It feels like so much has happened since my last Sudan update … so this might be a long one … will try and keep it interesting.
From Sudan we decided to push to the Ethiopian border and arrived just before sunset, even though we promised each other we will not ride at night. The Sudan/Ethiopian border formalities were at least not as bad as expected although we had to part with some more cash on the Sudan side … just for leaving you have to pay customs … crazy.
Ethiopian side we didn’t have to pay anything … we finally had all our passports and carnets stamped after sunset and we were advised not to ride at night on the roads …. maybe a good thing ! They recommended we stay over in a “security” compound/camp just inside the Ethiopian border. I have learned on this trip to be really skeptical about anything they call a camp site or hotel … far from it, I’m afraid.
It was kinda horrible though .. felt to me like we almost stayed in a refugee camp. They offered us rooms, but we decided to camp, pulling the bikes at the back and Pete with his landy at the front to give us some privacy.
One good thing was the shower … at least not as bad and running water .. more than other places we have been before .. running water in these parts of the world is a luxury.
The “toilet”, again a word I am very skeptical of … consisted of a hole in a concrete slab where you are supposed to squad … and it stank like sh…. 🙂
Camping in the “security compound”
That “toilet” shack
Anyway, we survived the night, up early the next morning, packed up and left. As we left the camp site, my bike kept on cutting out … completely, when on level ground it is ok-ish, while riding it is spluttering and I thought, please not here of all places. As soon as you stop, you are surrounded by people of all sorts and for some reason all people that hang around at borders seems a little dodgy. The bike eventually ran ok and off we went.
We headed straight for Gonder and realized why they recommended not to ride at night. These roads are full and I mean, jam packed full of animals and people … all over the road, anything from horses, cows, sheep, goats … all over the place. Sometimes the cattle, donkeys, whatever just lie in the road …. could be really dangerous to try and ride at night in this country.
Beautiful scenery on our way to Gonder, throught the mountains
Kids always popping out from nowhere
We eventually arrived and stopped at a petrol station, but immediately we were approached by someone who apparently owns a hotel and will show us the way. It is amazing how quickly these people appear out of nowhere. We decided to follow him and ended up at Fogara Hotel in Gonder. Not too bad, running (but cold) water, decent place for the tents with a nice view and beer, so we decided to stay. That night, this mysterious man convinced us to go on a “guided tour” the next morning into the mountains where we will see baboon, birds and wolves. . yeah right !
View from the camping at Fogara Hotel, not bad …
Bikes parked at Fogara Hotel
We fell for it, parted with another 40 US dollars each and off we went the next morning .. a long off road ride into the mountains in a normal minibus, shaking every part in our bodies to bits. Walked another who knows how many kilometers, but at least some of the views were nice, no baboons or wolves though … no surprise there. He then ended up taking us to some old castle in Gonder, ending the day at the Dashen Brewery (local Ethiopian beer) which was quite nice and the beer was cheap. We arrived back at the hotel/camp and decided to stay another night since it was already too late to hit the road.
Some of the views in the mountains
Castle in Gonder, Ethiopia
The next day we decided to head for Bahir Dar, just south of Lake Tana .. set the GPS to a Hotel close to the lake, but my bike was just unridable … loosing power, cutting out, sometimes completely dead and I thought that is probably the last of trip. My heart sank as this trip was something I have been looking forward to for a long time.
Something I did notice thought, when the engine cut out it does not want to restart unless I stop completely and put the bike in neutral. As soon as I put the bike into 1st gear the engine dies. Sometimes when I put the side stand down and up again, it would go into 1st and I can ride for a while. Hmmmmm, that is typical of a side stand switch issue …. so the first petrol station we saw, I “glided” in, stopped and completely removed my side stand. I then took the side stand switch out completely, disconnected the plug and connected the red and white wires together. This way, I bypass the side stand switch completely and the bike thinks the side stand is permanently up.
Soon I also had some local help, even if it’s just holding the side stand for me while I tightened the bolt again .. very helpful people. Filled up with some petrol … and WALLAH … no more cutting out, bike has been running fine all day since then ….. sorted I think !!! Thank goodness and by the way, thanks for all the help, tips and suggestions from everyone on twitter, email and blog to help me fix this issue…. which I actually had since Egypt, amazing that it could be such a small thing. (by the way, BMW Battersea/Park Lane in London has been utterly useless and offered no assistance or help at all … I will NEVER go back to them again, EVER)
Anyway, we arrived at this hotel in Bahir Dar on the lake and we had some lunch, nice burgers, beer and pepsi. Just as we finished, Pete and Aisha arrived by coincidence (by the way, we parted ways about a day or two before as they wanted to go explore the Simen Mountains). We had some more drinks and by this time it was already around 16h00, so we decided to stay the night at this hotel. Pete, Aisha, Lindsay and Delilah decided to camp, but Andrey (Russian guy we met in Egypt who has been traveling with us) and I decided to take a room instead.
Again, someone convinced us to part with 40 US dollars the next day and they will take us to Lalibela to go have a look at the Monolithic Churches. This meant we had to leave the bikes in Bahir Dar and take another rattle ‘n shake off road minibus ride to this town. It took about 5 hours to get there, spend the afternoon at the churches, but that meant we had to stay the night.
The churches are actually very interesting .. all the churches have been carved out of solid rock … amazing actually and took 23 years to complete. We spent all afternoon looking at these churches, went back to the hotel in Lalibela, had some beers, nice dinner and some very nice local coffee. We arranged with the driver to meet us at 6am the next morning as we woud like to get back to Bahir Dar and the bikes and try to make some miles towards Addis Abeba much to my relieve as it felt we have been here for ages .. too long actually.
Riding from Gonder to Bahir Dar
Some of the photos at the Monolithic Churches, Lalibela, Ethiopia
We arrived back in Bahir Dar this afternoon early, had a quick shower (the hotel in Lalibela had no running water) and packed the bikes. I was a little nervous as today will prove if the side stand switch bypass has really fixed my issue. Clean and bikes packed we rode about 260km to a town called Debre Markos (another 300km to Addis Ababa from here). We found a great little hotel, again with nice food and beer and the rooms are only 250 Birr (around £10). Very nice and clean, apparently the hotel has only been opened 3 months ago. Hope they keep it like this .. Hotel name is Tilik Hotel … all the way here .. NO problems with the bike … so I am convinced my issue has now been resolved, bike ran beautifully today.
Another thing maybe worth mentioning is that our front tyres (MITAS T-664 Army special) is completely shattered already. We have to buy a new tyre in Addis Abeba and get it fitted …. this army special is crap, I do not recommend them, although the rear MITAS E10 Enduro still seems good !
That is Ethiopia in a nutshell so far … now in Tilik Hotel, heading for Addis Abeba tomorrow, probably get there late afternoon .. get the tyres sorted on Monday and then head down to the Kenya border from there …. sorry this was such a long post 🙂 Laters !!