Breakfast and Rain: Goodbye Ethiopia
I could wax poetic about breakfast at length, if the mood and audience permitted; it’s my favourite meal of the day. And so, when we woke a few mornings ago to the cold, drizzling rain for the first time on tour, I took comfort in the inside knowledge that this would be a particularly good day for breakfast. The anticipatory buzz was palpable, sparked by rumours of a fruit salad that had begun to circulate since the previous afternoon, when every available knife and chopping board was set to the task of butchering crates of the sweet, vitamin-y goodness that is mango and pineapple. But only a select few knew the scope of what was in store on this particular morning in camp. True, there would be fruit salad, but also glee inducing-muesli, and the chocolate-hazelnut temptress of breakfast spreads that is Nutella. There is something that awakens deep inside the recesses of the brain when a jar of Nutella is cracked. Now giving a crowd of more than 60 cyclists that have been pushing themselves to their physical limits on a daily basis any one of these breakfast knee-bucklers on their own is a recipe for breakfast blitzkrieg, our seemingly jovial and considerate group reduced to a mob of multi-tool brandishing, every-cyclist-for-themselves hooligans. Sooner or later someone would lose an eye. And so, James employs rather clever strategy to quell the impending riot and make the good stuff last. Serve all three – at once. Like a boxing match in its final round, the muesli becomes the left hook, the Nutella a right jab, and the fresh fruit salad a final dizzying flurry to the solar plexus, rendering his opponents so overwhelmed by the paradox of choice that they retreat to their previously altruistic breakfast-consumer state. At least that’s how I imagine it. And then a few days ago, like a magical fantasy lunch mirage, Janet put together a fried egg and avocado sandwich buffet. I was over the moon! No lunch bag letdown here.
One would have thought these last few days of rain would have dampened —pardon the pun — riders’ spirits. But that hasn’t necessarily been the case. Wrinkled rain gear has emerged, unearthed from the cavernous black holes of locker and luggage storage, and soggy camaraderie flows. Paddy continues to entertain with his white “condom jacket,” which quickly becomes translucent and does little to protect him from the elements, and Martjin and Janet are adorable with their garbage bag specials (poke three holes: one for your noggin, two for your arms, and voila!). All this rain mixes with the reddish-brown earth — like chocolate cake batter — making for some muddy rides. But there’s something invigorating about getting that dirty. You can see it on their mud-spattered faces as the roll into camp. The riding has been intense at times, thanks to Ethiopia’s behemoth climbs, scarred pavement and the never-ending sea of locals, donkeys and livestock that crowd the roads as we pedal through their lives. But the rock wounds will heal, and the unbelievably picturesque landscapes of this country will leave a permanent mark in our memories as we change our tires and prepare to say goodbye.