Ethiopia: Abyssinia Adventure - B-22
China Road

Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours
 
       
 

For decades only the most intrepid person, in a four-wheel drive, or with a donkey, could traverse the mid-section of the country from Woreta to Woldiya, and it would take a week or more.  Now-a-days a sedan can cross the 300 kilometers in less than half-a-day -- if you don't stop at all of the photo opportunities, of which there are hundreds.

Western end of China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
 
People carrying mound of stacks, EthiopiaLocally, the road east-west road from Woreta to Woldiya is called the China Road, because the Chinese built it.  Its official designation is B-22.

On the west end it starts on the fertile plains that surround Lake Tana. The stocks that are cut from the rice fields are carried to the village by hand (or head), giving the appearance of a creature otherwise only seen on the pages of a Dr. Seuss book.
 

People carrying mound of stacks, Ethiopia

People carrying super large baskets, Ethiopia
 

People carrying super large baskets, Ethiopia Also in the head-loaded parade are these mega-baskets. Our visit must have coincided with the season for making them, but not for filling them.  We saw dozens being transported but none with any content.  My best guess is something light and bulky, such as cotton.  There is weaving in the area so locally available rare materials would be a piece of that puzzle. Super large baskets, Ethiopia

 
This sign at the road side has an informative and thought provoking collection of information on local activities::
"Stop Deforestation. Start Reforestation.
"Biodiversity Program in Amhara.
"Alemsaga Natural Resources Tourism Development and Marketing Cooperative Non-Timber Forest Product / NTFP / Selling Center
"Organic Honey, Fattened Oxen and Sheep, Dried Fuel Wood, Grass for the Construction of Tukill, Eco Tourism Service."
 
Awra Amba Community, Ethiopia Several kilometers off the highway is the Awra Amba Community.  Its genesis dates to 1972, when Zumra Nuru, it founder, then age 21, realized his childhood vision of creating a democratic, self-sustaining society where men and women are equals, and in general, people are not classified, labeled or put into categories.

For most of its first forty years Zumra Nuru was ostracized and persecuted. He was thought to be mad and forced to move from place to place -- spending years of his early life alone in the wilderness.
 

Meeting tree, Awra Amba Community, Ethiopia
World Religion chart, Awra Amba Community, Ethiopia Perhaps the source of the most distrust is the shunning of the two major religions in the area; Orthodox Christianity and Islam. The members of Awra Amba believe in One Creator, but that religion is individual, not communal.  Each individual communicates directly with the Creator.

The major principles are:

  • Children's rights
  • Gender equality
  • Support the elderly and retired
  • Be mindful in speech and action.

There is a poster on the wall displaying the major religions of the world. The respect all of them and individuals, in their formation of their personal religion can draw from any and all of these, but the product is a unique religion, or personal philosophy.

Meeting room, Awra Amba Community, Ethiopia Posted in the main meeting room are a number of quotes, some in English and some in Amharic. Here is a sample from the English:
Doing a "woman's job" doesn't change my sex, it changes my ignorance."
"Human beings greatest possession is mankind itself; the other is secondary."
"Astonishment is just for a day. Don't be barred by hearsay to get invaluable things."
"People are of three categories: Great, Average and Lesser. A great person is one who knows and asks. An average person is one who knows but doesn't ask. A lesser person is one who doesn't know and doesn't ask."
"In my life I feel the most anguish when I can't help people who are in need."
"A selfish person only knows himself/herself, he/she is not conscious of others."
"Farming is not ignorant, it is intellectual though the science is ancient."
"Two things that cause conflict are bad speech and bad deeds."
"Conflict has no root, rather it is what we image. Let us envisage not conflict, but love."
"We develop ourselves by working collaboratively and sympathetically."
 
