The many faces of Ethiopia

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On the way down to cross the Nile, it took me 1 hour to get down, and 3.5 hours up again

Ethiopia

So, I have finally entered Ethiopia, the country I have most read about since a lot of cyclists had bad experiences before and either rushed through it or took the bus. The most problematic issue they always named were the kids along the road. It is known that throwing rocks is a national sport, but if you are on a bicycle and kids start to throw rocks at you, every day can be a mental challenge, not to speak of the danger of a rock actually hitting you. My opinion about cycling in Ethiopia was already biased when I entered the country, even if I didn’t want it I couldn’t change it. I had just read to many bad things about cycling through Ethiopia. While cycling the first couple of hours through Ethiopia, I caught myself as being more anxious, more careful and less friendly to people than in other countries I have been before, and I had to tell myself, Lukas, don’t do that, try to make the best out of it and try to see the many positive things this country has to offer. I am still in the process of learning to deal with the Ethiopian people along the road, it will take some more time for sure, but I think that process will also develop mental strength for other situations that might arise in the future. Just to give you a brief insight on what I have to deal with every day. There is a continuous shouting at me, kids can be kilometres away, as soon as they see me they shout YOU YOU YOU YOU, MONEY MONEY MONEY. When I climb hills at 5 to 6 km/h, kids follow me and just repeat the YOU YOU MONEY MONEY over and over again. I am a very calm guy but imagine being on the road for ten hours plus a day, having to continuously listen to that. It can drive you crazy! Since I can’t change it, I just try to deal with it, teaching myself patience and thinking about it in a positive way. I can only benefit from this experience in the future. Luckily, I did not get that many stones thrown at me so far, however, I am always really on the watch and if I see them grabbing a rock, I point at them, step of the bicycle and then they usually run away. I mean they are kids, you can’t blame them, it’s the parents who should take their job more seriously in my opinion. There are also kids trying to take stuff out from the outside of my bags, yes, I always keep my food there… I just constantly need to watch my surroundings which can be very tiring. I also had some adults grabbing my bags while I passed them, this can be super dangerous. I usually stop my bicycle, turn around and tell them in a kind but serious way to stop with that. I believe that after Ethiopia, nothing can bring me off my bicycle anymore haha. I still have over 1500km to go, Ethiopia is bigger than I thought. It is overall almost a 2000 kilometres ride through the country. That’s around the same distance as I did in Sudan, expect the fact that Ethiopia is so mountainous. I am doing on average more than 1000 metres of altitude daily and the road will go up to 3100 meters above sea level at one point. I am in the shape of my life, going uphill doesn’t bother me anymore. It just takes way more time than in the flat terrain, so I kind of need to adjust my daily stretches.

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When I was interviewed by the Ethiopian television. I hope I could make a statement for the parents to teach their kids not to throw any stones at cyclists anymore
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People just everywhere, population wise Ethiopia is the biggest landlocked country
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The Blue Nile Waterfall in Bahir Dar
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Little snack along the road, usually prepared by local kids
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Women carrying big water tanks every day for kilometres. Usually from the age of 8 to 10 the girls will start to do the same
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I haven’t seen any agricultural machines in use. Everything is done like 100 years ago in Europe.
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Various things are carried on the head, like this woman here carrying the chickens to the butcher

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Some portrait pictures from Debarak

5 days, 550km and 7500 meters of altitude later

This post was written a week of cycling later, and I just got so tired of cycling in this country:

Seriously, I have not experienced this before. Ethiopia is like one village, and there is people EVERYWHERE! This should by no means be a negative post, but the harassment I have to deal with during the whole day is absolutely insane and sad. Ethiopia has developed such a crazy begging culture that is driving me nuts while being on the road for 10 hours+ every day. I know they are poor, but seriously I have been to many poor countries and what Ethiopien people do is in my opinion absolutely disrespectful! There is not one minute passing by that someone doesn‘t shout MONEY MONEY MONEY at me, from babies up to grandparents, just everyone is always asking for money! It continues… the stones… it is sooo dangerous being hit by stones all day long. Usually when I get hit I flinch and turn around, what is if I lose sight for one second and a truck is coming from behind. I don‘t even want to think about that scenario. I get shout and whistled at all day long, I don‘t mind when they shout „foreigner“ at me, but they do it in such an aggressive way that it becomes sooo annoying. I feel being treated like a dog. Whenever I pass a village there is people trying to take stuff out of my outside bags, they try to stop me by just grabbing my arm or my bags. Seriously, the country and its nature is breathtaking, but to cycle through it has been the worst experience so far in my life. I have never been treated like that in any foreign country, and there is still 900km to cycle until Kenya. Please wish me luck and a lot of patience, I hope I do not need a psychiatric doctor afterwords.

