Stage 28, Forest Camp to Gohar Tsion
Only 87km but one of our toughest days yet…..20km individual time trial……only problem is, its up hill all the way !!!
The day started with a short ride of 50km over rolling hills, these are the sort of rolling hills that need a crawler gear and twenty minutes hard effort !!
That done we had lunch just below the lip of the Blue Nile Gorge, spectacular views over this magnificent natural wonder were a real tonic after the mornings tough ride. The only issue was that you could see the road to the bottom and the road up the other side that we would climb on our time trial !!
After my lunch I set of down the 17km hill, gingerly I might add due to the awful condition of the road surface. After about 6km I had my first puncture, Natalie stopped to help and soon enough I was on my way again. I had numerous kids throw stones at me, none hit but its still not nice and I chased a few away just out of sheer frustration !!
My second puncture happened near the bottom and I decided that I’d walk across the bridge to the start of the ITT, I assumed there would be a track pump there !! As I crossed the bridge a female soldier or security guard, not sure which, tried to stop me. She told me that I couldn’t walk across the bridge and would need to walk the long way round over the other bridge, I wasn’t about to walk further than I needed though and continued to walk. The next thing I know she’s pointing her rifle at me and telling me to go back, I was having a bad day already and told her to ” shoot ” !!
She took one look at me and realised I wasn’t moving, kicked the wall, mumbled something and stormed off !!
I walked to the ITT start, fixed my second puncture and waited for my start…..it came and I was off…..20km of uphill and pain waited for me ! I wasn’t really taking it seriously and stopped several times to take photos, drink coke or just get my breath back 😉 I arrived at the finish 3hr and 8mins later, knackered and somewhat relieved to get to camp in one piece !!
Naomi also competed the hill in about 4hrs and was very pleased with her efforts, bed came early again due to yet another tough day tomorrow !!
Stage 29, Gohar Tsion to Gorge Camp
A short stage today, about 90km but another 1000m of climbing and the highest point on the TDA tour at 3104m !!
I set of with Natalie and Michael, her dad , we made good progress but I lost contact when I stopped to remove some layers, it had been a cold morning !!
The scenery continued to inspire and again stopping for photos was one of my highlights 😉
The hills came thick and fast and with them a few false summits, lunch was half way up a long climb and was welcome. Fed and watered I continued on my own, the hills taking there toll on my already tired legs. As I approached the highest point I was caught by Diedrick and we took each others photos with the fantastic view behind us and our bikes. A few kilometres later we had finally finished climbing and just for a change we had some downhill, about 12km of it all the way to our camp, what a ride…..sweeping bends, good road and no head wind !!
Again I arrived fairly early and got a good spot for my tent, Naomi had ridden the truck to the camp and was already set up and chilled out, I pitched my tent close by as did Gus and we saved a spot for Eerin. Soon though we wondered if we’d see Eerin, we got word that shed been hit in the face with a rock and had been badly hurt !!
Ciaran went out in the Hilux to pick her up, when she arrived at camp she was a mess, her lip split and her tooth chipped, she was also quite badly shaken, not surprising really !!
Eerin’s friend Sylvie stitched her lip when she got to camp, great to have a friend who happens to be a surgeon, although you’d rather not need the skills on a bike tour !!
The evening was fairly muted after the attack on one of our riders and the rider meeting was a bit solemn, people were discussing how best to deal with the continuing threat of stone throwing kids. Of course no real solutions were put forward but certainly the female riders were a bit concerned.
Stage 30, Gorge Camp to Addis Ababa
Another hilly stage, 110km and a convoy into Addis Ababa !!
I cycled out of camp with Naomi, the recent events still fresh in my ears, the first hill was straight out of camp, a fairly long climb with a lookout platform overlooking the valley about 3/4 of the way up, I stopped to take photos while Naomi continued up the hill. I finished up and set off after her, it took a while but I got on her wheel and for the next 50km we cycled together, I waited at the top of each hill for her before flying down the other side. Some of the downhills were fantastic, real roller coaster rides, good quality roads and spectacular views.
With about 15km to go we were caught by Ali and Lizzie, I stayed with Ali for a while while Lizzie and Naomi paired up, as lunch was now not far away we slowly widened the gap and arrived at lunch a little before Naomi. Naomi was pretty tired and decided to take the bus to the start of the convoy, we’d been told there was a fairly steep 3km climb up to our meeting point for the convoy !!
I found the afternoon hard work, this was the fifth tough day of climbing and my legs were fairly tired, I also ride one of the heaviest bikes on this tour and It was starting to tell, I’ll either be very fit by the time I’ve finished or ill be wrecked !!
With about 15km to go before our convoy meeting pointing I was joined by an Ethiopian female mountain bike rider, I later found out she was ranked number two in the country, she accompanied me for the rest of the day and on the climbs she showed her strength, shed sprint off up the hill, turn round and join me before sprinting off again….she never even got out of breath 😉
Finally I arrived at the meeting point, I was the first one there apart from the riders who’d traveled in the bus. It turned out that most riders were stopping for coke on the way as they knew there would be a long wait before the convoy into Addis Ababa !!
Eventually everyone was ready and the convoy started to roll down the hill into Addis, 16km all downhill or flat roads, there were no incidents, no one got lost and we all made it across the pedestrian bridge and into the Golf Club and our camp site in Addis.
We had a day off here and as usual we opted for the hotel option, two nights in a real bed with a shower and flushing toilet……luxury !! As it turned out the hotel was very nice and our room was huge and comfortable. We sorted our laundry and dropped it at reception before heading to dinner, we didn’t stay out long as we had Wi Fi in the room and wanted to make full use of it 😉
The following day we said goodbye to Natalie and her dad Michael, Suzy and James, they’d all completed there stages and were busy packing the bikes ready for the off. Later we also said goodbye to Tobias and Paul, they were on a later flight and didn’t leave until 7.00pm.
Naomi and I took a cab into town with Nix, Eerin, Gus and Stig, we were dropped of at Mexico Square then we split up and went in search of a bike shop. We found the shop and another rider, a British guy called Andy. His bike had broken and he was meeting an Ethiopian rider at the shop to find another bike. We ended up spending the day with them, helping Andy make the right decision. We were treated to lunch by Wilson, the Ethiopian and again later he treated us to ice-cream and coffee. Andy finally found a suitable bike and Wilson refused any payment for his help, lunch, coffee etc and even drove us back to camp.
Naomi and I met up with Bas, Eerin, Rosie, Chris and Tracy and had dinner at the golf club, good food and even better company…..the perfect end to a day off, shame it has to end !!