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Entry 44 // The Journey to Ethiopia Day 6 of 7.

Update by: Luke| March 31th, 2011

Packing up camp is relaxing as we poke around and listen to chill music via iPhone speaker. Sound travels great in the woods when the air is thin and fresh. Nick repairs his PowerLet plug for his tank bag, then we take off for the town in Ethiopia to get stamped in. We drive 100 meters down the dried creek bed to get back on the road. We pass a local hearding a few animals, which is normal. He is by himself with a gun slinged around his neck, which is normal. He waves us down and starts chasing us, which is not normal. I unfortunatly DON"T have my helment camera on right now, but I DO have my intercom on with Nick. The conversation goes...

Luke: "Uh....Nick, that guy with the gun is waving us down and chasing us, Can you drive a little faster"
Nick: "I saw him waving, but I thought it was the friendly wave"
Luke: "Yeah, I don't know, I just know he is behind us running pretty fast."

the going is slow, because the road is so twisty and sandy. We are gaining on the man, but not as fast as I would prefer to gain in this situation. A big creek crossing is in front of us now. We slowly cross the dried out creek weaving back and forth in the sand, hoping not to drop the bikes. Half way across the running man makes it to the edge of the creek. Here he finally stops and just watches us. We get to the other side and now have 100 meters on him. I have no idea what that was all about. I'm glad he didn't run into us while we were taking our time packing up camp. I have no idea what he wanted, but I can only assume it's better not to know. Man that was weird.

Now the road smoothes out and after 1/2 an hour we make it to the town of Omorate, Ethiopia. This is the biggest town we have seen in a week. This town is not big though. No pavement, no official gas station. I find the Ethiopian flag flying in the distance and head for it. It's an easy way to find the customs building. This place has an armed gaurd and a little court yard.Inside we show a man our passports. We already have an Ethiopian Visa in the passport that we got in America months earlier before we even started our trip. No this is the strang part, and I don't know if I am interpretrating what happens next correctly. He tells us that this station does not have a computer and he starts looking for our names in these giant log books. I can't imagine that when process our visas, they right down our names in all the books at the borders that don't have a computer system, but that is what it appears is happening. I really don't know. He says it may take awhile, which I chuckle to myself. Yeah, I think it might. I am not clear if he ever found our names, but he wrote us down, and stamped our passport. When he hands them back he asks if everything looks good. We check them out. My stamp has the date 2019, with the 9 crossed out and a 1 written in place. Nick's looks fine. We are extatic that he doesn't ask us for any bike paper work because we don't have a caranet. He didn't charge us a dime because we already had a visa. This is our easiest border yet. I can't believe our good fortune. This is how border crossing should be. Well, all except for the part with I get my 3rd flat tire in a row. That's right when we come out of the building I discover y front wheel has no air in it.Flat tire count: Luke-5 Nick 2.5. My lead grows!

I defy logic and just add more air with my pump hoping that the rules of physics won't apply to me today. We roll into town looking for gas, and a place to exchange our old Shilling into the new currency. During this process the air runs out of my front tire. Ok, time to change the flat while Nick figures out the gas and money situation.

I push my bike over to a big rock and kick the rock under the skid plate. There is definitally a crowd growing.Believe it or not, My bike and I are in the middle of that crowd working on my tire.I pull out the tube and pump it up looking for the leak. As I do this, guys are reaching for the tube, listening for a leak trying to help me find the hole. I have to pull the tube back to me and speak to the whole crowd. I let out my disclaimer.

"I do not want or need any help, I will fix this by myself. I know if anyone helps me they are going to ask me for money after, so do not help me. I am on my own here." I don't like doing this. It sounds harsh. It sounds rude, but the alternative option is going to be harder to deal with.

The leak is coming from an old patch job I did. The patch did not peel up or anything. The actual patch just split in the middle. It is bad rubber. I've never seen this kind of patch falure before.I can't repatch this, so I start to get out my spare tube. Ah... the spare tube is in a very unconvienent place. In fact, I have to take off my two front tanks just to get to the bag that it is in. I remember seeing a motorcycle shop down the road. I ask if they have any 21" tubes. A guy runs down to grab one for me. Now it's negotiating time. His first price is 2,000 Shillings That's about $25 way too much. In fact my spare I picked up in Nairobi was 750. I try to get it for 750, but the guy only comes down to 1,500. I offer $5 USD. Some times that works, and it did this time because he agreeded. But first I am going to install the tube to make sure it doesn't leak. If I pay him now and the tube leaks, I'd never get my money back. I fit the tube, Another guy shows up with a pump wanted to inflate the tire, His hands go for the valve stem trying to attach his pump. I have to shoe him away. I inflate the tire and set the bead with my little mt. bike pump. It looks good, I pull out the $5 and try to pay the guy. He changes his mind. He takes the $5 and wants 1500 shillings. This is absolutly ridiclous. We were communicating very well. There was no confusion on the deal. He just straight changed his price. My patience is thin. I don't argue long. I say, I don't want your tube and procede to take the wheel back off the forks, with full intentions of taking the tube back out. He realizes I am not bluffing and changes his attitude. The $5 USD is fine. It's a good price. I put my wheel back on. He then has the audacity to try to take my old tube. Usually I am very happy to give away things like that. I want to help people, but not at the cost of being disrespected. I do not let him have the tube.

Now it's time to exchange some money. We find a guy that will exchange our Shilling, and some US currency. We decide on a fair price. It's an easy transaction. I ask the guy how to tell if the billls are fake. He shows us two tricks, rubbing the water mark, and crumpling up the bill and watching is slowly "grow" back. 4 of our bills are fishy and he gladly exchanges them for new ones.

