Gondar/Ethiopia – Addis Ababa/Ethiopia

So we are still in Addis Ababa, it is Tuesday, March 20th. We picked up our passports this morning with our new Ethiopian Visa. Then we went directly to the Kenian Embassy where we got the Visa, with some good will, within a few hours. We decided to stay one more night here in the Taitu Hotel. It’s a nice place and it was the first Hotel in Addis Ababa and Ethiopia, built some 108 years ago.

So we have some more time to write. On Sunday the 4th of March we arrived in Gondar. We needed a shower urgently, spent one night there and went on the next afternoon. On Tuesday we arrived in Bahir Dar, a nice town at the southern tip of the Lake Tana, where we parked our bikes in front of the Ghion Hotel. There we decided to give it a try and to go by bus to Lalibela, a famous touristic place in Ethiopia, on early Thursday morning. We were back in Bahir Dar on Saturday afternoon, happy about our decision, not to go there by bike. From Gondar it would have taken us easily a week, just to get there, because of 250 km dirt road and the immense altitude differences (up and down between 2000m and 3200m above sea level) Even the trip by bus to Lalibela and back with a 4×4 Pick up was exhausting. But it was worth it, definitely. After one more night in the tent at the Lake Tana we were ready for the 575km to Addis Ababa, passing through the town of Debre Markos and facing the challenge of the Blue Nile Gorge.

Before I want to start to talk about our own experiences, I have to say that we did hear and read not only positive things about Ethiopia before. Travelers and especially also bike travelers told us about kids running behind them and throwing stones and sticks, let alone the begging for money and pens. Well at least we were prepared and still didn’t want to believe, that it is so serious. But it is! It was definitely a tough ride, more psychologically then physically.

The first stone hit my right upper arm, about 30km behind Gondar. A group of teenagers stood at the road side, we were going downhill. I was in front, saw one guy picking up something. He was maybe 14-15 years old. Well, then he was aiming and throwing from a short distance. Although I saw it coming I was shocked, heard them laughing. I hit the brakes, jumped from the bike and run behind them, but they were already running as well and hiding between the houses nearby. I was very angry, was shouting in German and English in their direction.

Also during the next days we saw, that it is not uncommon to throw stones. Teenagers throw them at each other, older ones at younger one.They throw stones at their donkeys and cows, even adults throw stones at the kids, when they don’t know, what else to do!! But at least they throw them (only) low, aiming at their feet or in front of them. One more time I was getting angry and loud, when we were arriving in one bigger village, a crowd of kids and teens behind us, yelling and begging, and finally, some threw stones from behind. We stopped immediately, turned around and I shouted at them to stop. There were many adults around as well, some of them even laughing about us! Unbelievable! It was too much for me. I couldn’t stop anymore. All the frustration came up and out. I was telling them about what a feeling it is, to come here in peace, with an open heart, as a guest, to their country and then to be confronted with such a behavior. Of course, if at all, only a few understood what I was shouting, about education and respect, because the English language seems by far not so widespread, as official statements let us suggest.

Well, after all it is an important experience for us. But for me, to throw stones (they hit Tom as well later on, but at the end there were fortunately not too many cases) was not the worst. It was the stupidity that so many people along the way, no matter what age (unfortunately) threw at us. It starts with the endless “You”, “You”, “You” calls, (mostly, but not only, from kids – ok, they don’t know better) and the permanent “farandsh”, “farandsh” calls (means as much as „foreigner“, „stranger“, „french man“, but sounds after a while more and more negative for us). Then always the wrong question “Where are you go?” over and over again!! Then they run behind you, next to you, insisting that you have to give them something! Money, pen or Highland (locally bottled water) being their favorites.

Even if you tell them five times “No” and “please, stop it”. It is so sad, to see also students with this behavior or even older men. Once, such a man, a farmer I guess, was waving from far with both arms in our direction. I was smiling and waving back. Then he was running down to us, his hands and head in the air, as if he would say thanks to his god, to send us as his saviors. I was telling him, that we will not give him any money, more then three times, also with sign language – NO! then I stopped at some point and shouted at him, asking him, if he his crazy or what, to make him understand, that his behavior is unbearable.

It is such a shame, and that is what makes me sad, or angry. That this “Give me”, “Give me” – mentality seems to be so widespread here and that so many, (not all!) the people along our way, do not realize, that, even if they have not much to give (materially), that they still should not give up themselves in this way and that they still can give, for example a smile or a waving hand! – and, that we as two „wealthy farandshi“, travelling with this strange bicycles, also could give them much more then money or a pen or a bottle of water!

Most of these people, from what we saw, do not suffer that hard, to explain such a behaviour, although there are many, especially in the country side, who live under very poor conditions for our standards, like centuries ago. Especially the contrast to the perfectly smooth new asphalt band with some shiny private cars, between Gondar and Addis Ababa, was often very drastic.

