Ethiopia to Kenya to Uganda, back to Kenya,
7. November till 12. December 2005
Indeed heavy gun fights and shootings threaten the
cities of Gondar, Bahir Dar and Addis at the time I enter the country.
Students who support the opposition party protest against the government
that has obviously faked election results. Some 20 years ago the
predecessor of the dictator who is now in charge solved a very similar
problem by sending out squadrons that shot every suspicious person
they met on the street.
Now, which is the best solution for me and my trip? Bring the bike
to Port Sudan and ship around Ethiopia? Or should I try (pointless)
to get a travel permit for Southern Sudan, a region that has been
burned out and devastated by decades of civil war and then go to
the North of Uganda that is known for its children soldiers and
guerilla militia? "Go hard or go home" comes to my mind
and going home is certainly no option. So what if they close the
borders? In this case I would much more prefer to be in the country
ready to escape by going south to Kenya. Especially because I have
a date with my girlfriend Gerdi in Mombasa middle of December. Finally
the way foreward is the only alternative and shouldn't the residual
risk should get its fair chance as well?
I do not want to be seen by shady characters that might take advantage
of the instabile situation I decide to immigrate at night and switch
off the lights of the motorbike. I am almost invisible when I reach
the immigration office. It is in a round loam hut with a straw roof.
From the ceiling hangs a light bulp that flickers in the same frequency
of the diesel generator outside. I remember reading about this Metama
border post as one of the most disreputable in Africa. So I was
prepared for a long procedure that could just lead to payment of
bribe money. The radio plays solid Rock'n Roll that sounds so good
after the last weeks that were mostly full with Oriental music,
that does not sound too familiar to our ears as it works with quarter
And something else is different - here are women! I mean they are
in public and not covered with a veil. So I go to customs inspection
who had long open black hair, a short khaki uniform shirt and tight
black leather pants - wow! I have not seen that for weeks. After
they stamp the visa I do not trust my eyes. Instead of asking for
a bribe they give me a quality control form for suggestions and
comments and want to know if I am satisfied with the service!
Beer in Aethiopia is cool and easy to get. Especially this evening
after a day like that it tastes very refreshing.
trip leads me in the spectacular highlands of Ethiopia. After
weeks the first clowds show up in the sky and I enjoy the fresh
mountain air that smells like green meadows. Once in a while
a girl aside the street waves and laughs straight into your
heart when you pass by.
printing mistake on my ITM-map makes me find out two things: 1.
distance to the next big town was 100km more than I had thought
and 2. gas is sometimes hard to get in Ethiopia as almost nobody
owns a car. So for the first time I was forced to buy gas on the
black market that had to be filtered through a hankerchief. After
some weeks of travelling in Afrika I got used to that and the low-tech
engine of an XT is happy with almost any gas quality it gets.
The city of Gondar has just the right size to rest for some days.
The infrastructure is good, air is fresh and the bike is happy about
new oil, air filter and some service maintenance. Also I find time
to write the first reports on globebiker.com. In Gondar I meet South
African Bruce, a Cape to Cairo traveller also on XT600! We spend
a whole evening and a whole morning just talking about bikes and
the roads that were behind resp. are ahead of us. Months later we
should meet again in Cape Town.
In Ethiopian towns you see lots of blind and half blind human beings
living from almost nothing, covered with rags and in best case a
blanket for the night. Not mention their diseases and sometimes
they are more dead than alive. The poverty is beyond imagination.
its island monestaries the Arc of Covenment was hidden for centuries.
Its waters are a main source for the Blue Nile and not far from
Bahir Dar I visit the Falls of the Blue Nile.
But the mountains call me and on a crooky gravel road above 3000m
altitude above sea level I reach the Simien Mountains, the highest
of Northern Africa. In every village the kids come running and yell
in purest extasy: "You,you,you,you,you,you,you,you,you!!!!".
This is how it must have sounded when the Sioux Indians attacked
settler trecks in the early Wild West times. You can hear them from
left, right, before and after you. Dolby surround is nothing compared
to this. In some villages the must have learned from the few (stupid)
tourists and scream without a clue but full power "Fuck you!".
I can imagine that white people have a bad reputation. But the fact
that for my mountain trip the National Park Management forced me
to take an armed Scout with me is more than I expected.
