Thursday, September 3, 2015

A good start



Translation courtesy of Cintia Verónica Ortiz

35 days in the first world

I was born, raised and lived until I was 28 years old in a country called “developing country”, a political and hypocrite concept recently created by economists of rich countries when referring basically to the third world. I am a third-world citizen from Argentina and have spent most of my life in South American and Asian developing countries, that is why every time I visit the so nobly called “first world” is when I most feel what is known as “culture shock”, the opposite effect of what many first world inhabitants experience when they are horrified after landing in an unknown poor country. After travelling in Africa for several months, the shock is even stronger, the first world where everything is in order, clean and civilized (at least on the surface) is the one I really find exotic.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Down to the ground


During our second stay in Khartoum and once the 7 exhausting days of uninterrupted wedding celebrations finally came to an end, we were able to attend and event that we left pending from the first visit.

Every Friday, in a far-flung suburb of Bahri district, a big crowd of men looking for some action congregate at a local stadium to witness one of the most ancient forms of wrestling, the nubian fights. After having spent quite some time living with the nubians and delighting ourselves with their incredibly warm affection, it is incredibly hard to associate them to the word "fight". In any case, even though it is a sport of friction, that doesn't mean it is necessarily violent. The goal of the fight is basically to force the opponent to fully lie on the ground but without using any kind of physical agression. No punching, no kicking. Originally, the nubians used to fight naked, with ther bodies fully covered in ashes, and their hands impregnated with some kind of oil from the cow that would allow them to seize the opponent better. However, It has been decades since the repressive government of Al-Bashir has banned nudity and since then, they wear ordinary football shorts and T-shirts or jerseys.


The happy return to Sudan


Translation courtesy of Clara Bonfiglio

Several posts ago, as I wrote about our journey across Sudan, I have dedicated a great part of my tales to express the immeasurable hospitality of the Sudanese people, who in every corner of the country touched our hearts in such a way that made us stay there quite a lot more than we expected. Our stay in Sudan, as in every other country, started as one of ordinary travelers but ended up becoming pretty much like a family visit. Such is the case, that by the time we left Khartoum, we already knew we were going to return soon. Ahmed, our wonderful friend, was getting married in August, and considered that our presence in his wedding was essential. That's why he decided to treat us both with a plane ticket to Khartoum from wherever we were so we could attend his wedding. We accepted without hesitation because this is what travelling is all about, being surprised, changing direction, establishing bonds around the world and expanding our own family.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Towards black Africa


Translation courtesy of Juan Vanecek

Once we arrived in Lodwar we finally left the "sandpit" we had gone through to enter Kenya along the west coast of the lake Turkana. In this little city we thought the worst had been over, but leaving Lodwar would only show us that we were just moving on to a new tough stage in our journey to Black Africa.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Land of warriors


Translation courtesy of  Natalia Gouric

Getting to Omo valley had already been a transfer in time and space to a completely different dimension, different to everything that I have ever experienced. However, that experience was stained by the deeply negative effects of tourism in that region. But after crossing the Omo river at Omorate everything would be radically transformed. There, with the exit stamp of Ethiopia already in the passport, we put the bikes into a traditional Dassanech canoe to cross the legendary river and set upon one of the most rigorous, remote and unpredictable stretches of the entire East of Africa: the unstable no-man’s land of the triple border between Ethiopia, Kenia and South Sudan. Very few times in my life I have waited for something with such an anxiety and now, I was finally about to receive the great dose of adrenaline that this experience would bring with.

Friday, August 7, 2015

ETHIOPIA, NEVER AGAIN!

Liberation. With the GPS in one hand, I determined the exact point on which to kneel down, just right behind the border line. Here I am, in Kenya, overwhelmmed with joy and sending Ethiopia my most heartfelt farewell gesture.
Translation courtesy of Dakota Bloom
 
I have thought of more than a dozen titles for this closing passage about Ethiopia. From all possible aberrations that came through my mind, the lightest and the one that I consider the original is: “Fuck you Ethiopia”. However I have wisely let 6 months pass to write about this country with the simple aim of avoiding my lowest instincts and my darkest thoughts to dictate the words that I write today. So I have decided to go for the most moderate title: “Ethiopia, Never again”. And very moderated were the harshest words that I have written in all the posts that preceded this one. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Omo Circus


Warning: many of the commentaries and opinions that you will be about to read might sound very harsh, but I promise they are the most accurate account of the frequently miserable experience that is crossing Ethiopia by bicycle. Given the radical difference that exists between those of us who travel by bicycle across this country (and those who walk the world too) and those who travel by any kind of motorised transport, I don't feel particularly well predisposed to accept any objections coming from those who haven't crossed it in the same way.


