The Highway of the Devil’s Spawn

Blog 48 by Tan: Highway of the Devil’s Spawn

We decided to ditch the tar and take the old dirt road through the Awash Valley en route to the tourist hub of Lalibela. It was a wise move that found us riding along rolling barren hills then across an almost desert scene. It made for some hot, dusty but not unpleasant riding. It also made for less mentally taxing riding not having to deal with the sea of stock animals using the road as a paddock. The infrequent settlements we came across were some of the poorest we had seen outside the Lower Omo Valley. And believe me, there is stiff competition from the people along the route we had taken to Harar. Here the people had the most rudimentary of dwellings and little else but small herds of skinny goats. I couldn’t imagine how they were able to make a life out there. They were stunned and silent at our passing.

 

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This is what chat looks likes growing. This is random net picture. It is so profitable and farmers can harvest a couple of times a year and receive instant payment. It is no surprise more and more farmers are getting rid of coffee and other grain crops and trying to grow chat. You can see where that will head in this highly populated drought prone country. But you can’t blame poor farmers for going to a better cash crop.

 

Eventually we found a village which had well maintained and irrigated (we are guessing they had a bore) chat plantations. Seems that is how they manage to subsist in the punishing environment. As we rode we started to notice the appearance of some huge power lines through the area. We were at a loss to explain their presence in the barely inhabited and barren wasteland. We could not imagine anything in the area that would require such vast amounts of energy. All was made clear when a gigantic infrastructure project came into view. This one was a monster electric railway connecting Addis Ababa to the port of Djibouti.

 

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The Chinese funded and constructed rail project connecting the capital to the port of Djibouti. The project will significantly reduce the cost of transport of goods to the land locked country.

 

With the sun going down we found ourselves in a small village where we started looking for suitable accommodation. All the guesthouses we saw were so appalling we couldn’t have possibly spent the night there. And believe me a place has got to be pretty terrible for us to not be able to suck it up for 12 hours. More to the point, the whole place gave us really bad vibes so we decided to head 22km away from our ultimate destination where we saw a couple of hotels marked on the GPS. We came across a decent looking, modest hotel and parked up for the night after downing a couple of beers and our typical meal of tibs and bread.

 

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The terrain made for some fast and fun riding

 

The next morning we rode the tar through to Awash to fill up our tanks… or at least that is what we had planned. There was a major construction project underway and, we think given the proximity to the more hostile areas of Danakil and the way more hostile Eritrea, due to terrorism risks access to the bridge was forbidden for bikes… like they were the only vehicles open to a determined bridge bomber. Whatever the logic (or lack thereof) we were unceremoniously turned away. Making us once again, feel as welcome in this country as a turd bobbing away in a public swimming pool.

After some quick calculations Mick concluded that we could make it as far as Mille on the fuel we had if the petrol stations we expected to line the countries most significant trade route (Djibouti to Addis) weren’t there. Turns out there was one, but being Ethiopia it had no petrol. However, Mick’s calculations, while based on modest fuel efficiency, failed to take into account the unknown pilfering of 5l of fuel that took place the night previous.

 

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Coke stop

 

Whenever we stay at a hotel in Ethiopia we make a point of meeting with the security guard, out of both common courtesy and keen self-interest. I have a soft spot for these guys. They are generally as old as the hills and basically work so as to have a place to sleep. They work everyday for meals and maybe $20 cash a month. We always introduce ourselves and let them know they will receive a tip the next morning for a job well done. However that night we arrived and unpacked late and I never found the security guard. Mick hitting his reserve in the middle of a desert highway some 90km earlier that it should have made it clear that he’d lost about 5L of fuel. There was no way to explain it apart from that. The fact the guard was then scarce the next morning was another bit of circumstantial evidence to his involvement. It is a rare thing indeed to have the guard not there the next morning in case of tip… in Ethiopia we often had complete strangers walking off the street claiming to have watched the bikes and wanting payment.

