Day 39, stage 30, 110km
Start, river camp
Finish, Addis Ababa, Morag and Malcolm’s
It was bloody cold this morning. It went down to zero over night. Alex swore there was frost on his tent. Enthusiasm was hard to come by. We were all beat up after four tough days and had one more to come. The only bright spot was that Addis and a rest day were at the end of the rainbow today. But try telling that to fifty freezing riders trying to warm frozen fingers on porridge bowls.
We knew Addis was at a lower elevation than our camp so expected, unrealistically as it turned out, a less hilly day. By lunch we had climbed over 1000 metres. And these were not rolling hills. We were chasing up and down steep hills into tight valleys one after another. And the head wind was still with us. It took me close to 3 ½ hours to ride the 66km to lunch. Even on the rare flat sections, with the wind, I found it a struggle to maintain 18 or 19 kmh. After lunch was more of the same with the promise of a steep 3km climb to a hill overlooking Addis where we would gather for our convoy into the city.
The only unpleasant part of the day was being donkey whipped. Every day you have rocks and sticks thrown at you. Some hit. Some don’t. Some hurt. But today was a bit different. There are lots of donkey carts here. The drivers carry whips to keep the donkey going and use them freely. At one point as I was cycling along I saw a 9 or 10 year old girl at the side of the road slowly flicking a donkey whip back and forth. I didn’t think much of it. Just another kid. But as I was passing she reached back and whipped me right across the chest. Unbelievable. Where does it come from?
When we got to the top f the hill there was a celebratory mood. We were there. We had made it. It was all downhill into Addis. Everybody had arrived at the top by about 3pm and we were off, accompanied by several riders from a couple of Ethiopian cycling clubs. We raced down the hill until we hit the ring road, joined it for about 10km until we reached our destination, the golf course. You could see on people’s faces that this was one rest day that was needed.
I sorted out my bike and kit and got a taxi to the British Embassy, where Malcolm picked me up. He and his wife Morag had kindly offered to put me up while I was in Addis. Their reception was fantastic: a cold beer, a hot shower, a big load of laundry, stuffed squid with rice and lots of fresh vegetables, a big bed with crisp sheets and a warm duvet. I was in heaven, or vahalla or something. At any rate it all felt good.