Travel | Mountain Biking in Ethiopia
November 9th, 2015
Could Ethiopia be your next MTB epic?
Words: Dain Zaffke | Images: Dain Zaffke and Dan Milner
Ethiopia has really big mountains. So it must have really great mountain biking, right?
No one really knew, because no one had ever really brought mountain bikes into Ethiopia’s Simian highlands. That was enough of a reason to go mountain biking in Ethiopia…
We went on an expedition – with pro riders Sarah Leishman and Kamil Tartarkovic – to find out whether the land famous for being the ‘cradle of mankind‘ could someday be a mountain bike paradise.
I had never been any place quite this remote. The evening before our departure, we huddled around a map and got a briefing from our British guide, Tom.
“I will have a first aid kit and a satellite phone. In case of a life-threatening injury, I can call for a ‘chopper with the sat phone, but keep in mind that the heli-service is based in Addis Ababa, that’s about a four-hour flight from where we’ll be.
And the heli-pilot is based in Nairobi, which is a six-hour flight from Addis. So it’ll be about a day before the chopper comes to our rescue.
So let’s stay safe!” Tom Bodkin, Secret Compass
Over the course of eight days our crew circumnavigated the Simian Mountains national park, traveling rugged footpaths created in the sixth century.
With no roads, no running water and no electricity, the crew fell into a simple routine: wake up, break camp and spend the day riding remote trails.
The riding was rough.
Every five minutes of fast, flowing single track was met with ten minutes of hike-a-bike, over – or around – unrideable ledges and rock piles.
The route skirted a 6,000-foot-deep canyon; summited a 14,930-foot peak and covered stunningly diverse scenery with everything from highland tussock grass to tropical lowland forests.
We met countless welcoming locals and encountered hundreds of gelada baboons – fierce looking apes with thick coats and walrus-like teeth.
Was it a mountain bike paradise?
It probably depends on who you ask. It’s not in the way that Whistler, Queenstown or Moab are considered paradise.
But there were so many moments of staggering beauty – frantically excited children; the power of the Simian scenery; attempting to learn how to dance like a local and the incredible food.
This expedition was truly a trip of a lifetime for us.
Have you been on an MTB epic anywhere interesting?
We’d love to hear about it – let us know in the comments below…