the town while we were coke stopping. It was a market day.

    Birgit took some photos at the town while we were coke stopping. It was a market day.

    Pretty sure this was at a lunch stop. Adults are usually pretty reliable at keeping away the children.

    Pretty sure this was at a lunch stop. Adults are usually pretty reliable at keeping away the children.

    Birgit and Steven, the lunch truck driver from Tanzania.

    Birgit and Steven, the lunch truck driver from Tanzania.

    Birgit's bike as she rests along the river.

    Birgit’s bike as she rests along the river.

    Kam killing it on one of the hills of the hardest day of the tour! Pier walking a bit in the background.

    Kam killing it on one of the hills of the hardest day of the tour! Pier walking a bit in the background.

    Both of Birgit's tires popped after this picture was taken. The plague of the tires and rims, lol.

    Both of Birgit’s tires popped after this picture was taken. The plague of the tires and rims, lol.

    Kam poses! Nice work, Kam! I assume this is at or near the top of a huge climb. ;) I really need Birgit to be captioning some of these.

    Kam poses! Nice work, Kam! I assume this is at or near the top of a huge climb. ;) I really need Birgit to be captioning some of these.

    Taking a coke stop. Children like always!

    Taking a coke stop. Children like always!

    Some more of the Simian Mountains. Amazeballs.

    Some more of the Simian Mountains. Amazeballs.

    Part of the road we climbed on Day 3 of this section (me too!) You can see the road we descended in the background there!

    Part of the road we climbed on Day 3 of this section (me too!) You can see the road we descended in the background there!

    New Rider Steve from Vancouver enjoys a donut type thing at our first coke stop of the day.

    New Rider Steve from Vancouver enjoys a donut type thing at our first coke stop of the day.

    And I enjoy my coke! Note my sunglasses have changed, I accidentally broke my other ones while setting up Birgit's cot the night before. I hope I can bend them back to health eventually.

    And I enjoy my coke! Note my sunglasses have changed, I accidentally broke my other ones while setting up Birgit’s cot the night before. I hope I can bend them back to health eventually.

    The first climb wiped Birgit out. Her at our first coke stop, surrounded by everyone of course!

    The first climb wiped Birgit out. Her at our first coke stop, surrounded by everyone of course!

    The kid selling the donut things.

    The kid selling the donut things.

    Leah and I at a coke/juice stop!

    Leah and I at a coke/juice stop!

    Pretty sure these juices are from Axum, in the morning today when Birgit made it out for breakfast!

    Pretty sure these juices are from Axum, in the morning today when Birgit made it out for breakfast!

    Dave G (German David) posing with the fallen over Obelisk... Apparently it was not amazing. 400 years and they still haven't stood it up again.

    Dave G (German David) posing with the fallen over Obelisk… Apparently it was not amazing. 400 years and they still haven’t stood it up again.

    Birgit in a doorway to the "wine cellar"?

    Birgit in a doorway to the “wine cellar”?

    The obelisk.

    The obelisk.

    I just liked the colours here!

    I just liked the colours here!

    I missed out on these donuts in the morning when they were fresh and they wanted far too many Birr in the evening for the crappy stale ones that were left!

    I missed out on these donuts in the morning when they were fresh and they wanted far too many Birr in the evening for the crappy stale ones that were left!

    Tuk Tuk lane!

    Tuk Tuk lane!

    Catching up from Gadaref to Gondar. OR: How many ways can you get ill in Ethiopia?

    So this is a big update that I’m cramming lots of travel into, but just have too much going on to break it down any more than this. ;)

    My last update finished in Gadaref, Sudan, and now we’re on our last of two rest days in Gondar, Ethiopia. Obviously much has happened since, the most important (to me) being that I got sick. Badly. Twice. FUN!

    Gadaref was a pretty neat little town, but while internet was extremely fast and good and 3G everywhere in town, as soon as we got back to the guesthouse it went to shit and went to the slowest EDGE network ever and thus I couldn’t post a blog there and posted it yesterday instead. The town itself was pretty neat, we went out a couple times for food and mostly had sheep or goat (the terms are unclear here), and we stocked up on supplies as we spent the almost last of our Sudanese pounds. We only had one more day in Sudan afterwards and would be crossing the border by 4pm. I actually found some salt and vinegar chips and cashew nuts, the nuts I’ve been enjoying today, but the chips didn’t last long at all, lol! There was also gelato/ ice cream/ whatever which was amazing, and only 5 pounds (like 80c USD).

    The next day we hit the road really early. Birgit left about 45 seconds before me with the masses and I raced to catch up and somehow missed her in the crowd and ended up at the front with David W. I hoped Birgit saw me pass and just stuck with Dave out of town, with him pulling me most of the time since he’s clearly a much stronger rider and me jumping in to give him a break here and there when I could. Eventually Phil and our Local Sudanese Rider Sediq caught up, Phil dropped off right away due to the effort of catching up, and Sediq pushed our pace up beyond my limit and the two of them lost me just after a big army jeep with a huge gun started escorting us through the desert. Race was to lunch, about 80km in, and I still officially came in 2nd, but long after Dave and Sediq. Just barely before the other racers. This was perhaps a bad way to start my day.

    I waited around for Birgit who had not seen me pass and was waiting for me near the back for a while (oops, felt terrible! :() and we headed off post-lunch together, in 47 degree weather to try and finish this massive 166km day. It was terrible! It just got hotter and hotter and my water got warmer and warmer… The coke stops were nice but not enough and though we got there, I was just exhausted.

    The border crossing was easy, get stamped out of Sudan, walk across a bridge without any visible security, walk into another building, get stamped into Ethiopia, walk under a little rope, and continue to ride. 4k to camp. Birgit gets another flat 1k from camp, looks like her rim got so hot it melted the tire! WTF? And her other tire got a permanent heat bubble in it. Why are we riding in this? I crashed into bed hard at 7:20 or so, and this was the beginning of the end. I woke up at midnight feeling pukey, went to turn over to get up and out of my tent and was violently ill in my tent instead! Terrible! Took another hour to clean it up and it was just gross. Sorry guys! Anyways, I didn’t ride the next day, and ended up sleeping on the truck for the trip to camp, climbing out, sleeping on the ground for the rest of the day, climbing into my tent, and sleeping in the tent til morning. But still not riding again. Took the truck to Gondar where we had two rest days. The ride was slow going and the racers passed us many times, the truck was just really slow on the uphills. Sometimes stopping to restart in 1st gear! Crazy.

    When we got to Gondar there was some sort of huge celebration and/or protest going on and it was just a shitshow. We had another 1.5+ hour detour 5km from the hotel and didn’t get here til 2pm or something. I got a room luckily and checked in immediately for a rest and some internet.

    The next day was fun, we went to the local castle, church, baths, and for lunch! Then I came home and got more and more sick again. I think I actually got some local bacteria this time, the symptoms were a bit different, and the nurse gave me some different things (I think the first sickness was heat exhaustion dehydration related). The meds this morning seem to have helped a lot though, and I’ve eaten and feel good again. Tomorrow should be better.

    I spent the day running errands around town and met a kid that helped me out quite a bit and I even got to see his house. Pics below. Had some junk food here and there and lots to drink! Hydration!!

    The saddest news from my errands is that there’s no way currently to get a SIM card for my phone that does data. And calling me on Skype costs 53c a minute. So my communication life back home basically just ended. Wifi from now on, whenever I can find it… Until Kenya, perhaps?! Gah. Gonna miss my Facebook communications. :( :(

    Stories from the Ethiopian ride days seem interesting! Lots of staring everywhere they go, lots of kids yelling you you you money money money (cute but sad?), and then in the last villages before Gondar, some stones being thrown, sticks being hurled, sticks being swung, asses being smacked or grabbed, all around unawesome stories. My experience in the city here has been very different, everyone’s been nice! But it’s just weird. I hope that things improve, or that it’s not as bad as some made it seem! Gonna be a rough month with crazy kids and no communication with home! I’m hoping wifi on my rest days is good.

    People keep saying to just enjoy Africa and forget about communicating, but that’s pretty hard, I see Africa on the bike 8-12 hours a day and spend a lot of time with the local riders, I really enjoy my minutes here and there talking to home.

    For now it’s 3 days to Axum, where hopefully I’ll be online again! I’ll be thinking of you all, here’s to hoping I remain healthy enough to ride my bike! The truck really sucks!

    Also, the MAP has been updated!

    Now for pictures!!!