 

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While we were having lunch there was a modest little crowd watching us then all of a sudden a chat transport truck pulled up. I’d never seen people move so fast. Men and children alike surrounded the vehicle to buy and transport the mind-altering weed. Chat is so crucial to the economy there is no way it would be made illegal no matter its damaging affect on the populace. It was a depressing scene.

 

We weren’t too upset but I was kicking myself for not having introduced ourselves as I was confident he wouldn’t have taken it otherwise. I appreciated his restraint anyhow. He could have got both bikes and for a lot more fuel. Mick turned to reserve and ran the numbers again. It would be touch and go if we made it to Mille and it was barren, Mad Max type wasteland between here and there. We resolved to ride efficiently and see how far we got until I went to reserve. If it happened sooner rather than later we’d pool fuel resources and have one person ride off to fill the main and secondary tank and return for the voluntarily stranded party.

 

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A lunch of shiro and injera accompanied by some blissfully cold cokes and coffee.

 

We actually came across some black market fuel at a tiny township that was asking double the black market price. Bugger them we thought, we should make it fine. I ended up hitting reserve about 40km from Mille (right as anticipated) and Mick was able to run off the dregs of his secondary tank until reaching the hotel. And like that, a moderate inconvenience was avoided. But it wouldn’t have been a pleasant place to wait for fuel supplies. It was seriously hot riding in unforgiving country. It was one of the most desperately inhospitable places I have ever come across, which is saying something because much or our home country seems almost specifically designed to deny human life.

 

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While we were there we both attempted to clean the fork seals our which were leaking again badly. Here Mick is using the Sealmate tool to remove grit from behind the seal. When the thing started to split Mick made his own tool from a plastic oil container. A seal cleaner is a must have tool for the road.

 

As we approached Mille, located in the south of the notorious Afar region, it was rock as far as the eye could see, punctuated only infrequently by thorn bushes almost entirely devoid of foliage. The camels were the most miserable I have ever seen and must have been as close to death as live ones can get. You know it is no place for humans when the camels struggle to survive. Yet there were people. And they were lining the newly tarred road at sunset, arms outstretched with plastic bottles begging for water from passing vehicles. I’ve never seen anything like it.

 

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Getting our first black market fuel of the trip. We broke out our Profill in tank fuel filters. They are cheap insurance against shitty fuel as they keep grit and water from the tank. Insider tip: Ask a tuk tuk/taxi driver what the real (non foreign biker) black market price of fuel is beforehand.

 

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Some fun little obstacles along the route

 

Mille was an unattractive town as most towns that serve major trucking routes tend to be. We managed to stumble upon the only decent looking hotel getting about. It looked relatively secure and the best room in the hotel (and the whole town I imagine) was pretty good in the end and only cost about $15. The people were really friendly and the coke and beers were cold even if the night time temperature was scorching and the electricity supply intermitant.

At the hotel we got chatting with a young Chinese guy from Hunan province who was working on the ZTE (big Chinese Telcom) ETC (Ethiotel) 4G-installation project. Like a lot of Chinese in this part of Africa he spoke next to no English and none of the local language much the exasperation of his Ethiopian minders. These guys later thanked us for speaking Chinese with him over dinner as he said we were the only outsiders he has been able to speak to in about a year. They thought it made him happy to talk with us which made them happy too. Rather sweet really. We were to see a lot of large Chinese infrastructure projects while in Ethiopia and indeed the rest of our time in Africa. In a number of countries like Ethiopia and Congo, kins would see us and yell ‘China, China, China’ thinking that because we were foreign, we must be Chinese. An interesting subject for a later date.

