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The Solo Scooterist

Documenting my travels on a Vespa

Date: August 28, 2014

Why I like Ethiopia

I love the intensity with which Ethiopians greet , the handshake , the  way they lean in  and shoulders touch .

The coffee , the best in the world by all measures  no matter where you have it.

The fresh juice , plump with pulp , flavour and freshness .

The way the attendant  always shows me the  pump has been zeroed before they start re fuelling Victoria .

The enquiring and inquisitive  ways of her people.

The way they love Madiba and thanks to him me.

The tibs be it meat or fish.

The dramatic landscape.

The wine from the rift valley.

The diversity in culture and language.

The natural beauty  to be found and experienced in the people .

Totally safe yet a little wilder in a way than the Africa that I have travelled.

The preservation of culture held with a distinguished pride.

Beautiful features unique and varied just like the landscape and languages.

The hardship tempered by the colours.

The words guttural the smile true.

You will never out stare the youngsters , they hold their gaze with laser precision.

The birdlife , like I have never seen both in size and colour.

Addis , busy Addis.

Oh did I mention the coffee , the wine and Juice.

Until we meet again.

 

 

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Utopia or just Ethiopia .

The ride to Addis would take two days , a whole lot of traffic mixed with roads and rain to the city that is wrapped in mountains .  As I came into Addis the GPS decided to develop a route calculation error , so I had to rely on the old fashion way of doing things , stop ask , go , stop ask , go  and so we found our way to the Jupiter hotel on Bole road . In a quieter part of the city . This was to be the first time on the trip that I had a key card to access  the room , an  in room coffee making  facility and numerous other luxuries that one takes for granted . Unpacked and settled I met up with Birhanu for some coffee , just an amazing guy who I had been introduced to by  friends of my parents . We had been chatting on the phone and email , he had been so helpful and checked in daily on my progress and helped me plan my route through Ethiopia  , so it was a total treat to finally meet face to face and have a catch up .

So  Addis provided a change of pace , a great hotel an opportunity to give Victoria a check over as well as time to hang out with Birhanu , learn a whole lot more about Ethiopia and get a locals take on his city , what a great couple of days. Thank you Birhanu for all your time ,  effort , hospitality  and help my time in Ethiopia was far richer for it .

 

Victoria back for a check up.

Victoria back for a check up.

 

Transmission cleaning.

Transmission cleaning.

 

So after time off the scooter in Addis , it was time to make my way north towards the Sudan . I had been very lucky with the rain on the journey so far , only having to get the rain gear out for my visit to the  Victoria falls and I think on one other occasion , but I had arrived in Ethiopia in the wet season and the August rains had arrived . The riding was to get much slower and more difficult . We left Addis in the morning mist , with the GPS still acting up so our exit took much longer than anticipated ,  getting very lost and passing  the same  landmarks time and time again . Finally we rode up and out and found the road that would take us to Debre Markos .

 

Morning mist . Addis below .

Morning mist . Addis below .

 

The ride is beautiful and you are  surrounded by magnificent rich farm land with valleys , mountains and views that hit you with the power of a WWF wrestler , no words can prepare you for the beauty you find on this ride . The initial part of the day was spent riding to  higher and higher altitude , then as you crest ,  before you Ethiopia in all her green and glory opens up ,  your eyes pop wide open and she  leaves you visually knocked clean out .

 

The rich green lands of agricultural Ethiopia.

The rich green lands of agricultural Ethiopia.

 

Phew.

Phew.

The road down to the bridge at the bottom of valley and out of the valley for that matter , is in very bad condition from all the trucks , so between that and the hundreds of baboons on the road waiting for the busses to pass , to get the food thrown at them by the passengers , the very sharp turns and curves , the ride was slow to say the least.

 

The road down.

The road down.

 

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Little Vic , big mountain.

Little Vic , big mountain.

Finally the bottom and the bridge .

Finally the bottom and the bridge .

 

From where I had come.

From where I had come.

 

The ride up and out  , took me to a coffee shop for two stiff ones and a breather after negotiating the down  , the up road , the numerous pedestrians and rolling livestock . Feeling brand new we rode once again . Due to all the rain some of the roads had been washed out and Victoria was about to get exposed to a lot more than we had bargained for . We came to a part of the road that had been turned into a mud and sludge bath with trucks , busses and cars all trying to find a way through . I pulled to the side thinking I might find some willing helpers to carry Vic across , for the first time in Ethiopia not one person surrounded us once I had pulled to the side . I observed the cars and found a part that looked shallow and ride able . Deep breath , off we set only to get pushed off our high ground by a bus and the next thing I knew we had lost it and in we went , from riding to wading . We got through it , Vic sounded fine so we headed for town .

 

These roads , these damn roads .

These roads , these damn roads .

 

Vic did not sign up for this.

Vic did not sign up for this.

 

Back at the car wash.

Back at the car wash.