    They came to the Gadaref Guesthouse and filmed us even if we asked them not to! They were also filming out on the road. Perhaps I was on Sudanese TV.

    They came to the Gadaref Guesthouse and filmed us even if we asked them not to! They were also filming out on the road. Perhaps I was on Sudanese TV.

    I'm pretty sure this sign was for us, but it's messed up a couple key points...

    I’m pretty sure this sign was for us, but it’s messed up a couple key points…

    This is sorghum, I guess! One of the top crops in Sudan.

    This is sorghum, I guess! One of the top crops in Sudan.

    This is the sorghum storage facility control room (not a 70s bond movie villain room as it looks like)

    This is the sorghum storage facility control room (not a 70s bond movie villain room as it looks like)

    Thought it was strange to be in a place where this kind of aid is needed..

    Thought it was strange to be in a place where this kind of aid is needed..

    Sudan's biggest grain storage facility! And they only have 4 facilities total.

    Sudan’s biggest grain storage facility! And they only have 4 facilities total.

    Gadaref markets were pretty fun to just walk around at...

    Gadaref markets were pretty fun to just walk around at…

    Alex Birgit and I went for a run the morning of our rest day and Alessandro here did some bootcamp work... We're all crazy.

    Alex Birgit and I went for a run the morning of our rest day and Alessandro here did some bootcamp work… We’re all crazy.

    Birgit and I again tempt our gastro system and succeed (this time......)

    Birgit and I again tempt our gastro system and succeed (this time……)

    Our details for our last day in Sudan... 166km to the camp in Ethiopia! God, it was a slog. 47 degrees!!!

    Our details for our last day in Sudan… 166km to the camp in Ethiopia! God, it was a slog. 47 degrees!!!

    My morning actually started off strong, with David W (one of the fast Davids, especially fast these days) for the first half of the race morning before I fell off and eventually finished 2nd by like 25 minutes.

    My morning actually started off strong, with David W (one of the fast Davids, especially fast these days) for the first half of the race morning before I fell off and eventually finished 2nd by like 25 minutes.

    Sediq caught up with us for a while too, actually he's the reason Dave dropped me, always pushing our pace up! Strong rider.

    Sediq caught up with us for a while too, actually he’s the reason Dave dropped me, always pushing our pace up! Strong rider.

    Birgit stopped for a picture of these colourful school kids!

    Birgit stopped for a picture of these colourful school kids!

    The army jeep in the background had the biggest gun ever and escorted us for a while, kind of creepily. Also this pic was very illegal.

    The army jeep in the background had the biggest gun ever and escorted us for a while, kind of creepily. Also this pic was very illegal.

    Birgit took her one last remaining pic to take in Sudan... the round topped houses.

    Birgit took her one last remaining pic to take in Sudan… the round topped houses.

    One of the best stocked coke stops we found in our trip so far! Amazing! I had two drinks.

    One of the best stocked coke stops we found in our trip so far! Amazing! I had two drinks.

    And outside, pouring water on myself... This still wasn't enough! 47 degrees!!!

    And outside, pouring water on myself… This still wasn’t enough! 47 degrees!!!

    One last pic of the coke stop. These crates is usually how we identify them..

    One last pic of the coke stop. These crates is usually how we identify them..

    Chris, being exhausted at the border. Like we were. This day was just too long and too hot!

    Chris, being exhausted at the border. Like we were. This day was just too long and too hot!

    Alessandro and Leah riding into an Ethiopian Village. These pictures are all Birgit for a bit since I was curled in a ball in a truck or under a tree somewhere!

    Alessandro and Leah riding into an Ethiopian Village. These pictures are all Birgit for a bit since I was curled in a ball in a truck or under a tree somewhere!

    Bikes bikes bikes and kids kids kids. This is the Ethiopian experience.

    Bikes bikes bikes and kids kids kids. This is the Ethiopian experience.

    Young David enjoying a stop.

    Young David enjoying a stop.

    Kids!

    Kids!

    Love the look on this kid's face.

    Love the look on this kid’s face.

    Shade is a valuble commodity too!

    Shade is a valuble commodity too!

    Alex surrounded by fans.

    Alex surrounded by fans.

    Fans staring at us by the truck!

    Fans staring at us by the truck!

    The scenery is so much different than in Sudan! Mountains!

    The scenery is so much different than in Sudan! Mountains!

    Ina killing it as our sick truck takes a break and some pictures.

    Ina killing it as our sick truck takes a break and some pictures.

    Pepsi in Aramaic

    Pepsi in Aramaic

    I'm a little sad I missed out on so much terrain like this! Looking forward to more going forward!

    I’m a little sad I missed out on so much terrain like this! Looking forward to more going forward!

    Loading some bikes onto one of the trucks.

    Loading some bikes onto one of the trucks.

    A local cycle!

    A local cycle!

    Some kids posing with the local cycle, lol

    Some kids posing with the local cycle, lol

    Everything we do in the countryside has a huge following!

    Everything we do in the countryside has a huge following!

    My gross beard face before it all got shaved off.

    My gross beard face before it all got shaved off.

    Meanwhile Birgit is still on the road, entering the city and the masses at the celebration or protest or whatever it was in Gondar when we arrived.

    Meanwhile Birgit is still on the road, entering the city and the masses at the celebration or protest or whatever it was in Gondar when we arrived.

    Some local cyclists in the crowd too!

    Some local cyclists in the crowd too!

    Feeling better on the hill above Gondar, and shaved!

    Feeling better on the hill above Gondar, and shaved!

    Getting some western food, too!

    Getting some western food, too!

    Using my sleeping bag liner in my hotel room... Eep.

    Using my sleeping bag liner in my hotel room… Eep.

    An Ethiopian Church, much different than the style of European churches.

    An Ethiopian Church, much different than the style of European churches.

    The insides are also adorned quite differently!

    The insides are also adorned quite differently!

    It's just a very stark contrast from European art and everything!

    It’s just a very stark contrast from European art and everything!

    No interpreter, but I assume this is black Satan or something?

    No interpreter, but I assume this is black Satan or something?

    The Altar

    The Altar

    The last rule is kind of interesting...

    The last rule is kind of interesting…

    Just outside the main cathedral part..

    Just outside the main cathedral part..

    Parrot-like bird, many of these flying around..

    Parrot-like bird, many of these flying around..

    Jennilea was our tour guide for the day, reading stuff out of Lonely Planet

    Jennilea was our tour guide for the day, reading stuff out of Lonely Planet

    Birgit got a sweet picture at the church of this guy having a moment.

    Birgit got a sweet picture at the church of this guy having a moment.

    Then we were off to the Castle..

    Then we were off to the Castle..

    Not sure what we were all looking at, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't much!

    Not sure what we were all looking at, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t much!

    Our hotel is there on the hill! Goha Hotel.

    Our hotel is there on the hill! Goha Hotel.

    Birgit and Anne walk near the castle... New riders Steve and Kim in the foreground.

    Birgit and Anne walk near the castle… New riders Steve and Kim in the foreground.

    The royal bath, a few km down the road from the castle. Empty at the moment. :(

    The royal bath, a few km down the road from the castle. Empty at the moment. :(

    Jennilea and I checking out the Lonely Planet.

    Jennilea and I checking out the Lonely Planet.

    Unsure what this was really, something to do with school track meets maybe?

    Unsure what this was really, something to do with school track meets maybe?

    Having some lunch after a long site seeing day!

    Having some lunch after a long site seeing day!

    Cold sick me selfie..

    Cold sick me selfie..

    Then one of these bugs appears!!! OMG! One landed on me the other day, it's so huge!

    Then one of these bugs appears!!! OMG! One landed on me the other day, it’s so huge!

    The little place I saw today had a tv and dvd player and all kinds of things like that.

    The little place I saw today had a tv and dvd player and all kinds of things like that.

    But was only this big.

    But was only this big.

    The bike donation ceremony, Birgit took some pics here!

    The bike donation ceremony, Birgit took some pics here!

    Birgit giving away a bike...

    Birgit giving away a bike…

    Catharine too!

    Catharine too!

    Pics of Gondar life.

    Pics of Gondar life.

    These are all homes, I think. Crammed together and tiny.

    These are all homes, I think. Crammed together and tiny.

    There's some nice desserts here in Gondar though!

    There’s some nice desserts here in Gondar though!

    Taking a Tuk-Tuk back to the hotel again!

    Taking a Tuk-Tuk back to the hotel again!