Translation courtesy of Pato Stickar

The departure from Addis was the starting point of our long scape from Ethiopia. We had already spent a month and a half in the middle of the country, and our general state of mind and predisposition was exponentially decreasing each extra day we spent there. Leaving Addis was unusually calm, we passed pretty much unnoticed and barely bothered by anyone. So much that, at the end of the second day, a fresh optimistic air filled our lungs; the worst seemed to had been left behind and the last days seemed as though they were going to be good. We were on our way to the remote and inhospitable lands of the tribal countries and one of the most enigmatic crossing borders of the continent, but to get there, we would discover that the worst hadn’t yet even happened.

An urban monster called Addis Abeba


Warning: many of the commentaries and opinions that you will be about to read might sound very harsh, but I promise they are the most accurate account of the frequently miserable experience that is crossing Ethiopia by bicycle. Given the radical difference that exists between those of us who travel by bicycle across this country (and those who walk the world too) and those who travel by any kind of motorised transport, I don't feel particularly well predisposed to accept any objections coming from those who haven't crossed it in the same way.
  
Translation courtesy of Thomas Benitex

I have said it more than once already and I like to say it again: the entrance to (and exits of) the great cities of the world by bicycle is not easy and it is rarely a simple experience. It is a stressful process where you have to go around finding your way in a completely unknown metropolis, while keeping your concentration to protect yourself from a traffic that is potentially dangerous at any time. Added to that, in some cities, it is vital to remain alert at all times, since one may be going unknowingly through generally peripheral areas, where the risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time increases considerably. But as much as it can be a stressful process, it can also be a fascinating experience, as is the case of large African cities, and Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, is a good example of them.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Where are you go?

Warning: many of the commentaries and opinions that you will be about to read might sound very harsh, but I promise they are the most accurate account of the frequently miserable experience that is crossing Ethiopia by bicycle. Given the radical difference that exists between those of us who travel by bicycle across this country (and those who walk the world too) and those who travel by any kind of motorised transport, I don't feel particularly well predisposed to accept any objections coming from those who haven't crossed it in the same way.

After four days of resting in Wukro and recovering a bit of the lost faith in the Ethiopians thanks to father Ángel and his mission, we resumed the long journey to Addis Ababa. We had already crossed tens of mountain passes to get to the Tigray and go across it, bearing the tireless harassment from the evil Ethiopians, and tens of mountain passes we still had to go across to get to the capital, but to our surprise and relief, we would experience a calmer Ethiopia, at least for a little while.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Angels of Ethiopia


From all I have written about Ethiopia so far, it should be already clear that the main problem we find again and again in this country is its people, particularly children and teenagers. Since the day we arrived and until today when I write these lines, already several months after having left, I have been trying to understand, to find a coherent explanation for this abhorrent behaviour. I don’t know if I have found an answer which explains all my questions (and frustrations), and probably there is not just one but several answers, but through talking to people I consider clever I have probably got closer to the beginning of an understanding. This post is dedicated to these people, whom I like calling the “angels of Ethiopia”.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Faith with Ethiopian flavor


Warning: many of the commentaries and opinions that you will be about to read might sound very harsh, but I promise they are the most accurate account of the frequently miserable experience that is crossing Ethiopia by bicycle. Given the radical difference that exists between those of us who travel by bicycle across this country (and those who walk the world too) and those who travel by any kind of motorised transport, I don't feel particularly well predisposed to accept any objections coming from those who haven't crossed it in the same way.

