Ethiopia is proving to be quite a surprise package for cycling, just so long as you’re not one to shy away from the odd hill climb. Each day we find ourselves riding through some spectacular landscapes which could easily be mistaken for the Swiss Alps or Grand Canyon. Most notably, the magnificent 40km stretch through Abay Gorge deserves individual praise and falls easily into the top five days of our entire trip (well, the descent certainly does, the severe three-hour climb out left us wondering whether it was indeed worth it). Interestingly, this area has also provided some of the oldest ever fossilised human remains; apparently some folks were knocking around here about 3 million years ago, so the natural beauty of this place is not exactly breaking news.
Our second noteworthy observation of this county is the quite massive and conspicuous population – if ever a market for promoting the benefits of birth control existed, then Ethiopia is most definitely it. The number of people we see every day is staggering, and the proportion under the age of ten has to be seen to be believed. We were fortunate enough to share an evening meal with a chap named Sisay, who – when not being a charming and hospitable Ethiopian – spends his time running clinics in rural villages to educate on this very issue, and he enlightened us further on the scale of the problem they are facing.
For now though, the long periods of solitude to which we have become accustomed are a distant memory, as we find it difficult to recall a continuous stretch of five kilometres since entering Ethiopia without passing an unnamed village or encountering at least a group of people. Unfortunately, a few of the local kids find throwing stones at passing cyclists to be a jolly good jape, and while this is a bit of an annoyance, it’s a manageable one.
This country has perhaps provided the most eventful riding days of our trip so far, though certainly not the easiest. However – and quite crucially – the unexpected pleasure of Ethiopian coffee has so far got us through intact.