As we move further towards our next destination – Bale Mountains National Park – we discover a completely different Oromo. Same Ethiopia, even same federal region (Oromo), but our cycling experience changed with each kilometer we pedaled South.
We took Adama – Dinsho highway that goes straight South via Asella town. It is a very good quality paved road. It’s elevation profile is much friendlier for cyclists than our previous route to Harar. You still get hills and plenty of climbing but as you cross the Rift Valley you also get stretches of flat(ish) riding via lush farmlands and some distant mountains in your side view. It reminded us pretty much riding in Lithuania’s Dzukija region. Or Wisconsin’s (USA) rolling hills just on a larger scale.
From the first sight you can tell that not only the road or surrounding nature is more welcoming but it had less people as well. Do not get me wrong, this is still Ethiopia (second most populous country in Africa) and these farm lands were settled with people all over it but overall impression is that there is less of them than comparing to highway from Addis Ababa to Harar. A second difference – this part of Oromia seems better developed from what we have seen in the East. Proud locals told us that their education system is better developed and enforced. The all over the internet feared Ethiopia’s children were also much much more timid and actually very pleasant little citizens of Oromia. As opposite to, lets call them children of Harar, these kids were rather shy and very rarely were running besides our bicycle or asking for money. Really, very different level of intensity. I remember after we got to Adama and the next day took off towards Bale, first dozen of kilometers we could not believe what we were experiencing. No one screaming at you! No one chasing you, not even when you are crawling your endless hills! We could not believe it 🙂
Yes, that was our new reality and we loved it. Imagine, you can go anywhere and enjoy a beautiful vista or a nice shade of trees even around villages. Sounds normal? It is kind of luxury in Ethiopia after all and it is available in certain places as we discovered on this Adama – Asella – Dinsho highway.
Sure, we still were greeted with special FARENJI FRENZY when passing groups of school children on their way to/from school. Even in this part of Ethiopia if you are ‘farenji’ on a strange bicycle passing by crouds of school kids, brace yourself! Children become their best and worst at the same time – they allow their curiosity and wildest uncontrollable and unstoppable energies to manifest by creating a massive screaming festival where everyone MUST participate. Everyone! Little girls, boys and EVERYONE – stop those weirdos cyclists at any cost. Halt the trafic to complete stillness and most importantly, make your targets to look desperate and defeated! Completely ignore any adult screaming at you and trying to remove you of the driving part! Power to the children! Critical mass of them can do many interesting and fun things 🙂
Or if we stop anywhere in the town/village, sure, we still get surrounded by tens of curious locals just to investigate from the close up who are they and what’s up with their bike? Why are they doing what they are doing and where are they going? All these crouds are exclusively friendly and they self-regulate, meaning adults or older teenagers monitor children and each other, and ask the crowd to step back a bit and make some room if the circle gets too crowded 🙂
When getting closer to Dinsho, somewhere after Washa village we started some brutal climb. To get to Dinsho you have to get over this mountain pass which meant some 20 km continuous and in some places 8% grade climbing. In our case it meant pushing our tandem most of the way and only these 20 km took us almost 6 hours! Our total distance for the day of 83km took us ~10 hours and we have reached Dinsho town at dusk. What a day! This is the elevation profile when you bike from Dodola to Dinsho direction. When you go from Dinsho back to Dodola, due to Dinsho being at much higher altitude than Dodola, the climb is less difficult and strenuous. Only 12km accent, of which you might push only some 2-4 km depending on your physical strength. And then you will get a crazy 20 km downhill! 🙂
So this is how we roll the Ethiopian hills on our tandem. Next time we shall share about how we spent some splendid time backpacking in Bale Mountains for 6 days! Or maybe the story will change as we continue our trip towards Omo Valley where living human museum is located.