SIMIEN MOUNTAINS, ETHIOPIA
the simien mountains are a climber’s dream. And by ‘dream’, I mean the most physically and mentally challenging part of the four months I spent cycling through Africa in 2014.
We began our 1 000km, 10-day ride through rural, high-altitude Ethiopia in the northern town of Gonder. From there we pedalled in a clockwise, mostly unpaved loop through Aksum, Lalibela, and Bahir Dar, navigating steep switchbacks that seemed to continue for days.
Here, sharing the road means pedalling alongside herds of livestock, mischievous children, and the occasional construction vehicle. The donkeys make it look easy, but don’t let them fool you. We spent long days in the saddle battling chilly mornings that turned into sweltering afternoons, and the gravel and sand paths demanded just as much concentration on the downhills as they did on the climbs.
The rewards are worth the struggle. The route snakes through a beautiful, barren landscape – gold earth dotted with green trees and shrubs. Asymmetrical rocky peaks jut into vibrant blue sky. Small villages of mud-and-thatch huts seem to materialise out of blank valleys and steep, terraced hillsides.
When we re-entered civilisation, in the city of Bahir Dar, we recovered with a drink that’s naturally sweet – colourful layers of pureed fruit such as mango, pawpaw, and avo stacked in a glass. The coffee was some of the most delicious I’ve ever tasted. Ethiopia is the birthplace of Arabica, after all. Difficulty 10
bina bilenky trahan is the event director of the philadelphia bike expo, and served as an assistant tour director on the 2014 tour d’afrique.
Outside the village of Mekarbya.