My stay in Addis Ababa was exciting. It’s unbelievable, but every hard stretch of my travel is followed by moments of pleasure. Sometimes I think that everything confabulates so that, in the right moment, things are a little easier.
My arrival in Addis was marked by the celebration of great commemorations, of course, according to their tradition.The Ethiopians have their own alphabet, their own timetable, and also their own calendar. To us, it may be 7 o’clock, but to them the clock strikes one; to the Ethiopians it’s the year 1996, and to us it’s 2003.
This calendar is a replica of the old Alexandrian Calendar, used by the ancient Egyptians and brought to Ethiopia as a result of the bond they had with the Coptic Church of Egypt.
To them, the year is divided is thirteen months: twelve of thirty days and one month of five or six days, called Pagumen or the thirteen month, in which they don’t pay their bills and don’t receive their salary. For this reason, the slogan of the country is: “Ethiopia, where the sun shines the thirteen months of the year.”
The ancient Egyptian year begun when the Nile River was overflowed by the strong streams coming from the South. Today, these rains are known as the Monsoon and originate in the high lands of Ethiopia, where the Blue Nile, one of the branches of the Nile River, rises. So, the first month of the Ethiopian year or Maskaram coincides with the end of the rainy season in Ethiopia: September.
I arrived in Addis Ababa on September 11th, the last day of the year 1996, and I could share their traditional ceremony with them. At night I went to a pub with some people I had met on my way. It was in the open air and was full of people. Everyone brought a pile of tied branches they put in the centre of the tables, creating a big bonfire. Many people said hello to us, we were the only white people in the place, and Taseu, our Ethiopian friend, translated “Dehna ederu, dehna ederu”, what means: “good evening, good evening”.
People were very nice and everybody was very happy. We drank beer for a long time and then, at midnight, the party started. They began to dance and sing euphorically around the fire and, as they put more branches, the bonfire became bigger and bigger. Everybody joined to commemorate the beginning of the New Year, 1997 for the Ethiopians, and we celebrated with them.
Looking for sponsors in Addis
Addis is a huge city, with almost three million people that spread in 250 km2. No place is near and to go from one point to another I always had to bike for upward slopes. It’s the third highest capital city of the world. It has cold climate and, in this season, it rains a lot.
Moving in Addis was an adventure. The first days I stayed in a simple and cheap place, although it wasn’t very clean. I met some people I had met on the road, but nobody had a friend or acquaintance in some important firm.
The first contact I made was the National Motors Corporation, through a friend of Taseu who worked there, and whom I met the New Year’s Eve. I went to the main office and asked for the General Manager, the secretary asked me: “Do you have an appointment?” I didn’t answer that question, but I think I made her dizzy with my chat. Who knows what she told to the General Manager. In a few minutes I was talking to him and drinking a coffee. That’s what I call luck: the right person in the right moment. Thank you, Mr. Alula!
I also went to the Tourism Secretariat of Ethiopia, where the Secretary introduced me to one of the most prestigious agencies of the country: Greenland Tour. So, I also got their support to continue with my biking around the world.
The difficult part was to arrive to the meetings presentable and on time. I always went on my bike and in this city it rained every day.
On my 5th day in Addis, following the advice of an acquaintance of mine, I went to see the General Manager of the Hilton Hotel. I didn’t have trouble with talking to him, a quite serious German in his fifties, and we talked for several minutes. I told him about my project and how I started, I showed him my Press book and I promised to include the name of the hotel as another sponsor of my travel. The following day, I went with my bike and my things to the 7th floor of the Hilton. Staying in a five stars hotel after 14000 km around Africa was great! I couldn’t believe it.
The last sponsor I got was Meta beer. I contacted this firm talking to people. I asked them: “Which one is the most popular beer?” “Meta, Meta”, they told me. So I went to introduce my project to them and get their support.
Getting ready for the road
My last days in Addis were very busy, but I won back some kilos I had lost on the road. I visited five newspapers, and all of them made me an interview and, in this way, I could thank all the firms that supported me for helping me to go on. I also went to the TV station, where they transmitted an interview about my travel in the news and in the weekly sports program.
The last day in Addis I celebrated with them another traditional day. Meskel, the ancient celebration that represents the finding of the real cross. Thousands of people attended to the Meskel Square, where they met to commemorate that day. They made huge bonfires, put a cross on the top and decorated it with flowers. At night, they lit them and celebrated dancing and singing, too.
Addis Ababa welcomed me as any other city, the only African capital city that makes me feel secure during the 24 hours of the day. I could bike at night without fear, there were policemen in every corner all day long and it seemed as if its people only knew tranquility.
Almost three weeks were enough to return to my work again, get the visa for the next country: Djibouti, and get a spare part for my bike that an Ethiopian cyclist team gave me. Certainly, Addis will be in my heart for ever! Thanks to: National Motors Corporation, Meta Beer, Hilton Hotel, Greenland Tour and Ambasalu Chali Bicycles.