Dogs, Diarrhea and Words of Encouragement

From Sonia 11th Feb 2014

First up, cheers to all my friends for their encouragement, at times when the world feels like its against you having the best time of your life, words of encouragement are just what the doctor ordered. 

Its midnight in Axum and the devil has struck again, curled in the fetal position with cramps in the belly I know tomorrow is not going to go according to plan. Over the next 5.5hrs I spend nearly 2 hrs all up on 3 consecutive visits, locked in a small smelly room, feeling sorry for all the other riders who are knocking on the door for access. Best you go next door is my reply. 
I spend the day in the truck over really rough roads, seriously I have never driven on roads this rough, which only contribute to me feeling worse. I visit the tour nurse that arvo and advise of the horrendous flatulence I am experiencing as well. 
Due to altitudes, the bodily gases can increase by 30% she advises. That explains the choruses coming from various tents each night once the sun goes down. Runny bottoms are a constant subject around the camp in the morning… how’d you sleep?? I didn’t, bloody dogs and diarrhea are the usual answers.

The next day I am on top of the world and ready to take to the dirt. With my fats still on and tyre pressure just enough to eliminate pinch flats, I take on 109 km of dirt, rocks and kids. I clocked my best speed of 50.6 kph down hill on loose rock and dirt. What an adrenaline rush. Some down hills last up to 8km.
Not sure if TDA have a license to allow a rider that much fun, but I’m not really that concerned. 
The thought of falling briefly crosses the mind but the visual consequences are not something I want to dwell on. This is way to much fun  
In life, when there is a down there is always an up and omg when they say up, the mountians go up just as far as they come down. Unfortunately the speed is somewhere near the speed of a 4 yr olds fast walk… at 4.2kph and slowing, the bike comes to a stand still when there is no further traction on the rocks with the rear wheel. This was a regular occurrence and if I was lucky I managed to unclip prior to falling on my face. Sunscreen and dirt make for a funny looking face.

The kids and dogs are now a part of life in Ethiopia. They put the gero rock throwers to shame, not saying I want them to improve their game.
I was pelted with rocks when I growled at a kid for attempting to belt me over the head with a stick as I road past. Go figure.
A dog baled me up while the kids yelled you, you, you, money, money, money. I squirted him with my water bottle but he came back at me even worse. Ok, I’m boff the bike and using it as a barricade between myself and this rabid animal. There were a few tense moments of stand off and water squirting before he got board and chased the passing car.

Next was a river crossing, totally alone on the bridge I stop to take a few photos. Within a minute I am accosted by naked young men and boys …. holy shivers …… what do I do??? They want their photo taken too. So I do, then we introduce ourselves. 
I always thought introductions came before nakedness. 
The crowd has now growen to about 15 and I’m outtta there, the only problem, its all up hill !! So there I am peddling as hard and fast as I can, which is all of about 11kph up yet another steep hill with 15 naked and semi nake males chasing me calling Sonia, Sonia, Sonia. A few run on ahead and immediately about face and start yelling as they run past in the opposite direction. Feeeew I think to my self, then I see the guy come out from behind some rocks with an AK47 hanging over his shoulder. 
I must get myself one of those on the next rest day.
Selam I say as I ride on past. Selamno he replies. 

This place is so awesome, never a dull moment. 
Chris D broke his frame, should had a Giant…. and there have been a few falls but nothing serious. 
The next day whilst struggling along a rock riddled road, Chris D pulls up along side me in a local pickup, bike in the back, he waves at me and then they drive off. I’m like, whats with that, I’m ready to jump in as well. I ride on thinking poor Chris, his bike mustn’t have held up with the patch work they did on it.
I arrive into camp some 3 hrs later to find out Chris is sitting in the local pub eating eggs and drinking beer and there is no further damage to his bike. Did I pay out on him when he returned and without a beer for me!!!

I was in a bit of a shattered state arriving in that day, 40 kms had taken 3hrs 58 mins. Last down hill of the day and I came down at a crazy speed, overtook Dave C and Alassendro who are 2 of the faster riders on track. I secretly punched the air, YES, but knowing it was only a 30 sec victory as I could see the next incline looming ahead. And on cue they leave me standing still. Still it felt good for those few seconds. So good that I pushed that little bit harder till I got into a bit of a slide and the sphincter slammed shut real quick, oops that was close, but oh the fun of it outweighs the fear.

A new couple that joined us in Gondar, Kym and Steve, found the going tough the other day and hitched a ride with some locals, unfortunately they didn’t check the service records for brake functionability and the pickup rolled back and over the side of the hill, only stopping when it slammed into a tree. Extremely lucky that it wasn’t on a steep riven, and that there was a tree to stop them. Shaken, scratched and bruised but ok they have declared not to hitch hike again. 

The riding days won’t change much over the next 3 days with more off roads to come. The virabrations are playing havoc with my back but as long as I can stay drugged up, things are good. Thanks Hannah for legal meds lol.