    Across the Desert all the way to Gadaref (Al Qadarif?)

    So it’s been a while since there was an update, all the way from Atbara what seems like an eternity ago, but was probably only about 10 days… Internet was super super sucky in Gadaref, our last Sudanese rest stop, so I’m writing this from Ethiopia now, which I’ll blog about in the next couple days. Spoiler: I get sick. Very sick. haha.

    Day 1 we left Atbara and headed a few miles down the road to where there was a dirt road that just goes off into the desert, roughly following some power lines, but basically was about 60 lanes to choose from of varying degrees of difficulty on a bike. This kind if sets the tone for the first four days, though the first day had about 40k of somewhat pleasant rocky paths that would’ve been very fun on a proper mountain bike but we’re less than ideal on my road touring bike turned offroad machine.. but still enjoyable! And I was really happy to be doing something other than riding road through featureless sandlands.. haha. Anyways, it was fun to do something different than the road and spirits were high. Sadly this day was 101km long so we still had 60k to go after the 40k of Rocky bits. This is where my own personal little hell starts.

    Sand, sand, more sand, loose dirt, sand, sand… sand. The first day I ran the last 5k into camp to avoid being picked up on the lunch truck. I increased my bike speed significantly by getting off and pushing it! 8 km/h was tough going in the soft sand, my speed play pedals were absolute shit in the sand, the moving parts in the cleat clogged up and it would take 400+ meters to get into the pedals and then I’d never get out of them… whether for a break or for a fall… Speaking of which, I fell 13 times by km 65 and then gave up counting. I definitely fell more than 20 times tho! Took more than 10h total.

    Meal was new food again, beef with all kinds of crazy mix stuff, lots of onions and garlic, then some garlic mashed potatoes, mmm!

    Day 2 was 71km of sand and started roughly how day 1 ended! Terribly! haha.  There was a mass start for the race, since it was a mando(tory) day and I hauled ass on foot pushing my bike and was winning for about 2min before I ran out of steam! lol. 7 km in, over an hour after the start, I almost caught the truck to camp, I was just too disheartened, but then David G. passed and gave me the tip that let me finish… the deep ruts of the trucks that go through the desert which were unrideable the day before were the key this day. The mountain bikers were floating on top of everything, especially the girls who finished 1st, 2nd, and 4th in the top 6 (Birgit finished 2nd), and myself and David (and others that decided not to ride) were struggling… I finished in just under 8h. Ugh. The last one, actually, since most people took trucks. Meal was not bad! I had my first cheese (cheese curds), and sausage (new too) and.. beans (new kind of bean) in some sauce. Should’ve had more, perhaps. (writing this now, I’d actually forgotten about the cheese curds! wow! – have to try poutine when I get back to Canada).

    The 3rd day was supposedly “mixed terrain” and the sand “ends at 22k or so”… But it was 22k of sand, then a huge patch of the softest dirt ever, then more dirt, which acted much like the sand had for the last couple days. 6-7 km before lunch I just crashed hardcore, dizziness, wasted. Took the truck to lunch with intentions of taking it all the way to camp. Birgit had tried to race in the morning (her mountain bike is doing her well) but bonked around the same place I think, just much earlier than I… So when the truck delivered me to lunch she’d been there a while already. I ate some stuff and sat around a lot and eventually was convinced to ride with Birgit cuz she wanted company and wanted me to continue… my EFI status was over tho! Oh well. I was the 5th last person with it (3 remain now, somewhat unhealthily). I rode from lunch with her (and music! I started listening to music on day 2, cuz I was alone the whole 8 hours).. just loudspeaker off phone in the back pack.. Made it to camp somehow, kind of wasted and the heat really started to get to me this day… no fly, no shirt, no sleeping bag, still kind of sweating. haha.

    Dinner was a challenge again, pasta and eggplant. tho there was a salad with pineapple and I ate the shit out of that pineapple. My peanuts I bought as backup food was far too dirty to eat, and I exhausted my chocolate supply, so Jennilea shared some protein shake, and I have a few cookies left. I switched back to Nutella from Margarine (called Fat Spread here, lol) on my sandwiches too.

    Other developments 3 days in were: is that we’re supposed to ride in pairs now, this area is apparently not as safe as we thought. It’s a new area for the tour in Sudan and there’s been two or three incidents with the girls now… Leah got groped by a group of young boys on day 1 of this riding stage and today one of the staff got chased and almost assaulted leaving the town we stayed in last night. :-( They were trying to rip her shirt off by the sounds of it.

    There were bucket showers on offer by the local townspeople, and perhaps they saw too much skin of the girls and got crazy today, we don’t know. Also this area is rife with Rashida) camel trading nomads from Saudi, and though my experience passing them has been pleasant, I guess they don’t respect the law of the land as much as true Sudanese either. Alas. Ethiopia is going to be worse for this too, I guess. Sad, since it’s been so good for us til now. :-\

    Day 4 was a total crap show for me. More sandy dirty crap, endless nothing in every direction, and left by myself forever again… 33k in I found Diederik being too sick to ride any further (the 4th last with EFI status at the time), and I joined him for a wait for the truck, taking it the next 70k or whatever to the end… Sadly it actually got way more interesting after lunch and I completely missed that awesomeness because of my morning woes… Oh well, I needed a break, and I’m not that ashamed I took it. It wouldn’t be my last time on the truck. At the end though, we found a sweet canal camp and some nice locals and some cold drinks, delicious! Dinner was BBQ chicken and despite my chicken intolerance in the past years, I just went for it, and it was soooo worth it. Had two huge pieces of chicken and the pain was mild and passed quickly. Not sure how often I’ll risk this, but it was so worth it that day. Felt amazing the next day!

    Day 5! Started as another Mando day, and I was on fire! I felt really good and the rocky roads to start the day were perfect. However, we soon caught up to the trucks which had lost the previously scouted route due to some canal flooding and there was a bit of a shitshow finding the real route. I convinced Alessandro and Helen that I knew where I was going and they followed me all the way to the paved road.. We were just blazing through and knew everyone else was lost and I was on my way to a great first stage win… I kicked it into high gear on the paved road and was averaging over 35 km/h even with a bit of headwind, just killing myself to get to lunch at 50k. I beat the lunch truck there by 18 minutes, at which time I was told that they canceled the race behind us because so many people were lost! Aghhhhh, I was so annoyed! haha. Lunch and friends cheered me up though and we had an enjoyable casual 40k into lunch with a few nice coke stops. I skipped the pasta dinner (Mac and Cheese I think?) and had Sheep at a local restaurant for like $4. Delicious! lol.

    Day 6 was a long ass day to Gadaref, all paved, and was mostly uneventful… There was a sweet camel market on the way to lunch that we didn’t get many pictures of, just cuz there was way way too many people and camels and goats and mayhem, we didn’t want to stop.. Birgit might have some on her GoPro, we’ll see sometime. Lunch was a nice stop with a coke stop, but all they had was Sprite… Another coke stop in the afternoon saw us surrounded like celebrities by the whole town who seemed to come from no where to see these crazy cyclists drink some soda. The kids were a little touchy, but it was a fun experience anyways, some good pictures!

    The best part of the day came near the end when Birgit and I got our own personal 3-policeman convoy through the city complete with lights and sirens for the 5k from the highway to the guesthouse. Ridiculous! They were forcing oncoming traffic off the road for us to go through… And also didn’t realize we couldn’t cycle at the same speed as their motorcycles, lol. They left us in the dust a bit a few times… “Come back, guys!”… but it was fun and hilarious!

    Another post to come about Gadaref itself. Here’s some pictures from the desert crossing! Most of them were taken by Birgit, I was far too down to take many good photos! lol.

     

    This is one of the very few landmarks on our desert crossing. Mostly it was empty, but finding the broken shack meant I was on the right track!

    This is one of the very few landmarks on our desert crossing. Mostly it was empty, but finding the broken shack meant I was on the right track!

    Chris cycling in the foreground, Rashida tents on the left.

    Chris cycling in the foreground, Rashida tents on the left.

    Waiting for the truck. So sick of this view, do not enjoy cycling enough to just enjoy it for the effort! Maybe one day...

    Waiting for the truck. So sick of this view, do not enjoy cycling enough to just enjoy it for the effort! Maybe one day…

    Once in a while, even in the desert, you find trucks like this... Just piles of random stuff loaded on for the 400km sand road crossing... Ok then!

    Once in a while, even in the desert, you find trucks like this… Just piles of random stuff loaded on for the 400km sand road crossing… Ok then!