 

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We had a better day than this front end loader driver

 

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Out of the Afar region we came across more fertile scenery

 

After securing some reasonably priced black market fuel we took a gravel road to Dessie, once again to avoid the mayhem of the tar routes but to also link up with a gravel route from Dessie to Lalibela which we had been recommended as “one of the best roads in Ethiopia”. It was all pretty cruisy with few people around these parts except for local road builders and their Chinese supervisors, easily identifiable in their oversized straw hats. We made it to the large town of Dessie and tried a handful of petrol stations looking for fuel. There was only one station in town with fuel but the lines were like Disneyland at Christmas so we decided to get a hotel for the night, adhering to our de-motivational mantra of ‘why do today what you can put off to tomorrow?’

 

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It was scenic to boot

 

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Then we spent an hour and a half covering 40km. Much needed road works in the area created quagmires and traffic jams. It would have taken many hours were we not on bikes.

 

The next morning after downing many glorious macchiatos we went on a search for fuel. As ever there was just one station with it and everyone in town was there. After an hour of waiting in the rain we were at the head of the line… then the electricity went out, which is game over in these parts. Nothing was going to happen until it came back on and everyone just accepted that. I went to warm up with a cup of tea but couldn’t get one at a nearby café ‘no electricity’.

Everywhere else in Africa we had seen real resourcefulness in the face of lack of services like electricity or water. We’d seen establishments run commercial kitchens outdoors with a handful of charcoal and burners made of wheel rims when the electricity failed. I wanted to say ‘well light a bloody match, lets make this thing happen’ but resisted. Waiting for USAID to show up with whistling kettle really was my best bet until the power came back on. This was Africa, but not as we knew it.

 

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When the electricity went out most vehicles gave up their fuel hunt for the day. We had no fuel to get anywhere so had to wait.

 

A large part of petrol shortage is due to the black market racket. Most petrol stations in Ethiopia will have piles of 20l plastic containers, sitting at the station. Often Dad runs the petrol station and his son runs the black market fuel arm. You will have to wait until he has filled his containers before getting any in your car or bike in these instances. The biggest frustration for us was the fact Ethiopia couldn’t manage fuel supplies anywhere in the country despite the presence of logistical geniuses capable of doing so. The logistical masterminds of the chat trade could have the devil weed harvested by hand, transported from and to all the far flung regions of the country, air lifted to Kenya, Sudan, Somalia, Chad, Niger, Yemen and Central African Republic and delivered into the green, slobbering mouths of inebriated chat zombies – ALL within 12 hours. Within the first 12 hours of harvest the chat is at it most delightfully fresh and amphetamine-y, brain damage-y bestness.

Yet the powers that be couldn’t secure a reliable fuel supply even just to their nation’s capital. This issue dogged us the whole time we were in Ethiopia. Thank goodness we have 44l fuel capacity because I would have gone nuts if I had to play the fuel scavenger hunt game every day. Don’t let the World Vision ads fool you. Ethiopia has no desperate shortage of what it needs. Despite its humongous population and low GDP it should have enough to feed itself, it is just that the people in charge couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery.

Unfortunately it had started raining heavily so when we did eventually get power and then fuel we made the decision not to take the apparently very steep and mountainous dirt road route that had been recommended to us. Whilst it was a sound decision to forgo unknown muddy mountain roads in a storm, it meant we had to deal with the drawbacks of main road travel in the region – the bored, unsupervised, rock throwing riff-raff.

We had started to get used to having rocks and miscellaneous objects thrown at us by this stage. Before arriving in Ethiopia we had heard countless tales of rock throwing and general hostility. Such stories are legion among overlanders. For our first few weeks in the country we were mostly off the beaten track and had experienced relatively few such unpleasant incidents, well compared to the stories we had heard at least. In fact, in some areas it had been pretty lovely and hospitable… for the most part. We naïvely started to believe that such complaints were perhaps cultural misunderstandings. THE FOOLS WE WERE!

