Ethiopia, 2007

After passing through what can best be described as a less-than-watertight border crossing, we left the smiling Sudanese behind and departed a country we’ll remember fondly, though with a cuisine we’ll be happy to forget. The contrast once into Ethiopia was immediate; as the strict Muslim way of life was replaced by a conspicuously more liberal vibe, separated only by a poorly constructed wooden gate.

Border crossing Ebola screening: all clear.

Viewed from above, Ethiopia would appear as a series of fairly significant mountain ranges encircled by an international border. That is to say, this is a very hilly country. As a result, we have settled back into our lowest possible gear, to let the heart rate soar, the mind wonder, and once again get used to covering no more than 10km in an hour.

We carry these guys in our panniers and deploy them when necessary.

Our ride through northern Ethiopia has certainly been entertaining, as every village has greeted us with enthusiastic and very vocal crowds that wouldn’t look particularly out of place on a stage of the Tour de France. It has however been one of the poorest and most confronting sections of our ride so far, and it is hard to imagine that a great deal has changed in these communities in the last 150 years.

Avid followers of this blog may remember the difficulties in establishing the correct time when we arrived in western China to begin this journey. However, it would appear that the Ethiopians well and truly take the biscuit for confusing what should be a fairly non-negotiable concept. In yet another obscure interpretation of the infeasible beginnings of organised religion, the Ethiopians have decided their calendar should begin seven years later than the rest of the world (making it only 2007 here), given themselves 13 months, celebrate Christmas 13 days later, and decided that the sun rises and sets at 12 o’clock (though this does in fact seem to make sense). Unfortunately, on account of alcohol being illegal in Sudan, the conversation in which we learnt about all this coincided with our first beer in a month, which only added to our loose understanding of the subject. Still, for a while now we have taken to operating on our own time, based on how tired, hungry, or energetic we are feeling at any given moment, and so all this has thankfully proved to be fairly circumstantial.

The place where time was re-understood

Up hill, we are usually comprehensively beaten.

Part of a 2,000m climb.



  1. Hi, both of you,so pleased to know you are trekking on ,we’ve just read “cutting for stone” by Abraham Verghese at book group and it chronicles how beautiful Ethiopia is. You will have been well on your way by the time we hit Athens,earlier than expected (though in time for Greek National day and the riots that follow!) Rob damaged his back securing the yacht in a force 8 and that was in the harbour! as he couldn’t move and the weather was not relenting we had to leave the yacht on Naxos This is where Theseus abandoned Ariadne (she who supplied the ball of string so he could get out of the Labyrinth at Knossos) and get the ferry to Athens! Route from here?
    Jo and Rob

  2. Freaking fascinating! Just love reading this and letting my mind soar!…out time is coming – Baby and all!!

    Keep at guys doing an incredible job!! – Happy Birthday for the other day Franny – Hope you spoilt her as much as you could hubby! –

    Eagerly awaiting updates from this part of Africa!…

    Lots of love x

  3. As usual Phil, a thoroughly entertaining entry on your blog. Such a contrast from my comfortable western existence. Thanks for sharing you humour and experiences!

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