Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire

In camp in Yabello I had a chat with Wondie, our local fixer. He was almost in an apologetic state. He was explaining to me how many times he had tried to explain to the villages that we go through that they shouldn't throw stones. He said that Ethiopians think only of today, but not about the future, since in the future they may die, so what of it. he comes from a tribe in the North, the same one which has been leading the country for decades - they keep getting in power by imprisoning the opposition. While he felt that his tribal roots have nothing to do with his success, others do, and therefore give him a hard time. I can see why - he landed himself a job with the embassy that has since swung him a two-year visa to the states. He plans to work there under the table and come back with enough money to start his own travel company. He went on that that is the only way he can get ahead without being back-handed. But he would never leave Ethiopia for good - he can live there cheaply and have a good life, so why work hard and start fresh in a new country? He was an interesting fellow. Nice, sometimes a little dodgy, but fun nonetheless.

Going from Yabello to Mega was a great but tough day. It was our last total day of Ethiopian riding. The next day we would be in Kenya. We woke up to no bread for breakfast. It was meant to be on its way, but after half an hour I went for the cookies I had picked up the night before. Shortly thereafter it came. We're entering a restricted food area, and while we'll always have enough to eat, it will be harder for James to find it. Water is rationed out only for drinking and hand-cleansing purposes.

The roads were paved, and the start was late, so I took advantage and rode on my own all day. Lost in thoughts about home, it was like riding on my own again. I don't think I could do another group adventure, as fun as it has been.

A local woman gave me a branch from a toothbrush tree. You chew down the tip into bristles and use those to clean your teeth. It has a very pungent aroma.

From hilltops you could look out upon pastel-coloured vistas. I passed the remains of castle ruins, and found myself swooping down into a village where a bunch of folks were sharing in injera (the sour fermented bread with curries on it) and chat - leaves they chew that get you a bit high. We ate until I realized it was already 4:30 and I still had 30 km to go. I raced hard up and down hills and made it in by 5:30. Everything was running late as folks were still out convincing the bakers to bake bread. No amount of money could get them to budge on their decision not to. It was late before they finally acquiesced. So we went for a walk in the desert through tons of cacti to see the singing wells - great craters dug out by the locals to find a source of water. Looking into them you can't help but get chain-gang songs in your head.

We were in a desert camp with no one around and we're back to being able to sleep without covers on our tents. Sleeping under five acacia trees, we could all look out at the millions of stars.

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