A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: gennesseb

5th place (Women) after 48 stages/5119 kms

Exerpt from TDA blog March 19 2012


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All told 26 full tour-ists are still classified as racers and being timed. Here are the standings after 48 of the Tour’s 94 stages, including cumulative times, and adjusted times with the 5 allowed grace days deducted.

large_chart.gif

For the latest stage times and overall standings, you can always visit the TDA race results page.

Posted by gennesseb 14:56 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Nairobi - continuing saga through to Kenya

email update 12 March 2012


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Hey team,

Wow, am sitting in a modern shopping mall in Nairobi, using a borrowed Mac computer...the things I am learning on this trip!!!!!

It is Sunday, shopping mall abuzz with people and I can hear church-type hymns in the background.....

Sadly there was a bomb blast in Nairobi central, at a bus station, last night, 3 dead 21 injured...noone has claimed responsibility as yet...previous couple of days we had to be bussed 175kms because two tribes were fighting and it was not safe to ride....we are so spread out during the day we would have been good targets. Apparently 14 people killed....it has been an ongoing war between these two tribes for a long time, even though they speak they same dialect, they are waring....pay back for something gone down years ago. Anyway, we are all safe.

So back to Ethiopia, which in retrospect was so safe and quiet.. the kids weren't into actually killing you, just annoying the "bejesus" out of you....

As Kenya gets closer, the colours in the women's clothing gets brighter and brighter and the coloured beads around necks in rows and rows....so impressive. Back on the bike after many days in the truck. I didn't attempt the dirt roads and hills...saving myself for the `'meltdown madness" section of Kenya....ha. The campsite at Yabello was a real treat after days and days of bush camping...trees, grass, washing facilities, showers.....well, dribbles of water from a funny shower rose...but water nonetheless.

From my tent I could look out and up to see the leaves of the big poinciana tree keeping my tent cool, a fruiting orange tree, and the biggest pawpaw tree ever....huge trunk with multiple boughs reaching way up high....fruit galore....oh for a ladder....

Lots of travellers sharing the grounds, from France, Italy and Germany mainly, all bird watchers, or "twitchers"...as they are called....they have their "own chef", a woman who had all the necessary containers for cooking, gas burners, and all the vegetables spread around her....kebabs and veges...mmmm. I settled for mixed juices and omelette for breakfast and the injura buffet lunch...wow...potatoes in hot sauce, spinach, cabbage/carrot mixture with spices, rice concoction and lots of it....yum.

Walked the small dusty town, sort of like the "last town before nothing for hundreds of kms, just desert". 2 service stations, lots of trucks with cattle filling up, lots of people waiting for the buses.... Visited a tiny butcher.....ooooo...two girls were eating thin slices of raw meat dipping it in a hot chilli sauce...the carcass just hanging there, no refrigeration. Not at all appetising... Settled for a cup of tea and fried bread with the locals in a tatty tent....the kids holding all the money....which is so used and dirty that it's a wonder it has any value at all.....coins have been produced to replace the paper, but the people still prefer the paper stuff... Nice to know that I'm not the only person who has difficulty with "change".....

One days ride to border town of Moyale - Kenya.....passing houses camouflaged so well with scrub bush and desert...lots of prickly bushes with brown acorn-looking bulks....not edible, even for the goats....wild camels grazing on the occasional tall tree branches...Huge hawk atop the african acacia tree....he took flight and came directly towards me.....ooohhh...am I dinner....was rather scary....he was just ginormous....could have picked up a goat or sheep in those talons!

While having a `"p" stop the familiar ozzi call of "cooee" came floating down the hillside....! I "cooed" back and got the usual response.... and thought "how visible am I", there on the side of the road!!!! A magical moment, in the middle of "nowhere".

Up onto the plateau, plains of patchwork fields of grain. Ruins of a castle...what's its history? Noone could tell me.... Local buses busy and crammed packed with people inside and blue and yellow plastic containers tied on top...flapping in the wind...the buses stop and disgorge people in the middle of nowhere....where are they going to? Emergence of motor bikes (postie bikes) about 7km before the border town....all young guys, so affluent to their neighbours of 10km before.

