Thoughts on Ethiopia

Arriving in Moyale has brought us to the finish of the abbreviated Meltdown Madness Section. Oddly, compared to previous years, bicycles are being wrapped up and loaded onto the trucks for the trip through Kenya, bags are being packed for a 2 week vacation from a vacation, and cyclists are flipping through Tanzanian and Ethiopian travel books, deciding how to spend their time off the bike.

Ethiopia has, once again, proved to be a fascinating and culturally diverse country. This is my third time through Ethiopia with the Tour d’Afrique, and each time has brought the pleasures of meeting the local people in markets, on roadsides, in cafes, at truckstops, and in assortment bushcamps. This year, in particular, brought many changes. Most obviously 6 days of cycling on a different route South of Addis Ababa. Especially intriguing was the route south of our final rest day in Ethiopia, Arbre Minch. The road devolved into a rock infested trail, jolting the cyclists and testing their patience. What struck the eye was the quickly shifting cultures. At times upon this road, within 60km of each other were two very different peoples. Konsul, and Borani tribes, both of whom are unique in dress, language, and beliefs.

Within our time in Ethiopia many cyclists have experienced the peculiarity of having stones thrown at them by children. Bizarre in one right, explainable in another. Occasionally the gap between wealthy tourist and half naked child brings such a degree of miscomprehension that stupidity ensues. Though the purpose of traveling by bicycle is to slow down and step beyond the doors of a Toyota Landcruiser; it is still too quick a mode of transportation to bridge the distance in understanding. Days, weeks or even years are necessary for a foreigner to understand the intricacies and beauties of this culture, let’s hope a few stones don’t deter any curious souls from riding a bicycle here, or from taking the time to learn.

This brings us into Kenya. Tomorrow, our African Routes crew, two other TDA staff and I will be taking our five vehicles for the transit to Arusha, Tanzania. Different reports have mentioned recent conflict; however, just yesterday, the BBC reported an agreement between the opposing political sides. We expect a safe journey in the trucks, and we look to the skies and hope that the rains do not fall on us. As those who have traveled the East African Highway through Northern Kenya know—don’t try it in the mud!

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