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Cycling Ethiopia - Best tours on the Roof of Africa

Posted by Christian on Wed July 15, 2020 in Get inspired.

Get in the saddle with our tour guide Christian that cycled wide parts of Tigray region in Northern Ethiopia - certainly an El Dorado for cyclists but yet unknown. Follow him on his first stretch between Axum and Adigrat while visiting captivating sights such as Debre Damo Monastery or the 2,700 years old Temple of the Moon in Yeha.

Cycling in Ethiopia is an absolutely stunning thing to do with challenging uphill rides in a stunning scenery and fast downhills along winding and mainly asphalted roads.

By bicycle through Ethiopia. I had wanted to fulfil this dream for a long time and so it was finally time to pack my bags and just do it. It was to be my birthday present. You should treat yourself to something special more often, I thought to myself as I swung myself onto the saddle just two days after my day of honour. What came out of it was perhaps the most beautiful journey of my life through this unknown country in the Horn of Africa.

All alone, just me and my new touring bike, that was the plan, but this is far from it in the densely populated Ethiopia. But from the saddle you experience a different closeness than you are used to. Partial surprise about the one who comes there. Joy about this madman, who cycles up the mountains, bathed in sweat. But sometimes also anger, because I do something that hardly anyone here in Ethiopia does: cycle. In the jumble of these emotions, an experience with Ethiopia in a very special way emerged during the trip. Heartfelt encounters alternated with lonely moments, joy turned into frustration, contentment set in, old familiar landscapes seemed even more majestic than ever before in the slow pace of the journey.

I love the mountain worlds of Northern Ethiopia. Almost at the border to Eritrea, the mighty basalt landscapes light up and millions of years old sandstones come to light. Worked by wind and weather they form table mountains of red and white patterned sandstones. Again and again bizarre rock shapes are formed, veritable stone needles that point over dozens of metres into the steel-blue northern Ethiopian sky, surrounded by flat plains. Now in August the end of the rainy season is approaching. Rainfall is reduced to just a few hours every few days. There is nothing to seriously stop cyclists from pedalling. On the contrary, the plains glow in a rich green and the rain lets the first grasses sprout in the otherwise rather dusty and dry north. The farmers cultivate the fields. A game for the senses. In the coming weeks I will learn to love the early morning hours on the bike. The morning freshness blows in my face, I start cycling slowly and enjoy watching the road side. Birds love the cool temperatures and can be seen and heard singing from the bike.

From Aksum, my first destination is the Debre Damo Monastery, one of the oldest monasteries in the country, whose walls once housed up to 300 monks. When I tell the staff at my hotel in Aksum about this plan, they quickly declare me crazy with a tender smile, not knowing that this will only be one of many stages. I wonder what you are thinking, why did I bother to bring my bike here? Just for parking and washing, I guess. For the first stages I can't estimate how much the up and down through the mountains here in the Tigray at an average altitude of about 2000 metres will challenge me, so I explain the way to the finish and plan less fixed daily stages.

So it happens that after only 20 km downhill I already move into my first accommodation in the town of Adwa. It is still early in the day and I use the afternoon to make a day trip to the Abba Gerima monastery. It is located about 15 km outside Adwa on a table mountain. From here the Ethiopians planned their offensive for the legendary battle of Adwa in 1896, in which they were the first African army to defeat a European one. The Ethiopians' victory over the Italians is still the pride of many patriotic Ethiopians today. To get here, I cycle from the Adwas basin a few hundred metres up into the Adwa mountains. I successfully completed my first altitude training.