Ethiopia: Oromiyaa Adventure
Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours
 
       
       

Small group, self-contained people-to-people bicycle tour from Addis Ababa across the high plateau and into the gouges of the Horn of Africa. This tour passes through some spectacular countryside and traverses some the culturally rich territory of Amhara, Oromo and Gurage Peoples of Oromiyaa.  And samples some of the wonderful hospitality of the region.  Both the people and the scenery seem to get more and more wonderful everyday.

 
Photos by Neil Cowles
Most nights we stayed in "rural hotels." If there is a "typical" rural hotel, this has most of the characteristic: one level, small rooms big enough for a single bed and room to get around.  
   

The first couple days are across a high plateau of Oromoland.  The Oromo are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia.

 


Photos by Neil Cowles
 
Photos by Neil Cowles
The further you travel from the capital the more traditional the architecture; round house with thatched roofs.  Some traditional Oromo houses are huge -- large diameters and high.  The people in the door give a little scale, and this is by no means the largest house in the district.  
   
This family invited us to stop for tea and snacks.  The kitchen hearth is in the middle of the room.  The area behind the curtain serves as the master bedroom.  The height of the curtain give a sense of the height of the walls and the ceiling above them.  This is not a building you had to duck to get into.

Photos by Neil Cowles
 
Photos by Neil Cowles
It was fairly routine to have kids running along side the bikes.  It reflects the stamina that their lifestyle develops.  From there it is not a big step to understand why Ethiopia consistent produces world class marathon runners.  The kids are running barefoot on the pavement, creating a flash back to Abebe Bikila's winning performance at the 1960 Olympics.  
    There is extensive farm land on the plateau.  This is not a district that is usually subject to the food crisis that attacks media attention to Ethiopia.  Oromo land generally helps to feed the rest of the country.  But like agriculture everywhere they are subject to the fickleness of the rains -- too light or too heavy.
Photos by Neil Cowles
 
Photos by Neil Cowles
This photo gives a hint of the roughedness of the territory ahead, and a lot of Ethiopia.  Between the foreground farm and the background hills is a deep river valley.  The road follows a gentle route, but some of the hills -- down and up -- are long.  
    Where is sufficient water the agriculture is more lush.  The banana-like tree is actually enset (called "kobe" in Amharic), which produce an edible root which is part of the local cuisine.
Photos by Neil Cowles
 
Photos by Neil Cowles
There is not a great density of local bicyclists, but we met this young man with his bicycle.  It is still wrapped in the packing material it came in showing its newness.  The wrapping will probably stay until it is fairly tattered.  
    If you like Ethiopian cuisine, Ethiopia is a great place to bicycle.  Along the main roads it is the exception to find a village of any size without a restaurant serving up a tasty plate of injera (traditional crepe) topped with several meat and vegetable condiments.
Photos by Neil Cowles
 
Photos by Neil Cowles
After several days we ran out of paved road, but the scenery continued to be gorgeous.  The roads don't present too much of a challenge for the wide, sturdy tires of a mountain bike.  
    Where the soils are too poor and the moisture insufficient the land is covered in grass, shrubs and scattered low trees.  Millenniums ago Ethiopia was largely forested.  Increasing population and associated land use practices have dramatically changed the ecology.
Photos by Neil Cowles
 
Photos by Neil Cowles
The patchwork pattern of the farms is a indicator of the limited size of the plot of individual farmers.  Small farms creates another challenge to the viability of the agricultural economy.  
 
Photos by Neil Cowles
Here the bicycles are parked at a slightly fancier hotel -- the rooms are larger and the bathroom is part of the suite.  The developer had hope to attack more international visitors, but there were few around when we passed by.  
 
Photos by Neil Cowles
Our route takes in a loop.  Eventually, as we are heading back to Addis Ababa, we pickup the paved road again.  Despite that in places it seems to be more patch than pavement, it is a welcome change from the dirt and gravel.
Photos by Neil Cowles
 
Photos by Neil Cowles
We met this bicyclists as he traveled from town to town doing presentations on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.
Photos by Neil Cowles
 
Photos by Neil Cowles
This is the good size audience the campaigner generated for his HIV/AIDS awareness program.

Before we continued to pursue our separate itineraries we set up a A parting group photo.


Photos by Neil Cowles
 
Photos by Neil Cowles
This cut in the hillside exposes some of the areas geological history.  If your knowledge of geology is good enough it would have a lot of meaning to you.  There is an interesting crystal structure to the rock.
Photos by Neil Cowles
 
Photos by Neil Cowles

Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) and bottle brush (Callistemon citrinus) trees thrive in the warm dry climate.  Neither are indigenous to the area.  They are from Mexico and Australia, respectively.

The width of the river bed and the disproportional volume of water demonstrate how extreme rain events can be in Ethiopia.

 


Photos by Neil Cowles
 
Photos by Neil Cowles

Photos by Neil Cowles
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is a cousin of the Egyptian Coptic Church.  It is the main religion in this region.   Similar to religious buildings in many parts of the world, the churches often dominate the community or countryside from a lofty perch on a hill.  They are generally largest and most colorful building in the area.  Interestingly, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has some elements that seem to hearken back to period of Judaism before destruction of the Temple, when there was still a priestly class.  (The Ethiopian Orthodox Church claims to be the custodians of the Ark of the Covenant, which likely would have last been in the custody of  Jews who rescued it during the destruction of the last Jewish Temple.)
Photos by Neil Cowles

Photos by Neil Cowles
 

 

 
Photos by Neil Cowles
 
   

 
       
     
       
 

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Ethiopia Bicycle Tour: Oromiyaa