Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar

May 2, 2013


“Hey Geoff, the Garmin is gone cuckoo again; its only five hundred clicks to Bahir yet the Garmin tells us that it should take us about 10 hours driving!”  Doesn’t  matter we are on the road nice and early in any case.

the first taste of what was to come was on the Ethiopian long distance runners’ training ground! as we climbed out of Addis, and I MEAN climbed, we saw countless guys running, obviously in serious training on these massive hills that very smartly reduced our tiny engine to very often 2nd gear and even 1st from time to time.

With an elevation of almost 3 kilometres above sea level it’s no wonder that the little 875cc mill battled to push our car up the seemingly endless hills. How those athletes managed to walk let alone run boggles the mind!

Just north of Addis the road levelled out, still might high but it levelled out and w were able to build up a reasonable head of steam. However this brought about a new headache! between 67 and 7 kilos per hour the speed wobble was unpleasant to say the least. It was also setting about loosening every suspect bolt or nut up front so we decided to examine what the wobble was being caused by. Out with the trolley jack up with the front and we quickly found our problem; the steering arm that we had replaced our Moyale road damaged one with had a seriously second-hand bush with more play in it than a lively four year old! what to do now? MacGyver Geoff to the rescue again. He handed me the original bent one and a hammer then sent me across the road in the direction of a massive rock. I didn’t give us much hope of straightening the steering arm with a small hammer and nothing with which to hold the steering arm firm. Well with your back against the wall certain impossible things becomes not possible but n fact easy! Whack. (sting my hand nicely) wallop, turn it around, another smack. Hey it seems to be working! it just might work, I’ll give it a bit more knockometer treatment. Guess what? in no time we had it straight enough to use again! So under old JoLon I head with my 19mm and 3/4 spanners and ripped out the offending bad bush steering arm and reunited the original one with the steering rack.

With the inevitable gallery of onlookers the task of wobble removal was completed and with Terence lying prostrate under Impi a massive off road motorbike with a couple of overlanders astride pulled up next to our car and immediately greeted us by name! IT WAS SALVATORE AND TARSIANA  who we had shared accommodation with in Naibobberi! What a pleasure it was to see some fellow travellers and they too were headed to Bahir Dar and also found their Garmin info to be weird! 


The time calculation was weird because of the Nile Valley!!!!! it dived two full kilometres down on the Addis side of the river and right back up the two kilos on the Bahir Side in the space of only twenty five or thirty clicks.


The going down was just tricky dodging some serious rock falls and nursing potentially overheating brakes but the return to three kilometres above sea level was too much for us to ask of the little Imp engine.


the problem that we encountered was the fact that our speed was so slow, of course only 1st gear, and a massively steep gradient to deal with, our radiator was not getting enough air through it to cool the engine so we eagle-eye watched the temp gauge and every now ant then we would look out the window to see where we were going then back to the gauge again. then when the sweat on my brow from the stress matched the rising temp needle i would pull over and let the fan continue running and the electric water pump to bring our baby down to normal again. Then with the gauges looking better we would rev the little thing hard again to get us mobile up the steep steep hill again. this we did some ten or fifteen times, never getting out of 1st gear. 



Thankfully not many Ethiopian athletes were not on these hills for training for they would surely have embarrassed us by overtaking our Imp on the uphill as they ran through their training programmes.


My nerves go the better of me and I was too scared to hurt our little engine since it had done so well to bring us so far that i stopped it and flagged down a very heavily laden tipper truck and asked him for a tow to the hilltop. with a price agreed on we hooked on and followed our by now third saviour up the Rift Valley Gorge at no more than 8 kph and then we realised why the Garmin says allow a bit longer to get to Bahir. We took longer, in fact we arrived at the Bahir campsite of the Ghion Hotel at 21h45 and our planned departure for Wad Medini the next day was 07h30.

Not much shut eye but at least a hot shower and some grub was desperately needed and it hit the spot indeed. 


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