Border town busy, busy, busy...walked the streets trying to spend my Ethiopian dollars....western-style clothing, english football scarves and caps, so out of place, yet up-to-date for the locals. Where could I buy a traditional shawl....nowhere! The young men trawling the street...beep, beep, beep...calling "where you go" "what your name".....

Cross into Kenya, paid my $US50 visa and now ride on left hand side of road. I say the correct side, but all others have difficulty... Women's hair coiffure now in nets or scarves, so neat and clean looking.... How can children's behaviour towards us change so dramatically with just a "border crossing?" No stones, sticks or yelling...just waving, occasionally....all children are taught English at school so conversation much easier. Moyale border town small with good veggie market, dusty, no pavement or bitumen and, electricity by generator....cold drinks hard to find but consumed mango, bitter lemon, guava and fanta as well as three small bars of fudge chocolate....what a treat to find chocolate....I'm becoming obsessed with food.....

The road for the first 4 days is "meltdown madness". OMG.....I survived 3 days only....corrugations, potholed and sand...then lava rock the size of three story buildings....`(read large large rocks)..Nobody wants to go to Ethiopia from the south it seems.....didn't see any of the landscape while riding, just staying on the bike was hard work....up hill, uneven outcrops of rock and dirt, pick your way through, bump, bump. Fast riders thrashing their way through it all...how they stay upright is beyond me and not even on mountain bikes!!!! Lots of falls, a broken hip....guy flown to Nairobi for emergency operation - replaced smashed hip with metal....I fell twice, but luckily in the bull dust spots...how to unclip from pedal when grinding through that stuff at nought mile an hour?

Everyone filthy with red dust....no showers in bush camp....Somehow managed 3rd place in the women's time race that day....the others must have been dawdling at the coke stops.....First wind and rain storm.....whoosh...tents blown everywhere. Watched as girl with detached shoulder injury lay over her tent...we all laughed, then kindly went to her aid.....Luckily my tent zipped up tight, but unfortunately left air screens open....tent full of sand and dirt....Ahhhhhh but dry!!!! Grit for days in my clothing....the usual www (wet wipe wash) not really cutting it.....

The rain made riding in the sandy areas, a dream....just "hummed" along at a great rate.....of course all that changed when the lava rock appeared.....

This trip has seen lots of people injured and ill with gastro and UTI's....injuries include:
• male - broken hip (left the trip)
• female - broken ribs (rejoin in Nairobi)
• male - UTI in Khartoum- turned septic, rushed to Nairobi – nearly died....(gone back to NZ)
• male(our chef) - UTI - dispatched to Nairobi....off tour
• female & male - detached shoulder - takes 2 weeks to heal....as the Dr. said to the female....you'll never be a "shoulder model"...

Lots of gouges and scrapes on bodies from the lava rock.....miles and miles of black lava rock, mountains of it, spread everywhere, hardly any vegetation.....sort of moon-scapey.....had to walk in some of that section, just impossible to ride over....oh my aching hands....my bike performing admirably over such horrendous conditions - no punctures or split tyres like many of the others (yah Justin!!!!)....Where does all this rock come from.....? Where can you pitch a tent amongst it all...our first very hot night.....heat coming off rocks and ground and no breeze.....sweaty, naked people in tents!!!!!

Trucked the last day, only sighted a herd of wild camels on the horizon on the plain of yellow grass and lava rock....no humans....Then just one man and one camel.....Picture perfect but impossible to capture on film...shot to memory. Finally the "lava rock crater". Huge......how tall, wide, deep was that mountain to spray so much rock so far???? Another history search for my retirement years!!!

Trees....looked like a fake white tinsel christmas tree. No leaf, just silver thorns...and white greenish trunk. Quite spectacular really. They were everywhere in all shapes and sizes...great photo. Deep in the crater depths a green green lagoon.....but no animals, or sign of human life....maybe too far down to be worthwhile....?

