Just like yesterday, the road is bad, the hills are high and the kids are quite terrible most of the time. At least the view now is rewarding to say the least – and green after some late-season rains the previous week.
It’s a Hallelujah moment when I pause for the first time above 1,500 meters. The cool air, the faint breeze, the leaves on the ground, the green trees, bushes and mountain slopes. Fresh Papaya for sale in a village.
For the first time in a long time I’m not even sweaty after a long ascent in midday sunshine. My shirt is no longer striped white by salt from sweat after a days riding, stiff like paper because of all the salt; or dirt brown from the sand attached to the sticky wet fabric.
In Ethiopia, the local food finally deserves to be mentioned as ‘culture’. Injera with spicy sauces. Coffee, tea, cappuccino, home-made biscuits, scrambled eggs, spaghetti, pizza and samosas.
The huge espresso machines – brought by the Italians during the occupation some seven decades ago and kept in shape in true African “conserve what we have”-spirit, become more and more frequent in towns as we get closer to main-town Gonder. Great coffee, in other words. I used my last grams of instant coffee that I’d carried from Egypt, and made space in my bag for fruits instead. Those, too, came with the vicinity of the main road to the capital. Despite a far distance of maybe 1,000 kilometers to the nearest fruit plantations, juices of guava, pineapple, mango, and avocado are dirt-cheap at about 50 US cent for a 30-40 centiliter glass. Thicker than Turkish yoghurt – truly delightful!
Stay the night at a hotel, 12 kilometers from Chilga (also Aiykel, Aykel, Chelga) at 2,146 meters altitude.
I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve loudly expressed the relief to myself of the cool climate and distant views of the Ethiopian highlands. For the first time since Turkey, my eyes have been able to gaze further afield than just a few kilometers. It’s been possible for me to strain myself up a strenuous gravel climb at midday yet still barely sweating. The temperature and the cool breeze has made me ecstatic at times. At night, at least one thick blanket is necessary to keep the cold away inside one of the stuffy, mud-walled, -floored, -roofed village hotels. Cozy!