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.