They’ve reached the top. In Andy’s words ‘It was a monstrous climb’.
I heard a radio interview last week with the Team Principal of the first African team to be registered for the Tour de France race. He said that it’s a young team, still inexperienced, but with some wonderful young riders. He mentioned one from Ethiopia, ‘who is really good on the mountains’. No surprise there!
The children of Ethiopia play their part in the Tour. They wait for cyclists, running alongside them and catcalling in what Andy described as a loud, high pitched keening sound. Sometimes they throw stones. Sounds like just what you need as you toil up a steep gradient in the heat of the late afternoon, heart pounding, legs aching.
The people in both Sudan and Ethiopia have generally been very friendly. It’s still hot, about 40 degrees, but the landscape is rural, lots of healthy looking cattle, green; much less harsh than the desert of Sudan.
The road might actually be a bit downhill from here. The briefing for Monday told them to expect a 20km stretch of downhill. Nice! The Tour notes write of ‘the beautiful terrain of the central Ethiopian plateau’ and a ‘descent from the eucalyptus forested hills’ into the downtown core of Addis Ababa.
Addis is 195 kms away and there are two days of cycling to go. That’s two sleeps until I meet up with him. I’ve packed a case with bike spares, two tyres, more T-shirts and shorts, medical supplies, new pillow (his fell off somewhere along the line), batteries, a beard trimmer (well it’s time!) and ah yes, more USD.
I fly tomorrow; back on Friday. I don’t know if we’ll update the blog until I get back, although we can access it from Andy’s Ipad. He hasn’t seen the blog or his e-mail for at least a week. He can make and receive calls but he’s not been able to access data. If any of you have e-mailed him on his personal mail and haven’t received a reply, don’t take it personally. He’s planning some catch up time on the hotel wifi in Addis.
I open the blog regularly as you know, so I see your comments as they come in. Thank you all so much. It’s wonderful to see that you’re following Andy’s progress and as several of you have told me, you enjoy reading the posts. I’m looking forward to watching his face as he catches up with the posts (I hope he likes them!) and your comments when we’re together in Addis.
The Nile River is 6,700km long, the longest river in the world. It got the ‘blue’ part of its name because of its muddy color from the fertile soil it erodes from the Ethiopian highlands. (That’s poetic license. The river is normally greenish and brown in flood.) During the summer monsoon rains it swells to over 50 times its dry season size and carries with it around 140 million tonnes of silt every year as it rages down to the Mediterranean. The Blue Nile flows in a gorge for 800 km, much of it over 1500 km deep. It’s obviously a tremendous obstacle for travel and communication from the north half of Ethiopia to the southern half. Ask the riders on the Tour d ‘Afrique!
Sudan and Egypt both benefit hugely from the Nile water. 60% of Egypt’s water comes from the Blue Nile’s input. But there’s an Ethiopian saying that ‘the daughter of Blue Nile is thirsty’ reflecting that while Ethiopia donates its topsoil to the river, the country has not itself benefited very much economically.
The Blue Nile from the highlands of Ethiopia, and the White Nile from Lake Victoria, meet in Khartoum, and merge in what Arab poets call ‘the longest kiss in history’, to form the Nile river.