The corrugations so bad that the truck battery rattled free and lost.....the back truck didn't see it....probably picked up by one of the livestock trucks going the opposite way towards Ethiopia.. our loss their gain.... Lots and lots of tracks, trucks choosing their own way through, sliding and slipping in the sand, but better than the corrugations.....poor cattle, they must suffer!

Lots of riders in the truck....veritable sardines...road just too difficult, plus strong head wind...The town of Marsabit, where I ended my last email.....the convent and the business "nuns".....

Even though we are in Kenya, Islam still the main religion so far....although have seen SDA church and other Christian denominations, but the mosque still doing the usual prayer call for hours and hours.

Leaving Marsabit the landscape changed constantly, from thick forest/jungle to desert plain....it was a "mando" day, but I struggled with the roadscape!!!! Finally got "swept"....in TdA talk that means "you are last"....Am now officially a tail-ender...

Got to visit a village where a wedding had taken place the day before. The proud father came to our campsite and asked us to come and see the bride and her new house but secretly I think he wanted to show off the 6 new cows he received as "dowry". The bride very young, only 16, but husband also young. She one of 10 children. Eldest two visited from Nairobi for the occasion, both wearing western clothes, both at University. Very expensive, $250US per year just for fees. Nothing to us but a huge drain on people here. The young bride not to have the education. New house, an oval-shaped construction, bottom half made of upright sticks, top half covered with plastic, hessian bags and hides.....not lucky enough to get a view inside. She was very shy, covered her head and half her face with shawl. Her mother was busily plucking the bits of dried skin off a donkey hide, a wedding present. Mother was small and thin with beautiful beaded hoop necklace and arm bracelets. Her earlobes stretched from wearing heavy earrings....Her youngest child clinging to her back, aged about 2yrs....We had hoped to see some ceremonial dancing, but were too late.... The village kids gathered round us and we took lots of photos of them....they scream with joy and laugher when they see the picture of themselves. Maybe for the first time????? They are just like any kid, pull, push, show me, show me. A warm, special occasion.

Lots of "warriors" in town....what a sight...Samburo tribe. Who said men shouldn't wear pink....just stunning cloth and pink head-dress, feathers and beads...long staffs in hand and also BIG knives, like a cane knife.....Apparently "warriors" are the men who have not been educated, or choose not to go to school.....unfortunately no photos allowed.....up close they are just so handsome, in a raw sort of way!!!! They roam the town and outer areas, and probably involved with the tribal fighting of days previous....an odd feeling when I saw them walking along the road, so strong and forceful looking. I was in the truck and wondered if we were safe....?

Pub life big in small towns....nothing changes eh???? But no electricity, so warm beers....ooooo...not so good. Rode home with our security guards in back of pick-up truck....standing up, holding on to the overhead rails.....Yeh, freedom.....a total NO NO in Australia of course....

Still riding on the dirt, and corrugations....forgot to okistrap my back tail bag.....didn't realise it was gone until I couldn't hear the rattling......Oh well, camera, money (not much), sunscreen, notebook.....etc....happily under someones arm......? Luckily a following rider picked it up about 5kms after I lost it.....Note to self.....strap on the oki.....

The "bussed section" was interesting....60 people watching for tribal fighting and, hoping for giraffes....saw neither...just two running ostrich.....gave us hope for something bigger and better......fantastic mountain formations loomed out of the plains as we zoomed along.....the noise of the bus so great you couldn't have a conversation......not your super luxury number with toilet and TV....lots of "game park lodges", so feel like the real Kenya now. Coke stop: everyone off the bus, but no photos!!!! One young boy came up and asked me for money....when I replied "no money", he said "arsehole" and walked off!!! I laughed to myself and thought "such good command of the english language...."

So good to be back on bitumen...weeehaaaaa.....white lines, even on the side.....but with the good comes the bad....traffic...how spoilt have we been.....now we have peugots, toyotas, nissan, honda cars whizzing past as speed greater than light.....the noise factor is unbelievable....and, who cares if you are a bike....cars own both sides of the road, even your side when they're coming from the opposite directions. Spent my day "waving" people off my side of the road.....lots of riders just took to the dirt....although at one time, drivers behind were tired of waiting for the truck to pass us so took to the dirt left hand lane.....thankfully I'm used to Townsville drivers!!!!!

