From Addis Ababa we start riding on the beautiful road that leads to the Tarmaber pass ( 3230 mt. ASL). The scenery is magic as usual. The road takes us all the way to Woldiya where we start riding on another great off-road trail that will take us to Lalibela. Lalibela is a town in northern Ethiopia that is famous for its 11 monolithic rock-cut churches. Lalibela is one of Ethiopia’s holiest cities, second only to Aksum, and is a center of pilgrimage for much of the country. Unlike Aksum, the population of Lalibela is almost completely Ethiopian Orthodox Christian. The layout and names of the major buildings in Lalibela are widely accepted, especially by the local clergy, to be a symbolic representation of Jerusalem. This has led some experts to date the current form of its churches to the years following the capture of Jerusalem in 1187 by the Muslim soldier Saladin. Lalibela is located in the Semien Wollo Zone of the Amhara ethnic division (or kilil) at roughly 2,500 meters above sea level. During the reign of Saint Gebre Mesqel Lalibela (a member of the Zagwe Dynasty, who ruled Ethiopia in the late 12th century and early 13th century) the current town of Lalibela was known as Roha. The saintly king was given this name due to a swarm of bees said to have surrounded him at his birth, which his mother took as a sign of his future reign as Emperor of Ethiopia. The names of several places in the modern town and the general layout of the rock-cut churches themselves are said to mimic names and patterns observed by Lalibela during the time he spent in Jerusalem and the Holy Land as a youth. Lalibela is said to have seen Jerusalem and then attempted to build a new Jerusalem as his capital in response to the capture of old Jerusalem by Muslims in 1187. As such, many features have Biblical names – even the town’s river is known as the River Jordan. It remained the capital of Ethiopia from the late 12th century and into the 13th century. (Source Wilkipedia).
Being here, once again, we feel like having embark on a time machine that took us 1000 years back. Imagining the work that has been done here is almost impossible to comprehend.
After visiting this masterpiece and relaxing with a nice gold beer in our hands, Matteo and myself come to the conclusion that maybe shipping our motorcycles back to Italy from Ethiopia is not a bad idea after all. The conclusion came about mainly because the situation in Egypt has lately become a complex one. We still haven’t found a reliable shipping solution from Egypt. The last news we heard, were that it would have been extremely expensive and complicated entering Egypt. Furthermore if we could not ship the motorcycles from Cairo we would have found ourselves stuck due to the impossibility of entering Libya or even crossing the Sinai Peninsula toward Israel which lately has been highly not recommended due to political and civil unrest. Of course we can’t deny that missing Sudan and Egypt like originally planned, leaves us a bit disappointed in our harts but at the same time we are convinced that this is the right decision for us. There will always be time to visit beautiful Sudan and Egypt in the future. Of Course always on our beloved motorcycles. Saying that, we are extremely happy with our African Journey. What we lived and experienced across South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, and finally Ethiopia will never be forgotten.
After having taking this important decision, we start our way back to Addis Ababa in order to organize the shipment of our motorcycles. We take a more classical Road that goes near Tana Lake. Along the road we cross the Blue Nile south of Debre Marcos.
In the evening we go back to our original Hotel. The Taitu Hotel In Addis Ababa where we start planning for the shipment. The following morning we jump into a Taxi to meet with an agent that will help us with all shipment procedures. The day has been extremely long but also very efficient from all personnel involved in this last important part of our journey.
The long wait until departure.
Even though Ethiopia is not a major destination for people, we are very motivated to discover this country. Ethiopia is unique due to its language, writing, and culture. We are extremely anxious to discover this nation which is five time the size of Italy and also a former Italian colony in the 1930’s. The first pleasant surprise for us, is to finally been able to drink great coffee. Since we started this journey around the world it has been very difficult to find such amazing coffee as we found here in Ethiopia. Another positive note for us, is the lack of private cars in this country. People are all walking by the side of the roads and the main mean of transport are the little Tuk-Tuk and small wooden chariots pulled by donkeys. The lack of private cars don’t eliminate the danger of driving. The streets are full of loose animals such as cows, donkeys, and of course goats and sheep. Also camels are very common working animal in Ethiopia. They are all over. All of these animals are wondering freely in the middle of the roads making our driving somewhat more challenging than other countries we have crossed in the past. Most of Ethiopia is formed by highlands. We rarely were driving below 1500 meters above sea level. The average roads are between 2000 and 3200 meters above sea level. Luckily for us we are in Ethiopia during dry season therefore many river beds we had to cross were without water.
Driving through these highlands, the first impression is that the main economy is based on agricultural produces. The main produces are coffee and vegetables.
We also noticed a ton of people carrying yellow plastic containers which are used to gather water from wells around the villages. it appears to us that this is definitely one of the main jobs carried on by woman and children.
We entered Ethiopia from Moyale. The first 100 KM of Road were half descent until Yabelo. After that we started to take our usual secondary roads which were rocky, dusty and pretty hard on our motorcycles. So hard that i broke my rear shock absorber. From that point onward my driving conditions in Ethiopia was really terrible. We reached Lake Chamo, and consequently drove through Arba Minch and Shashemene.
Shashemene is a place that Matteo really wanted to visit because it is believed to be the ” Promise Land” for the followers of the Rastas Religion. The town wasn’t really what we expected to be therefore the following morning we left again direction Addis Ababa. Ethiopia has been very interesting when interacting with locals. We were treated like real “movie stars” every time we had a break along the road. In minutes we were surrounded by ton of people of all ages. All were staring at us like we came from another planet.
