The first encounter with Ethiopia was in a book on overlanding Rob's carrying. It says many overlanders get to Ethiopia and after a while ask themselves what it was that brought them there, it describes a certain blandness if you will. It goes on to say there is the occasional stone throwing at tourist and once in a while, some tribal fights. Sounds like fun...
The border crossing, contrary to our previous ones, was a pleasure. The people seemed knowledgeable, we didn't have to pay anything to get in and the whole ordeal was rather swift. The only strange part were the fingerprint scanners. I later would have to scan them again in Kenya, but it seems rather odd to me that one would give them away before having ever done anything wrong.
The first leg of the journey takes us to a place called Tim 'n Kims. Unfortunately the once great love between Tim and Kim has now died out, leaving only Kim. A great place nonetheless. The road there was a bit confusing though, my GPS showed a correct-ish route, but, much to the displease of Rob and his mighty 11 ton truck, it turned off at a gravel road. At that point we decide to split up, where I take the backroads and Rob takes the much longer tar roads. My road leads me through amazing scenery, the occasional random bloke carry'ing an AK47 on his back and after a few hours of that, I arrive at Tim 'n Kims. Now, I've had my fair share of alcoholic beverages throughout my years, but after spending quite some time in alcohol barren Sudan, having a zip of a cold beer once again makes me feel like I'm reborn. After about an hour and a half and me being a couple of beers down, I see Rob's big truck arriving and go hand him a bit of this magic elixir too.
Limping Lake Day
There are two ways around the lake. On road, and offroad. Rob and I once again split up as I take the lesser traveled, offroad route and Rob guides his house on wheels over the tar. About 10km's into the journey, my GPS tells me to take a 170deg turn to the left. I completely miss it as there was literally nothing but dirt and rocks. After going back and forth a few times, I decided to give it a try. It seemed that there was some form of walkway that my GPS though was good enough to guide me over. It turned out to be a day filled with single track riding, views of Lake Tana and cool remote villages. Then, disaster...
After around 250km's offroad, off the beaten track through goat trails and generally, hard work, I turn into town. As I'm still in limp mode, I stick to the right side of the road and keep myself quiet. Then, out of nothing, the truck on the left of me decides it needs to take an exit and turns right, straight through the lane I was also occupying.
Some people describe having an accident as being a slow motion event. Not for me. I slam the brakes, remember thinking to still dose the brakes and not go over the handlebars. Slam into the side of the car, loose the balance on the bike and come off at the exit where the car wanted to turn into. There I lay, 25 people gathered around to see if I'm okay, trying to pick me up. As I've been falling off of things ever since I was a kid (starting with skateboarding, then windsurfing, kitesurfing and downhill mountain-biking), I tell them all off and take a moment to gather my thoughts. Do my toes still move, do my fingers still move, can I still blink, etc. etc. After all my little mental checks I asked the guys if they can lift the bike off my foot. They do, I get up, take my helmet off and have a seat. A minute or so go by before I realise my arm is hurting quit badly, I take off my gear to see it's kind of blue and swollen. I also notice I'm slightly dazed and dizzy. As I'm in a foreign country and I want to remain in control, I decide to grasp for some pain meds. After a while the police show up and they start doing some measurements. As the other party already moved his car this seemed to me like another attempt at this by now African trend called futility. After their 'measurements', they take me to the police station. At which point Rob also arrived. They take some information, but as the bike was damaged a (nothing major, but cracks in the bashplate), I wanted some compensation for my damages. After speaking to the chief of police, the verdict was to come back in the morning and then, together with the him, call the insurance companies (which I thought was very nice of him).
The next morning comes, I rock up at the police station, ready to rock. However, no chief of police. Luckily, I got his number, so I ring him, but he doesn't really seem to want to come down... Hmm... I try talking to someone else, but they just start to get my details again (which they already have). I try talking to them and getting the police report, or the data of the insurance company, but all I get is weird laughter and no answers. It doesn't help that nobody speaks English. I decide to 'chuck it', get on with it and do the repairs myself. I really don't want to get into this kind of negativity. I later heard from a local who was also at the accident that it would have been very possible the other party had bribed the cops into showing this behaviour... I'm not sure if I want to believe that.
Addis Abeba and the Lost Package
After relaxing for a few days in Bahir Dar, healing up and hanging out with a bunch of really cool people, we ride to Addis through a massive canyon. The way down was a blast, all the roads had been turned into washboards by trucks gently pushing the asphalt upwards to create the stuff my bike tackles with ease, but grinds all other traffic to a halt. The road up was much less pleasant. Second gear, flat out, 45kph, trucks overtaking me... Fortunately, the views were absolutely stunning and I tried to calm myself down by stating I could at least soak in the views.
Arriving in Addis, I had two packages coming in, one with some diagnostics tools for the bike (with which I may possibly fix the bike myself by hacking my way into the CAN BUS) and another one with a new rear tyre, courtesy of my mate Jon from Kit690. I was able to retrieve the first package with relative ease (as in, spending a whole day at customs and paying a ridiculous amount of money reimporting something I already own). The second one, however, was 'misplaced'. This meant, no tyre, no oil, no break fluid, no nothing. I spent a full week waiting around in Addis, no package. I decide to head to the local ex-ktm dealer called Flavio, buy a tyre off of him (which, because of similar customs practices, was extremely expensive) and hit the road to Kenya.
A certain blandness?
Riding away from Addis and now, talking about what happened, it seemed rather grim and to a certain extend, I was rather happy to leave Ethiopia and go to the (apparent) bliss of Kenya. I had none of the stone throwing, nor any of the tribal fights. But there was still a bit of a dark cloud on the time in Ethiopia. Talking to Rob and freshly joined, also Brit, Mike, we were all quite happy to leave Ethiopia. It's strange as there is not really a thing Ethiopia itself did wrong. Sure, the place is massively crowded and everyone seems to live by the road, but some of the time, every once in a 100km's, there was some open space that didn't have goat or donkey on the road. It's interesting how all three of us arrived to the same conclusion, but none of us had extremely bad experiences.
P.s. While not sponsored by them, I have to give a shout out to Leatt. I will do a full write-up of the gear I'm wearing on the trip, but apart from my blue bicep, I felt nothing. Not even a bit sore, just nothing. The '3DF Airfit body protector' (Link), '3DF knee guard' (Link), and 'GPX 6.5 Neck Brace' (Link) are not only comfortable enough for me to wear every single day, but they also did a perfect job protecting me against 2 tons of Africa ready Land Cruiser.