SIMIEN MOUN­TAINS, ETHIOPIA

Bicycling WOW Rides - - Wow Rides -

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.

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