Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Luckily after 2 grueling days we had a very easy day into Bahir Dar, a city located on Lake Tana. Everyone was very excited to have some time off to recover their legs and a p-party celebration at 8:00 pm. You had to dress up as anything that started with a "p". We got to Bahir Dar fairly early (around 1:30 pm) and after eating and exchanging money people went shopping for accoutrements for their costume. I went as "Poncho Villa" as I had a poncho! I was hoping people would get the "cleverness" of my idea but most people didn't have a clue. I had two toy guns, a belt as a holster, a red bandana and hankerchief (sp?). I also painted on a moustache with black eye-liner. People were very creative and we all had so much fun. Examples of costumes were: potted plants, peacock, permanent bag, PVM energy bar, pope, pampers, an African pygmy, a general practioner doctor, 2 proctologists, peanut butter man, 2 Peter Pans, a present, 2 punks and a picture frame. We got loose on the dance floor as several IPODS were hooked up to their sound system. Believe me, this party was much needed! The next day I decided to visit 3 famous monasteries on Lake Tana. How great it was to be on a lake again! I miss my Lake Michigan. The water was cold, the boat ride relaxing, and the monasteries intriguing. The islands that they are located on are lush and filled with coffee, mango, and papaya trees. Amazingly preserved 11th century paintings of stories from the bible yet given an Ethiopian slant are plastered inside the monastery walls in bright blues, reds, yellows, greens, and black. They are a sight to behold. We were told that the monks pray from 3-6 am and stop when the rooster crows. I am not sure how many dedicated monks there are but if I were to become one (actually a nun) I would pick this area because at least you would have lots of natural beauty that surrounds you! Not only in Bahir Dar, but there are many Christians in Ethiopia. As we have been riding, almost every person we have come across is wearing a cross of some fashion, even the kids. What we have heard is that the Christians live in the highlands and the Muslims live in the low-lands.

The rest of the time was spent doing laundry, drinking coffee, eating great food at the hotel restaurant, attempting to use the slow internet but giving up, tinkering with our bikes, and arranging our red box/permanent bag system!

The next 5 days of riding to the capital, Addis Ababa were also challenging but fun. The highlights were great scenery, rich agricultural fields, curious kids, lovely camp sites, awesome descents, a broken collar bone (we are not supposed to mention names on our personal websites but just know that this person is ok, doesn't need surgery, but will have to take 4 weeks off of riding), a mild concussion (not me again but a male rider who avoided a kid running across the road trying to catch him off balance and a car trying to overtake him on a curve; he is ok too but shaken up-so are the two girls who witnessed it), and on a positive note: the BLUE NILE GORGE! So far, two mild injuries are pretty good. You never know what can happen in Africa but I do promise to be careful!

The Blue Nile Gorge is what we had been anticipating for quite some time. We had heard of the infamous 20 km descent and 20 km ascent up tight switchbacks and scorching heat. Because our previous day ended 10 km earlier, we had to add it to the enormously calorie burning day. Anticipation was high in the morning. We ascended about 500 meter before getting to the edge of the gorge. The lunch truck was positioned here and we made sure to eat much more than usual: 2 tuna sandwhiches instead of one, a banana, oranges, a power bar, and fast fuel. The descent was awesome. It wasn't paved the entire way so we endured lots of fun jostling on our bikes. It's hard to believe that our bikes can survive the stones and corrugations. It kept getting hotter and hotter as we descended the 1400 m to the bridge that extends across the Blue Nile. You are not allowed to take any pictures at this point because of national security and our tour leader, Duncan, keeps reminding us that if you do, you'll be shot! Duncan was there right after the bridge for the people doing the time trial to refill their water/fast fuel and grab a banana. Yep, I decided why not time trial it. I wasn't too serious about it but just wanted to have fun. He said that it typically takes people between 2-3 hours. I was set: 3-2-1 go. The first two kilometers almost killed me! It was 40 celsius but I just kept telling myself that every hill you climb it'll get slightly colder. It worked! I had to stop 3 times: once for a potential biting dog, and twice b/c my camel back was leaking. Other than that, I made it up all the way without stopping. Let me tell you, this 12km was a major accomplishment. It was lovely in terms of the gorge that you were able to gaze upon when you had a breath (which was few and far between) but completely and utterly exhausting. I pushed it up the last 2 km as fast as I could because my stopwatch was turning 2 hours and 50 minutes. I made it in 2:57. I collapsed afterwards for about one hour, rested my legs on top of my red box, and had a recovery drink of milk,sugar, and tea! When I finally had enough energy I walked over to a great view of the gorge and took it all in. What a day! Our fastest rider made it in 2:37 minutes. Wow!


