|Location:||kembolcha, ethiopia (1852m)|
|Text:||52 577 kilometres on the road
the two metre long narrow boxes, made from corrugated iron can be found in several places on addis abeba's sidewalks. i never gave them too much thought between all the rubble, the shanties and the garbage. so i was surprised when i saw a man crawling out of one of them this morning. he looked tired as he rubbed his puffy eyes, sleepily squinting into a new day in a sad city.
i took us quite some time to leave las abebas as each one of us had a different plan to get out of town. after loosing each other in the dense early morning traffic we finally met up in a small town, 30km outside of the capital, where we had lunch.
driving north it got colder as we ascended to a high plateau that almost reached 3000 metres. it reminded me of some of the mountain roads in switzerland: the grassy hills, the low lying clouds, and the quickly ascending mist that turned a bright, sunny day into a grey labyrinth within a few seconds. the houses here were made of big stone and straw thatched roofs. a handful of these buildings would make up a little village, or family compound, which looked like little fortresses inside their protective walls.
at the end of the plateau, behind a 3200 metres high mountain pass, i couldn't believe my eyes at the sight of a tunnel – a tunnel in africa? i think this was the first one i had seen on my trip.
the steep descent to the lower plains (still at around 2000 metres) was comparable to swiss mountain roads with its endless hair bends – a biker's paradise! it got greener and hotter as we entered a landscape of gentle round hills and fields, dotted with villages and churches.
at the sight of a particularly beautiful church i thought of the little treasures i had acquired yesterday in an antique shop: three old ethiopian bibles, hand written on pergament, and bound into wooden covers. "don't go to the national museum for a permit!" the trader told me warningly. he said it was illegal to export real antiques but i suspected that he just didn't want me to find out the probably rather recent age of the souvenirs.
what had been clearly illegal for sale in his shop was the crude ivory he had piled up in the shop's backroom. there was plenty of it and it was sold at a ridiculously low price. the ivory came from endangered ethiopian elephants, as well, as from kenyan animals.
a flying stone interrupted my thoughts. a young boy ran off into the alleys of his village as i stopped and shouted after him - he had almost hit my head. a man on the side of the road apologized for the incident but i didn't detect much sincerity in his voice, rather a sense of ignorance, if not arrogance. after the friendly treatment by the mountain people the continuous abuse by ethiopians started all over.
stones flew, some men raised their sticks as if trying to hit me (luckily they never did) while others shouted insults and made obscene gestures. i got extremely wary of anyone on the streets and i had only one whish: to get out of this bloody (f…) country. i tried to keep an eye on everyone on the side of the road, passing them slowly and staring those down who i had seen picking up something. quite often they would drop the stone and wave at me with the smile of a child that had just been caught stealing an apple.
we drove into the sunset and we were still on the road when darkness descended over the beautiful land. it was another fifty kilometres to kembolcha, a short drive to the small town where we wanted to spend the night. i stopped on the side of the road to check the map, leaving witek and bartek go ahead.
a little further down the road i passed a sign that indicated a narrow bridge ahead and i slowed down. just when i was about to cross the bridge a man who was walking on the left side threw a long thick pole into the road, almost blocking the way.
"another crazy asshole!" i thought, wondering at the fact that he walked right up to me. just when had managed to pass around the obstacle i noticed another man emerging from shadows to the right. i didn't actually see the rifle but the way of pulling something from his shoulder left no doubt.
i accelerated instinctively, drove off and i didn't slow down for another couple of turns which i took like a little valentino rossi. then i slowed down and tried to breathe slowly and deeply; my whole body started to shake violently with the subsiding adrenaline.
i had just escaped a robbery attempt by two shiftas. it's difficult to judge the speed of a motorbike at night. they had been too late to stop me. i had been very lucky.