Monday, 24 November 2008

21st November 08

Date: 21st November 08
Location: Chenek Camp, Simien National Park, Ethiopia
Weather: Cold to start then the sun came out and hot again, 28°c
Status: Relaxed finally after the worst day of the trip so far….

It all started off ok, I woke up after the epic effort that put I yesterday in order to complete the ninth of the Afritrex challenges feeling very happy, not sore at all and desperate to get back to Gonder in time to meet Kees and the rest of the Watkins who’d hopefully be there so we can start the rush across Sudan.

Lowered myself down the ladder with no ills effects being felt, grabbed my washbag and trotted across the campsite to the gurgling mountain stream which was at the far side….frost and ice were all along the banks so I woke myself up with a good old fashioned ice-cream-headache dunking of the head and shave…brrr!

Cooked up a storm of an English breakfast which I’d pictured in my head whilst ascending the last part of the climb…the full works, eggs, toast, beans and bacon talk about needed after everything Ras Dashen had taken.

The Colonel developed a leaking shock absorber on the drive up here so finally I had a chance to sort out replacing it with the spare I was carrying…all went well and within an hour we were all packed up and on the road. We gave Nana, my scout from the past few days, a lift back to Debark 56kms down the stony, broken but totally stunning track passing shepherd boys who gracefully waved, then threw stones. Vast mountain ranges and drops and more Gelada Baboons at the edge of the road with their wavy long blond hair…..quite like me Bre told me!

We dropped off Nana and collected my certificate of completion and started on the even worse rocky, stony, dangerous road of 120kms to Gonder…all was going well for the first 60kms then the Colonel started to swerve from left to right. Was it my suspension repair that had gone wrong? No instead the first puncture since having the new tyres fitted in South Africa (I do think I’m due one when you look at the state of the tyres after the last few thousand kms!). I stopped and started to change it and within 5 minutes had a crowd of 15 women and children all around looking and laughing amongst themselves! A old man joined us an tried to help but was pretty useless and within 15 minutes after a round of handshakes and photos we were on our way again…with me very unhappy at the failure of the tyre!

So we potter along and 10kms later a loud bang and hiss…..yep another tyre has blown, balls what a shocking road it was proving to be! We stop again and again a crowd forms this time a young lad whose good at gymnastics and stretching decides to have a stretch-off with Bre and the two of them go through more and more intricate twists, cartwheels and turns all to the amusement of those gathered. In the meantime I change the second tyre of the day and my frustration growing immensely. We receive a text message from the Watkins that they haven’t made it to Gonder as planned instead to Gorgora on Lake Tana some 60kms away down an equally as bad dirt road….why couldn’t they just keep to the plan and meet at Gonder…..ARGHHHHHHHHHHH!! Sometime I think I shouldn’t wait for Kees as it may well hinder my challenge to get home for Xmas Eve…..

We finally arrive on Gonder as the sun is setting and drive straight to the nearest tyre depot where the run down little place and its two guys set about trying to fix the problem. Instead of simply inserting rubber plugs as they would in most of Africa they instead take the entire tyre off and affix a patch to the inside of the tyre…yeah great one guys as your compressor has absolutely no power and can’t get the tyre back on the rim…muppets. I try a few tricks I’ve learnt but nothing works so I have two tyres sitting there and no air in them.

I hate using inner tubes if not necessary but the situation calls for it and I dig two out of the truck and they proceed to stick them in….now I should have watched them as they failed to put the essential plastic collars around the valves to prevent chaffing, but I didn’t and they didn’t!

So I drive off thanking them, get to the run down old Fawlty Towers style hotel, stuff a crap dinner down watched in the room and pestered continually by the four cast there, and return to the truck to hear a hissing noise from the front tyre! ARGHHHHHHHH AGAIN!!!

Bre heads off to bed and I decide I can do this better myself so dig out all the tyre changing kit, proceed to fit new inner tubes (the last I have) and an hour later have the tyres back on and ready to go.

A day of frustration, I changed 6 tyres in all and now feel more knackered than yesterday….no one said this was going to be easy. I sincerely hope that tomorrow when we arrive at Gorgora to meet Kees, he and the family are ready to drive to the border or I feel I will have to leave them in order to make the boat across from Wadi Halfa which leaves on the 1st….it really is all about this boat now.

Fingers crossed for better things tomorrow….

End of day location: Gonder, Ethiopia
Distance covered: 168kms

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