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On the way down to cross the Nile

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Luckily nothing happens, you can see all of the crew to the left. However, I just ask myself how the driver did it.
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Stunning views, This picture is taken 2400 Meter above sea level
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Young girls carrying heavy loads. All the heavy stuff is carried by femals
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The shepherd dress really nice, with jackets, dressshirts and hats
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I don’t really agree with his gesture, but that’s just the way the transport the sheep around Ethiopia

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Anyone wants a dress?
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Ethiopia is very hilly but the views are just amazing
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Just Baboons crossing the road
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Seems like men are doing the easy work

 

International Aid – Some possible explanations of what I have experienced

This is just based on my opinion and of what I have seen during my time spent in this country. Ethiopia has been on the list of poorest countries for a long time, they have battled severe famines in the last 50 years. In the famine from 1983 -1985 more than 400,000 people died. I believe since then, Ethiopia has been overrun by international aid organizations and countries who showed their support. Almost every school I pass is built by a foreign organization, all the water stations are donated by the European Union and other organizations. All the roads are either built by China or Japan, and I see so many cars on a daily basis that have been donated by USaid, UKaid, Japaneseaid and the list goes on. What about growing up in a country where almost everything has been sponsored by a foreign country? Ethiopia has become used to be handed everything. In my opinion Ethiopia knows how to cock the fish they have received, but they need to learn how to catch it, and this will be the biggest challenge for Ethiopia in the upcoming years. They need to become less dependent on foreign aid just handed over to them. Now you might say ohhh Lukas so why do you support an organization that delivers aid to Ethiopia? The explanation is simple, Green Ethiopia is not about delivering aid, instead it is about supporting self development, starting with afforestation and ending with people being empowered to sustainably improve their living situation. I strongly believe that is the key for development, aid cannot just be handed over, it needs to be empowered by the people itself, they need to learn how to catch the fish!

Rain season is over 

The rain season lasts for about 3 months and my timing is just great, it usually ends in September. Everything now is so green, flowers are open, and the diversity of colours is just breath-taking. Some free advice: If you want to visit this beautiful country, do it after rain season! Another highlight are the birds. I have never seen such a variety of colourful birds in my life, and if there wouldn’t be the YOUYOUYOU all the time, there would be a huge concert going on from all the singing birds.

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A lot of people wear bathing slippers that they can cheaply buy for around 2 dollars. As cheap as they are, they don’t last very long. Surprisingly, Ethiopia is very clean compared to Sudan and Egypt, you barely see any plastic laying around

3 days hike in the Simien mountains

Many people told me that if there is one thing I should do whilst in Ethiopia it is to hike the simien mountains. I arrived in Gondar on a Thursday, didn’t do anything else than cycling for the last 8 days, and the tour started on Friday right away. It didn’t bother me, but I just told myself that I will need a serious break soon after I get back. The 3 days hiking included a guide, a scout, two cooks, all the food and camping equipment. Since I had everything with me anyway, I brought all my own equipment. This was a wise decision; most people were freezing at night and their tent was almost blown off because of the strong winds in the morning. I slept like a baby and my tent was stable as a rock. From Gondar a minivan drove us up to Debarak, where we entered the national park. I did not have any expectations at all, didn’t know what animals to expect and how the landscape will look like. I love doing it this way, doing stuff with no expectations whatsoever so I will not be disappointed at all. It usually turns out to be great anyway, so did it this time as well. We hiked a total of around six to seven hours daily, climbed up to mountains that were 4070 and 4400 meters above sea level. The later one is the second highest point in Ethiopia and the view up there was spectacular. I think the pictures will speak for itself, it was just an amazing three days and I would definitely do it again.

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Gelada Baboons in the Simien Mountains. They are really peaceful and let you get very close

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Stunning cliffs, sometimes more than 1000 meters steep

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Spottet many Walias on the way up to the top

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The scout we had to have with us for our own safety, haha!
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Climbed up the second highest mountain in Ethiopia, 4,400 meters above sea level

 

Food in Ethiopia

As Ethiopia used to be “colonized” (Only 4 years) by the Italians, one can find spaghetti everywhere. The waitress usually looks confused when I order two meals, but I think once she realizes I am doing a lot of exercising every day it also makes sense to her haha. I am not a big fan of the traditional Ethiopian food, since it is mostly spicy, has a sour taste and they eat a lot of raw meat. I was suffering from a bacterial infection, which kept me up all night with diarrhoea and vomiting, so I rather try to eat the safer stuff than trying out what the locals eat. Being sick on a solo travel is in my opinion the worst thing that can happen. That’s usually the time when I miss home the most. I had my rest now in Bahir Dar, even though it was kind of forced because of the illness, Bahir Dar is a really nice place to get stuck and it was nice to finally meet some other travelers again.

