Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Days 22 - 27: The Rest of Southern Ethiopia
Day 22: Yirga Alem to Wenago
A lot of hills, but a beautiful ride through the Southern Nations region of Ethiopia. People were a bit annoying, but no one was aggressive. Wenago is just south of Dilla, where we stopped for lunch. Wenago is not used to having western tourists. Rich and I stopped there because a Peace Corps Volunteer lives there and we stayed at her place. Another chill day, but I have to say that Wenago hasa lot of drunken assholes wandering around at 3 in the afternoon. Not the most pleasant town I’ve stayed in.
Day 23: Rest day in Wenago
Feeling a bit sick. My throat is really sore and my tonsils are swollen. This happens to me about once per year. Taking a rest day before pushing to the border.
Day 24: Wenago to Agere Maryam
Feeling a lot better this morning. Left Wenago at 8am to start climbing yet more hills, and deal with a bit of headwind. It was a hard morning of cycling. I stopped in Yirga Chefe to buy some coffee made famous by Starbuck’s. It’s apparently one of the highest quality coffees in the world. I bought a kilo for about $4 USD. God only knows what Starbuck’s charges for it.
The road is still paved, but full of potholes. I was going fast down a hill ad hit a big one. The ensuing shaking ejected the video camera I borrowed out of my handlebar basket. I looked back to see it out of its case, tumbling end over end down an asphalt slope. I thought it would surely be broken, but it works fine. Lucky break. I’m strapping everything down tighter from now on.
I made it to Agere Maryam around 4pm and went to a nice resort for one last night of comfort before North Kenya. I went to reception and they said the price was 80 birr, but 160 birr for me because I’m ferenji. Now, this is very common in Ethiopia. They charge westerners more for everything. It’s encouraged by the government, and no one seems to have any moral objections to it. I’ve dealt with t for 2 years, but I still got into an argument. I told them I’m half Ethiopian. I spoke in Amharic, pleaded my case, but they wouldn’t budge. I told tem I was going to another hotel, and they had no objections. This is the business sense that I don’t understand. They are clearly making a profit at 80 birr, but instead of lowering the price for me, they let me walk away, giving them nothing. It defies logic.
I went to a different hotel that was 40 birr. No shower, but the restaurant was pretty good. I spent the evening checking over the video camera and bike. It seems like everything is ok.
Day 25: Agere Maryam to Yabello
Today started on a really low note. First, the post office says they can’t mail ‘cash crops’, i.e. coffee, domestically. Wtf? I wanted to mail it to my friends in Addis Ababa for me to pick up later. I was swarmed with asshole kids this whole time, trying to steal things off of my bike. I rode out of town quickly. 3 grown men were standing around a bajaj (3-wheeled taxi from India) listening to terrible music on their mobile phone. As I rode by, one yelled “Ferenji Motherfucker!” at me. I was in no mood for this, so I gave him the finger, and yelled “I’m going to fuck your dead grandmother’s asshole, you piece of shit!” They then jumped in the bajaj and chased me down the hill, which was hilarious because they couldn’t catch up to me for over a mile. They passed me in their ‘power-wheels-for-big-boys’, pulled over and got out. I stopped my bike and ran straight at them, screaming like a mad man. They jumped back in their little-dick mobile and rode off. 3 of them were scared of me. All talk. Fucking losers.
The rest of the morning was a bit better. The scenery was beautiful, and I passed some 12-foot tall termite mounds on the side of the road. They seem to just rise out of the sand. I find them to be really impressive.
In the afternoon, more kids threw rocks at me. One hit me in the hand so hard, I thought it broke my finger. I jumped off the bike and returned fire. If one of these rocks hit one of the kids, it would have done some serious damage. I don’t even care at this point. They need to know that there are consequences for their actions. I called a 6-year old girl a ‘fucking bitch’. I need to get out of Ethiopia as fast as possible. Cycling here is turning me into a bad person.
I pushed hard to Yabello, and made it there around 4pm. Apparently it’s a big hub for old white tourists on their all-expense-paid, lame ass vacations to Ethiopia. They take cars from here to the Omo Valley to take photos of people, like they’re animals in a zoo. It’s a bit sickening if you really look into the Omo Valley and how tourism is changing the tribal people there.