Quotes of Zumra Nuru, Awra Amba Community, Ethiopia

Quotes of Zumra Nuru, Awra Amba Community, Ethiopia

Library, Awra Amba Community, Ethiopia Library, Awra Amba Community, EthiopiaNot terribly surprisingly, the facilities of the community are generally puposefully different as well.  In addition to the thoughtful meeting hall, we saw a couple of well organized libraries, the pre-school had a play structure, the classroom was colorful and decorated with educational aids, and in the home were modernized kitchens with fuel efficient stoves, and dedicated injera stones and covers. Children's play area, Awra Amba Community, Ethiopia
Storage bins, Awra Amba Community, Ethiopia Classroom and students, Awra Amba Community, Ethiopia Classroom and students, Awra Amba Community, Ethiopia Improved stove and kitchen, Awra Amba Community, Ethiopia Improved stove, Awra Amba Community, Ethiopia Improved stove, Awra Amba Community, Ethiopia
Senior living pods, Awra Amba Community, Ethiopia A point of pride of Awra Amba is that senior citizens are allowed to retire. It might be described as assisted living where the residents of fed and cared for but they are only expected to do what the want to. One facility of older people is a large room with individual pods built along the side. If the person wants privacy they can pull the current.  If they want to be more involved the can sit in their pod and talk to others or they can sit on one of the stools in the common space. Older woman and donkey, Awra Amba Community, Ethiopia
Weaving, Awra Amba Community, Ethiopia Weaving, Awra Amba Community, Ethiopia Weaving, Awra Amba Community, Ethiopia Weaving, Awra Amba Community, Ethiopia Weaving, Awra Amba Community, Ethiopia

The main enterprise of Awra Amba is the weaving factory. Both men and women work side-by-side. They have a showroom where their products are available for sale.

 Topography, B-22, Woreta to Woldyia, Ethiopia
[Graphs are built with incomplete data and are only general representations of the topography.]
 
Bicycling China Road, B-22, Ethiopia This charts represents almost 300km (180 miles).  If you image is stretched to its full length you will realize that the grades are not a sever as then appear in this representation. Even with that we went from west to east (left to right on the chart) so the climb was even more gradual and broken up.

A demonstration of this is the west end, which is quite flat before it starts to work its way into the hills.

Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
Patio of cafe, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
 
Being served at cafe, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Boy, China Road, B-22, EthiopiaThe kids in this area were quite happy to be photographed.

We were happy to sit for a while and take some refreshments.

Boys and girls, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
Vista with Amora Gedel (volcanic plug), China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
 
Amora Gedel (volcanic plug), China Road, B-22, EthiopiaVista with Amora Gedel (volcanic plug), China Road, B-22, EthiopiaAt the entrance to the hills is Amora Gedel, a volcanic plug. It seemed to be a good photo subject from many angles. 

 

Boys carrying building materials, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Heading up the hill, already miles from the nearest building supply store, were seven guys carrying corrugated roofing material.  Public transport on this road is fairly regular so it is a reflection on the economy that it made sense to recruit six friends, walk miles to the shop, buy the goods and walks the miles back again, as opposed to one person walking to the shop and paying to have the supply motored to the work site. Boy carrying building materials, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
Development project, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Up the mountain is another sign for the Biodiversity Program in Amhara. This one points to the Beekeeping Farming Center. Switchbacks west of Debre Tabor, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
Debra Tabor, Ethiopia Canon, Debra Tabor, EthiopiaPied crow, Debra Tabor, EthiopiaThe big town at the west end to the ridge is Debre  Tabor. It was frequently on the cross roads of history.  During the early nineteenth century it was in the proximity of several battles following which is was sacked or burned.  In the mid-nineteenth century Emperor Tewodros and Emperor Yohannes used Debre Tabor as there capital, at time. In the twentieth century the town still had strategic importance because it played a roll ing the Second Italian-Abyssinian War and changed hands serve times during the civil war between the Derg and the Tigray People's Liberation front.  The towns symbol is a replica of an ancient mortar.  Now-a-days birds are more present than troops.
 
Turkel (traditional house), Ethiopia Turkel (traditional house), Ethiopia Turkel (traditional house), Ethiopia Turkel (traditional house), Ethiopia Turkel (traditional house), Ethiopia
A lot of the housing in the highlands is Turkils, round buildings with conical roofs. Depending upon the elevation and the weather, and the available building materials, the walls of the Turkils are either sticks, clay or stone.  The roofs are thatched, but not always with the same materials. The curves and angles of the Turkils have an aesthetic that the rectangular buildings don't have.
 
Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
Despite the hills around and being at an elevation around 3,000m (10,000 ft), generally the grades on the roads were pretty friendly.  Occasionally, the road would drop into a valley cut by a river and we would have to climb out the other side, but these were spaced out enough so that we had plenty of time to catch our breath.
 
Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
Procession, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Work party building church, China Road, B-22, EthiopiaChurch under construction, China Road, B-22, EthiopiaWe were never very far from people doing something to ponder. Through one town there were lines of people walking, dressed in white (left).  I believe it was connected to a funeral. With some regularity there were new churches being constructed (right). In one location the whole community had turned out to unload rocks from a truck for the church they were building.
 
