Lucy meets Lucy

The day that Lucy met Lucy!

There is one thing that helps us to bond with the Ethiopians that we meet – my name. When they find out that I am called Lucy, they are always very excited that my parents would name me after the most famous Ethiopian. Lucy, 3.2m years old is the oldest record of any human on earth, and a reinforcing point for this area being the ‘cradle of mankind’ – something everyone we meet likes to remind us of!

The Blue Nile Gorge

There is one stretch of this journey that we have eagerly been anticipating ever since we started to plan the trip – the Blue Nile Gorge. An eye watering descent down 1400m and back up again over the distance of just 40km.

The big day arrived. We keenly got up at 5am to attempt to beat the sun, brakes tightened, and armed with our fleeces for the chilly descent.

Reaching the edge and peering down below, we couldn’t see the valley floor due to the layer of mist. The exhilaration of whizzing down the valley was quickly put to bay when we felt the condition of the road under our bums – this was going to be a bone shaker.

2km into the descent we heard a huge CRACK from James’s bike, at which point his back wheel began to furiously wobble. The hub had snapped, leaving two spokes loose. We have brought lots of maintenance parts, but hadn’t thought we’d need a replacement hub! We agreed trying to descend any further was very dangerous, so had to resort to finding help. After a lot of waiting a bus agreed to squeeze us and our bikes onto the already overloaded vehicle.

We briefly thought about returning to the valley once the bike was fixed, but quickly changed our mind after being projectile vomited on by a baby – one bus ride was more than enough!

What would have been a three day cycle to Addis whizzed by in a few hours, and we had time to set about fixing the bike. Having 700c wheels and 36 spoke hubs was always a gamble in Africa – and in Ethiopia it turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. After two days of searching, and just when we thought we would have to settle into city life for a couple of weeks and wait for a replacement to be sent from the UK, we came into luck. We found a mechanic named Mehari who had a few friends with racing bikes who keep their own spare parts due to the difficulty of sourcing them in Africa. It wasn’t long before we had a new hub and Mehari managed to rebuild the wheel. Phew!!

A tiny cup of magic

Ask for a cup of coffee in Ethiopia and you need to be prepared to wait at least 30 minutes. The amount of attention and care that goes into preparing this tiny 10p cup of pungent coffee is quite special. It is however always worth the wait!

It beats cycling in the alps any day

Ethiopia has without a doubt provided some of the best cycling we’ve ever done. Brutal mountain passes with epic views, changing landscapes around every corner, and perfect tarmac to whizz freely along (whilst dodging the donkeys). It’s not all been smooth riding…but that’s a story for another time. Let’s just say 99% of the time we have to keep the camera hidden away, so we end up keeping most of the views as mental images.

The reality of the trip

Accommodation at its finest…. ex-prison now a hotel. Drop pit loo overflowing, but the guests are happy to crack on with using the one and only shower instead 🙈. At the end of a long day when it’s going dark and you can’t find a quiet place to camp, sometimes we have to take what we can get.

From recent reviews on iOverlander it looks like we’ll have some equally good options coming up.

The first passengers on the Lake Tana Transport ferry

Early the next morning we arrived at Gorgora harbour in hopeful anticipation of the ferry setting off for Bahir Dar. We were in luck! After two years of being out of service we had the privilege of being the first passengers on the refurbished Tana Transport Ferry. The luckiest part is that the ferry journey across the lake usually takes two days, but this was a one off direct trip across the lake, taking only 6 hours.

With it just being us and the crew, we made ourselves comfortable on the top deck. We had a couple of engine blips where we thought we might have to get the rowing boat overboard (until we saw it had a giant hole in the bottom). But with the engine engineer onboard we didn’t have to resort to that, and we’re soon up and running again.

Timkat

Since we were making ourselves at home in Gorgora it would have been rude not to join in the Timkat festivities. Two days of parades, music, dancing, rituals…and drinking!

As always we caught the attention of the kids. James added a new addition to musical repertoire of the event with a children’s sing-a-long of ‘A, B, C….’ We were pleased to have pitched our tent a long way from the village centre, as we could hear chatting going on all through the night until the early morning when the baptisms started.

We think everyone will be in need of a rest after this national holiday!