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-   -   Warning rock throwing in Ethiopia! (http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/sub-saharan-africa/warning-rock-throwing-in-ethiopia-56794)

michnus 25 Apr 2011 09:48

Warning rock throwing in Ethiopia!
From Lake Tana when coming in from Sudan to Lalibela be carefull we were thrown with rocks 6 times on that road twice got hit by them.
On the dirt road towards Lalibela our friends in a Nissan 4x4 got their front window thrown out by a rock from a young boy.

Tourist routes are main problem

ta-rider 25 Apr 2011 10:05


Thats nothing new...we got hit as well. Some people in Ethiopia are not use to work anymore. They are use to get monex given for free by stupid tourists, so they come up with ideas like throwing stones if they are bored and dont get there free money.

Better idea would be to produce something and sell it to tourists like they do in malawi etc. But that would require to work...


LG, Tobi

chris 25 Apr 2011 11:29

The rock throwing has been happening for many years. It goes along with the "You You You" shouting. My opinion on Ethiopia: Nice views, shame about the people.

backofbeyond 25 Apr 2011 13:13

It's not just Ethiopia either; I've been on the receiving end of rocks in most West African countries ever since my first trip to Morocco in 1970. Mainly the young kids who would be primary school age in Europe.

Tim Cullis 25 Apr 2011 16:45

I don't seem to get so much as some people, possibly because I ride slowly with a flip-front helmet up through villages, but it still happens in Morocco. Even with girls.

I have a zero tolerance to this and will *always* spin the bike around and give chase. I took a mule hostage once and only released it once a women had given the kids a walloping. Shouting 'shame' (n'shouma) has results as older adults don't like their village to be associated with attacking travellers.

As a last resort I also carry a high-powered catapult that might give some of them second thoughts the next time.

mj 25 Apr 2011 18:52

I was actually wondering how one should react to kids throwing rocks. Never having been on the receiving end of such an atrocity I haven't given it much thought yet.

McCrankpin 26 Apr 2011 02:31

We spent a month riding slowly around Ethiopia (southbound) with no rock-throwing problems. We received good advice beforehand, as follows below, from an experienced northbound British couple, in Sudan, who also had no problems (driving a Landrover).

Except in the cities, private vehicles are virtually unknown. On the roads outside cities there are only buses and trucks, and very few of them.
So the roads are literally full of pedestrians and animals going about their business. And they have right of way. Adults carrying water and ploughs, and herding animals, children playing, huge groups of schoolchildren going to classes.

And they want the freedom to wander around the road without having to worry about strange traffic hitting them.
That includes, for instance, adults carrying huge wooden ploughs on their shoulders who cannot see behind but suddenly want to cross the road. In doing so their plough swings round across the road and they don't want some vehicle crashing into it.
That's reinforced in their mind by the fact that if a vehicle hits a pedestrian, in any circumstances, the rules say it's the driver's fault.

So you have to go slowly.

As it was, we were on small 250cc bikes, so rarely reached 80kph on the few empty stretches of road. Wherever there's a significant number of pedestrians you need to be at no more than 60 - 70kph, depending. Even less in villages.
Even at that speed, sometimes on entering a village, adults would give a little hand signal, sort of waving down towards the ground, which means "slow down." These adults have children playing around somewhere in the road or going to classes. Or their animals are on the road.

So, if you travel at a speed that respects all this, what you'll find is that everyone will wave at you. And you just have to wave back, equally as spirited. Or the stone throwing will start.
Or if you're simply going too fast in the first place you'll just get stones thrown at you.
As well as waving, the children will shout "you you you" and run up, hands out.
This is in response to the endless tourists who travel through this country (fewer now I think) and who throw pens, notebooks, money or sweets out of their windows without stopping. We were told that in schools now, children are taught to no longer expect stuff to be thrown out of vehicles, and to not run around begging, but that's probably a slow process.

If you find, because of all the people and animals around, you can't take your hand off the handlebars to wave, you are absolutely going too fast. No question.
Adults will wave as well if your speed is OK, but not come running and begging. But if you don't wave back you'll see an immediate bad look in their faces.

If you find it all gets too much and need to stop, or need to buy stuff, as soon as you come to a halt, get your right glove off quickly. By then dozens of children will have reached you with hands outstretched, begging. Immediately you have to shake all their hands, saying "Hello how are you? No I don't have any money or pens!" with a big smile on your face. They'll immediately forget they were asking for that stuff and want to know all about you instead.
If you engage with them all properly you should find that no one, that you have properly shaken hands with, right down to 18-month-olds, will dare to touch anything on your bike. As well as "you", they'll probably also know the words "where", "who", and "why".

Occasionally (it happened to us a couple of times) a teacher or someone else who can speak English will come up and start translating. You'll be there a half hour at least. Taking lots of photos will be welcomed.
Then when it's time to go you'll have to shake all the little hands again and they'll all wave you off. If you're sitting on your bike, 6-year-olds will lift up 1-year-olds so you can reach their hands.

Ethiopia is a country that you just can't travel fast through, and we had nothing but pleasant times there.
This is the experience we had, and speed of travel was the key.