    Sometimes the emptiness can be picturesque. It gets old fast though!

    Sometimes the emptiness can be picturesque. It gets old fast though!

    River crossing! I crossed this on a truck though, :(

    River crossing! I crossed this on a truck though, :(

    One of the settlements near the canal we found at the end of day 4!

    One of the settlements near the canal we found at the end of day 4!

    Birgit posing near the water crossing. I wasn't there, but you readers need more interesting pictures than the inside of the truck!

    Birgit posing near the water crossing. I wasn’t there, but you readers need more interesting pictures than the inside of the truck!

    Myself and Michael, thinking about enjoying the cool waters of the canal. It was wondrous!

    Myself and Michael, thinking about enjoying the cool waters of the canal. It was wondrous!

    Showing kids the pics I took of them. They love seeing themselves, it's like magic!

    Showing kids the pics I took of them. They love seeing themselves, it’s like magic!

    Sandro and Leah walking near the canal

    Sandro and Leah walking near the canal

    Michael enjoying the canal. I joined him eventually, amazing!

    Michael enjoying the canal. I joined him eventually, amazing!

    Chris and Michael!

    Chris and Michael!

    My groady beard... I was planning on keeping it for the trip... Spoiler: doesn't happen.

    My groady beard… I was planning on keeping it for the trip… Spoiler: doesn’t happen.

    Birgit took a group photo somewhere I wasn't! haha.. Erica, Irwin, Mike, David G, Amanda, Ina, Jennilea, Phil, and Brad!

    Birgit took a group photo somewhere I wasn’t! haha.. Erica, Irwin, Mike, David G, Amanda, Ina, Jennilea, Phil, and Brad!

    Sonia posing with some local restaurant fare... Fresh!

    Sonia posing with some local restaurant fare… Fresh!

    More facial hair!

    More facial hair!

    Birgit's flat tire! Her first, and on the Marathon plus tires! Probably due to heat, though!

    Birgit’s flat tire! Her first, and on the Marathon plus tires! Probably due to heat, though!

    Our celebrity style coke stop!

    Our celebrity style coke stop!

    Everyone enjoying the bike shop lesson!

    Everyone enjoying the bike shop lesson!

    Our 3-motorcycle police escort through Gadaref! Illegal picture too, lol.

    Our 3-motorcycle police escort through Gadaref! Illegal picture too, lol.

    Another update from Atbara, and Rest Day at Pyramids of Meroe

    First of all, two things I forgot to mention last night:

    1. I hit 1000km! 1004 to be exact. After 8 days of riding and one rest day in there. That’s half my outside mileage last year.

    2. Here’s the Strava links for the past 4 days too: 1234. And the coolest thing yet: A strava map of the whole route so far. MAP. I’ll try and keep this updated!

    Now on to the pyramids! Very cool! The Pyramids of Meroe are the ancient burial grounds of the Meroe Royals, the Royal city itself was across the highway and much less impressive. All the Pyramids are pretty much destroyed at the top thanks to conquering Turks back in the day thinking the burial chamber would be at the top like it is in Egyptian Pyramids. Anyways, it’s in the bottom, in a layer underground.. So! They destroyed them for nothing. Apparently another Italian dude destroyed a whole Pyramid to eventually find the treasures in the bottom parts.

    Pictures speak louder than words, and you can read more than I know probably on the Wikipedia page about the Pyramids of Meroe, but it was a nice trip, either way. Enjoy the pics. Bonus Jennilea-camera pics at the end! :D

    Welcome to the Pyramids! Antiquities, I like that word!

    Welcome to the Pyramids! Antiquities, I like that word!

    Note that all the Pyramids are running around topless.

    Note that all the Pyramids are running around topless.

    Christian, Young David (yeah, that's 3 for you guys counting at home), Jennilea, Birgit, Catharine, Sandy, Anne, and Phil. Someone hiding in the background too.

    Christian, Young David (yeah, that’s 3 for you guys counting at home), Jennilea, Birgit, Catharine, Sandy, Anne, and Phil. Someone hiding in the background too.

    Young David is raising money for Conservation International.

    Young David is raising money for Conservation International.

    Piers and our local rider, Sediq.

    Piers and our local rider, Sediq.

    Ancient Graffiti! Well, ok, not so ancient. But possibly old if it's legit.

    Ancient Graffiti! Well, ok, not so ancient. But possibly old if it’s legit.

    It's pretty cool how close you can get to things here! This would apparently never happen in Egypt. We're inside the Pyramids checking out the carvings.

    It’s pretty cool how close you can get to things here! This would apparently never happen in Egypt. We’re inside the Pyramids checking out the carvings.

    Large pictorial, perhaps of the person buried here!

    Large pictorial, perhaps of the person buried here!

    Look at all these little cross stitch things... Intricate! And amazing to survive til now.

    Look at all these little cross stitch things… Intricate! And amazing to survive til now.

    Kam waves hello!

    Kam waves hello!

    Some heroes on camels racing in! No, wait, they just want to charge us money to ride camels. Almost did it anyways, but no thanks for a bumpy ride on my rest day!

    Some heroes on camels racing in! No, wait, they just want to charge us money to ride camels. Almost did it anyways, but no thanks for a bumpy ride on my rest day!

    The newer NorthPyramids, but the SouthPyramids were pretty much the same.

    The newer NorthPyramids, but the SouthPyramids were pretty much the same.

    OK, across the street to the Royal City of Meroe!

    OK, across the street to the Royal City of Meroe!

    Michael being his hilarious self.

    Michael being his hilarious self.

    Almost all of us that came on the tour! A few stayed at camp for various reasons and illnesses.

    Almost all of us that came on the tour! A few stayed at camp for various reasons and illnesses.

    16-IMG_7584

    Phil put on his sunscreen at precisely the wrong moment, the wind and sand picked up immediately. Nice look!

    Phil put on his sunscreen at precisely the wrong moment, the wind and sand picked up immediately. Nice look!

    The city is a bit more impressive from up top. But it's still very ruiny.

    The city is a bit more impressive from up top. But it’s still very ruiny.

    The baths of Meroe! My kind of place. A bit dry at the moment, though.

    The baths of Meroe! My kind of place. A bit dry at the moment, though.

    The control center of our tour bus. Very complex, but since he wasn't around and it was 39 degrees in the bus, I sat there for a minute and figured out the AC switch. Success!

    The control center of our tour bus. Very complex, but since he wasn’t around and it was 39 degrees in the bus, I sat there for a minute and figured out the AC switch. Success!

    Jennilea Camera bonus from the other day:

    Jennilea jump! Nile in the background! Weee!

    Jennilea jump! Nile in the background! Weee!

    Me jumping! :D

    Me jumping! :D

    Running down the sand slope!

    Running down the sand slope!

    She got a nicer Pyramid pic from the top too!

    She got a nicer Pyramid pic from the top too!

    More days of desert, all the way from Dongola to Atbara!

    The last 4 days of riding has been intense! Much riding, much sand, quite a few camels, and just some really long days!

    Scroll ahead for the pics if that’s what you’re interested in. ;)

    I’m getting sick of sand and desert though, which is sad because that’s what the next 6 days are. A desert crossing, no road, just desert and offroad tires. The 2nd and 3rd day of this week were the best!

    Some general notes before I get going: Birgit and I continue to leave immediately after finishing breakfast, which for us is always around 7:45. We are constantly getting later and later since everyone else seems to be leaving earlier and earlier! I guess it makes sense with the wind picking up later in the day, but damn, how are they doing it! We’re not the slowest cyclists by far, but we spend a lot of time on breaks. If we take a break, often other cyclists will come, stop, say hi, take a break, and leave again before we’re ready to go. We also stop for photos. Especially of camels. I don’t think we got a goat photo.. Odd, that. I’m getting pretty good at packing my tent up though… No more rolling. Stuffing it in is the way to go! I wish my thermarest was as simple… It’s probably the most annoying part of my day that isn’t riding through 41 degree desert.

    Day 1 was pretty uneventful as far as I remember. Watched the sun rise over the Nile, which was sweet, and then it was a couple turns out of Dongola and we were back on the road. The green stuff seemed to last a while, I think we traveled along the Nile more than I thought we would, since our plan was straight East to Atbara. One of the shortest days so far, I think it was only just over 100km, nothing special! lol. We did have mutton stuffing today to try and use up bread in an interesting way, but I didn’t much like it. I hardly found any mutton in my meal, there was too much feta (again, for me, I don’t eat cheese!) and it was just hard hard hard for me to get down. Backup nuts it was.

