Our last day in Khartoum was spent sightseeing through some of the ancient wonders of the city. It was fascinating to learn about the rich history of Sudan. But the absolute highlight was the whirling dervishes performed during a tribal, almost trance like gathering by thousands of chanting people at sunset. This ancient ritual is performed every Friday night and seemed to involve the entire population of Khartoum.
The following morning we were escorted out of the city by the tourist police and were on our way to Ethiopia. The temperature dropped considerably as we left the desert behind and rode through rich green fields. With the past few days reaching over 42° Celsius, one of the guys commented how pleasant it was to be riding in only 35° Celsius!
A short time later, we thought we’d arrived at a shanty village, but soon realized this was actually the Sudanese / Ethiopian border. There was a mass of people trying to sell us anything from cold drinks to camel but despite the chaos, the crossing was fairly straightforward and our 16 bikes, 21 people, truck and trailer were suddenly in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has a population of over 90 million people and it seems like every one of them uses the road as a footpath, we have never seen so many people. Generally in Africa, riding is a real challenge trying to avoid the endless goats, cows, horses, donkeys, chickens, monkeys, camels, but now they’ve added people into the mix!
The topography changed considerably as we rode through the Simien Mountains staying a night at the wonderful Simien Mountains Lodge and having more than a few beers at the highest bar in Africa! Ethiopia is like riding through some European countries with magnificent mountain passes, deep endless valleys and wonderfully engineered roads with twisties and switchbacks with some riders declaring it as the “best riding of their lives”. It’s great to be riding.
With the countryside so rich in fertile agricultural land and an abundance of crops growing freely, it’s hard to understand how this country suffered such devastating famines in the past.
The people are friendly, polite and helpful. Maybe a bit too helpful, but so far our Ethiopian experience has been wonderful. Children run to the roadside, waving at us with enormous smiles, revealing beautiful white teeth, yelling “you, you, you, you, you” in a sing-song like voice however our real challenge was avoiding the endless procession of people wandering along the road, all but oblivious of the fact that their may be traffic!