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.
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.
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.