We had an amazing ride today from Axum to Mekele in Northern Ethiopia. However, both literally and metaphorically it had its ups an downs.
My original plan had been to do most of the ride off road so that we could stop at a few rock churches and tick them off the list. However, as a result of being concerned about the final drive on the bike, I decided to stick to the main paved road for the journey.
It started gently and then we headed into an area of canyons, which initially wasn’t alarming until we started a steep climb and immediately got stuck behind a very heavy lorry that was going so slow that the engine on the bike was sure to struggle. So, sensibly, I pulled over on the 2nd hair pin which still had a good amount of space and waited a moment.
A loud bang a few minutes later, I held my breath, expecting the lorry to come tumbling down on our heads. But nothing, so when all seemed quiet, I decided to proceed. This climb was about 15 steep hairpins, about 50m to 100m or less apart. We made steady progress, until near the top we see said lorry stuck on one of the bends and the men frantically trying to move rocks under its wheels.
I approached slowly, there was a gap on the inside, but in first gear and with so much weight on our back I went round the outside and stopped. I immediately went into panic attack mode. Jelly legs the full works. Not so much vertigo, or perhaps a version of it. The lack of moving space, absolutely no barriers, and a very long drop to the bottom. Some how, I managed to find some small rocks to put under the wheels, got Sofia out of the bike, and tried to calm myself. I knew it was an over reaction, we were not in bad shape, it was purely a height fear issue.
The truck finally moved off its rocks and continued to trundle up the incline. I waited, freaked a little at Sofia for clambering around like a monkey, then suddenly realised that another trunk may well be making its way up! suddenly we were not in good shape, we were in the way! There is nothing like fear of something worse motivating one into action. Suddenly I only had one objective and that was to get moving again. Sofia back in the chair, started up the bike, in first gear and tried to pull away, and worst nightmare, too heavy on back of side car and it was pulling us to the right towards a ditch – then I remembered 2 wheel drive – what a life saver. Still it took the bike a bit of convincing to move, but once it decided it went precisely where I needed it to go. 2WD off and up the final hair pins we went.
I could have stopped at one point and taken a photo of that section but to be honest, I didn’t calm down until we had completed the descent and I was certain we were all in one piece still! Finally the nightmare was over. We have done several ascents and descents, all have been fairly hair raising in sections with sharp hair pins and steep drops from which there is no protection. This was the first time I had stopped on one though, and hope that it never happens again! That, I hope, will be worst of it.
The best of it was to come next. We then had a series of hills, bends and curves, and I had a wonderful ride swinging the bike and chair around them. It was the longest ride so far of swinging bends, and perfect for getting my mojo back. The scenery never ceases to deliver either. I was sad I hadn’t enjoyed the ascent and descent more, as the climb had been to 9000ft and the occasional leery eye cast in any direction other than the road filled me with another wave of panic, so whilst vaguely aware of it, I remained more focused on the road. I didn’t miss out completely though. After swinging from bend to curve in the road, just coming out of a village, the whole panorama of gorges and escarpments that we had travelled through came into view.