    Day 2 we saw some Pyramids of the Kush Empire at a lunch stop, and then we (Jennilea and I – Birgit stayed below and guarded the bikes from some interested children, who are pictured below. They wanted handouts and were very interested in all the bike stuff, so it’s good she stayed there. I grabbed some pictures from her camera, which show up below) went up a nearby mountain and took some sweet photos from up there that are on Jennilea’s camera. I took some too, but not profile pic worthy ones… lol. Maybe I’ll try and add Jennilea’s pics to tomorrow’s blog if it happens!

    The pyramids themselves were pretty cool though! I’m trying to look up some information about them now, but it’s proving impossible on Sudanese internet. They were near Karima and were part of the Kush Empire. We were told it was something like 8000 years old, the site? Which is nuts!!! Pics to come. This night we had Beef Curry and it was AMAZING. New food for Scott, woohoo! Like every other day. But this was amazing. :D

    Day 2 update: So I think the pyramids might only date back to 3000BC but the site of Napata might been much older, more like 8000 years. Nice. See more at the Jebel Barkal wikipedia page. I might have even been wrong about the Kush Empire.

    Day 3 was 105k to the first and only coke stop of the day.. of desert and some random greenery here and there (one of the green towns we went through, the first kids of the trip tried to harm us… They threw sticks at our spokes trying to get them through. Ugh! Apparently this and rock throwing behaviour becomes more and more common in Ethiopia. Really not sure what we’re supposed to do… Sounds like nothing works, so basically we’re going to get hit by rocks!) At lunch we had more Beef Curry, omg! And in the morning someone got me to try Nutella, which I may have soon anyways, and wtf, what have I been doing with the last 32 years of my life? This stuff is amazing!! I had it at lunch too and again on Day 4 a bunch. At the coke stop at 105km, Birgit, Alessando, and Leah along with 4ish members of staff just hung out there inside (as far as Sudanese inside goes) for like 1.5 hours resting on cots. It was pretty sweet for sure! lol. Nice relax, then only 25k to go when we got back on. For supper it was a pasta dish with lots of cheese and eggs, so I finished off my nut stash instead, lol.

    Day 4 was rough. That was this morning. It was 70 something kilometers to lunch and I think I rested a bit too much there or something, I dunno, but after 1:30 lunch break, Birgit and I hit the road again (we basically cycle together every day.. I hope she’s not too sick of me just yet! ;)) and my spirits just plummetted… I was not looking forward to the further 60km and just everything started to go badly in my head. Between 80 and 105 km I think I hardly said a thing, though when we stopped Birgit force fed me some energy drink and it got better for a bit. There were no coke stops or towns or anything on this day, and the sun just kept beating down, probably one of the hottest days out there (I didn’t ask Sandro for the exact temperature, but it’s hit 41 other days on the road, and this felt hotter!). Anyways,  at 105km I came around the corner to see a bunch of Pepsi and other soda cartons stacked outside an unmarked building… Could it be?! It could! Birgit and I stumbled upon the most amazing thing ever on the day I needed it most, the coke stop! I had two bottles of Pepsi (normally they don’t even have Cola), and soaked myself in water from these awesome jars of water they have throughout Sudan (but no where we could see earlier in the day til now). WAS SO AMAZING. Birgit kept laughing at me on how much my mood changed from that Coke stop, and from there to camp at 130k, I was golden. We were chatting again and nothing could get me down! haha.

    This evening in camp, I had a shower, which was outstanding! Even though it was just a single cold tap from above, it was amazing. Totally refreshing. I half setup my tent, and lounged around for a while chatting on Facebook. Wonderful to connect back home a bit on a day like today! We were supposed to go out with a bunch of the others but they abandoned us (admittedly we kind of deserved it, it was a long while between them asking us to go and us being ready to go, but they abandoned us minutes before we were ready, so ahhhhh)… But anyways, Birgit and Scott, apparently 8 hours of talking wasn’t enough for us, off we go into town together. Atbara’s a crazy place, it’s more of an industrial town and Tour D’Afrique has never been here before so they weren’t expecting us at all! We’re camping on the Confluence of the Atbara River and the Nile and again somehow our campsite has a ferris wheel and a swing set, lol. We had to go across a nearby bridge into town but there’s only 3 lanes… Rail, and two road. And the road lanes are just barely wide enough for a vehicle, so both on the way there and on the way back random cars picked us up to get across the bridge. Seems to be the way it’s done.

    Some tuk-tuk driver and a guy we asked for directions picked us up too on our walk and took us into town to some random street restaurant area, where I got FALAFELS (of course), and tried some Foul! It’s a traditional Sudanese dish based on beans, and has all kinds of other things added, even cheese. I probably had about 6 bites with bread and a big pile of Foul on it too! Amazing, for me. :) Then we walked around town and told some people we were from Canada (easier usually to be from the same place instead of Canada and Germany), and they wondered where that was. I tried to show them on a world map but my phone wasn’t working well. I’ll need to download a picture in the future. I said Canada was like 20000km away and I don’t think they believed me. They didn’t seem to believe it could be cold there right now, either. Vunderbar! Apparently in other countries here, Randy, one of the tour leaders, has shown the people a map of their own country and they are completely dumbfounded by it. Geography is not a big topic in school, I guess.

    And now I’m here, writing this blog to you guys! Glad you’re all reading! I’ve been told by a few other camp people that their friends and family found my blog independently! Hooray, I’m famous! :D Welcome, hopefully you enjoy the pictures!

    Tomorrow we’re off to the Pyramids of Meroe. A one hour bus ride, 2 hours at the Pyramids, lunch, and then return bus trip should have us back here by 1pm for about $25 USD. Not too bad, I guess. The bus and petrol for it are the greatest expense. Something different! Then it’s clothes and bike washing time and more city time… Hopefully with more friends than just Birgit and I (no offense, Birgit! haha)

    Off to the pictures!

    The sun rising over the Nile at camp, just before leaving on Day 1. Sunrises and Sunsets are definitely a super highlight of this trip!

    The sun rising over the Nile at camp, just before leaving on Day 1. Sunrises and Sunsets are definitely a super highlight of this trip!

    Tan lines in the tent at night. Yup, seeing a bit of sun. I hadn't even gone long without sunscreen at this point!

    Tan lines in the tent at night. Yup, seeing a bit of sun. I hadn’t even gone long without sunscreen at this point!

    Me hoisting my bike in front of the Pyramids of Jebel Barkal! A 4iiii shoutout too!

    Me hoisting my bike in front of the Pyramids of Jebel Barkal! A 4iiii shoutout too!

    Birgit manages to lift her bike too, all on her own! Awesome since her shoulder has been bugging her since the accident, but she's cycled every inch since then too!

    Birgit manages to lift her bike too, all on her own! Awesome since her shoulder has been bugging her since the accident, but she’s cycled every inch since then too!

    Birgit by one of the pyramids, closer up! With a fancy camera.

    Birgit by one of the pyramids, closer up! With a fancy camera.

    And by a different pyramid! So different!

    And by a different pyramid! So different!

    Fast David!

    Fast David!

    Or is this one Fast David? All I know is that they're both fast and Davids, time will tell who is faster.

    Or is this one Fast David? All I know is that they’re both fast and Davids, time will tell who is faster.

    Diederik, a fellow Canadian, sheltering himself from the harsh neverending Sudanese Sun!

    Diederik, a fellow Canadian, sheltering himself from the harsh neverending Sudanese Sun!

    Me making a funny pose as Jennilea and I head up the mountain. Birgit takes our picture as she gets ready to fend off the children!

    Me making a funny pose as Jennilea and I head up the mountain. Birgit takes our picture as she gets ready to fend off the children!

    The local Karima Town kids making... gang signs? Alright then!

    The local Karima Town kids making… gang signs? Alright then!

    They're multiplying! Poor Birgit!

    They’re multiplying! Poor Birgit!

    Her goal with the pictures is to keep them away from the bikes, but it doesn't always work. They want to ride them!

    Her goal with the pictures is to keep them away from the bikes, but it doesn’t always work. They want to ride them!

    An adult arrives, hooray! When we found Birgit later there was 3 dudes just hanging out in the grass around her, doing nothing. This happens a lot!

    An adult arrives, hooray! When we found Birgit later there was 3 dudes just hanging out in the grass around her, doing nothing. This happens a lot!

    Breakdance moves! Awesome! And the kids are away from the bikes again.

    Breakdance moves! Awesome! And the kids are away from the bikes again.

    Hey, there's Jennilea and I atop Jebel Barkal!

    Hey, there’s Jennilea and I atop Jebel Barkal!

    The Pyramids from up above. Crazy perspective.

    The Pyramids from up above. Crazy perspective.

    Apparently this may be the ancient ruins of Napata! It's tough to know much without an interpreter or internet.

    Apparently this may be the ancient ruins of Napata! It’s tough to know much without an interpreter or internet.

    The Nile from atop Jebel Barkal!

    The Nile from atop Jebel Barkal!

    Me far away on the mountain. We got some great pictures in this area with Jennilea's camera. Watch for them later.

    Me far away on the mountain. We got some great pictures in this area with Jennilea’s camera. Watch for them later.

    A great Coke stop on day 2! After the pyramids. Turns out we were behind the sweep at this point too, but the cokes were 1.5 Sudanese Pounds, about 25c American... And we got free dates to share back at camp! They love giving us stuff for free here, it's crazy.

    A great Coke stop on day 2! After the pyramids. Turns out we were behind the sweep at this point too, but the cokes were 1.5 Sudanese Pounds, about 25c American… And we got free dates to share back at camp! They love giving us stuff for free here, it’s crazy.

    This camel has a ton of flies on it, omg, I'd be so annoyed!

    This camel has a ton of flies on it, omg, I’d be so annoyed!

    Dude was pretty friendly and tied up, in a manner, so we went in for a closer shot.

    Dude was pretty friendly and tied up, in a manner, so we went in for a closer shot.

    These melon like things exist all over Sudan, but apparently are inedible. I wanted to see what was in one!

    These melon like things exist all over Sudan, but apparently are inedible. I wanted to see what was in one!

    Taking a break. We do this a lot, and it is my favourite!

    Taking a break. We do this a lot, and it is my favourite!

    An intense game of Connect 4! David won them all, despite the 3rd game announcement in a very loud German style that Alessandro had won... Only to notice David won the previous turn. Exciting desert fun!

    An intense game of Connect 4! David won them all, despite the 3rd game announcement in a very loud German style that Alessandro had won… Only to notice David won the previous turn. Exciting desert fun!

    Hey, camels on the road. Better take pics! Great excuse for breaks, honestly. haha.

    Hey, camels on the road. Better take pics! Great excuse for breaks, honestly. haha.

    Birgit taking pictures of camels.

    Birgit taking pictures of camels.

    Camel being led through the desert! This guy was on a serious mission! He was just zooming through.

    Camel being led through the desert! This guy was on a serious mission! He was just zooming through.

    OMG baby camel!! Isn't it the cutest ugliest thing you've ever seen?! (Thanks Danielle for that apt description!)

    OMG baby camel!! Isn’t it the cutest ugliest thing you’ve ever seen?! (Thanks Danielle for that apt description!)

    8 time Ironman finisher Catherine cycles by the baby camel.

    8 time Ironman finisher Catherine cycles by the baby camel.

    Me at the greatest coke stop on the planet! I was trying to use a translator app and Arabic keyboard to talk to these guys so we could say more than just Atbara (the name of the upcoming town)... but after installing the keyboard on the fly and showing him how to type, he typed... Atbara.

    Me at the greatest coke stop on the planet! I was trying to use a translator app and Arabic keyboard to talk to these guys so we could say more than just Atbara (the name of the upcoming town)… but after installing the keyboard on the fly and showing him how to type, he typed… Atbara.

    The crates that alerted me to this awesome coke stop! Two real Pepsis, I still can't believe the luck! Just when I needed it!

    The crates that alerted me to this awesome coke stop! Two real Pepsis, I still can’t believe the luck! Just when I needed it!

    The Nile, again. I need to look at a map, because we crossed the Nile in Khartoum, Dongola, Karima, and now Atbara. How winding is this thing?

    The Nile, again. I need to look at a map, because we crossed the Nile in Khartoum, Dongola, Karima, and now Atbara. How winding is this thing?

    Tonight's ferris wheel! More next rest day I am sure! lol.

    Tonight’s ferris wheel! More next rest day I am sure! lol.

    Me trying Foul! Honestly this was my like, 6th bite, but I needed a picture for proof! I'm changing! Slowly..

    Me trying Foul! Honestly this was my like, 6th bite, but I needed a picture for proof! I’m changing! Slowly..

    Then across the street for a double burger, mmmm. lol.

    Then across the street for a double burger, mmmm. lol.

    Trying the translator app again to even less success. No internet! And this guy couldn't believe Canada was so far away. I think he was from the Darfur region and it still took him 7 days to get to Atbara by bus.

    Trying the translator app again to even less success. No internet! And this guy couldn’t believe Canada was so far away. I think he was from the Darfur region and it still took him 7 days to get to Atbara by bus.

    Thinking about trading in my cycle for one of these! Agree/Disagree? :D

    Thinking about trading in my cycle for one of these! Agree/Disagree? :D

    Anyone been here? Random find in the street market in a crazy place like Atbara! I wonder if they have any idea. Is this stuff just second hand from America?

    Anyone been here? Random find in the street market in a crazy place like Atbara! I wonder if they have any idea. Is this stuff just second hand from America?

    BONUS! More pictures from Birgit’s camera of earlier… A bunch with me featured!

    Myself, Birgit, and Jennilea. Day 1 back in Khartoum! Fast friends.

    Myself, Birgit, and Jennilea. Day 1 back in Khartoum! Fast friends.

    Yeah, I don't stick out at all!

    Yeah, I don’t stick out at all!

    Lunchtime back in Dongola! Claudia, Cam, Kam, Mateo, and myself. Birgit's taking it.

    Lunchtime back in Dongola! Claudia, Cam, Kam, Mateo, and myself. Birgit’s taking it.

    Birgit took a much nicer picture of the Nile at our last campsite! We're near it again today, so maybe another pic is in the future!

    Birgit took a much nicer picture of the Nile at our last campsite! We’re near it again today, so maybe another pic is in the future!

    Piers and I on yes, another break!

    Piers and I on yes, another break!

    These guys drive 100s of kms like this! Full vehicles! Crazy! This, buses, and vans... all full of people.. is most of what passes us in a day!

    These guys drive 100s of kms like this! Full vehicles! Crazy! This, buses, and vans… all full of people.. is most of what passes us in a day!

    First Days of Riding, 528km or so from Khartoum to Dongola, Sudan

    So, onward we go! There’s a lot of text here, but 50 pictures below, so just scroll down if you’d like to see the pictures and captions. :) Read the text if you’re interested!

    We’ve had 4 ride days and most of one rest day at this point. They were not easy.

    The first day was 87km total, including 15+ km through the city riding double file behind a police escort. Birgit and I were partners and rode together and chatted for this time, eventually leading to 4 days of riding together… It was alright, lots of people out waving etc, but most of us were interested in speeding it up and going a bit faster on the open road. Weather had a different idea for us.

    30-50km winds, I’d guess… Pretty much all the way from Khartoum to Dongola. The first day of 97km took us something like 7 hours. Not what I expected. Birgit and I ended up on our own and I pulled her whenever practical.

    The next day was an absolute slog. Fuck day 2. 148km of extreme headwinds the entire way. Eventually we got into a double line of about 8 people and it became my personal mission to get us all to the checkpoint before sunset cut off our riding. Phil and I pulled that line 90% of the way and we got everyone in! Success! But then the sun set immediately and we hardly had time for camp! lol. Off to bed. Every day bed is like 8pm, and I’m out like a light. Wake up a few times maybe, but always drift off again… 5am wakeups.

    Day 3 was more hell. There was some times of light wind and we had a few more pullers in our little peloton but the peloton grew far too big and had too much inexperience probably, so a little after a delicious peanut butter bun lunch stop (seriously just put the whole jar of PB on that piece of bread for me please and I’ll eat it all, just lather it!) we had our first accident. Birgit motioned for Mateo to pass and there was a misunderstanding and the bikes collided. Luckily no one was seriously hurt, but Birgit’s shoulder has been bothering her since, Mateo’s helmet was cracked hardcore and, and everyone was a bit shaken up. I added 6km to my daily total by riding the 3km back to lunch as fast as I could to get a medic. Mateo was still lying in the road when I left and I feared the worst, but he was up and going by the time I got back (and the medic got there). Both their days were over though and Mateo’s been borrowing helmets, and will continue to do so until a new one flies its way here from Canada.

