18/6/05. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Several years of my life roll by as we try to arrange shipment of the bikes from Chad to Ethiopia. The budget also takes a vicious beating. To fly a person will cost 400 quid. A motorbike is 500. The "crate" for the bikes is 145 (haggled down from 220. For "crate" read "lash-up".) Dangerous Goods form - another 40. Oh blimey.
By the time you arrive in Chad there are no real options left.
Sudan - forget it.
Go back down through Cameroon and ride down the west coast - don't want to thanks. I want to go to East Africa - the Africa off the telly.
So the bullet is bitten, and at 8pm yesterday we hit Ethiopian soil. It's cool and clear, a huge relief after the oven heat of Chad and the humidity of Ghana.
Oh grow up
The next day the weather is like a British spring day. The average annual temperature in Addis is 16c, and it rarely gets above the high 20's. Blankets on the bed and hot showers! The afternoon of the first day turns into the proverbial wet weekend in Margate. It's fantastic.
Think I'm gonna get a soaking
The bikes, however, are still at the airport. Ethiopian Airways staff are extremely helpful but the customs fellas don't work at the weekend, so we must return, with our 5 litres of petrol and 6 of oil, on Monday.
The airport is huge and brand new, in airport-modern glass and white-painted steel. There's only one "this wouldn't happen at Heathrow" moment, when a security man suggests we put our leaky, brimming petrol can through the X-ray machine. We don't. The airport cost millions and it would be a shame if it exploded.
24/6/05 Addis Ababa
Addis is still cold and wet, but it's a convenient place to sit and wait for spares to be couriered. It's also very cheap.
Great things on Ethiopian menus:
1. "National Food". Mmm! Slurp!
2. "Tibs". Is that not a brand of cat chow?
3. "John Worker". Two minutes thought leads me to deduce that they mean "Johnnie Walker". I order some. They do.
4. "Chicken Wot". Well exactly.
Bed bugs are a bastard. This would be the best bed so far - squashy and swathed in blankets - were it not for the tiny little sods sharing the mattress with me.
May God damn all insects to an eternity in the boiling lakes of fire below us.
Received wisdom states that the further you get from Addis, the more likely you are to encounter groups of kids chucking rocks at you as you pass. I'm pottering through a village a hundred miles south of Addis when a blanket-clad oaf runs out in front of me, picks up a lump of donkey crap and lobs it feebly at my shoulder. It bounces harmlessly off my armoured jacket. I slow down in order to laugh at him. He looks sheepish; the crowd begin to snigger. I offer him the middle digit of my right hand and scoot.
Lake Awassa is as pretty as a picture.* I'm told there are hippos nestling within, but they've gone to the shops or something when I get there. A dirt road takes me to the local dump, however, where I see vultures and Marabou storks.
Having seen no other motorbike people for weeks, Addis was suddenly thronged with 'em.
Are we cool? Or are we a bit gay?
Matt from Sydney (KTM 640), off to London. Alan and Martin from Marlow, UK, RTW on Ewan Mc-inspired BMW's. Er, me & Doug.
I really really love my bike. The worst thing that's gone wrong with it after 10,000 African miles is that one brake pad fell off.
12/7/05, Moyale, Ethiopia/Kenya border.
A 300 mile thump through some stunning Highland landscapes. Every time I stop I'm surrounded by gawpers.
One young fella has clearly never seen a glove before. He freaks out quite badly when I take it off. Having recovered from my initial reaction of head-back guffawing and pointing, I begin to wave it at him and make menacing noises. He freaks again, I laugh, his peers laugh, and eventually he laughs as well. But I can still see the fear in his eyes. Ha!
They're throwing themselves into the road
Knackered - early to bed. Unfortunately the bed has thorns in it. Ooyah.
*To a person of average aesthetic sensitivity, Lake Awassa would in fact be considered prettier than, for example;
a/ An oil painting of a dustbin
b/ A chiaroscuro rendering of a pig's scrotum
c/ A photograph of Charles Kennedy.
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