Our route to Addis Ababa was a long 5 day section which was topped by crossing the Blue Nile Gorge on day 3. For the cyclists, this involved a 20.05km time trial with 1360m of ascent at an average slope of around 7 deg. Winning time of the day was done by Alex (tour bike mechanic) in a time of 1:19:24, which is just off the record of 1:17:00. It was a tiresome week and all were rather glad to reach the capital aka civilization.
We set camp at Addis Golf Club a few km into the city. Addis itself is a large, dirty city with a couple of undeveloped multi tiered buildings interspersing other modern blocks. It is also home to the largest market place in Africa aptly named the Mercato. This consists of several blocks dedicated to different produce and is a hotspot for pick pockets. As a ferengi one will get harassed and perhaps coerced in to parting with a few birr, but it’s all part of the experience if your up for it.
I went on a mission with the tour cook Yanez to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables for the next stretch. These we found were in abundance and of great quality. We bought crates of fresh bananas, avos, watermelon, mangos, spinach and much more. What struck me is how cheap the overall cost was compared to mass-produced junk food found in local supermarkets. This is often the opposite in 1st world countries where eating healthily is far more expensive.
On a positive note, one of the tour veteran riders arranged a meeting with the Minister of Tourism in Addis to discuss the problem we have encountered with the children and stone throwing. The meeting was beneficial to both parties and hopefully something will come of it for future tours.
We left Addis the following day in convoy through major traffic jams and exhaust fumes to start another 5 day stretch to Yabello, our last rest before crossing into Kenya.
As always the scenery was incredible as we rode down past the lakes. We made camp one night in the national park which overlooks Lake Shalla and Lake Abijata. A quick ride in gave us the opportunity to take a short hike to the shores of Shalla. It felt like almost being at the beach with scattered flamingos in the shallows of this alkaline lake and adjacent to it we also came across some natural sulphur hot water springs. The water was indeed boiling but shallow pools offered one a comfortable jacuzzi with natural pumice stone for a little exfoliation. This was indeed the first hot water I have had over the past 2 months and it felt amazing despite the floating algae colonies.
Tomorrow we pass through the town of Shashemene.