On the third day somewhere in the middle of a sandy desert we reach the border to Ethiopia. There is no immigration here, only 2 police posts that give the impression of some remote outposts on a faraway planet. As soon as we have crossed the border we meet the first people. They are shepherds with fascinating hair styles, colorful necklaces and impressive body marks. We pass through many simple villages and can hardly believe what we experience here. I am totally fascinated by these strange looking but very friendly people.
Finally we cross the Omo river in a canoe and reach Omorate, the first village in Ethiopia. At the immigration we finally get our entry stamp.
There was hardly any other country I have been so curious about then Ethiopia. The stories told by other cyclist mostly tell about stone throwing kids, rip offs, unfriendliness towards foreigners. But there is also the rich culture of the only african country that has never been colonized.
On the third day we finally realize that we should be cycling on the right side of the road. There is so little traffic in the south. The landscape dramatically changes from a hot desert to a lush green vegetation with banana and coffee plantations along the lakes of the Rift valley. The villages get bigger and more frequent and soon it is not so quiet anymore.
Yes, there are kids (and even adults) constantly shouting, screaming "YOU YOU YOU, money money money". Yes, every now and then there is a stone flying. Yes, especially in the climbs we are often chased and kids try to get a hand on everything that is on the bike. Yes, we are asked higher prices because we are foreigners.
During the the first days I am often very exhausted because of that, often more than because of the cycling itself. But I have learned to live with it, to simply ignore it. If you manage to do that, there is a fascinating world to explore and every day we discover new things. Everything is completely different here then in the rest of Africa: the food, the coffee, the landscape, the language (Amharic) with an own alphabet, a very old and rich culture, an own calendar that read the 3rd september 2006 when we arrived here, watches that are shifted by 6 hours…
Ethiopia is the source of the coffee and coffee is not only a drink here but part of the culture. A coffee ceremony lasts more than one hour, where the beans are freshly roasted, then ground in a mortar and finally brewed in a clay pot. It is then served with some burning incense. Everywhere along the streets there are places where it is prepared and it simply tastes heavenly and easily outclasses every coffee I ever had, anywhere! It has quickly become our routine to drink a couple of cups before staring the day.
South of Addis Ababa we meet Luigi, an Italian. He invites us to stay at his luxury lodge for a break. For two days we soak our muscles in the jacuzzi, eat the menu up and down, let our cloth be washed and live like kings.
When we reach the capital, they are just about to celebrate Meskel. Everywhere in the streets there are bonfires that are being lit in the evening and people sing and dance around it.
For exactly one year and over 23'000km I have now been on the road. When I started for this trip it was less than certain that this would be possible. Towards the end of the last trip I stared to feel pain in my knee and in the 2 years that I was at home I could hardly go on a longer tour without knee problems. The doctors finally came up with the diagnosis that the knee itself is ok but the muscle on the outer side of my leg is too short and causing the pain. Since then I stretch that muscle and have no problems whatsoever anymore.
After Addis we reach the highlands. From now on we cycle at heights of 2500-3100m where it is pleasantly cool. This is interrupted by the Blue Nile gorge where the road drops a spectacular 1500m to the river and then of course climbs it again. Now, right after the raining season it is unbelievably green here in the highlands. Wildflowers blossom everywhere and often we ask ourselves: are we still in Africa? On the road there are constantly lots of people, almost all of them with theirs livestock. Donkeys that carry heavy loads, cows, goats, sheep and horsemen on colorful decorated horses.
After many month in East Africa where often only little changed, I am absolutely fascinated by Ethiopia. Everything is so different here then in the rest of Africa. Often we shake our heads in disbelieve or simply laugh about it. The food is just great. No matter what you order, it is almost always very good. The main staple is of course Injera, a pancake like bread made from Teff flour, which only grows here in Ethiopia and is served with different stews usually with a spicy sauce.
Our arrival in the north in Gonder, we celebrate with a local speciality: honey wine, which tastes very delicious.