Anyway, Simon is a nice guy and speaks a little English that makes
it more fun when being with company. And he is a good co-driver
although he has a loaded Kalashnikow automatic Mashine gun with
him. 3800m altitude is the limit for the bike that is even loaded
with two persons and at 4000m the engine does not want to operate
nicely because of the thin air.
we walk one hour to the Bwahit Peak (4400m), the second highest
mountain of the country. The trip is a great mountain experience
although it is more a driving challenge as the road is really
After a couple of thousand kilometers on gravel roads or even off-road
the rear wheel is pretty much worn off. Also I like to change to
more comfortable tarmack roads.
But before that I turn left to the ultimative tire killing road
to Lalibela. I have to pay the higher tourist price of EUR 3.50
for a room in a clay hut with corogated iron doors and a chamber
pot under the bed.
After 6 weeks the first rain hits me. Fortunately in the evening and
I enjoy watching it with a glass of honey beer that tastes like beer
mixed with honey, tea and wine.
After going through town two times on the bike I am a well known
sight as Motorbikes are very rare in this part of the world.
For the last time I go through the beautiful highlands when
suddenly a dog attacks me like crazy. But he is lucky as I am
too fast and instead of a kick with my boot he just gets lots
of dust and exhaust fumes.
On this mountain trip there is a high score 1:0 in favor of the motorbike.
Two trucks crashed together and block the entire road. Many busses
and trucks cannot pass and have to wait, maybe for days, till the
road is free. What a nice feeling to pass with my slender vehicle.
I make a big loop around Addis Abeba. Not only that I don't really
like big cities, especially the instabile political situation and
a recommendation of the Austrian departement for foreign affairs makes
me decide to go around Addis.
So I reach the Southern desert Danakil, see vulchers on a dead zebra
and same day the score equals a solid 1:1. "May God be with you
but leave now!" The military patrol won't let me pass as for
no reason the bridge is closed for pedestrians, bikes and motorbikes.
No discussion, no arguing! To go around that bridge is a 2 day detour.
I am not far away from getting really angry but have to register 20
heavily armed soldiers that watch carefully that was going to happen
between the commander and me. Even a "gift" doesn't seem
the apropriate thing to do and finally I have to turn around, load
the bike on the next Toyota pick-up truck that drops me and the bike
2 kilometers after the bridge.
switch gear to the "Interregional Modus", pass the birth
village of Bob Marley and ride through many different landscapes
in the Northern Rift Valley. Long valleys with meadows and fields,
hills with jungle vegetation and crooky roads, lots of population
and endless green everywhere. I see cows, straw huts, colourfull
dressed people and kids. The land changes to Savanna with red sandy
roads and changes to a green plateau with white gravel road and
woods all over.
I would like to emphasize that most of the people I met here were
absolutely friendly, respectfull and tried to help wherever they could.
Kenya welcomes me with left hand traffic. This is no problem as long
there is no traffic. I meet a group of South Africans who want to
go around Africa by motorcycle in just 4 months. Instead of boots
they wear trekking sandals and one of them has a damaged rear shock
on his BMW bike. They thought to buy a new one in Addis, which is
almost impossible to get there. I wish them luck. But without knowing
it is me who has a lot of luck that day. But before that I blast down
the gravel road with 80km/h for 1-2 hours. Meanwhile I know the trick.
You just have to hold the handle very strong and relax your shoulders
like a Samba dancer. In the evening I have to fix the loose speedometer
shaft, replace lost screws and clean the equipment that is full with
tooth paste, sun screen and all the other stuff that opened because
of that shaky driving style.
Same day same route a truckdriver gets robbed and then shot. I learn
that next morning from a UN member in Marsabit. After a cup of strong
coffee for me and my Guardian Angel I continue my Safari. On my way
I pick up the first and only hitch hiker - a genuine Samburu warrior
including spear and gear. Some weeks before that I watched with my
girl friend that "White Massai" movie and now one of these
fellows sits on my bike having the fun of his life!
"Pos.: 00degrees 00,000minutes" The GPS can't decide
if North or South of the Equator.
Anyway, for the XT it is the equator baptism (only if they did not
ocean ship it from the factory in Japan to Europe, but who cares).
After weeks I go in the first supermarket. Prices are marked in
Shillings, which is tricky as I have just adapted to the EURO currency.
