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by SS at 8:21 am on Monday 15th February

Campsite is a bit compact today. When we started the tour, tents would be spread out over a huge area as riders tried to grasp onto whatever limited notion of privacy they could realise. In Ethiopia however, more so than Sudan and Egypt so far at least, there is seemingly an unlimited supply of local children (in fact that majority of the population appears to be sub-20 in age) who will quickly form an audience wherever tourists tend to go. As I mentioned previously, they tend to arrive out of nowhere and within seconds. They stand silently and stare, at least at first. The age range of our typical audience varies from toddlers to wizened teenagers who walk with a slight air of experience.

The children here are quite quick to scavenge whatever they can and in past tours they've stolen cycle computers, bottles, shoes and most things that aren't fastened away. Luckily we don't have to bolt our tents to the ground (although I'm wondering if my tent pegs which attach my tent to the ground are secure enough or if they'll be pulled out and taken). In the last couple of camps, the staff have erected a border which surrounds camp, This is literally thin rope (some of which I donated when I accidentally bought 10 metres too much of washing line) attached to iron stakes but works well enough to keep out the riff raff. This afternoon, bored by observing these lazy foreigners, who after a hard day of cycling were sitting placidly in their green chairs, the stick wielding children (i.e. all of them) engaged in some serious boughts of faux sword fighting.

As someone mentioned at dinner, if someone had asked him a couple of years ago what he thought he'd be doing on Valentines Day 2010, he probably wouldn't have answered 'sitting in an Ethiopian field surrounded by local children wielding wooden sticks'. Definitely a sentiment I agree with.

Riding this morning (literally, I arrived in camp before noon) was both painful and much easier than most of the last week. We were on road, and overall descended more than we ascended (i.e. more downhill than uphill). Plus, gifted with two days to recover, my legs had a bit of oomph in them, as did my lungs which for the first time in what seems like a long time, let me push my heart rate up to the magic 85% of maximum. Normally as I tire, it becomes harder and harder to push my cardiovascular-self up, and by the end of the last week, 140bpm, or about 70%, was a real struggle.

Our rest days in Gondar were kept busy, my bike is now nearly back to day zero shinyness, albeit with several unsightly scuffs gained from a month of hard use. Our local Ethiopian contact who liases with Tour D'Afrique has attained some kind of beer sponsorship and we were lucky to be able to visit the company's brewery in Gondar and drink free beer. Free, as in free beer! Any acquaintances who have ever drunk alcohol with me know that I usually despise beer - unfortunately (?) I found this beer palatable - perhaps this is a mark of my increasing age or an unusual beer. As another rider suggested, 'perhaps that's the reason the drinking age in America is 21'.

In addition to recovering physically, I also managed to wash properly for the first time in a couple of weeks at least. Although this in itself is a fairly newsworthy event, I was amused when Paddy, an Irish rider, commented - 'Sunil, nice haircut you got there'. Of course, I hadn't actually cut my hair but merely washed it.

We said goodbye to Adrian in Gondar as he travelled ahead to the medical facilities in Addis Ababa - he had a particularly nasty crash on the downhill stretch of one of the busy sections of road just before the rest day. Unfortunately it seems he won't be joining us for a while and may not even return this tour. This was quite depressing news - he is one of the most helpful riders on the tour, a good laugh, a superb cyclist and one of the first people I met when I arrived in Cairo. I wish him all the best in his recovery and hopefully we'll meet soon.

As I was cycling today, I had grand visions of drawing a Visio diagram detailing the typical dialogue with the Ethiopian kids as we cycled past. Unfortunately, my lack of foresight means that Visio is not installed on this laptop so you'll have to suffice with text (which should be easier on the bandwidth here).
Kid- 'Youyouyouyouyouyouyouyouyou' (or in Regex syntax '(you)+')
Me- 'Salaam' (= Hello in Amharic)
We have a split at this point:
Option 1)
Kid - 'Moneymoneymoneymoneymoney' (Regex '(money)+')
*I glare at them*
Option 2)
Kid - 'Where are you go'
Me - 'Addis Ababa'
*Kid is silent, making it clear that they didn't really know what they were asking'
Option 3)
*Kid throws a rock*
*I brake to a near-halt and yell at them*
Option 4)
*Kid holds out a woooden stick as I approach*
*I steer around them, slow down and do a 180*
*Kid scatters*
Option 5)
*Kid stands in the middle of the road, in my path*
*I steer towards them*
*They hold their ground*
*I speed up*
*They hold their ground*
*I keep going*
*Kid scatters*

1 comment posted so far
Ash wrote at 1:18 am on Tue 16th Feb -
Thanks for the update. It seems you are better than me in Amharic ( i speak Tigrigna).Do not hang on to the EFI absurd thing too much. Enjoy your surrounding. You have a visa that reads" tourist". Then be one. This is a once in life opportunity. What are the chances for a repeat? In Ethiopia avoid milk and vegies. Stay with what is cooked,packaged or gone thru fire type of food. Ethiopia is very hilly. Stay hydrated and gather good energy for the Nile Gorge.

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