|A new friend trying out Ash's steed|
Ash and I connected easily at the Addis Ababa airport, and got onto a connecting flight to Makele, one of the capitals of Tigray, which is (maybe?) the state that comprises most of the north of Ethiopia. I was a little concerned that the bike boxes might be too big for our plane, and after spending $400 to get our 2 bikes to Ethiopia it was going to hurt a bit to pay yet again, yet we were checked in with no mention of either luggage size or additional birr (the Ethiopian currency, which conveniently was devalued by the Prime Minister while I was on the river; good for exports (??) and tourists, but not great for the local economy.....).
Ash had a quick nap and a decent nighttime sleep and was ready to launch on our 100km first day. As we rolled through town a guy came up behind us and said "where you go?" and I was surprised to see that he was on a pretty nice bike. Turns out he's not only a road racer type but also a mechanic, and he insisted on giving me his phone number "just in case" we had some bike issues, which seemed like a good idea.
|Gigi, the first of our many spontaneous and gracious Ethiopian benefactors!|
It is not a solid Ash and Tom bike tour without a major mechanical issue to happen in the first bit (broken derailleur in Boulder, UT, a fallen-off crank near Price, a frozen freehub in Vietnam), and this adventure began accordingly. I was rolling along when suddenly my rear wheel skidded to a stop, almost throwing me over the bars. I glanced back and my heart sank: a split rim.
"Bike shops" in Ethiopia basically consist of a guy alongside the road with a toolbox.
|at the bike shop|
|The mechanic's honey spoke good english and was excited that we had actually done the 24 hours of Moab featured on her shirt!|
|Our notso humble accommodations|
|Ash roughing it in deepest darkest Africa|
|hanging out with other new friends.|
|Africa is clearly tough livin'....|
|Ash once again roughing it.|
|The terrain looked a lot like Utah; we wondered why we had flown halfway around the world to get Zion-esque views!|
|A traffic jam in Ethiopia's Moab|
|a fun slot canyon approach|
The other involved an easy fifth-class medium-length climb to a 2-foot ledge with a 200m vertical face below; not for the faint of heart (and we saw a few white folks who were a bit faint of heart).
|Some are caves, some are combos of cave and built-on, like this one.|
The idea of digging into solid rock for a church construction method itself was remarkable, but the interiors were equally so. Huge columns held the place in place:
|the books are really big (made of goat skin) and really old...|
and the frescoes inside were incredibly detailed, colorful, and painted even on flat and rounded ceilings.
|Mary the babe are almost always featured prominently|
|Ash hanging out in the cubby hole that apparently was carved so that the monks could sit and look out the window as they meditated.|
|One of said monks|
|Looking pretty regal....|
|shoes are not allowed in the churches, so for this one they aren't allowed on the last climb either!|
|The first church was up on the peak to the left.|
|another bizzy day for the "guards" of the churches. The guy in the middle just got up and wandered up to the church with us, then asked for about $8 to do it! I gave him about $4 to be nice....|
|we needed a tuk tuk to get to this one. I wondered if he had 3WD?|
After a full day of rock-hewn church-ogling we retired back to the lodge for another evening of roughing it in the wilds of Africa. And we began to plot our next move. As I mentioned in part zero, prior to the trip we had paid a nice guy to help us create a good route in Ethiopia, but as we rode and the maps started to take on more life, we became recalcitrant customers and basically decided to throw out his route and do our own, despite our good rationale for hooking up with a guy who knows the country and the best bike touring pretty well. Our new route would be a near-loop and take us up into the Simien mountains - which is one of the biggest/baddest ranges in Ethiopia and has lots of wildlife - and into the city of Gonder that has plenty of dork tourist things to see. And Dork Tourists we were:
|"which way to the sights?!"|