Anonymous said...

Kerri, you are going to be one buff chick when you finish! And smoke me on the hills. Way to go in toughing it out! DON'T GET ON THE TRUCK!

stacey said...

All I have to say is that I am never biking with you again-unless it's to the local bar! You are so strong! Keep it up girl!! No truck for you!
Love you,

WPG said...

Keep up the good work. I have no doubt you'll come back a stronger rider, but I am not afraid. Bring on the pain.

P.S. I did the 50 km VASA last week.

Shannon said...

I especially enjoyed reading your entries on Ethiopia. I had forgotten many of the Amharic words but your entry reminded me! I loved Bahir Dar! Do you get to go to the walled city of Harar? Your pictures are great! Keep up the great work!

Andrea said...

My goodness, Kerri! You are the most hard core woman I know! Congrats on avoidng the truck as well as your awesome time!
Keep your spirits soaring,

Anonymous said...

-Salom Kerri

I am really enjoying your adventure, I feel like I can visualize what you are experiencing because you describe it all so well ! Thank you ! Great work on toughing through it all, and keeping such a strong spirit. - It sounds like your legs aren't the only thing growing stronger on this Journey.
- Scott

Susan said...

Wow!! Great to hear from you! I don't think I'll be able to keep up with you anymore! Sounds like you are still going strong; I had no doubts about that!! Keep it up, my friend!!
Love ya, Susan

Tanya said...

You are amazing! I'm sure it was an indescribable feeling to be atop of the gorge. Wow! You seem like you're in the shape of your life, physically and mentally. Keep going, my chica! You're encouraging me to keep up with my daily runs, even though it's still freezing ... so cold I've started carrying hand warmers ...

Hopefully in your next posting you'll tell us all your plans during the 2 weeks of tour suspension.


Alka said...

Way to go girl! You never cease to amaze me! I'm so happy you're there, because I know that you truly appreciate every minute of this journey.


Anonymous said...

EFI is short for "biking every day during the tour and never hopping on the support truck"? I thought it stood for "Exceptionally Fine Individual". Please correct me if I'm wrong. TPW

Anonymous said...

I think "EFI" means "Every Freakin' Inch"....which is what those crazy cyclists must work for.

I am enjoying this adventure from every inch of my easy-chair.


Angie Bradley said...


YOU ARE A MACHINE!!! Way to attack those hills. What you have done so far is remarkable. Contine to ride strong and stay healthy. I miss you!


p.s. We have your next adventure planned in Thailand!

Sarah said...

Hey Kerri,
My, I think I know how you feel right now...Pete and I skied into a cabin at Wilderness 3 miles with backpacks and sleds, man it was a good workout. But the heaviest part was the mini keg of Two-Hearted and three bottles of wine, that, my friend, is where are adventures are different, besides the cold and no one hiding behind tree's throwing snowballs at us ...I could drink after and the next day, I didn't have to ride 100 miles!! Miss you very much!
Love, Sarah

Nancy M. said...

this looks sooooo soooo awesome. I haven't been able to read all of it, but I have read a bunch. The pic's are awesome. You are a total star, by the way.

I also wanted to give you a head's up, check out this link if you have a second,
it looks like a crazy amazing green music festival near ludington over the 4th of July--Dave Mathews and a million other people. It is soo long away, but they think tickets will sell out right away. I am buying a ticket and will sell mine if I can't go...let me know if you want me to get you one (they cost 200 or 250 depending on how fast you get it) 3 days of camping/music etc....

it sounded like your kind of thing, oh but one bikes are allowed, sorry (I am not joking)

Well, lovely, continue kicking butt
Nancy d

Jimbolaya said...

You're amazing professor! Just amazing. Maybe I shouldn't be challenging you in a tri after all.

Stay safe.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Great pictures! It's great to read about your adventures and see part of what you are experiencing. Keep up the good work and remember how strong you are on those tough days.

I am wondering how the bike is holding up?


Greg Baird said...

Hi Kerri,

Its Greg Baird in Chicago. I just found out about your wonderful trip on the Petoskey News-Review site. Amazing experience you are having. I am well, working on a documentary film about hate crime legislation and the murder of gay college student , Matthew Shepard 10 years after his death.

I'll keep reading your posts.

Hugs and be safe/well, Greg Baird