Now it's time for food. We find a place and roll our bikes inside the compound. It's so relaxing to be able to sit down in the shade, for a warm coke and a warm meal without being flocked by people, or having to watch the bikes. And to top it off, now that we are in Ethiopia, the food is good! This is a traitional meal, It's pretty much spicy chilli that you dip up with a tortilla shapped foam texture thing. There is nothing I have ever ate that compares to this foamy thing. It's great to have good food again. It's cheap too! less than a buck a person. We take our time and order another round of warm cokes. There is no electricity during the day to power a fridge. The town turns it on at night. The cokes are just kept in a basin of cool water, to keep them from being room temperature of 100 degrees. The guy who owns this restaurant is quite the entrepreneur. It turns out he is also the guy selling gas. We share 25 liters and pay in US money. He then asks if we want to exchange any currency. We already did that so we pass on the offer. His little son finds my helment and starts playing with it.I turn on the headset and Eminim blasts inside. This is so funny to me, everyone at the restaurant hears the music coming from the helmet and we all laugh as the kid is confused. This game lasts for a while longer. Good times, but we must get back on the road. Down pass the "T" in the road we are stopped by a military check point. They ask for the passports. It looks like here they make sure that you indeed went to the customs office to get your stamp instead of just sneaking into the country. They don't ask for any motorcycle paperwork. We are off once again.

We pass through what appears to be the last topless town in this region. The women are starting to wear more clothes and the boys ARE starting to wear clothes. We find black market gas for 25. We paid 30 at the border, but we should have enough to get to a real station where it would be around 19. Onward.

the road down the valley turns into a dry creek bed, then veers off for miles of straight dusty road.Nick stops to take a photo of the radio 104.9It's hot, and we try to pound some water. It's so easy to get dehyrdated here. I notice someone played a funny joke on us. I am guessing that happened at the border town.At a T in the road we get more civilized. The road is paved which means the cows have an easy migration home for the night. More lifestock use this road then vehicles. The road is not paved for the river crossings, or narrow passages in the mountains.They are working on it though, but at this rate it may take a while. Look how they build this bridge.It's womans labor with a man sitting down directing. It's only a matter of time before this happens all over Africa. We see road construction everywhere. The time is NOW to do this trip. Africa is constrantly getting less raw.Now we really need some gas. We pull into the station with only a few liters in reserve. The station is out of gas, but they make us wait around a second. Oh, they aren't out of gas. They have some in the back in some drums. They try to explain how it's illegal gas. I think they got it from Libya and there is no tax on it. This is black market fuel being sold behind a legit fuel station. Diesel is 17 a liter, but this gas is 27, and it's our only option. We have to take it. Ok, that's fine we take some. I have become too trusting of the way these guys measure their fuel. This is our 4th continuous black market fuel stop and the first 3 times the people were honest and measured correctly. I let the guys do their thing and fill up containers. What I didn't know what they were calling the transfer jug 3 liters when it was no more than 1.5. They claim they put 22 liters in my bike. My bike only holds 22 liters, plus it's not full yet. Also, I had a few liters in the bike when I got there. Such crooks. I call them out for being wrong about the measurement. They don't even deny it. They say, that is my problem not theirs. Wow, that says alot about a persons character. I tell them it is my problem, but it's your problem that you are a horrible person. You have to live with that. I am so mad, I am almost shaking, I have to sit down. These people will not negotiate anything semi-fair. I want to drain the gas and give it back, and I would if there was ANY other option. I hate feeling traped. I have zero options except to bend over and take it. I have been conned and the worst part is I know it. These theives out number us 10 to 1. We can't do a thing. We are surronded. I want to fight. I feel the urge to fight. These feelings are new to me. I'm not the fighting kind of guy. We pay the crooks and take off in the dusk. I will not stay in this town tonight. It doesn't matter that we don't have any food with us or that the next town is 2 hours away. I have to leave. 10 miles outside of town and it's pitch black out.It starts to rain. Rain gear goes on no problem. My low beam won't work. (it's probably the fuse, I have spares but can run with the highbeams just as well.) We find a small town with no power and ask for food. There is no restaurant, but a shop owner opens his shop and sells us some cookies and a warm coke. This helps. An hour and a half more down the road, we come into a real town. We stop for spagetti and have coffee. This break heals everything. Cold soda, really good spagatti, and coffee all for $1.25 a person. The server was nice, we are out of the rain, life is good again. Life really always is good. It's a characterist fault of mine to get really mad on occasion. When I was a kid I would throw tempertantrums. I remember in 5th grade always complaining about things that arn't fair. I went to college and mellowed out and developed a great view on life and lived stress free for years. I still live stress free for the most part, but a person can only take so much. Every once in a while everything builds up, and I have an "eppisode." I am ok with this. It's not good to keep stuff bottled up.

Once our bellys are full, we talk hotel. A guy from the street shows Nick a hotel right next to the restaurant. It's a whore house, Nick checks out a hotel on the other side of the restaurant. More whore house. It's a good price, but we move on. We find a real hotel, but it's very expensive. We move on. It's late now, about 11:00. We are tired. It's time to bush camp. We find a cattle crossing, and follow the paths 100 meters off the road. it's sandy here so Nick is pumped on that. He hasn't fixed his air mattress yet. We pitch the tent and pass out. This is our fifth nick randomly camping on the side of the road, and our 4th time buying black market fuel. I can say I'm ready for a hotel with wifi, and I wouldn't mind a shower soon either.

This is a picture of our spot in the morning.






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