A gas station accepts credit cards and after kyrillic, arabic and
amharic finally the first writing that I can read in weeks and everybody
speaks English. Life gets easier! If there was not that left hand
traffic thing. To get my first training I take the road East of
Mt. Kenya which has many turns. Little extra thrill is the fact
that so many potholes force most drivers from one side to the other
which double confuses me.
is, except for the slums of course, a modern, well organised
and clean city.
I spend some days in the lovely Jungle Junction and the bike gets
a big service. One evening Jan shows up. We had been together in
Sudan and now he suffers from the consequences of an accident in
How often will I have this opportunity to be here? Shall I or not?
How am I gonna do it best and least expensive? After some research
I get started and ride up to Neru Moru, west of Mt. Kenya, and meet
with Jimmy who will be my guide for the next 5 days.
As I have lots of background knowledge about salaries, park fees
etc. it does not take long to convice him that my offer for a 5
day trekking is a good deal for him. Together we purchase food,
kerosin for the stove etc and next day we hike through the jungle
to the meteorological station at 3000m.
With us is porter Gerald who gets picked up by a Jeep and welcomes
us with hot noodles, Avocado sandwich and tea. Not a bad start!
the weather station I take a look at one of those min/max thermometers.
It sais minus 6 Celcius from last night. This does not sound
promising for the next nights that are planned for 4200m and
4700m. But things should turn out different.
the evening the table is full with big pots with rice, kraut,
green peas, zucchini, potatoes and beef. Melon, passion fruit
and banana as dessert. Jimmy and Gerald did a great cooking
job! "I want to see your belly hang out!"
Jimmy leaves no space for misunderstandings like a guide who
gives life saving commands in a critical situation. No mistakes
now! Maybe I should mention that this guys were trained by Austrian
professionals and the more they cook the less needs to be carried.
Beside that it is good to have enough resources in your body
for higher altitudes.
On the second day the two wizzards prepare pan cakes and enjoy watching
me eat. This is not mountaineering that I am used to from the Alps.
Some 6 hours we hike through the muddy high lands with high grass
and strange flowers. Lots of fog during the day but in the evening
it clears up nicely and we have a spectacular view on Mt. Kenya.
That night on MacKinders camp at 4200m is a nightmare. I camp
at minus 16Celsius and because of the thin air it feels like
suffocating every time I fall asleep and my breath is shallow.
spite of lots of mountaineering in the Alps my body is not well
in high altitudes and in the early morning I explain to Jimmy that
I would not be able to spend a night at even 4700m and then climb
on mountains. My plan is to do 3rd and 4th day in one big hike,
go over the top (5000m) and then spend the night down at 3000m at
Chororia gate. Jimmy agrees and after a tough hiking day I am very
exhausted but happy.
What a great feeling to stand on top of a mountain like that. The
descend was spectacular and even on the last day we had to hike
30km before lunch (easy to write, hard to hike!) on the east side
of Mt. Kenya.
is calling and I spend some days in the Garden of Jungle Junction,
read books and meet other overlanders.
Originally my thought was that Kampalla, Ugandas captial, could
be reached within a day but African street reality makes me stop
in the evening only half way at beautiful Lake Victoria. The tarmack
is partly so bad that I have to stand up during the ride. And then
I see the Nile again. Almost two months ago I saw it first time
in Cairo, more than 10000km from here. The source of this fascinating
incredible long river is here at Lake Victoria.
ride back brings me around Mt. Elgon's Northern side. I spend one
night close to the 100m high Sipi Falls. I meet a group of
coloured men to which I demonstrate how grumpy people look in Vienna's
subway in the morning. They start laughing, crackin' up, because
they would not believe me! The border post is on a meadow and a
more or less devastated road brings me back to Kenya.
It seems that police has shot a truck driver and his colleagues
when protesting by blocking a mountain pass, of course the one that
I wanted to ride on. So I have to drive on some foot paths for many
kilometers to go around that block.
All this action broke the rack for my aluminum boxes and before
I leave Nairobi some welding needs to be done. I reach Mombasa which
is another world. Like paradise on the Indian Ocean with white sand,
green palm trees, a blue ocean and a romantic lodge.
Just the right place to wait for my girlfriend Gerdi. Early morning
of December 17 is the day when I pick up her at the airport Mombasa.
Many thousand kilometers of Africa adventure are ahead of us. But
before that we spend some wonderful and relaxing vacation days on