(Day 31) Mekele to Aksum – 30 April 2011
Distance for the day – 247 km Odometer – 10 197 km
Hours on the Bike – 04:30
Donations up to date for Adelaide Hospital – R 77 327.00
We travelled today from Mekele to Aksum, via Senkata.
The road was smooth tar and it was definitely worth every minute. The scenery was again very unique and absolutely breathtaking. The last 130 km’s was through a series of mountain passes that are, in some areas as steep as 10%. It is any biker’s dream to ride these mountains with sweeping turns and unbelievable views. There were road works on some stretches that slows the progress a bit and made the ride more difficult with lots of dust and some areas where the roads have turned in to a powder, because of the heavy trucks and traffic.
We stopped at a village to buy some cool drink and biscuits. Rufus, called a small boy who sold him a roll with a potato, tomato and chilly filling. The first quiet place with a big tree next to the road would be our picnic spot. Soon after the rest stop Stelios had a problem with his bike. It was the first flat tyre amongst the four bikes after 10 000 km’s. It was caused by a nail and was fixed by injecting some tyre gel. Norman then realized that his bike was losing water through a hole in the radiator. It was not too serious and we decided to push through to Aksum.
When we reached Aksum we again were sent away at two filling stations. Black-market petrol will have to come to the rescue again. We booked in at the Yeha Hotel and will probably push on tomorrow to Debark, because of the last 200 km’s of dirt that has taken some riders in the past 9 hours to do. Norman fixed his radiator but there are lots of concerns about the state of the bikes, with broken shocks, radiators that have to be held in place with cable ties and tyres that are getting to the end of their life. We are one day ahead of schedule, but would rather continue to Debark to have enough time for another holdup, if needed, in the next two days. The pity is though that we do not have enough time to see Aksum.
The town is dusty and rural and it is hard to imagine that it was ever the site of a great civilisation. Yet Aksum is one of Ethiopia’s stars. Littered with massive teetering stelae, ruined palaces, underground tombs (most undiscovered) and inscriptions rivalling the Rosetta Stone itself, the town once formed part of the Aksumite kingdom described as ‘the last of the great civilisations of Antiquity to be revealed to modern knowledge’. It’s undoubtedly one of sub-Saharan Africa’s most important and spectacular ancient sites, and Unesco lists Aksum as a World Heritage site. There are several Monasteries, Ancient Quarries, an Animal market, The Aratu Enessa Church and the 33m Great Stele, which is the largest single block of stone that humans have ever attempted to erect.
Tomorrow we plan to move on to Debark with the last bit of gravel road expected for the trip.