Yabello itself is an ok town. I found a cheap hotel, but spent most of my night in the courtyard of the fancy resort watching CNN. The protests in Egypt were dominating the news.
Day 26: Yabello to Mega
Harder ride than I predicted. A lot of climbing and strong headwinds. My map showed a few small towns along the way, so I left at 630 am, skipping breakfast. By 11am, I still hadn’t found any food and was getting really hungry. Luckily one town had some pasta, so I was able to eat a big lunch.
The ride through Yabello Nature Sanctuary was beautiful. There were almost no people, and I saw lots of birds, rabbits, and a few dikdiks. The people I did see were much friendlier. I was starting to feel mre comfortable cycling again.
Mega is a really chill town. No one bothered me. I was able to just go about my business without the shouting and harassment. It was such a relief. I even got the Ethiopian price on my hotel. My girlfriend called since I actually had phone network. It was great to hear her voice. I ate a huge dinner and got a good night sleep.
Day 27: Mega to Moyale
Again in the morning, the citizens of Mega were really peaceful. They helped me find bottled water and wished me safe travels. I packed 6 liters of water, anticipating 100km of nothing until the border.
The landscape south of Mega was beautiful. I took dozens of photos. The termite mounds were more like towers. The mix between plains and desert made for a great sunrise. Ethiopia wouldn’t let me out easily though. I spent all day going up and down more hills, and battling strong winds. It was a particularly hot day also, and I just wanted it to be over.
Moyale sucks! What a shithole of a town. Nothing but prostitutes, truck drivers, and hustlers. It reminded me a lot of Metema on the Sudan border, but with a lot more bars. There were a lot of Kenyans on the Ethiopian side. They can cross the border freely. They come to Ethiopia because alcohol and prostitutes are cheaper than in Kenya. Great first impression of Kenyans.
I went to the border to see where I would have to go the following morning. A Kenyan guy there jumped all over me, offering to help me find a hotel, a restaurant, a woman, whatever I need. I told him to go away. 10 minutes later, he’s outside a hotel flagging me down. I tell him to stop following me. He says “I’m just trying to help! Hakuna Metata!” I told him not to use my love of the Lion King for his own gain. I told him he’s following me and I think he’s crazy. He actually left. I was surprised.
Another guy immediately latched on to me. I started yelling at everyone at the top of my lungs to leave me alone that I speak Amharic, and don’t need help finding a fucking hotel, when there’s 8 within sight right now. All left but one Kenyan. I’m about to lose it.
This guy turned out to be a bit helpful. All the hotels have hourly rates so Kenyan guys can fuck Ethiopian hookers. They don’t have overnight rates. I wanted a room for sleeping, and nothing else. One hotel manager and I had to create a price, since no one apparently has ever asked to spend the night before. We settled on 60 birr. The Kenyan guy, Abdi, came to dinner with me. I bought him a beer. He gave me some useful information about the North Kenya road. He also told me there was an ATM machine on the Kenya side of Moyale, which was good news for me because cash was short. We laughed about how Ethiopian men will insist on helping me, even when I don’t ask for it, and then demand money for their services. It’s a frustrating trait that guys in bigger towns seem to possess. After a few beers, the Kenya guy followed me back to my room and asked for money for more beers. I told him to fuck off. I was just starting to like him, too. I HATE border towns.
My night in the hotel was… interesting. It was disgusting. Cockroaches the size of decks of cards were running across the floor. I could hear their footsteps on the concrete. The bed was just a platform for fucking. I didn’t want to touch anything. I put my sleeping bag on the bed and slept in that, not wanting to be on the sheets or on the floor. For several hours, I was getting knocks on my door both from prostitutes offering their services, and from men asking when the room would be available. The entire economy of Moyale, Ethiopia must revolve around sex. Tomorrow, I can try out a new country.
Total distance so far, Djibouti and Ethiopia: 1,644 km (1,027 miles)
Posted by Trust Your Instincts at 10:33 PM