But to put it all in balance again, there were also many positive moments, when you can laugh about the situation, about yourself! ;) Like the scene with the girls in there colorful clothes (the girl in green was one of them) also asking for money and pen, even running behind us and then one of them was shouting from the distance: „I want your money!“
Like everywhere else, where we passed, most of the people are friendly, they do smile and also reply our greetings. From time to time we stopped and talked with some teenagers, or people, who were asking us the „Where are you go?” question and it was almost always a good decision. We also had the chance to talk about our experiences with an English teacher at our lunch break in Goha Tsiyon, who told us that they teach here most subjects in English language!!?? Or with an Economist, who invited us for a tea in Gebre Guracha. He has studied one year in L.A./USA. It was a relaxed and very informative conversation. He told us, that our experiences show some of the biggest problems here in Ethiopia (the “give me syndrome” and the literacy level, especially in English language) and also, that it has been recognized and that there are programs starting to change the situation. I also liked the idea, that Ethiopia wants to grow and export more ‘exotic’ flowers, another link to Colombia, as I thought, like the coffee, the scenery, the altitude and latitude…

Well and then there was our trip to Lalibela, actually worth a separate post. A very good experience all together. I just want to mention there the help of the hostel manager, Alex, who just offered us to ask the two men with the white Pick up, who were planning to go to Gondar tomorrow, as he knew, if they could take us the 250km back to the asphalt road. Fortunately it was no problem and we agreed to pay the same price we would have had paid for the bus. They were really friendly and we could communicate also with a few words in English. At our first break the driver forgot the key inside the car! An opportunity for us to help…

Then, later on the same day, back in Bahir Dar, we followed the invitation of a young boy with a heart warming smile. He had recognized Thomas again as the bike rider and from an earlier meeting, called him ‘Raster Tom’. He invited us to follow him to have a coffee at his mothers place. It was already after 8pm and we were walking to some side streets, but not too far. Obviously it was not a coffee place, as we thought, it was his home, in a rather poor, but lively and not unfriendly area of the town. He lived their alone with his mom who asked us to step in. He was smiling. His name is Menuelet Selaga. Her name is Tsege.

She offered us a seat, in the light of an oil lamp, before she went out to get some glowing charcoal to start the little stove. What an experience! We were sitting there, silent, in a one room hut, maybe 2.5×4.5 meters inside, the walls made of clay, covered with some random paper pictures and metal plates, not to forget a picture of Jesus and one of Mari. The roof, the single window and the door out of corrugated metal. The single bed was behind a curtain, leaving a space of maybe 3.5×2.5 meters for two tiny tables, two benches and some kitchen ware in one corner. No water, no electricity. We were just sitting there, wondering and just grateful, from time to time talking with Menuelet, who did really well talking and understanding English, also translating for his mom.

He was 8 years old and in third grade. He told us proudly, his mom is preparing the best coffee in Bahir Dar! It was becoming obvious, that he just wanted to help his mom, with earning a little extra money. She was about 40 years old, confident and friendly, also when she didn’t talk that much. The whole coffee ceremony lasted for about an hour and we enjoyed every minute! The coffee was delicious and the whole experience will be one of the lasting memories of this tour! Thank you very much!

Alright, I have to stop here, I know. Two and a half pages are already too much. But I also want to say thanks to Christof, a german engineer for telecommunications, who is working for Siemens here in Addis Ababa. He is originally from the region “Sauerland” and lived in Munich and Nigeria for some years before. We met each other in the immigration office on Friday and he invited us right away for a beer and some diner! It was a great experience as well. Thank you, Christof!


So, and now to something completely different… ;)

I want to do an announcement here and now, concerning this bike trip. Tom will buy his ticket tomorrow morning, from Dar es Salam to Bombay with Ethiopian Airlines. My ticket is already booked and paid. My decision has become final. I will fly back home to Berlin from Dar es Salam. On April 27th, after more then 6 months and about 13000km this bike trip will be over for me.

It is still not easy for me to talk about it here and now and to find an appropriate way to explain myself in a few lines. I just can assure you, that this decision is well thought through, that it is part of me and came not from outside, that I have discussed it with Thomas and Elisa well in advance and most important, that I am confident about it, that I feel, that it is a good decision.

There are many reasons, many layers of reasons. But to make it short – I felt and do feel, that there is a need for a better balance between my future life with Elisa, the decision to move with her to Bogota/Colombia and the dream/the life of this bike tour with Tom.

I want to write more about the reasons in an extra post, hopefully from Nairobi or Dar es Salam, at the latest from Berlin… Just let me write down a statement, I found in the small and good book (about) “Aethiopien” from B. Bierbaum, which made me think as well and which I started to like, for the situation we experienced here in Ethiopia so far, for all the experiences on this tour, for my personal life:

“Happiness depends on the possibility to realize!”

“Gluecklich zu sein, bedingt die Moeglichkeit,
zu erkennen/ (sich) zu verwirklichen!”