    It was sad losing my riding partner Birgit, but we found some tailwind as we reached the Nile and the road turned slightly East (and maybe the wind shifted a bit too)… We clocked close to 30km/h for a while, and it was delicious! I hit 150k this day due to my 6km addon, and it was about 8 hours total, giving me a few hours at Dead Camel Camp to sit back and chat with friends and family back home (we do a lot of chatting on the road, it’s ok to spend some time on the phone in the middle of 1000s of miles of sand, lol).

    Day 4 the end was in site, but I wasn’t sure how I was feeling. We had a time trial 20km into the day and the TT was 20km itself. I was feeling competitive and yappy, but as I’d find out, I had nothing in the tank.

    Somehow there was a miscommunication again and my group thought I was ahead of them, so they left without me and thus I had no drafting group for the first 20km to the start of the TT. Just Birgit, Sonia and I, and no one was really pulling, we were just chatting. We got to the TT with minutes to rest, something like 3, and then I took off and immediately ran out of energy. The 20k ride to the TT was faster by far! I got in a bad mood about being left behind at camp and being alone on the bike (more and more evidence stacking up about my extrovertness), and my spirits were really down for the first time. Luckily I turned a corner and saw a group of camels sitting together and it made me smile and remember I was in Africa to cycle through Africa and the race was nothing. I stopped for a photo and my time was horrible, but I did it and was happier in the end. Birgit’s spirits were lifted by beating me, something she bragged about for the rest of the day. Nice work, Birgit! lol.

    The day ended up very long and void of any kind of energy. I felt like shit coming into camp, I could hardly be excited about it. I had a cold shower, unpacked my locker into my tent, and got to the falafel eating. FALAFELS ALL THE TIME. Jennilea gave me about a dozen falafels, Ina gave me a few more, I slept, woke up, ate 5 more for breakfast, went into town, had a falafel sandwich, walked a bit, had a bag of falafels… Man, I love this stuff!

    Oh yeah, an aside about food! I’ve tried so many foods it’s impossible to remember them all now. Hot peppers, random beef dish, soup (I know, right? What’s wrong with me that ‘soup’ is something I’ve never had), pasta with some sort of taco meat (delicious, though I don’t like the pasta texture still), crunch peanut butter, palmello (a new favourite, thanks Michael! He found me just to make me try it), curry (on chickpeas – also new!), Spanish Lamb Stew (too many bones, but delicious too), falafels, everything!!

    So today we got to see Dongola, which was awesome. It was nice to be walking around and get to talk without wind sound… Everyone was looking for food but most of the food was falafel, so falafel we had! The pictures kind of explain the day better than I can.

    Overall I think even the tour staff agree that the first days were too hard. They didn’t plan on the wind, even though Northerly wind is common for the area. 10 hour days 3 days in a row is just too much for everyone. EFI is a status of riders that finish and have cycled every ‘faboulus’ inch of the tour without getting on the truck for a ride. We basically lost most of the cyclists in those days. Myself and about 11-12 others still hold on to EFI, but man, for the first days of the tour!

    The 4 days on Strava/GPS: 1, 2, 3, 4.

    Today I’ve missed out on the town-going supper groups, so I guess it’s falafels and burgers at camp. And hopefully a shave. In cold water. In the dark. This sucks, lol. I’m dumb.

    Anyways, onwards and upwards! Next days’ kms before break in Atbara: 112, 110, 130, 124. Those numbers look so small! And with a tailwind. Man, we’re gonna fly!!

    Maybe I’ll go for a run! ;) See you later, friends! Message me on FB, Twitter, etc! Always nice to hear from you.

    Getting ready to ride out in the morning of day one. No idea what's in store for us!

    Getting ready to ride out in the morning of day one. No idea what’s in store for us!

    Randy giving a speech to everyone

    Randy giving a speech to everyone

    Some riders listening to Randy's speech

    Some riders listening to Randy’s speech

    We're all lined up for a group photo and getting ready for our police escort through the city.

    We’re all lined up for a group photo and getting ready for our police escort through the city.

    The police escort is over, and we're getting ready to go out on our own. I don't think anyone's worried about the wind yet. It'll come.

    The police escort is over, and we’re getting ready to go out on our own. I don’t think anyone’s worried about the wind yet. It’ll come.

    Lunch stop! Just 7km down the road from the escort. Easy day! lol.

    Lunch stop! Just 7km down the road from the escort. Easy day! lol.

    Basically this is the view for the next bazillion hours.

    Basically this is the view for the next bazillion hours.

    Our first camp! We finally made it!

    Our first camp! We finally made it!

    Staff messing around on top of the truck.

    Staff messing around on top of the truck.

    Helen and Phil on the road having a laugh

    Helen and Phil on the road having a laugh

    More desert... Always desert.

    More desert… Always desert.

    Ack! Our first accident! Day 3. Birgit is down.

    Ack! Our first accident! Day 3. Birgit is down.

    So is Mateo. He hates having his picture taken, but I took it anyways. ;)

    So is Mateo. He hates having his picture taken, but I took it anyways. ;)

    David coming in to a rest stop at the end of a terribly demoralizing 3rd day. One of the trucks in the background.

    David coming in to a rest stop at the end of a terribly demoralizing 3rd day. One of the trucks in the background.

    Dead Camel Camp... legit.

    Dead Camel Camp… legit.

    Sunrise on Day 4.

    Sunrise on Day 4.

    The camels I stopped to take a picture of during the Time Trial. I said I wouldn't let the race interfere with my Africa trip, and I meant it!

    The camels I stopped to take a picture of during the Time Trial. I said I wouldn’t let the race interfere with my Africa trip, and I meant it!

    Birgit and Cam passing by on the road.

    Birgit and Cam passing by on the road.

    We found a neat little gate thing, but have no idea what it's about.

    We found a neat little gate thing, but have no idea what it’s about.

    CAMP!!! 528km in 4 days and we made it. Shower time!

    CAMP!!! 528km in 4 days and we made it. Shower time!

    Camp is an amusement park! lol

    Camp is an amusement park! lol

    Birgit and Phil washing some clothes.

    Birgit and Phil washing some clothes.

    Both the trucks together at camp... Two peas in a pod.

    Both the trucks together at camp… Two peas in a pod.

    More clothes washing.

    More clothes washing.

    We're off to town to explore!!

    We’re off to town to explore!!

    OK, Dongola is a crazy place. People, cars, dirt, and falafels everywhere. Everyone sells falafels. I must've had 50 falafels in a 24 hour period, and still may have more tonight.

    OK, Dongola is a crazy place. People, cars, dirt, and falafels everywhere. Everyone sells falafels. I must’ve had 50 falafels in a 24 hour period, and still may have more tonight.

    The women get creative with their dresses here... There's some nice colours in some, really!

    The women get creative with their dresses here… There’s some nice colours in some, really!

    Donkeys are a common site everywhere. It's strange seeing Donkeys on the same highway as super modern looking busses zooming by at 150kmph+

    Donkeys are a common site everywhere. It’s strange seeing Donkeys on the same highway as super modern looking busses zooming by at 150kmph+

    Man selling oranges down the road...

    Man selling oranges down the road…

    We bought some fruit from this guy. He was happy to pose for a picture.

    We bought some fruit from this guy. He was happy to pose for a picture.

    This guy was jealous of the first guy and also wanted a photo!

    This guy was jealous of the first guy and also wanted a photo!

    Mosques kind of dominate the landscape.

    Mosques kind of dominate the landscape.

    Birgit and Jennilea being tourists. Like me. haha.

    Birgit and Jennilea being tourists. Like me. haha.

    Birgit challenging me to ride across Africa on one of these trikes, not this wimpy supported tour of ours.

    Birgit challenging me to ride across Africa on one of these trikes, not this wimpy supported tour of ours.

    We stand out in the crowd.

    We stand out in the crowd.

    More of us and more of the Sudanese!

    More of us and more of the Sudanese!

    A hotel we found. There's a cafeteria where Birgit and I had some tea. Or Chai, as they call it... Indian word, but they use it.

    A hotel we found. There’s a cafeteria where Birgit and I had some tea. Or Chai, as they call it… Indian word, but they use it.

    Here's the tea being made!

    Here’s the tea being made!

    And here's the tea! I didn't add any extra sugar since she already put a heaping tablespoon of it into a glass that size.

