The section from Khartoum to Addis Ababa (where we are now) has been the toughest of the trip so far. Strong headwinds in eastern Sudan followed by the hills and mountains of Ethiopia were made more challenging by illness of one kind and another – nothing particularly serious, but dodgy stomachs, heat exhaustion and throat infections made the cycling harder.

This has, however, also been one of the more interesting parts of the journey.

After Khartoum the landscape changed from desert to grassland, with villages of thatch huts and more wildlife. It also seemed to get hotter and in particular did not cool down enough to sleep well at night. We’ll try to post some photos of one of the more unusual places we’ve found to camp – under the wing of an old aircraft in a large field of abandoned planes (the computer won’t let us upload photos at the moment).

We had more opportunities in this part of Sudan to meet some of the local people and hear their stories – from Darfur refugees to a local imam and a farmer who invited us to stay in his home. The farmer told us how during the war in Sudan he armed himself when he heard on the radio that rebels planned to requisition his house and how he feared war again if the south of Sudan vote for independence in January.

Crossing Sudan was a rewarding part of the trip, but we were glad to arrive at the town of Gallabat and the next country: Ethiopia.

The landscape and people changed dramatically as we started to climb through the Ethiopian hills. There was much more greenery, wildlife and people than there had been in Sudan. We have also appreciated the cooler temperatures in the highlands.

The countryside in Ethiopia has been impressive, with dramatic views across the valleys and mountains. One of the most spectacular sections (although toughest on the legs!) was the Blue Nile Gorge, where the road falls 1000m to the river and then rises 1000m on the other side.

Less enjoyable is the menace that is the Ethiopian yoof. All day every day children run to the roadside to meet us, shrieking “you! you!”, “money, give money” and sometimes follow up by throwing stones or sticks. They are quite persistent, often running for some distance with the bicycles, even up steep hills (we realise now why Ethiopia has produced so many great marathon runners!). This gets quite irritating at times and does make Ethiopia a much less enjoyable place to be than it could be.

Whilst the majority of children seem to be like this – and we suspect the adults are encouraging them to ask for money – there are also plenty of people, children and adults, who just want to say hello, or ask where we are from, or where we are going (although the grammatically incorrect “where are you go” can get a little much at times too!).

It is good to be in Addis Ababa, where, according to the Ethiopian calendar it is 7 January 2003.

We always enjoy reaching a capital city because of the chance to eat some different food. Our diet ‘on the road’ typically consists of bread, jam, banana and biscuits for breakfasts, bread, processed cheese, biscuits and banana for lunch, pasta or rice with vegetables and tuna for dinner and snacks of bread and biscuits in between. So it was a treat to dine at a good Italian restaurant in Addis Ababa yesterday.

We have seen some reminders in Addis Ababa that it is nearly Christmas, such as the ‘Merry Christmas’ sign in the hotel reception, but Christmas in the UK seems a long way away. Our Christmas will probably be spent on the road in southern Ethiopia, towards the Kenyan border.

We probably won’t post another blog until the New Year, when we reach Nairobi, so Merry Christmas and Happy New year to all blog readers!

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