 

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The road we dubbed the ‘Highway of the Devil’s Spawn’ – A bit harsh maybe. They are obviously just bored little rat bags not actually the children of Satan but it was catchy so we went with it. This is where we experienced the vast majority of our hostilities. It wouldn’t have been as bad if we didn’t end up doing the top third of this stretch of road 3 times for various reasons.

 

It seems there is a distinct geographical component to the hostile rock throwing activities in Ethiopia. And at this point, around Dessie, we were at the epicenter of pre-pubescent anti-social activity in the country. It was rather incessant and after days of running the gauntlet we were over it. I would like to stress that at the beginning of all of this we ignored a heck of a lot of rocks, sticks and whips coming at us. But that kind of patience on those treacherous mountain roads can only last so long.

The following story will demonstrate that we are deep down rather shitty people but our next month in Ethiopia would go on to convince us that in this world there are only 2 types of people; shitty people, and people who have yet to travel Ethiopia on a motorbike.

As we came around a mountain bend there were two little delinquents waiting for us, weapons at the ready. Delinquent #1 was wielding a large shepherd stick and went out on to the road and swung at Mick’s head. Mick was able to swerve out of the way in time. He slowed his progress out of concern for me as we had established that the person who came second always copped the worst of it. The delinquents then executed a two-pronged attack on me. Delinquent #1 assuming the vanguard, dashed out on the road and made a homerun seeking swing at my head while Delinquent #2 did a classic flanking maneuver and launched a fist sized rock at me. Luckily they both missed. Mick by this time was undertaking counter measures by charging back on the DR to the site of the ambush. These little turds almost always possess the territorial advantage and after launching surprise attacks are generally half way down the valleys and out of sight by the time you manage a few waves of an angry fist.

Yet in the face of Mick’s counterstrike they revealed a lack of cohesion and discipline as a fighting force. Delinquent #1 made a hasty retreat down the valley ignoring the lack of cover, the high ground advantage now afforded to Mick and underestimating the capabilities of the opposing side… namely that Mick played a lot of schoolboy cricket. Mick picked up a sizable rock and unleashed an aerial strike. Mick was about 15m above him and about 50m horizontally. He managed to get within 2 meters of the bugger, giving him a well-deserved scare and he started running with renewed vigour.

Delinquent #2 in contrast adopted guerilla tactics, hiding behind a bush right below Michael, yet invisible to him. This delinquent had underestimated our technological superiority… namely that we had in-helmet communication. From my vantage point up the road I was able to tell Mick that the second little fiend was right below him. Mick, in a bit of a fury, then took a large almost bowling ball sized rock and dropped it on the bush expecting it to land near enough to him to flush him out. Instead it smashed through the bush and rolled down his back. It was a direct hit but not what we were after. The kid was fine though and I’m pretty sure he broke some land speed record running away screaming.

I was angry at Mick for the excessive, though unintentional, use of force but I couldn’t deny it felt like a rare win. And as such, our feelings cycled between a sense of victory and self-loathing for our behavior towards a couple of children. At least, we told ourselves, these little delinquents would think twice before doing the same thing again. But we would come to learn that there were plenty others of their ilk willing to take their places. Charlie was everywhere on that road we dubbed the ‘Highway of the Devil’s Spawn’. This was but a prelude.

 

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The classic bush mechanic fix for a fuel tank leak – soap

 

We rode onwards through villages where we were either waved at, smiled at, yelled or cursed at, that is if they weren’t throwing or swinging things at us. We were feeling as welcome as a cold sore on date night when the rain started. Thankfully the rain sent people indoors and left us to ride the rest of the route relatively unmolested. As the sky cleared we stopped for lunch. Immediately upon doing so we smelt fuel and a lot of it. Mick’s Safari tank we discovered had a crack in it. ‘Fabulous’ we thought – actually that is not what we thought but our mums read this blog so lets just go with that.

 

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The crack was located on the right hand wing – an inconvenient spot. It was disappointing but worth noting it was an 8 year old secondhand tank. I had no doubt Mick would come up with a cunning fix for this one.