You may feel, if you do get hit by a stone, that giving chase is the thing to do. Only you can decide.
But you need to remember that stone-throwing is a common skill in Ethiopia. Herdsmen use it to control animals (no dogs are used for this). Mothers use it to control the wanderings of tiny children (not hitting them, but hitting the ground ahead of them). Children aren't often responsible for either of those, so they practice their skills (needed in later life) by controlling the speed of the three or four vehicles per hour that may pass by, if they're going too fast.
So if you catch someone, they'll think it strange that you chase them in response to their legitimate action in trying to slow you down.

We discussed this with various cyclists we met, as they too say the same. Some of them get stones thrown at them, some don't. We came to the conclusion it's still a speed thing. Bicycles are silent, so are expected to travel even more slowly as they can't be heard. And if cyclists don't wave, their speed makes it easier to throw stones at them.

The British couple in Sudan gave us one extra bit of advice if you're on 4 wheels - never have your windows wound up, and whenever you stop, get out straightaway to shake everyone's hands.

So to sum up:

Originally Posted by mj (Post 333525)
I was actually wondering how one should react to kids throwing rocks. Never having been on the receiving end of such an atrocity I haven't given it much thought yet.

SLOW down and WAVE! And enjoy the welcome.

Margus 26 Apr 2011 06:35


Originally Posted by mj (Post 333525)
I was actually wondering how one should react to kids throwing rocks. Never having been on the receiving end of such an atrocity I haven't given it much thought yet.

Turn around! (safely of course :) ) Usually they run away fully scared and you won't catch them, but it definitely will give them a lesson not to do it next time. And if you catch them, explain it calmly, even if you don't know the language - they'll sure understand what they did wrong.

If you see them starting to pick up the rock from the roadside or already thrown - NEVER continue riding on, because then the kid learns that it's actually fun to target-practice on a motorcyclist next time.

If all overlanders would do so I'd say it'd change in all those poor countries where many are without any education at all - kids need education.

Rock throwing by children also happens in many Arab countries we've visited but still I'd say we've had very rare occasions it happening and I've always turned around and the kid run off scared, almost broke his legs one time. I've wasted only a minute or two from my time doing so.

That said plus endless begging (you should beg back to show themselves from the mirror - mosty it works), Ethiopia is still be one of our most favourite contries in Africa so far! So keep it positive guys and travel responsibly, nasty small things happen in many contries but it won't stop you enjoying travelling there if you do it with a right mindset.

AliBaba 26 Apr 2011 10:33


Originally Posted by McCrankpin (Post 333581)
SLOW down and WAVE! And enjoy the welcome.

Yes, people normally drop the stones when they wave back.


Originally Posted by ta-rider (Post 333483)
Better idea would be to produce something and sell it to tourists like they do in malawi etc. But that would require to work...


misterpaul 26 Apr 2011 14:35

McCrankpin - excellent post, completely agree that waving is the key. We spent 1 month in Ethiopia recently and didn't have any trouble with stone throwing either.

roamingyak.org 26 Apr 2011 19:14

Second that - a thoughtful and detailed post - always welcome!

ta-rider 27 Apr 2011 08:13

Hi AliBaba,

Nice picture...jes its probably more the "getto" areas near Gondar where people have stupid ideas. Its also these areas where they are together in big groups. Dont get me wrong. Ethiopia is realy nice if you are far out in the beautifull landscape where there are still people everywhere ;)

Travel safe, Tobi

michnus 27 Apr 2011 12:15

McCrankpin, I live in South Africa and close to the Transkei and Lesotho where for years we had the same problem with rock throwing. Lesotho goverment eventually saw tourism slowed down because of this and got programs going to get people educated. Today it is pleasure touring Lesotho.

We have learned long time ago to wave at people as it distract them from throwing rocks, also to go slow through settlements as people get upset with fast going bikes and cars. We also ride at least 700m apart it helps. About chasing them down, it's a must, even if you cant catch them, make them understand you are serious.

The first biker very rarely gets thrown, most cases the last one get the hits.

I know this is a old story in Ethiopia, my post intention was to make people aware and to be vigilant and keep the eyes open, nothing about being negative about Ethiopia or its people.

McCrankpin 28 Apr 2011 11:29


Originally Posted by michnus (Post 333762)
I know this is a old story in Ethiopia, my post intention was to make people aware and to be vigilant and keep the eyes open, nothing about being negative about Ethiopia or its people.

Yep, understand all that. And agree. bier
It was just an account of our experiences on the roads, and to pass on the excellent advice we received which led to us having a great and safe time.
Hopefully it'll help others have an equally good journey.
Because it was certainly a sad thing, as we travelled on southwards, to meet other travellers who had bad experiences with the people of this country after we had had such a pleasant visit.

I hope this last example will illustrate it a bit more. We met a rider further south who had troubles in Ethiopia, and from the brief conversation we couldn't understand why. But he kept a blog, which I read.
Unfortunately it's highly critical of the people of the country, and highlights an incident where he was travelling at 100kph, close enough to pedestrians for one of them to attempt to slow him down by thrusting (unsuccessfully) a stick into his front wheel. IMHO, visitors need to understand, in this country (and others, Rwanda springs to mind), it's absolutely outrageous to travel at such a speed in the vicinity of pedestrians, and you'll have trouble if you try.
But a wonderful time as long as you don't give the locals any reason to feel you're a danger to them.

taniyamorris 30 Apr 2011 14:03

McCrankpin - top post & top advice. We have found this to be the best policy everywhere.

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