    And here’s the tea! I didn’t add any extra sugar since she already put a heaping tablespoon of it into a glass that size.

    Birgit enjoying her tea.

    Birgit enjoying her tea.

    More donkeys in use. Some sort of Taxi stand behind.

    More donkeys in use. Some sort of Taxi stand behind.

    This guy also wanted his photo taken. He was interested in where we were from.

    This guy also wanted his photo taken. He was interested in where we were from.

    Lunch! A little sketchy, but it worked out. Their word for Beef here was Burger, but it wasn't a burger that I got. The sign had pictures of many food items but they sold about 5 of them.

    Lunch! A little sketchy, but it worked out. Their word for Beef here was Burger, but it wasn’t a burger that I got. The sign had pictures of many food items but they sold about 5 of them.

    Well, if we get sick from this drink at least I'll be sick with someone else.

    Well, if we get sick from this drink at least I’ll be sick with someone else.

    Kam and Claudia take some pictures on the walk back to camp.

    Kam and Claudia take some pictures on the walk back to camp.

    Plowing the fields oldschool style.

    Plowing the fields oldschool style.

    Cam and Mateo attempt to exchange some US dollars in front of a mosque in Dongola

    Cam and Mateo attempt to exchange some US dollars in front of a mosque in Dongola

    An advertisement for the amusement park we're camped at. I wonder if they licensed the use of this Mickey Mouse picture. LOL. Likely.

    An advertisement for the amusement park we’re camped at. I wonder if they licensed the use of this Mickey Mouse picture. LOL. Likely.

    They do have cattle!

    They do have cattle!

    HEY, another Donkey!

    HEY, another Donkey!

    The Nile as the sun sets behind me. Almost full moon in view!

    The Nile as the sun sets behind me. Almost full moon in view!

    The view of the sun going down behind me. Man, is it lush near the Nile. Just a few kms out, nothing but sand!

    The view of the sun going down behind me. Man, is it lush near the Nile. Just a few kms out, nothing but sand!

    Khartoum Day Two!

    OK, I really want to post the riding pics, but here’s some pictures from my second day in Khartoum!

    The Nile! OK, well, the Blue Nile, but the confluence of the White and Blue Niles is hard to legally picture because there's a bridge there.

    The Nile! OK, well, the Blue Nile, but the confluence of the White and Blue Niles is hard to legally picture because there’s a bridge there.

    Mike and I were testing out the bikes and ran into Sadiq (no idea on spelling), a Sudanese rider who is with us for all our Sudanese miles.

    Mike and I were testing out the bikes and ran into Sadiq (no idea on spelling), a Sudanese rider who is with us for all our Sudanese miles.

    One of my first times trying Falafels. It's now a staple part of my Sudanese diet.

    One of my first times trying Falafels. It’s now a staple part of my Sudanese diet.

    All the menus are like this. Thus I have a lot of weird food. Especially weird for me!

    All the menus are like this. Thus I have a lot of weird food. Especially weird for me!

    They have coke everywhere though! Er, Pepsi.

    They have coke everywhere though! Er, Pepsi.

    I found a donut! Next stop, ICE CREAM. Well, hopefully sometime.

    I found a donut! Next stop, ICE CREAM. Well, hopefully sometime.

    Birgit has the reverse photo of this. We are so cool. haha

    Birgit has the reverse photo of this. We are so cool. haha

    A super modern mall. Totally unexpected. Things were expensive and marked in price though (rare here)

    A super modern mall. Totally unexpected. Things were expensive and marked in price though (rare here)

    Taxi stand by the nearby Mosque.

    Taxi stand by the nearby Mosque.

    Our Hotel in Khartoum, with the big supper and storage truck outside!

    Our Hotel in Khartoum, with the big supper and storage truck outside!

    We skipped the 60 sudanese pound meal at the Jazz bar and ate here for 2 pounds (about 33 cents USD). FALAFELS!

    We skipped the 60 sudanese pound meal at the Jazz bar and ate here for 2 pounds (about 33 cents USD). FALAFELS!

    Last sleep til ride time! I woke up with a super sore throat many times in the night but it disappeared immediately, thank god.

    Last sleep til ride time! I woke up with a super sore throat many times in the night but it disappeared immediately, thank god.

    Drinking a Diet Pepsi in the middle of the market

    Khartoum Day One!

    So I got a good solid 4 hours of sleep with my surprise roommate Michael (who slept through the rest of the day’s adventures) and then headed out with 12 others from our group (including Kam from Toronto who I met last night) and saw some neat things around Khartoum. We needed to wait until we got our photography permits to leave, but there’s still a number of rules, like we can’t take photos of government buildings, police or army forces, and infrastructure like bridges. Also, I don’t think we can take a picture of the spot where the Blue Nile and White Nile merge into the Nile. Odd, eh?

    I’ve also got a sim card, I think $23 has given me a sim card and unlimitedish data for the next month in Sudan. If anyone wants to pay a fortune to call or text me, +249 907789991, lol. Just Facebook me!

    Overall it’s been a good day. I tried some new food and a burger of unknown meat. Breakfast at the hotel was pretty good too. Lots of fun meeting new people!

    Tomorrow myself and a new friend are going to go to some sort of Greek Club where we can run and go for a swim. I think there’s a mixer tonight too for meeting more people…


    Hello from 30000 feet! My new love for Turkish Airlines

    Am I on an airplane?! Really?!

    Am I on an airplane?! Really?!

    Ok, so in what will undoubtedly be the most luxurious experience of this entire trip, I somehow managed to book myself a comfort class ticket for the Toronto to Istanbul leg of my journey to Khartoum. The upside of which is that it’s basically business class or first class on some lesser carriers… Things I’ve found so far:

    • The seat reclines sooooo far. I don’t have a protractor to measure it, but it’s significant!
    • It’s a lazyboy sized chair
    • It’s got a footrest that comes out
    • There’s roughly two feet between my knees and the seat in front of me.
    • The entertainment system comes out of the arm rest and has about 500 movies as far as I can tell.
    • I’ve got USB plugs, 110V AC, a network plug (in case wifi doesn’t work)
    • WIFI! wtf? I’m writing this from a few miles above the Atlantic Ocean! How is technology so amazing all of the time?
    • I got these huge nice headphones that actually sound pretty good. Over-ear style.
    • There’s a little kit that came with my seat, it’s got lipbalm, hand cream, hair ties, a little sticky for “wake me for meals” or “leave me alone to sleep”, a toothbrush and toothpaste, omg earplugs!
    • I got slippers! And socks! The socks have sticky bits on the bottom so the slippers stay on better. This is pretty much the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me on a flight.
    • Hot cloth for washing my face/head. I needed that.
    • I got this nice printed menu, and the most elegant looking plane food ever. I tried the Roast Beef w/ yoghurt dressing, herbs, avocados, tomatoes, arugula, and frisee. It was ok. I didn’t try the Potpourii of Seafood. :( I need to be hungrier! Not bad though for being all on my own.
    • I ordered “Cola Light” (Diet Coke) and some Whiskey, and there had to be about 3oz of Whiskey in 4oz of drink. I’m getting drunker by the second, so excuse the rest of this blog post. Oh god, the drink cart is coming back already.
    • I just got fresh baked bread! From a guy wearing a cook uniform! omg I hope I can score some seconds.

    The flight isn’t even over! Who knows what amazingness is on the way? I think I’m going to look at the price of upgrading my ticket home to this class… Because my overall cost was not that high, and comparable to economy on other carriers. I’d say this experience is worth at least $100. And I’m a cheap bastard.

    DID I MENTION I’M POSTING THIS FROM 30,000 FEET ABOVE THE ATLANTIC OCEAN?!! What the hell?!

    On the minus side, the flight was delayed like 3.5 hours waiting in line for the deicer at Toronto International, but since I had 5.5 hours of layover in Istanbul anyways, I hope this will work out. There’s only one flight a day from there to Khartoum, so I’d better make it.

    Why did I drink that drink?!

    Oh, and I’m totally not eating dinner. Not nearly hungry enough to try the pasta option, and as many of you know, I react when eating chicken… Definitely would not be fun on the plane!

    Maybe I’ll update this later with more amazing secrets Turkish Airlines has in store for me, but so far this is the most amazing flight experience I’ve ever had. Why aren’t they all like this? I only paid $2k for 6 flights including this one… It should be doable!!

    Sorry this isn’t TDA or Bike related, but man, this airline is amazing.

    Much love,
    Scott