 

Mick took off the tank and found a fine 6cm long crack on the inside of one of the wings. Mick, in his infinite bush mechanic wisdom, took the soap from his toiletries bag and rubbed a big chunk of it along the crack to temporarily stem the fuel leakage. From there we transferred much of the fuel into the secondary tank and set about thinking of a long-term fix. Fixing, (and God forbid replacing) anything in Africa is HARD and potentially COSTLY. ‘Bugger this’ we thought…..where is our production crew to sort all this shit out for us? Ewan and Charlie had it right all along.

 

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We drowned our sorrows in injera and tibs and tried to ignore the disturbing fact that there was a monkey tied up behind the kitchen.

 

But problems are best pondered on a full stomach and with a beer in hand. So we had lunch and ordered a St George for Mick. Once again it was tibs and injera. There was an well dressed English speaking fellow at the table nearby and upon seeing our meal told us that meat was so expensive that he could not afford it, and he suggested that we should buy him and his mate some. I politely called bullshit on him by saying the cost of the meal was 1/3 of the cost of the empty beer bottles sitting in front of them. He ordered another round by way of comment.

 

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Some gorgeous scenery along the dirt road up to Lalibela. We were chasing sundown so took no other photos but this. As it was we arrived in town right on dark.

 

We rode through to Lalibela on some beautiful dirt roads and due to a fuel tank delay arrived right at the end of dusk. After securing a decent hotel in Lalibela we got a bit of rest before launching into a laundry list of bike maintenance tasks. We both had fork seals leaking like mad and needed to do something about it. On top of that we were due for a service. We had already sourced the necessary oil in Dessie and just needed to get some containers to collect the old oil in. It was in our search for empty plastic containers that we noticed something strange at play in lil’ ol’ Lalibela.

Over the course of the day we had stranger after stranger coming up to us offering to sell us oil. This was no coincidence. A tourist’s presence in Lalibela is highly commoditised. Your description, nationality, names (if you are silly enough to give them), wants, desires and propensity to spend are town fodder and shared around amongst Lalibela’s sizable population of touts. In our case the ‘Aussie’s with the motos at Blulal Hotel are doing an oil change’ spread like wildfire all without us leaving the hotel.

 

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No rest for the wicked.

 

I saw the thing in action when I went about sourcing a 21mm socket needed to get the damping rod out of the bottom of the forks. I got a young kid to take me to a couple of the town’s mechanics. Along the way tout after tout approached him to ask where he was taking me and why. Each time I could hear him explaining exactly what I was after, where I was staying, how many of us there were and goodness knows what else. The kid was given a lot of instructions from these guys. It was suspicious as all get out. I felt like wounded prey or a prized heifer being taken to market. It made me sick. There wasn’t a whiff of genuine desire to assist. Instead it reeked of money and ill intent. This was like nothing else we had experienced in Africa with the exception of border crossings. Ethiopia (at least this part) was feeling like one giant border crossing.

We got to the garage and they had the required socket. I’d guess in any other country in Africa they would have happily lent the socket, probably even insisted on helping and expected not a thing in return. But Ethiopia had already proven itself a different beast so I expected to give him a few bucks for borrowing it for a short time. He instead wanted $US15 and that was to give it back to him within 1 hour – and it was a 15 minute walk back to the hotel. I explained I could buy 2 new ones for that price but he wouldn’t budge.

 

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Oil change time in the stairwell of the hotel.

 

So, in what might have been a cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face scenario, I returned and told Mick we would have to do a half arse fork service and hope that worked. After the oil change we cleaned the oil filters, air filters, filter skins and air boxes which were all filthy from their time in Turkana and Omo. In terms of a fork service Mick simply cleaned the forks seals, drained the old oil and replaced it with new automatic transmission fluid. Proper fork oil is hard to find in Africa and when you do… YOU PAY! So we have had to resort to ATF from time to time. We hoped that would be enough in the short term.

