The sun was going down and I must have smoked 10 cigarettes whilst we waited. Sofia was quietly playing on my phone, and a nice young guy who taught mechanical engineering at a local college was chatting to me in his best English. The 20mins wait for the truck was about an hour in standard time, and the signal of its arrival was the sudden flurry of activity.
It was a standard transport truck, of which you see many on the roads here, and I became hopeful when something that resembled a ramp was pulled out, thinking that yes our bike would be pushed/pulled up onto the truck. This hope was soon dashed when I saw it being folded under the truck.
I asked what was happening and was neatly told that they were going to lift it by hand. Any subsiquent protest from me was ignored as they wheeled the bike out and discussed how it would be easier to get the front wheel up first. There was really nothing I could do but stand back and watch, and so I quickly whipped out the phone to film as they hoiked it up, with all it’s bags on, with about 10-15 men trying to get the back end up and onto the truck. It was hard to watch, but they managed it! I can’t imagine how they thought they were going to do this on a mini bus!
The bike was on the truck tied down with string (calling it rope would be a stretch, but it seemed secure) and it was time to go. The driver, a young chap, clearly meant business and I was assured that the road was good all the way to Addis.
Obviously Sofia and got into the cab, the helmet promptly removed from our clutches, I kept saying no, it is safety equipment, but they insisted there was room ( I thought there was plenty!) and so the helmets where secured (jammed) into the bottom of the sidecar.
There was some cuffuffle about seat arrangements, and then it all became clear. The driver, Sofia and myself and an extra body, all jammed into the truck cab! Well, if we weren’t getting enough adventure, I’m sure this arrangement was going finish us off!
We said our good byes to the guys who had been so nice and helped us, and the parting ‘good luck’ from their mouths, I can’t say was entirely appreciated on the one hand but made me laugh on the other (why did we need luck?)
We hadn’t got to the end of the road when it was clear that we were in good Ethiopian comapany – the Driver and character in his own right already, was already on the phone telling his mates something to this effect:
Yes yes, I can’t talk right now I’m on very important ferengi business (hahaha) yes, I am taking ferengi motocycle to Addis (hahaha) 3000Birr (HAHAHAHAHA!) – you could hear the laughter of said friend on the other end of the phone and words to effect you lucky b***d were probably also uttered – Yes you see I’m important now, bye!
These phone calls went on for an hour or two, with intermittent conversations in broken english along the lines of :
Driver – Where are you going? (a favourite question in Ethiopia)
Me – Addis – Where are you going?
Driver – Addis
Me – Great! I’m on the right bus then!
Driver – HAHAHAHA!
This joke had several iterations when it became clear that he actually wanted to know information in the more general sense.
Clearly he was a popular chap and had a string of contacts on the route, as we dropped off wood here, and picked up letters there, bags of stuff, the odd person (extra body got chucked in back as a better english speaker joined us in the cab) The music blarred with Ethiopia’s best talent, food ordered ahead of arrival, and the boys chewed their chat and chatted the night away.
At about midnight, Sofia and I were falling asleep, I think Sofia managed it fairly well, however, the ‘good road’ was only half good, and if one wasn’t holding on for dear life around the hair pin bends, it was a case of mastering rocky roads, pots holes, or simply no road at all, and various animals, people and other vehicles seemingly oblivious of the imminent danger they may be in. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep.
I must have nodded off at some point, as I woke up and checked out location on google maps and suddenly we seemed alot further down the road. The extra body, despite having chewed a ton of chat was now dropping off, whilst the driver chewed on the dregs left in the bag. I asked him if he was ok, and he had that classic, over stimualted, clenched teeth wide eyed look, when he turned to me nodding with a smile. I could have got worried about it, but really I was too tired to care and instead teased him about it for a while.
The hours slipped by, and finally the Diver announced we were in Addis! just like that, our 11 hour journey was coming to an end and the discussion started as to where we were being dropped off. I had no idea other than some vague directions and, regardless of the hour (clearly my situation could be classed as urgent) I called Flavio, the Italian mechanic.
The truck had a drop to make and in the process of trying to find the location, a stone had got caught between two tyres. That was when I decided to help with a torch, and realised that the tyres on the truck were completely smooth! OMG! so glad I didn’t know that at the beginning of the journey!
The drop done, the Driver pulled over to catch a kip, whilst I was still trying to get hold of Flavio. Suddenly at 8am, driver was keen to get going again, so they asked if they could take me to another mechanic. At this point, if Flavio wasn’t answering, he clearly wasn’t helping so I agreed, and sent Falvio a message to say we were now going somewhere else. Amazing the effect that had, as he texted back immediately to apologise and to let him know how it went. The driver and his friend, who has been busy arranging things, were wondering why I didn’t call Falvio, and immediately asked his number and called themselves. These were clearly nice guys and concerned about our welfare, and knew that a ferengi sticking to ferengi contacts may be preferable regardless of the greatness of the place they were taking me. The call connected, and once it as established that they were calling on my behalf, Flavio immediately said, I am busy! and hung up.
The poor chap was lost for words, asking what we should do. I shrugged and said he is Italian, he clearly not interested, and lets go to the place they were recommending. Personally, I was horrified and so glad that these guys had an alternative option at the ready.
It took some time and a round of fresh mango juice on me, when we finally arrived in a semi- shanty town area, down a road that only passes for a road because there is nothing else on it, and is used by cars to connect to main roads. We stop out side a workshop clearly for bikes as there are many, and the first thing I see is 4 Ural outfits sitting there – I was speechless! Somehow, we had managed to find a mechanic who actually had some Ural experience! turns out various people had brought them for fixing, but cost of spares or lack of spares had resulted in them just being left there, never to see the road again.
Now was the time to get the bike down, only this time I insisted we take the bags off the bike, because now it was half the number of hands and actually this could be a more hazadous task. it was also at this point that the phone had not recorded the loading of the bike, so this time, I made double triple sure that it was recording this.
I can’t say the bike was dropped, but there was a moment where it didn’t look good as it rested on the spare tyre and with too much angle, but somehow they managed it, and the video has the appropriate shakes and movement of a camera person who is more interested in saving the bike than taking the film!
The bike off the truck, more good byes, and here we now were in Addis. At least, we were told, with the best mechanic in town – Mohamed.
I wish I could say our night ended at this point, but next on the list was find somewhere to stay – this ended up with a long walk that took us through a shanty town area and up a steep hill being guided by a young chap from the workshop doing his best to find us something in our price range. To cut another long story short, mission was accomplished, Sofia was parked and left to catch up on sleep whilst I returned to the bike and started working on a plan.
I’m not going to put too finer point on the fact that as I worked, I thanked my lucky stars over an over. Never once were we met with anything other than concern, and a desire to ensure we felt safe, even the workshop where the bike now rested, could not have made us feel more welcome and looked after.