Now into the christian religion scene. Islam, nowhere to be seen now. The churches of "everything" are here....women are dressed in sombre western clothes with low high heel shoes....they look like they're heading off to church for a "hallelujah meeting" with lots of toe tapping and swaying....signs on shops - "faith supermarket", "nice and lovely faith saloon (think they meant, salon as was hairdresser.....maybe a quick drink while having hair cut????? Kids all dressed in school uniforms, schools everywhere. Good sign, most of them church schools.

Approaching the Equator now.....warm weather.....mmmmm on the day we crossed, the morning temperature was 4.3deg....everyone looking for their winter woollies!!!!! Gosh it was cold, but clear beautiful day to celebrate the crossing.... Views to Mt Kenya....snow on the slopes...no wonder it was chilly....

So guys, gotta go, washing to get off line and tent to get together before heading off to Arusha tomorrow....2days to get there and then 4 days off.....trip to Serengetti...

Will catch up sometime soon.....hope the emails aren't too boring....lots of talk about food...

Will continue with the rest of Kenya sights then....it is a pretty amazing country even if the first half was hard going....

Take care, thanks for all the emails....sorry I haven't replied to many of you. As always, time is tight.....

Sleep well, laugh lots and remember to be happy. Stay safe

Luv to my Mum, sister and Abigail....the Beadman girls...

Posted by gennesseb 16:51 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

THE GOLDEN BICYCLE AWARD

exerpt from the TDA website blog


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It has been said that the Tour d’Afrique is not a race or an expedition but a social experiment and once again this is proving to be true. The success of the tour is dependent on the participants and every year’s riders make for a different experience and atmosphere in camp and on the road.

Thanks to a group of innovative riders a new addition to the TdA2012 has been the golden bicycle award. Winners of this award can range from the person with the greatest achievement of the day to the person who made the biggest fool of him/herself in the preceding 24-48 hours. So far winners have included Pal Fritsvold for breaking the record in the Blue Nile Gorge individual time trial, Gennesse Beadman for chasing an Ethiopian boy all the way to his house to tell his parents he needs to be punished for pelting cyclists with stones and lunch truck driver, Noah Chisane for his saintly attitude.

As for embarrassing stories, those will have to be told by the riders themselves upon return to their home countries, but when they’re reporting back on their adventure, make sure this question is asked: “How many times did you receive the golden bicycle and what for?”

--- Catharina Robbertze

Posted March 09, 2012 by Guest Author
Kenya | News Briefs | Tour Updates

Posted by gennesseb 15:33 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

Kenya - town of Marsabit - Monday arvo - rest day

Email update 6 March 2012


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Hey guys,

first internet for 2 weeks.....excuse no capitals....keyboard is killing my fingers...stiff with dust i'm sure.....who invented "capital letters" anyway....?

Great to receive everyone's emails....you are all too kind....with words of praise and wonderment..... from this side it is just the daily routine....how easily one falls into it....

have arrived in Kenya, but shall tell you more of that later.....today is monday, town of Marsabit, incredibly dusty, big market town with everyone selling the same gear.....much like our air conditioned malls with shoes and clothes.....woollies and coles....

at least the veges are organic.....all that dung... Our rest day is in the grounds of the local convent. We arrived on sunday arvo, and the good "sisters" had in a stock of beer, chocolates, flavoured yoghurt, ginger beer.....and the drinks were cold...."heaven on a stick"....sister marguarite said "i pray to the good lord for six days, on the seventh I do business"......and boy, do they mark it up....and yes, we gladly pay....too far to walk into town and who can guarantee the drinks will be cold.....

Oddly enough the main religion here is Muslim....lots of full head gear...black is such a "heat-sucking" colour.....