 

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Filter skin full of Turkana and Omo dust.

 

The town of Lalibela was pleasant enough. There had clearly been a tourist education project going on as everyone would constantly say hello and welcome and there was no begging tolerated, which was not what we had been told or expecting. That is like going to New Zealand and hearing no talk about rugby – Twilight Zone worthy. It seemed that everyone in town was policing everyone’s conduct toward the tourists. If a shop owner saw a tourist being annoyed by touts they would step in and make sure they left. Children would get chased away if they were seen asking for things from tourists so they would do it stealthily when there were no witnesses.

 

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Ethiopian cuisine

 

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We lived on these fresh juices in Ethiopia. Most juices cost less than a dollar. A fancy one from ‘John’s Café’ in Lalibela was just over a buck.

 

All this activity forced the touts to be very creative and intensely responsive to the needs of tourists, all in the hope of getting tips. I was impressed and astounded at one such preemptive offer of aid when I was walking back to the hotel from dinner. I had a bit of food stuck in my tooth and had simply moved my tongue in my closed mouth to probe my gum to see if I could remove it when a kid nearby ran up to be and said ‘Do you need a toothpick?’ It blew my mind.

 

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We met these Chinese tourists at the café. We found out that the guy next to Mick was a geologist like me and the man in front was a mining engineer by profession like Mick but was a boss of a coal mining company. The coal boss was a passionate traveller and Ethiopia was his 80th country. Quite unique for China. Next up he was heading to Canada to photograph snow foxes. He was a cool fella and we planned to meet up again when we went get China.

 

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There is a popular place in Lalibela to drink honey wine. We don’t remember the name of the place but if you walk out your hotel and merely think of honey wine a local will no doubt sense this and offer to take you there.

 

In Lalibela they start young at working the tourists. You may be asked by a kid to help him buy a book that he needs for school. He may even take you to the bookstore to buy said book, which will be inexplicably priced at $10US. The scam is that they will get a cut of the money from the shop owner who promptly restores the book to the shelf to wait for the next no doubt well-intentioned foreign do-gooder.

There is no reason to ever give money to a child over here. Imagine the distorting affect of a child receiving a few dollars from a tourist in some flippant gesture that just so happens to be double his parents combined daily earnings. If you must, find their parents and give them the money. Just be aware, that windfall might see that kid out of school chasing foreigners at their behest from then on. You can’t not think about such things in Ethiopia. What the culture of aid has wrought on this country may prove to be more damaging than the famine (fuelled more by politics than drought) that it was bought in to relieve. But that is for another blog when I might have the energy to discuss the aid shitstorm unleashed on this country. Cat’s out of the bag … we really struggled with Ethiopia.

 

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Random devotee

 

On the subject of shitstorms unleashed on Ethiopia, it was at this time that Mick and I formally acknowledged the undeniably detrimental affects Ethiopian cuisine was having on our guts. The last few weeks had unleashed unprecedented horrors upon our digestive tracts and injera was clearly at the heart (or should I say the arse) of it all. Injera in itself is actually sort of tasty and its sour flavour compliments the spicy Ethiopian food well. But there is something about the unfamiliar grain and/or its fermentation that was assailing us with unique and rather contradictory digestive phenomena.

Prior to a diet of injera I would not have thought one could concurrently suffer from constipation and diarrhea. However, as our experiences attested, such seemingly mutually exclusive happenings can indeed be contemporaneous. The expression ‘in fits and bursts’ seems to have been coined specifically to describe the resultant colonic contortions of an injera diet. Visits to the bathroom became fear inducing and logistically challenging to boot – when the need struck it could take quite a time… or indeed no time at all. This kind of lavatory roulette was hard to factor into our riding plans for the day. Beside the obvious unpleasantness of the experience we found ourselves discussing our hitherto private toilet activities as openly as discussing the weather. Was it persistent drought or monsoonal storms? While our conversations would have gained high praise from the average 10 year old boy, for us they were crossing a line. So it was for the sake of both romance and our gastrointestinal health that we resolved to eat no more injera.