Take care everyone and I’ll chat again from Bahir Dar xxxx


A Message from Sonia March 2nd 2014

The best thing that has happened in the last week is that we left Ethiopia. Not the sole beneficiary of the following thoughts and feelings, it was a tough country both physically and mentally. On the fourth last day of cycling Ethiopia the children lined the roads for 40 odd kms, the yelling and chasing was incessant, my nerves were fraid and my tolerance was dwindling fast for the groups of kids that rushed me. 10km prior to camp a group gave chase demanding money, after ignoring my requests to go away, I slammed on my brakes and my handle bars turned, slamming into a kids chest. I was so upset by the time I reached camp, tears stained the muddy face and I decided the best outcome would be a mental health day in the truck the following day, providing the cops hadn’t found me first and locked me up for assault. The last 2 days were trouble free and as I neared the boarder of Kenya I began to feel a bit of nostalgia, Ethiopia if nothing else was a country of its own accord……. that was short lived with a departing gift of a slap on the rear end by one adolescent and a rock to the face by another. Woohoo 8kms to go! 

Insight into Ethiopia and the 5 senses. 

Sight – Tantalizingly beautiful scenery from the Simien Mountians to the Rift valley in the south. This was some of the toughest terrain travelled by participants in the life of the TDA. Riding to to the highest point of 3250m and flying down crazy decents. Hellish roads and heaps of fun. 
However with that came the sight of cruelty to animals and us!!! Towards the end of the 4 weeks it was unbearable to witness and I found myself yelling at the donkey cart drivers for whipping their poor overloaded animals, the shepards for belting their cattle, and the children for their treatment towards us as we cycled by. 
There was very little privacy in Ethiopia, the roads were constantly lined with the elderly and children walking to who knows where and appearing around rocks and trees the moment you thought it was safe to squat.
In camp we were like animals in a zoo with the Ethiopians standing outside the makeshift perimeter for hours gazing in at us while we went about our business and that is literally speaking. 
Hired Ethiopian men with AK47s and stock whips would patrol in an attempt to keep the locals at bay. 
However there were those goose bump moments where the elderly’s faces lit up and smiled as you acknowledge them and said Selamno as you cycled past or the smiles on the little kids faces when you waved and said selam. They made you forget for a short moment the torment of 500m back. 

Sound – the incessant sound of yelling children as they run from houses, bushes, stores or the road verge. Sitting a top hills or boulders in the middle of nowhere. You, you, you, money, money, money, give me pen, give me banana, China, China, China, give me Dashan, where you go? Ferengi, Ferengi, Ferengi, or anything else they could come up with at the time.
Buses and trucks leaning on their horns as they approach from either behind or in front, scare the heebie geebies outta ya! and think it hilarious when you attempt to hitch a ride by holding the back of the truck when going up hill riding one handed. Fun times.
Nights were mostly quiet, except for the donkey’s missing their mates and eeorring all night or the dogs barking or fighting, and the odd town celebration that goes all night. 
Choruses from the camp sight itself was made up of snoring, coughing and bottom burping. 
Pick your tent site carefully. 
Mornings when the town pray went to air at 5 am for all the world to hear, then they would have a competition to see who could yell through the loudspeaker the loudest and the longest. For fooks sake, we are trying to sleep here…… its rest day…..

Touch – due to the unhygienic conditions we travelled through and stayed at and to help prevent the illnesses going through camp, hand washing after touching anything was of vital importance. 
The money was so dirty that Mr D even commented that it had stained his wallet. 
The kids loved to touch us in a number of ways and stomp on our hearts in the process. The majority of the time it was by yelling, throwing rocks, kicking, slapping, stealing items from our bike packs, hitting us with sticks or chasing us in packs up the road, but not all were bad kids, some got the biggest kicks just out of being acknowledge by the ferengi’s (that’s us) and we got enjoyment witnessing it.

Smell – the smells of Ethiopia was of smoke seeping out of their straw roofs into the early morning air or the burning of fires on the sides of the roads of yesterdays refuge. Vehicle pollution was horrendous in the bigger cities as was the dust from passing traffic on the unsealed roads which entered every orifice or crevasse possible. 
The smell of dead animals was noticeably far less than in Sudan. The odd road kill along with the diesel fumes and smoke inhalation were the only bad smells to assault the nostrils. 
Ethiopia was pretty lush and the animals thrived on the open grazing available. Most were in good condition nourishment wise. Not veterinary wise…. No paddocks and the heards didn’t seem to mix. Go figure!!! 

Taste – our first sip of the forbidden Sudanese drop was had in Gondar at the Goha Hotel overlooking the town. And it was cold!!! The Dashan Beer or the St Christophers. 
Most Ethiopian camp sites came with the locals delivering crates of usually warm beer and sodas and making a small profit on the side. 
Tibes was a spicy meat dish served with injera, the injera was like a pancake that tasted like vinegar but was actually fermented tef, (a type of grain) Their staple diet and one that was very delicious. 
Our own cook Yanis, also served up some awesome dishes in Ethiopia. One of my favs was pink Porridge for Valentines day xxx and caramelized bananas with weetbix for breakfast, yumo. 
We are in Marsabit Kenya, at present with gale force winds and dreading the 120km ride into the head winds tomorrow. No change forecasted. 

Till Nairobi take care
Sonia Numbutt Dada xxx
Photos are hard to load given the intermittent net avaliable, I will do my best. This is the second attempt at this blog.