Saturday, February 22, 2014

Birr, Beer and beaches

South of Addis Ababa, there is a series of lakes that serve as resort areas. We convoyed out of Addis Ababa for a significant distance before we were safe to cycle single file on an often dodgy shoulder where pavement succumbs to gravel or dirt. The size of the capital is enormous and it was a relief to reach the outlying communities as the traffic and therefore the toxic truck exhaust subside. The southern fringe is industrial and very busy. 

Our first camp was Lake Koka, about a 100 kms. I felt grim indeed as I had been ill the night before. I soldiered on out of foolish pride and made camp. In the village nearby our camp, I was referred to a barber who trimmed my mop for 20 birr (approximately 1 US $). The scene at the barbershop was comical as the clipping drew a crow of 25 rapt Ethiopians who watched the white guy get a trim. 

Back in camp, I bid farewell to our friend, Addis Abebe, an avid cyclist and jeweller who accompanied us into the capital and rode with us to our first camp. Addis is a long-time supporter of the TDA and a champion. His passions are cycling and his craft. He befriended my pal Brian when the two of them rode this section years ago. As a gesture of friendship, Addis collected us from our site in A.A. And took us home to see his family. Below, his daughter, Dana, and his wife Aster Girma, pose outside their humble abode.

The family took us to the best kitfo place in town for Brian's last meal before flying Toronto-bound. The feast was impressive. Take a look.

Alas, some of the meat did not sit well with me and I paid the price. Ethiopian food is delicious and yet caveat emptor applies, especially to westerners who have not built up the intestinal flora to combat local microorganisms. Meals are eaten with one's hands and, again, sanitation is critical to a healthful journey. 

A debt of gratitude is owed to Addis who helped us through the hectic environment of Addis Ababa. He sold several of his pendants to the riders, including the designs of the TDA logo. He took commissions and will send his work to cyclists wherever they live. He is a mensch.

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