Thursday, February 4, 2010

Off to Ethiopia

Carrouge, Feb. 4
My two weeks in Switzerland have raced past, and I find myself trying to update my blog on my last afternoon here. Two weeks of skiing, ski touring, cross-country skiing and eating lots of cheese (raclette: mmm!) have left me fit and yet with some energy reserves to spare for the epic hills and mountains of Ethiopia.

So the plan for further bike travel has mutated. I had originally thought of flying to Qatar and biking around the Arabian coast to Yemen, then taking a ship across to Djibouti and into Ethiopia. However, both financial considerations (flights and accommodation for Qatar and the UAE looked fairly ruinous) and timing (the rainy season is going to hit Ethiopia by April, making cycling and hiking miserable) dictated a change.

I am now flying to Addis Ababa tomorrow and planning to ride a loop to the south of the city (to the Bale Mountains park and the old caravan centre of Harar; leave the bike in Harar and do a fast public-transport excursion to Somaliland (the stable-ish northwestern bit of tragic Somalia) and Djibouti; then back to Addis. The second excursion out of Addis would be a ride to the far north, to the historic sites like the rock-cut churches of Lalibela and the ancient temples and obelisks of Axum and the hiking opportunities of the Simien Mountains before looping back south to Lake Tana, the start of the Blue Nile. From there, visa permitting, I would continue on into the Sudan and fly back to Canada from Khartoum, but the Sudanese visa is apparently a non-trivial one to get these days, so if that doesn't work, plan B is to loop back to Addis across the Blue Nile Gorge and then fly out of Addis.

I am really looking forward to going back to sub-Saharan Africa for the first time in 15 years. Ethiopia looks fantastic in terms of mountains and hiking and history; the only thing worrying me at the moment are the reports of stone-throwing kids all along the way. I will have to cycle quickly and carry a big stick and hope that I don't get as annoyed as I did in eastern Turkey.

I hope to be done and headed back to Canada in early April to start writing the Silk Road book, freshly inspired by a great Abyssinian Adventure!