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Eating double portions
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This is how my usual breakfast and lunch looks like, bred, banana and chocolate

Wild camping in Ethiopia

Ethiopia seems to be like one huge village. There are people everywhere and seriously no space for any privacy. I don’t like camping at a random place when there are people bothering you, and after being shout at and harassed the whole day, it is also nice to have some privacy in the evening. There is usually a hotel in every little town. They range between 2 to 4 dollars and they look accordingly. What I usually do, to stay safe from all the mosquitos and bed bugs, I pitch my inner tent on the bed. I always sleep with earplugs, since Ethiopians party till late at night and they are always loud. Usually the places I sleep are more used as a brothel where young people meet to have their own room for some action.

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This is how I pitched my tent inside the “hotel” rooms

Alcohol, Prostitution, Khat & Glue sniffing children

As soon as I crossed the border from Sudan to Ethiopia, I saw beer advertisements everywhere. When I continued further through the town, I recognized many women wearing short skirts as well as strip clubs. Let’s be honest, I don’t believe it’s the Ethiopians that travel all the way to the border of Sudan to have “fun”. The alcohol culture is huge and I see men drinking beer all along the road, starting already early in the morning. Every village, no matter the size, has at least one pool,  table soccer or pingpong table. I really don’t know what all these young men do all day long, but it seems like most of them really don’t care about work. I have heard from cyclists before that they call Ethiopia Zombie land. I can really understand why now. Young men just running up to me when I ride through a village, having huge red eyes and tumbling around talking weird stuff. Many Ethiopian men are addicted to Khat, a locally grown plant that makes you high. As Wikipedia puts it: Khat is a flowering plant native to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Khat contains the alkaloidcathinone, a stimulant, which is said to cause excitement, loss of appetite, and euphoria. Among communities from the areas where the plant is native, khat chewing has a history as a social custom dating back thousands of years analogous to the use of coca leaves in South America and betel nut in Asia.

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This guys were already super high on Khat, look at all the empty straws

The first time I felt really sad on this trip was when I arrived in Addis and walked around town to do some groceries shopping. There are so many young kids, really kids, walking around totally high sniffing glue out of cut off PET bottles. They come up to you, can barely walk straight anymore and beg you for food or money. Just made me speechless, they are so young, innocent and determined to die at a very young age. According to the African Child Information Hub, there are as many as 100,000 street children living in Addis Ababa and sadly they are most often involved in the glue-sniffing practice.

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Addis street kid sniffing on glue
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The guy in the back is already flying high

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Green Ethiopia

I have written already over 50 postcards, received more than $4000 in donations and spread the word for almost 2 years now. Finally, I had the chance to visit a Green Ethiopia project in Libokemkem, around Addis Zemen town. I spent over 5 hours in the local community, walking up hills, through forests and talking to the local people about their work. It is impressive to see how much the landscape has changed. Sooooo many trees have been planted and the hills are now terraced so the land is green and fertile. This is all done by the local community. I am super happy to have partnered up with Green Ethiopia and I am looking forward to writing many more postcards for every donation I receive! For every dollar, at least 5 trees can be planted, join all the other donors and help to make Ethiopia greener, also during the dry season!

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Where new seedlings are grown. As I understood it the seedlings are cared by the school children
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Inside a local house
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A woman preparing Injera, a sourdough-risen flatbread with a slightly spongy texture
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Just within one year this plants have grown that tall. The secret is they are behind a cow stall, so the poop really helps the plants to grow
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I met the local priest who divides up the harvest between the different families of a town

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From Khartoum to the Ethiopian border, my final days in Sudan

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When I had my first flat tire, after 5,500 km

From Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, I still had around 550km to go towards the border of Ethiopia. I decided to take a little D-Tour to stay away from the busy main road. I was just tired of main roads. During the three days from Atbara to Khartoum I faced death several times. Bus and truck drivers wouldn’t stop behind me when some other vehicle was coming towards me. While passing, they just pushed me off the road and I sometimes was close to fall of my bicycle. I started to literally do a hand sign every time a truck was approaching me from behind, showing them to “get the fuck over”. It worked most of the time and I was just really happy to finally reach Khartoum. So, the road I took towards Al Quadrif was on the other side of the Nile and I found it to be very peaceful and with barely any traffic. 

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After unusual heavy rains a lot of town were flooded
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That is how a usual village looks like
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For kilometres there was nothing, and suddenly a house shows up again… Imagine living here, seriously in the nowhere

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Best way to spend your 3h lunch break, I was lucky this time

The environment started to change quickly. The closer I got to the border, the greener it became. I planned to split the 550km into 5 days, staying in “Hotels” in the bigger cities of Wad Madani and Al Quadrif, and the rest of the days I would sleep somewhere along the road. As you can see in the pictures I found some beautiful camping spots, all by myself, covered by trees. Even though some locals noticed me, I have never felt unsafe in any way while wild camping in Sudan. During my 23 days in Sudan, I only spent 50 dollars on accommodation, so I most of the time slept in my tent. The hotels I had were filthy and really just good for the night to stock up on water and food. In Sudan I paid around 4 to 5 dollars on average for a room per night. When I sleep in a hotel I would always take my bike inside the room. Sometimes, I can barely move within my own room but at least I know the bike is safe. There are for sure more expensive rooms I could take, but what’s the point, I’d rather use that money for other activities than for sleep, and the funny things happen when you get out of your comfort zone. Waking up having a rat in your room or having diarrhea all night long when the bathroom is 100 meters away from where you sleep are stories you won’t forget that quickly.

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Nicely covered from the street, and finally some good solid ground again to pitch my tent

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Always in use, my camping chair!

 

Population density increased

The life along the road became busier as I moved on. The agricultural sector is more dominant in the east of Sudan compared to the rest of the route I have followed. The landscape is very green and there are a lot of animals grazing all around. On one day between Khartoum and Wad Madani there were people everywhere, town after town so I decided to stay at a police checkpoint one night. They are safe and the Police men in Sudan surprisingly don’t even carry a gun. They offered me a lot of hot milk and other food.

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Night at a police station
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The usual daily traffic
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I love how that donkey has its tongue out, haha heavy women:P

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Sudanese hospitality

The hospitality continued throughout my travel through Sudan. On an hourly basis people invited me for coffee and tea, which I most of the times frankly declined since I had to do some kilometres, and I cannot drink tea all day long. However, I never turned down a food offer, haha, so I randomly was invited by a young guy while I was doing a water break. I first thought he wanted something from me, but as I had already done more than 3/4 of my planned route on that day I just followed him. Since it was Friday (the Muslims holy day), I got invited to a huge breakfast which was just delicious. There were only guys in the room, ranging from the age of 5 up to 27. One guy was fluent in English and it felt good to have a normal conversation. After discussing a lot of cultural differences between Sudan and Switzerland, he kindly asked me to take off my clothes, they wanted to see me naked. I just laughed and showed them my upper body. I laughed even more when they wanted to see more, but I then frankly declined, and they accepted it. Later, I asked myself why they wanted to see me totally naked, is it because of the skin colour? or did they want to see if my penis is circumcised? I really don’t know, I just thought it was funny that they were totally against homosexuality and then asking me to take off my clothes in front of them.

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Typical sudanese breakfast
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The guys who invited me for breakfast

The African way

I just love spending time in a village or city, sitting somewhere and watch the people doing their daily business. There are special phone charging places where around 50 phones are being charged at the same time. In Africa, more people have access to Internet than to electricity. What I also realized is that people in Sudan really don’t do maintenance on their equipment. The trucks, buses, tuctuc’s whatever you name it, they just use it until it does not work anymore. Seriously they have no profile on their tire anymore, they won’t exchange a tire until it explodes and is completely ripped off the rim, sometimes causing even further damage to the body of the vehicle. In this part I will post some pictures that are so typical to the African way of doing things.

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Donkeys are the main mean of transportation in the rural areas

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A usual sight in Africa, trucks filled with people, safety is never an issue
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They are really keen on keeping their vehicle clean, just the place they do it is a bit….
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TucTuc cleaning
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Every day I get surprised by things, like this wardrobe in my room
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Sudanese “Handy-Doctor”
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Exploded tires everywhere, and the spare tires they usually have are as run down as all the others
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A typical sight you can see all over, women walking for kilometers to transport things

 

The Ethiopian Visa

As I did not enter Ethiopia by airplane, I was obliged to get the Visa at the Ethiopian Embassy in Khartoum. I arrived in Khartoum on a Friday, and as the arabic weekend is from Friday to Saturday, I had to wait until Sunday to go to the Embassy. A friend told me to go there very very early. The embassy opens at 8:30 and I arrived there at 06:00AM. Surprisingly, I was not the first one, as I had to register at the “security guard” I was assigned with the number 47. The whole process was so disorganized and no one really had a clue what was going on. There were around 4 different lines, everyone was shouting, holding different papers in their hand and the embassy people in charge of letting people in, made use of their situational power and acted in a really arrogant way. Apparently, the first ones they let in already came to the embassy 5 days before, and as they only let in 100 people per day, the whole process was totally delayed. At 11:00 a guy finally made clear to us that there is no way we would get a visa today, and he put on each of our visa forms a number again and a date, when we will have our visa appointment. I was assigned with number one on Wednesday. So I had to wait three days to go to the embassy again. As I had time and really wanted the Visa, I arrived again at 06:00 on that Wednesday. At around 10:00 I was allowed to go inside, and I was really lucky, as the number I was assigned to earlier did not matter at all. There were people who even had an appointment 2 days before me and again didn’t manage to be let inside. The whole process is just soooo disorganized, and as an embassy worker, how can you deal with that every day without changing it? I had to wait another 6 hours inside until I finally got my three months visa, which cost me 60$.

My struggle with the postcards

On my whole way down in Sudan I tried to find a Post office, but the answer was always no, there is none in Sudan. I asked people everywhere and even expats, living in Khartoum for years told me they have not heard of a post office anywhere. As I checked maps.me, there was a sign saying Post office Khartoum. Well, why not give it a try? Since I write a postcard for every donation I receive, and most people wanted a postcard from Sudan, I had to try it. I didn’t want to let 20 people down, haha! As I arrived at the location, yes there was a big building, looking like a post office, but a guy told me that is a remaining building from the British colonial period. Ok well, so I just started asking around the locals where to find a post office. As usual, no one had a clue, but suddenly one guy seemed to know what I am looking for, stopped a minibus and told the driver where to drop me off. Tadaaa, after a short walk I really arrived at something that looked like a Post office. The mess inside was terrific but it still looked like they were under control of the mess. I checked if they send postcards as well as the price. So, I finally found a post office, but what about postcards? Sudan is not a typical tourist destination, so where do you find postcards? The struggle was real! I already made plans to print out pictures and send them inside an envelope. As I walked out of the SudaPost office, a guy with a little street shop, looked at me and said: postcards?! I couldn’t hold back my laugh, I was like damn, you are my mannnn!! The postcards he had were at least 20 years old but in my opinion they were great, even though they did not look nice at all, they are postcards from Sudan! I mean who has ever received a postcard from Sudan?! What a game changer, I managed to find a post office as well as postcards! As I brought all of them to the postoffice, I really made sure to get the women at the counter on my side. I wouldn’t call it flirting, but as I told them all those cards are for my wife, kids and friends, their heart really seemed to melt and I was pretty sure that they will take good care of the cards. I put all the postage stamps on each card my self and stamped them myself, to make sure that they don’t just take the postage stamps off again after I leave. It took exactly 18 days until the first postcards arrived, and I believe that by now, all the 20 cards have found their way to the recipient. How great is that? It took 6 weeks for postcards from Italy to arrive home, which were sent 200km off the Swiss border! Shout out to SudaPost!!!

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The big day at the postoffice
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My man!! Hey you want postcards??!!

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Sudan – Ethiopia border crossing

Border crossings are exciting, you are entering a new country, a different culture. They speak a different language, dress differently. Just from one day to the next, things can completely change. Nevertheless, border crossings are also a big hassle. People always try to take advantage of you, they want to exchange your money, try to charge you more on food, try to help you getting money from an ATM, telling you where to go and there is like 10 people shouting at you if you go somewhere else.

I camped 50 km away from the border between some trees. I took it easy in the morning because I knew I only had to do around 90 km with not a lot of altitude change. I rode for 2km when I suddenly realized that I had my first flat tire, wuhuu! After 5500 km, riding through thorn bushes, over glass shards and terrible roads, this is a solid achievement I would say. It took me around 30 minutes, as I was in no hurry and I rather did it slow and easy, than twice. I exchanged the tube and fixed the defective one a couple of days later in a hotel room, where it was not as dusty and full of dirt.

Once at the border, I had to go to the Sudanese immigration office to fill out a form, get my passport stamped and I was off to cross the bridge to the other side. The Sudanese officers at the border attempted to check my luggage. I acted like I did not understand what he wanted to do and after a couple of seconds he just waved me over. I then had to go through the exact same process on the other side. The lady who wanted to check my luggage was a bit more eager to see my stuff. She checked like the first two bags in front, but then got tired of it and I talked her out of it. Imagine, it is sooooo annoying if they want to look through your whole equipment. It’s so much and I need to take all the bags off the bike. Passport control is annoying too. Just normal dressed people showed up at the side of the rode demanding to see my passport. Yes, they could be police officers, and probably mostly are but as I cannot know it I usually just pass on without showing them anything. The mostly do not have a car so they couldn’t even follow me.

What does cycling mean to me?

Probably most accurately – Freedome… I can just go wherever I want, any kind of „road“, at any time. I don‘t need to worry about gasoline, stupid taxes, paperwork at borders or any speedcontrols (😂). There are days where I like it more, there are others when I am just glad that the day is over, but all in all after every day you feel you have accomplished something. You are a few kilometers closer to your final destination, climbed up a mountain, fixed 10 punctures, crossed a flooded riverbed, pushed your bike up a hill or through the sand (or both together) for hours…, there are so many moments to celebrate each day. Some of you probably think, how can he still like cycling? Seriously, I don‘t know, but I guess it is all those little things every day that make cycle-traveling so enjoyable!

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The kindness of strangers

Arriving at the border I had around 10$ in Sudanese pounds left. As usual I try to get rid of all my money before crossing the border, since changing it always leaves you worse off than getting it from an ATM. Many people told me it is no problem to get money from an ATM right after the border so I did not worry about money at all. As the luck was totally not on my side, the only ATM across the border was out of service and I was told 40km down the road in the next town there is an other international ATM. I left Metama right away since I could not stand the hassle that was going on. Shortly after I saw two overlanders coming at me with beautiful BMW 1200 GS and GSA. I put my hand out to signal them to stop. In these areas you don’t meet that many travelers on the road so it is always worth to have at least a quick chat. It turned out it was a Belgium couple on their honey moon, traveling from South Africa all the way back to Belgium. If there is a woman out there that wants a honey moon like that as well, please get in touch with me! They call themselves the Belgium Gravel Cats and you can follow their adventurous journey here. I told them about my bad luck at the border with the ATM, and with no hesitation they hand me over their remaining Birr, which was around 12$, and a SIM card for emergencies since the next telephone store is on Gondar, 200km away. With the total of 22$ worth of Birr (name of Ethiopian currency) it was possible for me to reach Gondar, where I could withdraw money again. I would have survived without their kind gesture, but it def. made my upcoming three days way more comfortable with less hassle. Thank you for that! The kindness of fellow travelers especially in areas where you don’t really meet a lot of overlanders is always remarkable and I really try to keep UP that spirit.

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The Belgian Gravel Cats

Sudan – Statistics

Kilometres cycled: 1774

Days spent: 23

Nights wild camping: 10

Cost for food: 124$

Cost for sleeping: 98$, including two nights for a total of 50$ (Birthday treat)

Average daily water consumption: 12-14 liters

Favorite food: Sudanese call it Sahan ful (a plate of beans) or ful masri (Egyptian beans). It is a vegetarian protein rich dish garnished with fresh onions, tomatoes, rocket leaves, feta cheese, boiled eggs and sesame oil. It caused the only tailwind I had in Sudan, haha.

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Really doesn’t look tasty, but, it’s SOOOO GOOD!

A German version will follow in the next couple of days.

 

Welcome to Africa

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Final kilometres to Athens

The closer I got to Athens, the more excited I became. The days were long, hot, and I’ve had some serious issues with my butt for the last 10 days. So, I was really looking forward to getting to Athens to treat it and give it time to recover. On both sides of my cheeks I had inflamed spots, that made riding seven to nine hours a day really tough. I did a detour to the island of Rovies, which has a beautiful costal line as well as country side, but it turned out to be hillier than I thought.

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Back to the mainland of Greece, right before Athens

On my last day before arriving in Athens I got caught up in a big thunderstorm and sought shelter in a warehouse filled with beer and soda. Unfortunately, I still had 40 km to go, that meant no beer for me yet. The guys running the warehouse were very friendly and provided me with water until I couldn’t drink anymore.

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Thanks for the shelter guys!

I was glad that after an hour of heavy rain, I was finally able to hit the road again. People keep asking me what I do when I need to do number one or two. I highly enjoy doing it somewhere in the nature. At least then I don’t need to worry about how dirty the restroom might be.

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My camping spot in Rovies. It’s beautiful to spend the night next to the sea when you can listen to the waves all night long

Riding into a big city is usually pretty stressful, cars, motorcycles and reckless drivers. Ten kilometres away from downtown, I was able to pick up a cardboard box to ship my bike. I wrote a few e-mails to bicycle shops around 2 weeks ago and Serkosbikes immediately replied me and offered me a box for free. So, I got that settled. However, I tend to be uneasy until I have everything prepared. Taking the bike apart was straightforward, like always if you take stuff apart you believe that it makes sense the way it is assembled. Putting the bike together again needed some more braincells, haha. First, I didn’t believe that the whole bike would fit into the box, since I was told that I should only take off the front wheel. However, it all worked fine until I had to take off the pedals. My mini 22 tools broke while taking them off. I then had to walk for a about a kilometre with half a bike and everyone kind of looked at me like I were a thief. The bike shop was in the middle of a market, so I was able to get the pedals taken off, some extra Allen® keys and pliers. 

Athens

Personally, I enjoyed Athens. The Acropolis is not that spectacular because there is a lot of construction going on and there is not that much left of it anyways. It looks way better from far away. What I really enjoyed about Athens were the many cosy restaurants and bars. The food was amazing, and I definitely regained some kilos, Gyros for breakfast was just too delicious. I also needed a lot of rest. I had to catch up so much sleep. The first two days I was constantly tired.  

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The Acrapolis

 

What did I do during my 7 day stay? I slept a lot, walked around the city, did some sightseeing, went to a close by beach and lake but what I probably did most was eating. It also rained very hard a couple of times, which I guess is unusual for that area during the summer months. 

On one evening I also met Markus, the cyclist I had met three weeks ago in Croatia. While he was checking in at his Hotel, his whole bike was stolen with all his equipment. How sad is this, who would do such a terrible thing? I am very glad that everything went well for me up to now. However, this incidence makes me even more careful when it comes to the question of where to park my bike. For sure, I always lock it to a pole or tree if I can.

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I replaced my bicycle in Athens

The closer I got to the departure date, the more I started to realize that I will soon be doing my first steps on African soil. What a feeling! However, the uncertainty of the unknown also made me kind of nervous. When all my stuff was packed I thought I was doing just fine with the weight, didn’t seem to be too much. I could take two 23kg bags as a free allowance. Once arriving at the airport, I had the chance to weigh all my stuff. The scale stopped at 60kg, which was a little bit too much… What should I do now? I tried to put as much as I could into my hand luggage, since airport staff almost never checks that. Nevertheless, the bicycle box alone was 5 kilograms too heavy. I guess with a friendly, innocent smile and telling the check-in lady that the bicycle is only 23.5 kg, I got through everything without paying any extra money. Still can’t believe it, but somehow it worked out well! 

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Leaving Athens with all my gear packed up. The 60 kilograms at the Checkin surprised me as well

Arrival in Cairo

My flight was 2 hours delayed, the line at the customs was extremely long and once I got to the front, the officer barely looked at me. As usual they always try to act super serious, either they are very bored, or they are just never in the mood to smile. He asked me where I was coming from, I am like dude, you are holding my passport, what do you think??? Of course, I didn’t say that. He still didn’t like me and told me to wait aside. So, I waited and waited for at least 20 minutes until another guy showed up and asked to follow him to a small office. I was asked a lot of questions; what are you doing back home, why are you in Egypt, for how long, do you have friends here, are you Muslim, why do you wear such a big beard, is your purpose of the trip really traveling and not working? It all seemed kind of ridiculous, and in the end the other guy sitting in the room told me that there was some confusion with my name. I guess Lukas Caesar Steiner does not look as Arabic as my appearance…that confused them. In the end they let me go. Luckily my bike and the bags survived the trip without any damages. To get from the airport to downtown I thought to be super smart and order an Uber, however, it turned out that I got super unlucky and I got like the smallest Uber ever. Of course, my luggage didn’t fit in and I had to take a regular taxi downtown, with the bike being placed on top of the roof. Finally arriving at the Hostel, 4 hours after I had planned, I walked up to the elevator and saw a sign attached saying: Out of service. As you can imagine it was very enjoyable to carry three heavy bags up to the fifth floor.

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Finally, with the second taxi it worked out fine

Cairo itself is very hectic, a lot of traffic, honking and people everywhere. Nothing seems to be organized but it still works. I felt comfortable right away, those are the places that I enjoy most. The bigger the difference to Switzerland the better. The food here is amazing too. It is about time for me to hit the road again, otherwise I will soon need some bigger pants. I will head towards the coast of the Red Sea on Sunday morning. it is roughly a 130 km ride to the coast, and I don’t think I want to push it too hard on my first day after the break. I need to get used to sleeping everywhere, all by myself in a country I totally don’t know. It is not as easy as I thought it would be and it needs some time to get over the worrisome feelings. I will sleep somewhere along the road in the desert on Sunday, but since there is nothing out there it is my only option. I will take around 15 litres of water with me as well as 2 kg of food, so it should all be fine. Temperature is around 38 degrees Celsius with a slight breeze going here in Cairo. I am still not sure if I should take the desert road to the Red Sea, or if I should cycle along the Nile. Along the Nile is a very busy road, lots of opportunities to get water, food and shelter, however most cyclists are also escorted by the police on the whole stretch. The desert between Cairo and the Red sea will be very hot (40-45 degrees), as well as no villages and people. I think I will escape the busy road, head towards the coast and do some scuba diving in Hurghada. It is supposed to be one of the nicest diving spots worldwide, and I have time so why not. The people here are highly welcoming, and I feel very safe. Of course, as always in the big cities, many people try to get to your money, that’s why I love traveling on a bicycle, so I have the chance to meet the people outside the big cities.

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It’s pretty impressive to finally see the Pyramids live, and not in some Asterix and Obelix movie

 

Fundraising for Green Ethiopia

Until now, more than 2,000$ have been donated. Seriously, you guys are great. Every day I get so many warm-hearted messages, which really pushes me. It is such a nice feeling to know that people at home care about what I am doing here and that they enjoy reading my stories. As of now I have already written more than 10 post cards, and there are hopefully many more to come. Some people even ordered a post card from every African country I will travel through. I love writing them and I would be more than happy to write a post card to you as well!! You will find all the information about Green Ethiopia and what 100% of the money will be used for HERE:

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This picture was taken before my departure when I met my former Professor at the University of St. Gallen, Mr. Pfister, managing director of the foundation Green Ethiopia. 

1000km done – hello Croatia

It’s exactly two weeks ago since I left, I have done close to 1000km so far and I am feeling way better than in the beginning. My body is getting used to the exertions and so is my knee. The last two days from Italy through Slovenia and to Rovinj Croatia I didn’t feel my knee at all, and I had some big hills to pass. Temperature is on the rise the further down I get. It is usually around 30 to 35 degrees and I am losing a lot of sweat every day. Staying hydrated is my highest priority and I try to drink around 7 to 8 litters a day.

During the last few days I passed through some beautiful cities. Especially Venice and Verona were fabulous. I usually camped, however, in Venice I had the chance to stay with Francesca, a friend of my brother Michael. It’s always very interesting to be taken around by a local, they usually know a lot of nice little places.

Venice

From Venice on I did a 140km day because I did not want to stay at a super tourist campsite. I stayed at paradise island, sounds great, nevertheless, the only great thing about it was its name. The facilities were super nasty, I was glad I could pitch my tent somewhere on the island, far away from anything. From there I stopped at Trieste, and finally in Rovinj! The way to Rovinj was full of hills and my GPS led me through some spectacular landscapes, however, the roads were about equally spectacular… My border crossing from Slovenia to Croatia was through a small river, no checks nothing, just in the middle of a valley were only 2-3 farmers lived. I had to push the bike a couple of times. If the slope gets steeper than 8-9%, and it’s a gravel road, the pressure on the first gear and the belt is just too high, as well as on my knees. Speed wise I am as fast as if I was sitting on the bike. Feels like back during the army, except that it is me myself who is kicking my ass.

Border crossing Slovenia – Croatia

So, this is my first time in Croatia. I feel terrible about it. My good friend Luka who I spent most of my school and university time with is from Croatia, and I never managed to visit him. Now, Luka is in Havana and I am staying at their house with his Mother Iva.

Luka’s mom and me watching the Croatia – Denmark game

She is really taking care of me. It totally feels like home, which is the reason I decided to stay here a bit longer. Croatia is sooo beautiful!! It’s like a vacation from vacation, and since I don’t need to catch any flight or bus, I am free to do whatever I prefer.Now I have like 25 days left to make it to Athens. I am going to do like 350 km during the next 3 days to make my way to Zadar, where I will meet my good friend Roman and hopefully Nicole, an old friend from school. A saying says that Zadar has the most beautiful sunset… I am really looking forward to enjoying a nice beer and watch it myself.Many people asked me how I eat and cook my food. So, breakfast I usually eat Oatmeal and if I am too lazy to use the burner it’s just some bread with cheese and fruits. For Lunch I usually go to a small store and they prepare me a fresh sandwich with meat and cheese.

Lunch takes me around 45 minutes. I always try to keep it short, as I want to arrive at my sleeping spot no later than 6pm, to have some time to relax. For dinner I mostly prepare some pasta or rice on the stove, to fill my body with energy again. Food wise it’s nothing spectacular, but I am just happy if I can still my hunger. Last week I bought a pesto sauce, since I am all by myself, that sauce took around 7 days to finish, so I had pasta with pesto every night and sometimes even for breakfast.

I am really not picky about anything, food in particular, I just don’t like to be hungry so I eat everything. The water is still not an issue, I just drink tap water until Greece, before I start filtering it.For now, the most valuable piece of equipment I took on my trip is my foldable lightweight chair. It is so comfortable to sit in a chair after a long day in the saddle and relax. Totally worth the extra 500 grams. Usually I spend around 6-7 hours in the saddle every day, not including any breaks etc. If you want to see all the detailed information click here, and click below on the second tab “detailed information” to see all the statistics I am taking

Cheers and thank you for reading my blog 🤟😊