Last email - Addis Adaba......what a big, hot, dusty, unsafe city. But I still walked the streets, pushed my way along the road/pavement along with everyone else....people coming and going..... On last night after sending my email, the internet guy said "be very careful, robbery is rife and you are alone".....sort of gave me a shock, but luckily only had to go down the road....about 1km....I was very vigilant, walked behind a young couple for part of the way...spotted unsavoury looking guys hanging around dark areas, sussing out what was going up and down the street....little traffic, and even the cars seem to be "cruising the area" for victims.... the street lighting was non existent, so took to the middle of the road for best view.....thankfully the campsite gates were in sight and I made the dash across the road....leaving a guy behind mystified as to where I'd gone..... On chatting to some of the other riders, they had bad experiences, drugged guys literally riffling their pockets as they walked along....totally oblivious of constantly being pushed away and onto the ground...

During the day I passed the area filled with tourist shops. bit behind these were the "slums of Addis.....homeless and drug addict kids/adults..... Every city has such sadness.

Always good to be back on the bike and road again. Only 108kms..Convoy out of town, through the pollution...OMG, couldn't see the mountains...vehicles, donkeys, horses, goats, cattle....all sharing the dual highway out of town....one poor donkey didn't survive the night...dead on side of road....probably a better place for it....those poor animals work so hard....One of our older male riders went over his handlebars.....off to hospital...another one down... We have had lots of injuries....our nurse and doc have seen more of the inside of hospitals that out.....broken ribs (1) detached shoulders (2), broken hip (1), UTI's (2, both men and one septic, flown to Nairobi hospital by flying doc...)

How quickly the landscape changes from day to day...Lots of world vision, child vision care signs now. Towns are closer together and heavily populated...sort of one long village compared to the scene of days and days before. Buildings are now square - western looking - with painted glass windows, and even verandahs, that look so out of place. Lot more trees, greener pastures, sort of 5acre blocks.... Kids were good, a relief for some, also helps if one's attitude is good to start the day....

Ground so rich and brown, productive. Saw man using a crowbar to till the soil....big chunks, one at time...ground too hard for the cow and oldstyle plough. Fruit trees, apple mangos, avocado, so plentiful...just growing everywhere...Each house seems to have its own plot of bananas...mango trees growing wild everywhere....Rift valley very productive for fruit and veg. See pumpkins and pawpaws on side of road for sale....oh to be able to carry some pawpaw (papaya).....

As recipient of 'golden bicycle award" I had to pass on the award after Addis....My choice was easy, and not to a rider. I passed on the award to Noah, our lunch truck driver/cook - for his compassion and caring for the children of Ethiopia (as mentioned in my previous email) and for his cycling family. I felt chastened and humbled for what I had done to win the award several days earlier. We are just people travelling through a land we know nothing about.....so I looked at the kids more thoughtfully and kept my attitude to myself. Passed through a village, kids heading off to school, all in uniform.. The girls laugh and run beside me, another smaller girl pushes me from behind. We talk in broken english, and all is well for the morning....they have run with the "ferangi".. white person.

More horses now appearing....had to take a second look one morning....as the man riding the horse was dressed in Bolivian style clothing.....where am I???? Other people commented on the same that evening. Maybe we were all hallucinating!!!!

A wedding celebration...people walking the road from both directions...dressed in their "best"....people carrying pots of food, blowing trumpet....all happy and smiling. Saw big tent up on hill....what an occasion, so many "relatives????? Next day, a funeral....the men carrying the white cotton shrouded body on a stretcher high on their shoulders...proudly walking along, women many paces behind.....new life and then a death in space of 2 days....Area heavily Muslim, women covered totally, little Ethiopian dress.....

Many women walking their donkeys laden with pottery..water pots, injura trays, all safely wrapped in banana leaves and stored into saddle-type bags either side. I shout "where you go"......the reply is "big town for market".... I wonder if it is the small town I'd just ridden through, or furthere north again..... Lots of cattle always on the road...droving, droving, droving....the vehicles aways give way....including bikes....

