from 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?


As 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 notes.

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.

The 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.

A 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.

A couple of hours away is the legendary lake Tana.

On 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.

So 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 bad.

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.


Next day I visit the world famous monolythic churches. These utmost impressive buildings were knocked out of solid rock by hand and are one of the most important religious centers in Ethiopia.

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.

I 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.

The border town Moyale is the beginning of the disreputable road through Northern Kenya. I have to face another 500km on a partly very bad road. Just before I leave town, an obviously insane person throws with bricks after me. I open the throttle to bring me out of danger and out of this beautiful and adventurous country.

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.

Nairobi 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 northern Kenya.

Mount Kenia
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!

At 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.

In 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.

In 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.

In the bambus forrest we could watch elephants and buffalos. After an odysee with Matatus (taxi for many people, kind of minibus) we come back to the West side and here ends one of my most fascinating mountain adventures.

Nairobi is calling and I spend some days in the Garden of Jungle Junction, read books and meet other overlanders.

UGANDA, Kampala
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.

The 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 Tiwi Beach.



3. report: Ethiopia-Mombasa. 07.11.-12.12.2005 | Wolfgang Niescher | www.globebiker.com_________-–>> see 4. report

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