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Cycling From Cairo To Capetown: Ethiopia

Lake Tana in Bahir Dar: Source of the Blue Nile

Monks in Bahir Dar-Lake Tana

I arrived in Bahir Dar which which is beside Lake Tana - this is this source of the Blue Nile River. I took a boat trip on Lake Tana with Dave and a few locals and we visited the monasteries dating back to the 6 century. They reminded me of the Skelligs of Valencia in Kerry - Ireland. Each island has a monastrey which the monks guide you around and they pass around manuscripts, we were wearing golden crowns and playing with precious artefacts which were hundreds of years old. I guess it was brilliant to see they hadn't the level of protection that most European historical sites have but I do fear for the future of the priceless paraphernalia.

The "P" Party

Lake Tana Bahir Dar Blue Nile The "P" party (you have to dress up in something with the letter P). As you can imagine there was priests, prostitutes, pimps, Peter Pan etc. I knew I needed to seperate myself from the bunch and after a long think (around 2,500kms) and a flashing image of a friends t-shirt I found my niche. I spent hours at the local market buying lipstick, a duster, plastic leaves, a nose ring, and a 2 hour haircut.
Tour-dAfrique-Bicycle-Party-Ethiopia The local lads who helped me at the market came along too and brought me a herding stick to top off the look- it's a natural stick but a strong one, every farmer I pass on the road has one and can lean on it for hours. I dressed up as a pygmy - I shaved circles in my hair, used red and black face lipstick and wore only leaves on my special parts (quite risque considering the diarrhoea I was experiencing.)

Tour DAfrique Party in Ethiopia First prize in the best dressed male category went to ....... yours truly- I had done it! my prize was a fine bottle of Ethiopian wine (there is only 1 wine producer) It was an debaucherous night which in true Irish fashion I can't remember.

Meeting my charity APA in Bahir Dar

Meeting my charity APA in their regional offices in Bahir Dar The next hungover, effort of a day (with lactic acid going mad in my calves) in Bahir Dar I cycled to the local offices of my charity projects (see picture), Bizuayehu (guy in picture holding my bicycle saddle) my local contact explained all the work they do there. How they work in radio, in testing centers, how they use religion to promote Aids education and how they counsel those affected and integrate them into the community through work. It was an education, the speeches lasted almost 2 hours peppered with a really interactive questions and answers. My charity APA/CVM had also prepared traditional food and drink for me and the few friends (Joya and Dave) I brought along. It was a real education and answered a lot of questions which I had about where the money I raised was going.

Bahir Dar Ethiopia We next set out to the capital city of Addis Ababa. On the way we passed through Debra Markos.

F*ck Off !!

Don't let the headline turn you off. This was my misfortunate mistake, never to be repeated. Picture it: I was cycling up a very steep hill on the way to the town of Debra Markos. The sun beating down on me, kids everywhere on the way to school, going to work or going home. Some were looking for a location to throw rocks at their newly acquired two wheeled target. As I battled uphill in the heat the rock throwing children only frustrated me further.

Ethiopia-Charity-Benny-Zenga-Filming As I passed by a throng of people I heard many voices shouting at me.


"What's your name"

"Where are you from"

I cycled on. I saw this older man , well dressed breaking into a jog as I slowly passed by him.

"Stop mister"

With those swarming kids ? not a chance buddy

"Are you from Ireland?"

Lucky guess I thought but I'm not stopping.

"You are you from Ireland?"

conor visiting his charity in Ethiopia That guy's real good I thought, trying to figure it out (my Kentz gear looks American if anything). He started running after me. I thought this person was going to open my saddle bag and take some of my equipment - as has happened already whilst cycling up a heavily populated Ethiopian hill.

In self defence I told him where to go:

Visiting APA in Debra Markos "F*ck off"

He persisted in running after me. I flashed him the finger. He didn't respond. I gave him the 2 fingers. He ran faster. I repeated my frustration countless times in an effort to get out of rock throwing distance. He never threw a rock, but kept repeating the word Ireland. When I got to the top of the hill I turned with a cheeky grin and with one last flash of the finger and a "hah" I sped off.

I remember the disappointed look in that man's face as a rolled away from him. He actually wanted me for something, he didn't want something from me.

30Kms later I arrived in Debra Markos. As I passed through people were pointing at me in a strange way directing me towards a cafe, as I passed by I noticed a sign it said:

"Mr. Conor"

This being my name I turned my bike around and looked at the person holding this 2 foot sign. It was him. The guy I thought was really good at guessing on the hill, the one I told to F*ck Off was holding a sign with my name on it. This was a creepy coincidence. It took me a few seconds of reasoning then EUREKA ! I realised it - he was from my charity APA (actually he told me). This was my contact Geberet who had driven ahead of me after our informal introduction and drawn a huge sign with my name on it to make sure I stopped. I pulled in, it took a few seconds to register the coincidence. Not the best first impression to give somebody on the side of the road !

Visiting my Charity Projects in Debra Markos

Conor with the children from his charity in Africa He then took me to the charity project. It was great to see how they provide everyone with jobs and intergrate them into society. Making coffee, making clothes, popcorn stalls all in an open air market place where only people with AIDS can work. Also the Aids orphans there were putting on a play, learning dance routines and singing on stage. It was really positive and a far cry from the typical images we associate with those infected with Aids.

I brought my camera crew with me (Brian & The Zenga Boys) and there was also Debra Markos local T.V. station there, I provided an interview for the news. The local news also took footage of the adults and children and their projects. After the children showed their dance routine I got my freak on with some of the dance students as we did the traditional Ethiopian shoulder bopping dance, it looks real cool as I am wearing tight cycling gear ! Expect footage- embarrassing footage. The children perform plays, play music and learn dance routines in an effort to give them hope. It works. It's really amazing to meet these children, most of whom are orphans with aids, so full of life and so enthusiastic to learn and perform.

My contact Geberet showed me how everything worked and the various systems they have there. It was an inspirational experience and I regret not being able to spend more time there. However I was very sick at the time and I was a physically struggling. However sick I was, I couldn't but admire how happy people were.

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