(Day 30) Lalibele to Mekele – 29 April 2011
Distance for the day – 345 km Odometer – 9 950 km
Hours on the Bike – 07:08
Donations up to date for Adelaide Hospital – R 77 327.00
Day 30 is rated as one of the top 5 longest days in the saddle and probably the most scenic thus far. We left Lalibela early after first light and opted to take on the shorter, but more scenic route that took us through the towns of Bilbela, Sekota and Hagare Selam. It was all gravel roads the whole 345 km’s for the day, but the best we have ridden on the tour so far. We managed to average 48 km/h which was a lot faster than, for example the stretch from Iringa to Dodoma in Tanzania or the Marsabit road in Kenya. The road surface varied from smooth flat sections to rough and often very steep and windy mountain passes with loose dangerous rock.
The views were spectacular and we must have climbed over four or five huge mountain passes with the road snaking up and down the sides with cliffs that give you vertigo. Sometimes while approaching yet another gigantic mountain we would look at the route on the GPS, in disbelief that the route could possibly cross over the mountain. It was also evident that who ever made these roads did it with good planning and the construction is of a high standard with good drainage furrows and bridges built over many rivers and storm water ways.
The people on this route clearly are more isolated and had a warm and welcoming attitude. The animals are a lot less street-wise and you had to be awake to anticipate a donkey, cow or dog running in front of the motorbike. There were a couple of close calls, which we shared the evening around the dinner table and Stelious had two falls for the day. He told us about the one incident where he nearly went over the side on a sharp bend with limited brakes. Soon after we reached Mekele we bought Brake fluid and hopefully his break problems are something of the past. Richard and Norman both had a very tiring day to keep their bucking horses on the rough roads. The ride on corrugations and around corners is very challenging with both their bikes only left with the use of their coil springs, without their back shocks.
In retrospect we should probably not have taken the long gravel for the day, because of the state of two of the bikes and the condition of our tyres. The wear is now starting to accelerate and if all goes well we will be riding in to Cairo in a little while riding on slick tyres. We are 50 km’s short of the 10 000 km mark with some 4 000 km’s to go.
Mekele is a much bigger town than we thought, but for some reason we had no Cell phone coverage. During the 1984 – 1985 famine in Ethiopia, Mekele was notorious for the seven “hunger camps” around the city. These housed 75,000 refugees with 20,000 more waiting to enter; during March 1985, 50-60 people died in these seven camps every day.
We stayed at the Hill Top Hotel, which was nothing spectacular and at least had a bed for four tired bodies, after yet another gruelling day in the saddle. Tomorrow we will push through to Aksum, which will put us a day ahead of schedule.