Work party building church, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
Horse in regalia, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Horse in regalia and rider, China Road, B-22, EthiopiaGirl back-carrying load, China Road, B-22, EthiopiaFinely adorned horses seems to be a characteristic of the higher highlands.  We passed several in this area. Girl back-carrying load, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
 
 
Part of the experience is the continuously changing scenery; shapes, colors, textures and relationships are in constant motion and endlessly beautiful.  The images don't capture the space and depth of the views. In the presences it is often that next views seems grandeur than the last.
 
 
  Boy in cafe, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Girl in cafe, China Road, B-22, EthiopiaWhen we arrived at this cafe it was empty.  As we sat there, in short order is filled up. Eventually the place was packed, mostly with older boys and young men, Except for the crowd at the door, I don't think that it was because of our presence.  When we sat down we were told something about bread, but theFresh out of the oven warm bread at a cafe, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia message didn't fall into place for a while. Just about the time that the last seat was taken a tray of warm bread came out.  Putting two and two together, everybody in town knows when the bread comes out of the oven and they were ready.  Though a tad early, we lucked into being at the right place and the right time to see what must be a regular ritual. Girl in cafe, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
    Child at door of cafe, China Road, B-22, EthiopiaBoys in cafe, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Boys in cafe, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Meeting people, B-22, Ethiopia
 
Permanent traffic police, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
 
The chap on the left is the permanent police man.  He has a sign in Amharic hanging from his right arm, but he doesn't seem to have a noticeable impact on traffic behavior. Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia

Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia

  Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
East of Nefas Meewcha the ridge get narrower and the depth of canyons more apparent. At one point the road is built on top of a ridge that originally was not as wide as the two-lane road that is built above it.  The road bed is supported by rock retaining walls on both sides and beyond the walls, to the left and to the right are river canyons that are more than 1000m deep. In comparison, a human being is miniscule. This is some of the most spectacular country we seen so far.
Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
  Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia

 

 
 
Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Between Debre Zebit, Flakit and Gashena the ridge transitions back to a broader and flatter topped plateau.  A close examination of an altimeter would indicate that it is not quite as flat as it appears because the road is slowly gaining elevation.  It is often so gradual that it is imperceptible.  It is from Gashena that a side road leads to Lalibela and points north.
 
 
   

Side trip to Lalibela
 

 
  Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
 
Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Sheppard, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
From Gashena, for the next 60 km the road climbs gradually from about 2900m to 3500m (~11,500 ft). The grand kaleidoscope of shepherds, turkils, cattle, crops, forests, pack animals, schools and sky draws you along in admiration of the beautiful.  Do the people who live here appreciate it? Or are they too overburden with more basic challenges of life?
Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
  Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Turkel (traditional house), Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Turkel (traditional house), Ethiopia Turkel (traditional house), Ethiopia
  Turkel (traditional house), Ethiopia Turkel (traditional house), Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Donkeys packing, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
  Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia School, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
  Bicycling at 3500 meters, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia After 60 magnificent kilometers, the road finally crests a what seems to be the top of the world (over 3500m, 11500 ft).  There was no place to go that was any higher! Even in full sun the air was crisp and the breeze pushed it towards feeling cold so we dawned the wind breakers. Bicycling at 3500 meters, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
  Stone turkel (traditional house), China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
 
Stone turkel (traditional house), China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia

Up in the high country the rock turkils blended into the rocky landscape.

Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
  Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Vista, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
  Road cut into mountain side, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Road cut into mountain side, China Road, B-22, EthiopiaAt the edge of the plateau, much more dramatically than the climb to the top, the road started to drop.  For much of the next twenty kilometers the road was cut into the side of the mountain as it wound around and switched back its descent. At one point a truck had a abrupt meeting with the cliff where it came up short negotiating a corner.

In less than thirty kilometers the climate went from alpine to temperate to topical, with bananas and sugar cane.

Truck that failed to make corner, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
  Forest and farmland, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Forest, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Banana trees, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Sugar cane, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia Corn and sugar cane, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia River, China Road, B-22, Ethiopia
  Bienatu (vegetarian platter), Ethiopia cuisine A consequence of the splendid scenery was that we spent so much time stopping to appreciate it and take pictures that we arrived in Woldiya at dusk.  The only thing that was photographed late in the day was a magnificent plate of vegetables and injera.  
       
   

 
       
     
       
 

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Ethiopia Bicycle Tour: China Road