19/02/13, Busday into Gondar

Today we crossed the border into Ethiopia. After riding 150k yesterday without any significant traffic on the bad hot corrugated potholled road, we reached the buzzing border town Metema this morning after just some 2k after camp. We got our Sudanese exit stamps, exited Sudan into nowhere’s land, then waited for our Ethiopian entry stamps before crossing the border into our third country!

Unfortunately we are off to a bad start in Ethiopia. Instead of two days of riding, the Ethiopian government forced us to be bussed to the Goha Hotel in Gondar. It was already announced and I was already quite disappointed by this, because we would do our first days of climbing on this stretch. Unfortunately the climbing was not meant to be, and soon after passing the border it became clear why. About a 100 young man marched into the street where we had just been eating and drinking and relaxing. They were dancing and singing, but they also waved big big guns in the air as if they were toys. We were told that unlike the Sudanese, the Ethiopians can get quite carried away in their protests and can become violent. And I could only just imagine what would happen if these man would turn violent…
We were loaded into minivans for the convoy to Gondar. The convoy was led by an army truck with armed military to protect us, followed by our big support truck, a number of minivans, a truck carrying our bikes and the landcruiser. It was quite an impressive sight and with quite a respectable speed we made our way to Gondar. During the 200k ride my cycling heart bled. The transition from the flat Sudanese savannah into the Ethiopian highlands was just astonishing. I would have loved to ride my bike here! The climbs… the views… the descends… it just felt like we rushed past it all, while knowing that I will almost definetly never return here to try to cycle here again… Simultaneously though, we got to see why the government did not want us to ride here. Along the road we saw burned down houses, burned down vehicles and heavily armed police stations.
Last year, after heavy protests, the prime minister of Ethiopia stept down while the tour past through the country. Riders then got stuck amidst the protests, which according to staff members was not a pleassant experience. A new and quite progressive prime minister is in place now, who appears to do good for the country and reaches out to surrounding countries like Eretrea. But he is from the south and apparantly he clashes with more conservative parties in the north, leading to the unrests. It’s not easy to keep everybody satisfied…
So after everything we saw during the ride we safely reached the Goha hotel in Gondar, where a swimming pool, a proper bar, good wine and fat tourists with digital slr’s and telelenses awaited us. The contrasts of Africa are quite big…

Waking up…

Border crossing at Metema, people mainly crossing by foot…

Smile! You’re in Ethiopia!

Our convoy

The guys admiring the view…

Stunning landscapes…

Would have loved to ride here 😦

At least we got to sea it from the car

Stunning view from the Goha hotel over Gondar. If I would have gotten here on my own strength I would have felt invincie. But it was not meant to be…

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