Sunday, 21 February 2010


The Blue Nile Gorge is to Ethiopia what the Mont Ventoux is to French cyclists. It is actually a bit similar with a 20 km climb and a 1350m ascension. But what Mont Ventoux does not have is a mighty 20 km descent before you start the climb. What a spectacular cycling day this has been! When I decided to join the Tour D Afrique race, the Blue Nile Gorge stage was one of the things I was looking forward, and it stood up to my expectations. What an amazing experience than to plunge into this magnificent untamed gorges and to climb back at them to the other side of the Ethiopian plateau situated at an average of 2500m alt. The 20 km long descent was fun. Let me first remind you that to get there we first had to cycle 50 km from camp and 50 km in Ethiopia means plenty of climbing, so our legs were already pretty warm when we hit the gorge. Going down felt real good. It got warmer and warmer as we lost altitude. The bridge over the Blue Nile was at exactly 1130m, we had lost 1350m in 20 km which we were now about to reconquer.... At the bottom it was so hot that the first few kilometers of climbing were seriously hard. The steep road making its way up in the most brutal way has such a high gradient that the aswalt struggle to stay in place and the road which was recently paved is already in a terrible shape. The winner of the time trial for the climbing section were Eric from Canada for the men and Gisi from Germany for the women. They rode incredible times of 1h28 and 1h42
Anybody doing this in less than 2 hours is a strong cyclist, believe me. There even was a short section unpaved with soft dust and road building going on. The kids in the few villages we passed along the uphill were very exited and running along us like human grapes. Most of them were well behaved and they did not through stones.

                       The 20 km long descent into the blue Nile Gorge some 1350 meters below
                                      These women are carrying fire wood up from the hills of
                                      the Gorge to the small villages on top.
                                                   Kids carrying kids along the road
                                   Many riders averaged a speed around 60 km per hour in the
                                   descent which meant they were at the bottom of the climb
                                   in 20 minutes

                                     During the climb, I heard gun fire been exchanged
                                     down in the valley. This guy who was along the
                                     road explained to me that they were thieves fighting
                                     local armed guys like him. It felt like beeing in
                                     Kosovo for a while.
              Almost back on top on the other side of the blue Nile Gorge. What a spectacular view!

                                              View from my handle bars during the climb

                                           This truck full of Vodka did not make it through...

                                  At the bottom, the mighty blue Nile... Now I just have a 20 km 
                                  climb and some 1350 m to gain. It is so hot here, at least 15
                                  degrees more than on top.

                                                          Hardy before we start the climb

                                                  Me just before the bottom of the Gorge

                                         Just look at that road going down and down and down...

                                                           Kids running at us as we climb

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