When I thought about it, I felt it needed to change a little bit:

“Happiness depends on the ability to realize!”

“Gluecklich zu sein, bedingt die Faehigkeit,
zu erkennen/ (sich) zu verwirklichen!”

Thank you all for your support so far, all the motivating comments and e-mails! and no worries, I am a happy man and I will be a happy man in the future! I am still enjoying every Kilometer and don’t want to miss a single one from the past! My dream/our dream has become reality, already when we started in Berlin, becomes reality and makes me happy every single day. But now priorities have shifted in my mind. The goal is not (and never was) only to cycle the way from Berlin to Bogota, arround this globe, passing through interesting places with interesting people. The goal, if you can call it a goal at all, is and was also the inner way (Thank you also, Otto), of course, the inner way to satisfaction. To learn more about your self, about what you want, about what you can give and what you have to give, about where you want to go and where your limits are, about where you have to stop and where to keep on going… To find the balance, while you are moving!

Thomas understands my decision, most of my reasons and he wants to continue this tour alone through Asia and maybe later with Denise through South America. It is his decision. I can fully understand it and accept it as well. And, not to forget, the tour is not over yet! There still about 2600 challenging kilometers and two new countries ahead of us! ;)
Thank you!


pictures to this article: Gonder/Äthiopien – Addis Abeba/Äthiopien : Fotos

21. März 2007 - Maik | english texts | Kommentare :: comments :: comentarios | Inhalt drucken

8 Responses to “Gondar/Ethiopia – Addis Ababa/Ethiopia”

  1. 1 Stefan 23 März 2007 @ 1:09

    My dear Maik,
    you’re doing right, because you feel it is right! There is nothing more to say! Your words are very touching, moving – they are the words of a grown and a wise man! Good luck!

  2. 2 Maria Isabel (cousin) 23 März 2007 @ 18:23

    Dear Maik,

    Thank you for take the pain to explain how you feel in this moment.
    I just can say that i’m absolutely proud of you, and proud to have you in my family, I wish you the best in your life because you worth it as like as elisa ;-) and I’m wondering if maybe before you go to Colombia, you can take a ride to Aigle maybe with Pepuchis…it’s just an idea.
    Anyhow i will continue to follow your tour with all the joy that gives me this litlle window that you open every time you write.
    un gran abrazo

  3. 3 Nicolas Macario 30 März 2007 @ 0:21

    What a reading Maik. I have spent an hour reading you and feeling you and it’s a great feeling to acompany you some how through all this proces you are doing.
    Some how, it calls us, me, to reflection.

    Good, it’s very good. Thanks for your love.

    Receive mine.

    Nicolas Macario Alonso

  4. 4 Ana Maria Corredor 31 März 2007 @ 15:06

    It seems like such a long way from Hackney and all the colours of London.. your words are very inspiring. I am glad that your journey seems to be going in the right direction!
    Hope to catch up one day with you and Elisa in hilly and lavish Bogota.
    Y como dice el dicho: Que Vivan los Novios!

    Take care.

  5. 5 Maria Isabel (mom) 5 April 2007 @ 2:14

    Maik I am very happy that you bicycle tour dream has become reality and you that are satisfied with it. But as you had chosen another life style -the one living in a couple, I understand your decision to return to Germany and do all the things that you still want to do there. And then, retake your new life with Elisa.

    The human being goes from one stage to another one and there is a need to do the most of each of them, enjoy them because they will not happen again, they stay behind…Then keep your good spirit and good luck! Go ahead, keep on going with this stage with Elisa, and love each other as much as you do. I wish you both all the best and hope that you become a beautiful family with many kids!

    Congratulations FOR ALL, Maria Isabel

  6. 6 anki 6 April 2007 @ 17:23

    hi Maik …

    so oft habe ich hier eure Reiseberichte gelesen, bin in die wundervollen Bilder eingetaucht und habe an euch zwei Radelnde gedacht aber —- nie habe ich hier irgendwas reingeschrieben und es euch wissen lassen.

    Nun also hier an dieser stelle mal eine fette umärmelung an Dich.

    Paßt weiterhin gut auf euch auf!
    Nach dem Bauchgefühl zu gehen – ist immer gut.)
    C u soon

  7. 7 Gladis , Juanita, Pablo 7 April 2007 @ 1:22

    We are along with you.
    When you want our home is always opened.

    Tapferer durch die Personen, dass Träume durch sein kämpfen

    A greeting for you and for Tom

  8. 8 OLIVER 11 April 2007 @ 14:25

    An dieser stelle gibt es den anderen comments nichts hinzuzusetzen. Ich freu mich dich bald wieder zu drücken und dir meine tochter zu zeigen, welche dir dann schon entgegenstapft. In Charlize und Nadine finde ich die Farben der ganzen Welt – sie sind mein zuhaus. Du bist der Baum an dem ich für Charlize eine Schukel bauen möchte!


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