Plowing from the past
Laundry from the past
Collecting water from the wells
Getting closer to Addis Ababa
Typical curious crowd
Matteo buying water. Unbearable heat
We are now leaving the dry rural part of Kenya to approach the more lush region of the country with its highlands, waterfalls and of course Mt. Kenya. After a couple of days in the region our destination is Isiolo, a little town in the middle of no-where, with its long-deserted road that will take us to the border with Ethiopia. The desert we are crossing is the Gal Gali Desert. It’s a huge desert full of volcanic stones, sand, and very little vegetation where only people like the Samburu and other local tribes are able to survive.
This is the stretch of remote road that we were worried about due to rumors of bandits. For that very reason, the Road is very tiring to drive because your head is always alert and at the same time still pretty technical to handle with our big motorcycles even if the Chinese are now in the process to re-building it. We spent the majority of these days riding therefore the best is to post a few pictures and a little video on top of this page for you to watch and hopefully enjoy.
Gal Gali Desert
Baboons observing us during a break
Typical filling station
Me trying to negotiate an escort.
Woman selling “miraa”
More Dusty Roads.
The only shade we encounter for long time.
Kenyan – Ethiopian border. We are absolutely exhausted.
We do to.
Our first Ethiopian meal
We leave the comfortable set up of Jungle Junction in Nairobi early in the morning after a big nice breakfast direction Eldoret. Our decision is to get to the direction of Lake Turkana which is one of Kenya’s most remote northern regions. The reason being is that we want to get the feeling of the region and after talking to some locals decide whether we want to cross into Ethiopia from the Lake Turkana route or get back to the most popular route from Marsabit to Moyale. The road is pretty nice even if the traffic is full of little taxi bus (Matatu) that drive dangerously all over the road. Driving in some part of Africa makes driving in Naples a piece of cake. We reach Eldoret in the evening travelling across the rift valley on roads that vary from 1500 Mt to 3500 Mt above sea level and also crossing the equator line.
The following morning the plan is to reach Lake Baringo. The road is a beautiful winding road that reminds me of parts of Ecuador. We arrive in the little town of Iten which is known to be the home of the champions. Many people from all over the world come here to train with the Kenyan marathon team. The Kenyans have always been number ones in this discipline. We reach Lake Baringo traveling on an awful road full of put holes that seriously challenge the wellbeing of our motorcycles. The place we chose to spend the night on the lake is called Robert Camp. The scenery that we find upon our arrival is magical. The lake is known for its amazing fauna, especially bird watching. The Lake is also home to many hippos and crocodiles.
Being in front of this Lake was impossible to resist on hiring a local with a boat. We wanted to go see birds, hippos and crocodiles closer than we could have done by land.
The following morning we decide to take a small road that was taking us north of the Lake to a cross-road where we had to make a decision whether going toward Lake Turkana or going back to the Marsabit – Moyale Road to reach the Ethiopian border. The cons about taking the Turkana Road, after speaking with some military personal were greater than the pros considering the absolute scarce supply of gasoline and the presence of some bandits in the area. We keep following this small road for about 20 Km when we find a few huts in the desert. It turned out to be a very small settlement of Pokot. A native tribe that reside in the area. The Pokot mainly raise cattle and cultivate tobacco. They are also fantastic craftsman. This tribe is one of the least urbanized tribes in all of Kenya and this makes them maintain some very old traditions such as circumcisions for the boys and sadly also infibulation for the girls. Many girls also have lost their lives at a very young age due to this practice. Stopping at this village was never the less a true african experience that we will never forget.
Back In Usa River Tanzania to pick up our motorcycles and start our journey north toward Nairobi in Kenya. It is a strange feeling to be back to see the children we left behind a month ago.
We have to congratulate Cherie and all of her staff for the fantastic work they are doing at the Tumaini Children Foundation.
It is time for us to start our journey toward the Kenyan border which is about 150 Km from Arusha. The border town is called Namanga. The exit from Tanzania and entering into Kenya are pretty straight forward process, even though in Kenya the custom agent was requiring the Carnet de Passage for our motorcycles to enter the country which we did not have. After a bit of negotiation we were allowed to enter anyway under a temporary import permit that is valid for one month.
Our first goal is to reach Kitengela, where Leo Murotto and his wife Maria along with their daughters Lucia and Jessica, friends of my sister, are waiting for us and have offered to host us for the night. Leo’s family started Urafiki medical centre five years ago. Urafiki Medical Centre is a real ambulatory and pharmacy dispensary that provides the inhabitants of the area a great help in curing usual health issues such as dental,birth, and other more common issues. Thanks to their equipped lab, they are able to diagnose more critical diseases such as tuberculosis, aids, and cancer. Another great concern of theirs, is to look after the many malnourished children in the area. During our dinner together we were able to really understand the difference Leo and his family are making. Really a great job. WOW Matteo and myself are very impressed.
The following day we are in need to reach Nairobi in order to service our motorcycles and changing tires. Our destination is the KTM dealer in Nairobi. Not far from the dealership is Jungle Junction where we had already planned to stay a couple of days in order to meet and exchange stories with other over landers. Jungle Junction is the perfect place to rest and repair your bike in case you need it. It offers great accommodation, great food, and knowledgeable mechanical help. Unfortunately there is no one that is traveling from North to South therefore we are not getting any news on road and general safety conditions. All people who are here at this time are in the same situation as ours, traveling from South to North. In Particular a swiss couple that has been on the road for 3 years now. Nikole got pregnant while on the road and gave birth to their son Kevin in Thailand. Read their amazing story here.