From the wash it was back to the hotel , out with the screwdriver off with the filter on the transmission casing to check if any muddy water had got in , all seemed fine , so finally off to shower . Almost two hours later while trying three different rooms , all the while clad in towel only did the hotel finally get a shower working for me , Ahhhhh the warm water washes the days woes away and I feel the sense of normalcy return to skin and mind .

 

Hoterl View in Debre Markos.

Hoterl View in Debre Markos.

 

Dinner and off to bed , tomorrow we ride for Bahir Dar on Lake Tana , the biggest in Ethiopia.

Until we meet again.

 

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Land of contours and contrast

That night the rains came with such force that I was woken three or four times , luckily by eight all had passed , the sun was out and after the hotel had broken  my  door down I was on my way . The key had broken off in the lock when I had tried to unlock it . So my day started cold shower , door smashing , no milk for coffee , no butter for toast , but the sun welcomed us to the ride.

 

The road North.

The road North .

The ride would  be very busy and stressful as I had come to expect in this land of Ethiopia  . The difficulty riding here is that the roads are so full of people , all kinds and modes of transport , animals in their  hundreds , donkey’s that make you dizzy with fear of collision , goats do roam and I mean everywhere , the cows are herded to market in your lane , it is just so full that you can never just relax and ride , you have to be on guard and very  sharp every second , exhausting it is .

 

open country , yet no space .

open country , yet no space .

The ride was by no means boring . What is amazing about Ethiopia is not just the natural beauty , but the ability to observe  life as you ride  . Beautiful , powerful waterfalls used as washing machines for both people and clothing , river beds , like parking lots with a  truck , car or motorcycle reversed into the water and a natural car wash created , Armco barriers not only offer protection but the ideal place to dry your laundry . So rural Ethiopia lives. The road , the life line up and down the countryside , a way too and from  market , the surface a reprieve from the mud and life takes up almost an entire lane . The women wearing clothing , plain and worn , yet  beautiful hand crafted crucifixes  adorn their necks in shiny silver , showing their beauty with such simplicity . Some slowed by the large urn tied to their backs full of fresh water  , the walk home slow and hard . Some of the village  buildings using the daily news in their windows  to offer some privacy from the passing trade , so is this world , rich and fertile , the land  deep and dark , lush and green seems only to  offer subsistence nothing more .

I arrived in Bahir Dar early afternoon , found a hotel on the lake and decided to take the transmission cover off the scooter , just to double check after the mud crossing , it had been worrying me the whole ride up . On inspection all seemed in order , so after a wonderful hour or so working and chatting to the locals I put everything back and felt a sense of relief that Vic was ok.

One of the guys in the crowd asked if I was from Johannesburg in South Africa  , I said that I was , why was he asking ? He then asked if I was special military , I said no , why do you ask ? He then proceeded to tell me that his brother or a friend of his brother had been shot two weeks ago by a gangster in Johannesburg  and he thought that I must have special military skills and training to firstly survive living in Johannesburg and secondly to travel across Africa solo on a scooter. I then tried to explain that Johannesburg or crossing Africa for that matter was not as dangerous as he thought , convinced he was not .

After my shower I was not feeling to well , a slight fever , and nausea so off to bed early , I woke feeling very off colour so I decided to stay an extra day just to sleep , as I slept the storm raged outside the water came down in sheets and I was very grateful  to my guardian angel for my day in bed . I slept most of the day and through the night to wake refreshed and feeling much better , breakfast and our sights on Gonder.

 

Lake view

Lake view

Up and out to Gonder , a nice short 200 kilometre ride up into the mountains and closer to the border crossing . I arrived around lunch time booked into Faisel lodge changed and off I went to explore  town and the royal enclosure .

 

Peoples small homes on the street . One room lock up and go.

Peoples small homes on the street . One room lock up and go.

I hired a guide and spent an incredible hour and a half being enlightened and educated on the royals and the enclosure now a unesco heritage site.

 

Main structure , the Kings palace .

Main structure , the Kings palace .

A few pictures of the different structures and buildings in the enclosure , all of which sustained severe damage during the war when England intervened to sort the Italians out , such severe destruction .

 

Many Ethiopians spend time in the garden relaxing and posing for pics.

Many Ethiopians spend time in the garden relaxing and posing for pics.

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Not just the locals pose .

Not just the locals pose .

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After my time amongst the royal ruins , I sat down for some coffee and Ethiopian people watching , then off to town to try and find an internet connection , rare like a T Rex in your garden , reliable internet is in Ethiopia , this was actually the only really frustrating thing  about Ethiopia  the inconsistency of their network , Oh and before I forget the difficulty in obtaining fuel for Victoria on a regular basis , so I often had to use my reserve supply .

 

My coffee master preparing his potion.

My coffee master preparing his potion .

The sun began to set ,  I made my way back to  the lodge prepared Victoria and myself for the border crossing , had dinner ordered a glass of Ethiopian red to close the loop and off to bed , for tomorrow would be a 400 kilometre ride with a border crossing so I needed my wits and my rest .

Until we meet again .

 

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