adventure, Africa, Outdoor, travel guide

Mountainbiking in Menengesha, Ethiopia

October 15, 2016

After living in Ethiopia’s capital city Addis Ababa for almost two months, we feel the urge to get away from the city and its polluted air. Rainy season is almost over and I haven’t really had the chance to get a good workout in the city. We are more than happy to accept our friends’ offer to join her on a bicycle trip, organized by Lee of EthioCycleAdventures. He picks us up with his van and we drive through the city and then to Menengesha. We have breakfast in the car, sharing bananas and biscuits. Steffi passes around chocolate bars, fake KitKat’s that taste surprisingly good. We start our cycling tour in a village, where local kids and men watch us unload the bikes and put suncreen on. We must appear strange to them.

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The first miles aren’t easygoing: The road is bumby and rattly; it’s a shaky ride through many little villages. Kids follow us, people greet us in Oromia, Amharic and sometimes English, girls smile shyly and old women friendly lift their hands to greet. A boy on a horse buggy rides next to me, smiles, and offers me to hold on to the coach. I decline, and then we start a race, he hurries his horse on and I pedal; we laugh and the bumpy road hurts my wrists and palms.

Finally, the villages thin out and we reach an open space. Before us lays a broad dirt road winding its way up an elevation, the mountains and forests in the distance look alluring. The climb up the hill is exhausting. „It’s a great view from up here,“ Lee reminds me as he rides next to me. And it is! I’ve been so busy climbing up the hill I almost forgot my surroundings. It feels great to finally get a proper workout, to feel the air in my lungs, the winds in my face, the little space I occupy in the world. While my muscles easily withstand, it is my endurance that’s giving me a hard time. Although I am already used to the altitude (Addis is about 2200 meters above the sea), I am not yet used to exercising here.

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We take a small break in the shade of the trees in a forest, but we’ve lost Benedikt, who’s already cycled ahead. Hoping that he’ll wait up, we share sandwiches, dried fruit and chocolate. It’s quiet up here and peaceful. We drink more water and put on more sunscreen, and then we cycle some more, further up the hills in the forest, because it makes me feel alive unlike anything else (and also, because Lee promises there’d be a village where we’d get coffee). Benedikt waits for us somewhere up the hill in the shade of a tree, accompanied by a few local guys. They chew Khad and munch on some M&M’s he brang from home.

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And then somewhere along the way, the village appears, and we decide to have coffee in a little coffee bar. We park our bikes in front of the hut, soon they are curiously observed by local guys, who keep a respectful distance but can’t help staring. The coffee is great, and the coffee lady’s daughter, a seven-year-old child, familiarly joins us. Some of us have Tibs for lunch, a special dish of beef meat and a spicy sauce served on a little stove on the table, but I’m still full from my peanut butter jelly sandwich. We’re tired and happy, and today, this place feels like the end of the world.

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The ride back is easier as it’s mostly downhill now, it speeds up and we rush through the beautiful landscape. I’m happy we got these great bikes that easily resist the bumby dirt road. A street dog follows Martin, chasing him downhill, losing interest only after a minute or two when Martin exhaustedly pedals upwhill again.

It only starts to rain as we load the bikes back in the van. It’s been a perfect day, a wonderful time in nature, and a proper workout. I’ve missed this. I’ve missed riding my bike, I forgot how it almost feels like flying. I’ve missed being in the woods, and I’ve missed pushing my body and enjoying it’s capabilities.

If you’d like to go on a cycle tour in Ethiopia yourself, I can warmly recommend Lee and EthioCycleAdventures, just get in touch with him on Facebook.

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