The Tigray region was the main reason, if not the only one, why our route across Ethiopia was almost double the distance that takes to cross the country along the shortest route. The one that pretty much everyone else takes. From the very beginning, my thoughts were that if we were going to have to suffer Ethiopia anyway, then we'd better doing it trying to find a way to compensate the bad with the best the country has to offer. In my specific case, I had been dreaming for years to visit this enigmatic region of the world of ancient religious practices and exquisite vernacular architecture. We arrived there with a very irritated spirit and filled with susceptibility after having accomplished the exhausting long odyssey of the “route of the Italians”, but believing once again that in this remote province everything would be much more relaxed. Once again, we believed wrong....

Friday, March 6, 2015

GIVE ME!


Warning: many of the commentaries and opinions that you will be about to read might sound very harsh, but I promise they are the most accurate account of the frequently miserable experience that is crossing Ethiopia by bicycle. Given the radical difference that exists between those of us who travel by bicycle across this country (and those who walk the world too) and those who travel by any kind of motorised transport, I don't feel particularly well predisposed to accept any objections coming from those who haven't crossed it in the same way.

In Gondar, little less than 200 km after having entered Ethiopia, is where the route that I had planned would split from the one that virtually all cyclists going through the country use. Although this involved almost duplicating the distance that it would take us to ride across the country, staying away from the comforts of the main highways, taking us across very tough roads in bad condition, the truth is that the Tigray route would also take us through one of the most fascinating corners of this country and its culture. At the same time, I believed that the more remote we went taking small tracks along which very few foreigners are seen passing by, it would make our lives much easier in this difficult country. I believed wrong....

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

YOU!


Warning: many of the commentaries and opinions that you will be about to read might sound very harsh, but I promise they are the most accurate account of the frequently miserable experience that is crossing Ethiopia by bicycle. Given the radical difference that exists between those of us who travel by bicycle across this country (and those who walk the world too) and those who travel by any kind of motorised transport, I don't feel particularly well predisposed to accept any objections coming from those who haven't crossed it in the same way.

The task of reading, researching and asking about a country that we are planning to visit always precedes the arrival to it and it is task that takes an undetermined amount of time. We dream, we inform ourselves, we learn and we procure to know as much as possible beforehand for things to turn out as smoothly as possible. In the case of Ethiopia, unlike most other countries, the information we obtain through other cyclists and walkers that have passed through, paints a grim picture, with stories that abound in hardships, frustrations and wild tales. After having read much of what has been written about it, it is hard to think of the motives that might lead someone to actually want to ride a bicycle across this country. Even worse, it is impossible to imagine who in his/her right mind would be willing to duplicate the amount of miles that are needed to cross it entirely using the fastest possible corridor and instead, choosing the most remote and inhospitable trails that will make everything slower and more painful. It is in this point where the adventurer ,the optimist, the idealist and also the naive in oneself all come together, to believe that if we approach a situation with the right attitude and the right quota of patience and tolerance, nothing can be that bad. It was with this very spirit and the extra positive energy with which the Sudanese had filled us with that we cross the border to Metema, the Ethiopian side of the border with Sudan.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sudan very deep in my heart

  

If you got here after having read all the stories about Sudan, it will not come as a surprise to read how I feel about this country and specifically about its people. Many of you who are up to date with the news might find it confusing though, after all pretty much the only things you hear about Sudan are bad at best. The Media in general, and especially that one from United States, don't hesitate to include Sudan within a big sack of murdering Muslim terrorists, to feed a campaign of hatred and fear in order to eventually help achieve the agenda of a few. Its conflicts are almost exclusively the only news that are spread, like the recent prosecution and condemnation of a Christian woman for having left Islam, or in the past the Darfur crisis. No, Sudan is definitely not perfect, it has it quota of problems and a long way ahead to correct them, as it happens with every country in the world.

From the capital of sand to the border


  A month in the capital of sand

From an aesthetics point of view, sincerely speaking, Khartoum is not the most attractive city in the world. In terms of architecture it is a city built half-way, in fact there is no single building that seems to be fully finished. The skyline reveals a mass of buildings with brick walls without finishes, unfinished concrete structures, walls without paint and rundown public buildings among hundreds of sharp minarets from the many mosques in town. The exceptions are, like it happens in many countries that are run by tyrants stuck in power, the monumental buildings of the military, the police, the government houses, embassy and a hotel here and there. In urban planning terms, the city is also definitely incomplete. Beyond the main paved arteries, it is all streets of sand and sidewalks are absent even right downtown.