 

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Some rather precarious tracks around the churches of Lalibela

 

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Lalibela’s 11 churches are very much functioning places of worship

 

And now let us move from the unholy to the holy – the rather astounding rock hewn churches of Lalibela. The rock hewn churches of Lalibela are Ethiopia’s premier tourist attraction and are astronomically expensive to visit at $US50 per person. That is some serious dosh even if the fee allows your 4 days of access. A lot of tourist skip it these days due to the price. I can understand. I was glad we did it as the churches are undoubtedly amazing and real wonders of the world. However you can’t help but feel a shortchanged in terms of infrastructure at the site. There are no signs, trail markers, no information available, not even a paper map to allow you to find your way.

 

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See the type of infrastructure a $US50 ticket gets you?

 

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But these are certainly impressive

 

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Excavated inside and out. Can you imagine the time it would take?

 

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On our first day touring the churches, we figured we would go it alone and just explore, however we decided on getting a guide for the second day but we couldn’t find one would you believe it! The previous day you couldn’t swing a cat and not hit one but here we were with the cash and we found ourselves guideless. Eventually we came across a guide who obviously sensed our desperation and he quoted a “Lalibela official designated price” considerably more expensive than the many varying “Lalibela official designated prices” previously quoted to us. It all seemed too hard by that point so we just opted to go it alone again and consult Google later.

 

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The town of Lalibela was originally named Roha but was renamed in honour of the 12th century King Lalibela. King Lalibela aimed to create a new Jerusalem for those unable to make the pilgrimage to the scared city of Axum further north. The churches of Lalibela were constructed by the king in order to secure the support of powerful Ethiopian church in the face of his rivals’ increasing power bases. Clever ploy. They are none too sure of the precise age of the church but most agree they were built around the 12th and 13th century.

The churches were excavated rather then constructed by cutting out a trench on all sides of the rock then chiseling out the interior. A time consuming process that also left them with excess piles of conveniently fist sized rock. With nothing else to do with the excess rock, the practice of throwing them at tourists soon developed and persists to this day.

 

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We initially intended to use our time in Ethiopia efficiently (i.e. not gallivant all over the countryside on random explorations) however a pressing bureaucratic requirement had us back tracking all the way to Addis Ababa. When we entered the country we were given a customs certificate where they had us write the details of our bikes and electronics and then told us we could have those items in the country for a month… never minding that we had a 90 day visa and a carnet for our bikes, which in most countries is valid for a year.

 

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We were far too exhausted when we entered the country to think too much of the implications of the weird little piece of paper. Our friend Caleb looked into the issue for us, and contacted his mate Flavio. Flavio is an Italian born in Ethiopia who runs a motorcycle tour company, which gives him the second most challenging job in the world behind Donald Trump’s PR manager. Flavio told us we should sort this issue out ‘pronto’. Based on new government officiousness he thought we stood a chance of having our bikes confiscated or at least having our exit complicated. To be on the safe side, it was either leave the country earlier than we’d like or extend the customs certificate. Flavio told us how a client had stored a foreign motorcycle for an extended period with him. The authorities went on to confiscate the bike from him for keeping it in the country outside of the permitted time period.

Ethiopia had taken my patience, humanity and gastrointestinal health, I would not let it take my DR too. We would just have to get the certificate extended with the necessary authorities in the capital. And so it was, with fear in our hearts, and no small sense of foreboding, that we set off once more into the Hellmouth and along the Highway of the Devil’s Spawn. Negative expectations were not only met but exceeded.

One Comment on “The Highway of the Devil’s Spawn

  1. Great read. Hope the leg is healing (and affording plenty of time to update blog and watch Dakar!).

    Travel safe

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