Friday, January 31, 2014

Axum Bound

Now, the second section of the tour heads north through the Simien Mountains to another ancient capital, Axum. We start today with a climb to almost 3,000 meters before descending to bush camp. The road will be paved in some parts and dirt track in others. The landscape is lovely and the hills justify the use of a "mountain" bike. Riders have changed their tires to meet the demands of the new surface.

We bid farewell to Goha hotel in Gondar. By contrast to our usual roadside camps, it has been a taste of luxury. Even so, the town reflects a reality for many Ethiopians: subsistence living. In a populous country with an economy based largely on agriculture, well-paid work is rare. "There is no middle class." as one local man told me. Notwithstanding the struggles, the majority of folks have an upbeat disposition.

The road crews can still use rudimentary tools. Loads are often carried by pack animals and people. Vehicles are driven by only the very wealthy or professional drivers. And when lorries pass, they are filled to the brim with goods and passengers. 

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