Ethiopia is vast, it’s diverse and it is strikingly beautiful. Despite all the difficulties and the challenges that independent travel in Ethiopia brings, the country is an absolutely ideal place for motorcycle riding. I figured from the beginning that to truly explore this fascinating land over a longer period of time, a motorcycle would be the best, most convenient and most affordable mode of transportation. The only problem - a total lack of information anywhere on how to go about doing this, unless you’re not coming with your own motorbike. For this reason I have decided to dedicate a blog post to the very topic of riding around Ethiopia, from acquiring a motorcycle to what’s in store once you hit the road.
The fascinating cultures, the breathtaking landscapes, the ever present feeling that you are in a different time, a different dimension—this is what I absolutely love about Ethiopia. The constant feeling of being a human piggy-bank, the challenges in doing the simplest of things, the often occurring feeling that your new “friends” are measuring you up to see what they can extract from you—this is what I’ve come to hate beyond words about the country. I’ve been in Ethiopia for a bit over four months now. I know that many of the readers of this blog are photographers and travelers, some of whom have aspirations to come here. For this reason, I feel that I should write an account of sorts. One that is fairly uncensored and touches on the good, the not so good and the plain ugly sides of this incredible and incredibly challenging country.
In today’s world of technology and modernization it doesn’t make sense that there’s a place which lives virtually oblivious to that world. A place where ancient customs are still upheld strictly and where people walk around half-naked, with the little clothes that they wear being mostly those, which they designed hundreds of years ago. A place like that does exist and it’s called the Omo Valley. I had the opportunity to visit the area and to have a glimpse into the lives of the Hamer people by spending a few days in their village.
When you drink four chocolate milkshakes at a Western cafe, when you would rather chat to other travelers than take photos, when you arrive at a camel market, but don’t care about shooting anything and just want to catch up on sleep—that’s when you know you’re getting tired, getting close to burning out.
Dramatic landscapes, kind, warm people and photographic inspiration at every corner - this was my romanticized vision of Ethiopia. Perhaps this vision was what made me all the more disappointed and emotionally deflated, when for over a month I came across more rudeness, dishonesty and overall strange treatment than anywhere else I had traveled. It took time and a lot of luck to meet the right people, to finally find the Ethiopia I dreamt of, but I have found it and, it is A-m-a-z-i-ng! I'll give you a bit of a background story to put things in perspective and then, to the photos.
The climb takes around forty-five minutes and it is literally a climb using your hands and feet for the last part of the journey. Holes in the vertical rock surface are what you use to keep yourself from falling off and to get to the top. As The "Lonely Planet" guidebook says, if you're scared of heights, "Don't look down!" Having a panic attack or"freezing" here would not be a good idea.
Heat, huge crowds, continuous pushing and shoving, religious chants accompanied by war cries and the never ending tooting noise produced by vuvuzela-like instruments (those annoying things you heard at matches during the last world cup). This is Timkat (celebration of the Ephiphany) in Gondar. If you don't like any of the mentioned, this isn't the place for you. I didn't know any better, so I went.
Lalibela is Ethiopia’s answer to Jerusalem. In fact, it is often referred to as “The New Jerusalem” and it even has its’ own “Golgotha.” The legendary town is known for its’ incredible rock hewn churches. It is a place of elaborately dressed deacons and priests and a center for thousands of pilgrims who come during special occasions to recharge their “spiritual batteries.” Lalibela was one of the main reasons that I wanted to come to Ethiopia so badly. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed.