The many faces of Ethiopia

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


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.

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
People just everywhere, population wise Ethiopia is the biggest landlocked country
The Blue Nile Waterfall in Bahir Dar
Little snack along the road, usually prepared by local kids
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
I haven’t seen any agricultural machines in use. Everything is done like 100 years ago in Europe.
Various things are carried on the head, like this woman here carrying the chickens to the butcher



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.

On the way down to cross the Nile


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


Anyone wants a dress?
Ethiopia is very hilly but the views are just amazing
Just Baboons crossing the road
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.


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.

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


Stunning cliffs, sometimes more than 1000 meters steep


Spottet many Walias on the way up to the top


The scout we had to have with us for our own safety, haha!
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.

Eating double portions
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.


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.


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.

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


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!


Where new seedlings are grown. As I understood it the seedlings are cared by the school children
Inside a local house
A woman preparing Injera, a sourdough-risen flatbread with a slightly spongy texture
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
I met the local priest who divides up the harvest between the different families of a town



Luxor, my daily struggles with the kids and decisions to make

First, let me start with the good stuff. Luxor was the great capital of upper Egypt during the new Kingdom (16th-11th century BC). The valley of the kings, with the beautiful Luxor Temple right in the middle of the city as well as the astonishing Karnak temple, is close to it.

While in Luxor, you are definitely in the biggest outdoor museum on earth. With it comes tourism. I was told that before the revolution in 2011, it wasn’t as bad as today, but since fewer tourists visit the city nowadays, some locals try as hard as they can to get as much money as possible out of the remaining tourists. That made me feel really uncomfortable. Of course, in the end it is like 1% of the local population that gives you a hard time, which is a sad story, but it changed my whole attitude towards Egypt for some time. I just wanted to get out of this place because I literally felt like a walking ATM. Every time I had to pay something I had to be careful to get enough money back. Sometimes paying a meal, which was 35 Egyptian pounds, with a 200 pounds bill and only getting back 65 Egyptian pounds. This happened to me on numerous occasions and I just got really tired of it. I lost the whole trust in anyone just because of the few. I hate the feeling of getting ripped off every time I need to use money. Luckily the people in Aswan were friendlier again.

My way from Luxor to Aswan

I left Luxor at 05:00am to get a head start before the sun goes up. I don’t know if little boys in Egypt don’t need any sleep, but they started following me as soon as I had left the hostel. They were screaming and shouting at me, laughing about their jokes, which I didn’t understand and kept asking for money. I truly thought this would not start until Ethiopia… I always tried to be friendly, denying that I had money and pointed at my mean of transportation. Guys, I am riding a bicycle, I really don’t have any money. Some just turned around and left, others were saying Fuck You while they disappeared. Others tried to push me off my bicycle, and the most common thing was to throw stones at me whenever I told them that I didn’t have any money. I know they are kids, but if that happens during the whole day, and I am spending a lot of time on the bicycle, it can become really tiring. It is hard to switch from super happy mode, to being angry and back again to smile at people because everyone is waving at you. I guess that is also part of the experience of the way I travel. It’s tough on the mind but also a big learning. I will have many encounters with people in the future who might not like me, where they will try to put stones in my way, causing me to fall. However, I guess that’s part of life and I am in the process of learning how to deal with it. The physical challenge of my trip is way smaller than the mental one. The sad story is that 99 people can be very nice, and just one encounter can destroy how the other 99 have treated you. So, I am really focusing now not to get disturbed by the one that tries to do bad things to me, and rather enjoy how the other 99 brought happiness into my day. I am highly enjoying my trip, and no one said it would be easy. If I learn to accept everything they way it is, since I can’t change it anyway, I think I can benefit a lot from this trip. This is also an initial thought of why I want to do this trip. I have so much time to work on myself every day, so I might as well take advantage of it to look at everything in a positive way in order to strengthen my thinking and my mindset.

The beginning of Eid Mubarak

Eid al Adha is also called the Festival of Sacrifice and lasts for 4 days. As usual I went to sleep at 8:00pm to be ready at 04:00am again to leave. It is nothing special if the honking of cars, motorcycles and tuctuc’s goes on all night long. Even to the chant of the muezzin at 04:30am I got used to. Hitting the road again along the Nile towards Aswan, I was able to experience the holiest day of the whole Muslim calendar on my bicycle, cycling from one town through another. Before 05:30am the roads were very empty, and it was amazing to see the sun rise over the mountains in the background. Then suddenly people started to come out of their houses and walked along the road to the praying field. I think the reason for them to pray on large fields on that day is because mosques are not large enough to fit everyone inside. All the men and boys were walking together, wearing their Thawb or Thobe and everyone looked really nice. All the women and girls did their own thing, usually gathering in front of a bigger building, I guess it was a mosque as well to do their prayers. At 06:00am the praying started, it looked amazing all the men being lined up and praying together. Out of respect towards them, I did not take any pictures. After the praying was over, people moved back to their houses again. From then on, the slaughtering of sheep and cows started. I was passed by many cars and motorcycled loaded with animals. All along the road I saw the men butchering the animal, and the wives cleaning its entrails. I didn’t see what they were doing with it afterwards, I guess they ate it, but the skin and some entrails of the animals are still, as of now, laying all around Elephant Island, where my guesthouse is. The smell of rotten animal skin is not pleasurable at all. Nothing for a weak stomach. Nevertheless, it was amazing for me to experience this procedure on my bicycle. See, if you travel slow, you can experience so much more just by pedalling through the towns.


Daily I need to make decisions, sometimes it’s easier, sometimes it’s not. While arriving in Aswan on Tuesday, I had to decide whether to wait until Sunday to take the ferry to Whadi Halfa, or to cycle to Abu Simbel on Thursday and take the Ferry from there. Taking the ferry from Abu Simbel would have meant to cycle 300km through the desert with barely any shops, but I kind of wanted to move on, I already relaxed a lot in Egypt and I felt bored waiting till Sunday again. However, I have decided to take the ferry from Aswan on Sunday, I heard it is a beautiful journey along one of the biggest artificial lakes on earth, called lake Nasser. It was the right decision, I needed some time to talk to my family since my grandmother peacefully passed away at the age of 95 last Thursday. For you it sounds like an easy decision, but Inreally had a sleepless night because of it, haha, but talking to my Mom always helps. I don’t think I could do all of that without my Mom and Dad as well as my brother at home, supporting me whenever I need it.

Taking a swim in the Nile, such a nice refreshment!

„Cycling“ around Aswan


The ferry will approximately take 22 hours, until I arrive in Whadi Halfa. From there I will have only desert until Khartoum where I will hopefully arrive before my birthday. It is around 1200 km, and I am planning to do it in 11 days. I guess around 90% of the time I will be wild camping in the desert, but I heard from other cyclists that Sudan is amazing for that and that its people would be very very welcoming and friendly. As you might now, for my fundraising project I am sending out postcards. It will be interesting to see if I will be able to send postcards out of Sudan. Some people that live there even told me there is no Post service in Sudan. I really hope there is one, since sooo many people have already ordered postcards from Sudan and I am looking forward to writing them.

My boat to Sudan