Horrid campsite....in a dusty quarry full of yelling, abusive kids.....so much for our attitude!!!! They stole out of the tents, the 'finish flag' and during the night, even though we had full security with rifles....they stole....yes....the TOILET TENT......rather funny now I reflect back on it.....I guess the material will be put to good use, an awning for the verandah, window adornment.. riding shoes also stolen...luckily the guy had another pair....(How much spare space did he have in his locker..!!) but all was forgotten when fresh bread rolls arrived for breakfast.....oh so good with peanut butter.... Breakfast is usually a full meal with porridge, bananas, meusli, milk (powered of course), condiments of all type...local honey is the best...even bits of wax added....Have enjoyed nutella on banana.....but currently its the local peanut butter...so much better than our processed rubbish.....

Have been lucky not to have the flats that most people have experienced...two only and both when not on my bike....unfortunately one was back wheel...over to the mechanics for that one....out with the instruction booklet and my rear nut tool....(thanks Justin). Glad wasn't on the road, and on my own....

University town of Sodo, big, industrial, lots of building happening, big cement apartment blocks, even new hospital in progress. Lots of Ethiopian flags flying in the town...never noticed it before....dual highway through main street with palms in middle section. Adds a touch of green to the big town dust.....Although lots of building going on the water is still being collected from wells and walked by donkey back to their businesses and homes.....

Spent 3.5 days in truck.....due to gear problem....nothing drastic, but not really fixable at lunch break...plus dirt roads and hills.....not killing myself or my bike.....interesting to ride the truck through the villages and bigger towns. Sometimes the powerlines are so low staff have to get up on top of truck to lift them over the bikes....obviously they wear their rubber shoes.....no-oneelectrocuted as yet!!

Bush grazing coming down off plateau off, no farming...but acres and acres of banana trees...smaller than the usual type, cattle are shorter, longer horns, brahaman type... To a town of Ahbra Minch. Tourist area, two big lakes, crocodile farming for handbags, shoes etc, also hippos abound, and bird sancturary...Weaver birds nests in lots of trees, so perfectly constructed...the turquoise breasted starling...how eyecatching as they flit from bough to bough....not at all like Oz starlings which are a pest....long cylinder style baskets up in trees.....beehives of course!.....our campsite atop the mountain looking down to the lakes and savannah grassland....how amazing, so much dust and dirt yet one feels clean with just "a view". Great sleep....the resort rooms expensive, my view from tent, the same.... I took the liberty of reposing on an "expensive verandah wicker chair" late in the arvo, watching the bird life, reading my book....and snoring......how embarrassing!!!! luckily no paying tourist in that room.....

The resort rooms are built out of normal bricks, well hand made bricks but then the entire building was covered over with a rattan woven constuction...most effective, and probably for the heat protection....what a job building it....inside the restarant the ceiling was woven bamboo...such workmanship..the gardens home to : yellow frangapani and pink desert rose bushes..how beautiful they were...the smell of the frangi just exquisite.... desert rose bush so big....ideal place for it....FIRST RAIN....fantastic sound and light show over the mountains near the lakes.....thunder growling around the mountains...no fly on tent...ooops....middle of night dash.....others also caught out....by time fly on, rain gone.... The smell amazing, even at that time of the night/morning.

Head cold, So much for the beautiful smells, glad to be in truck and dirt road sees accommodation swell.....9 people....makes for a squashed, hot, slow day...Kids on side of road now doing crazy dance routine for passing trucks and bikes.....just like our aboriginal corroboree leg movements....how things change, but still remain the same? New way of asking for money....Looks good and way better than rock throwing....

Land now hilly and terraced...but long time ago....rock walls everywhere....no crops. housing again huts, but smaller in height, and all thatched with corralled areas made from sticks and wood which denote the family plot. extremely dusty. Bags of wheat/maize lie outside the huts, aid from outside, but collected on donkeys.... The dirt road is a main route, the road is collapsing everywhere, slumping mountainsides....gosh knows what happens when the rains occur. Lots of traffic, of big trucks....so much damage. The rock walls over creek beds all collapsing.... campsite in a river bed....mmmmm. in 2009 the tour was split when it rained and the river rose quickly....took a spot uphill for that night....sometimes difficult to find a flat spot...and never free of thorns....have leak in my thermorest....need water to find it....very scarce, so blow up at least once a night....ah the joys of tenting....more desert rose bushes....so bright amongst the dryness and the scrub. Small community of nomads had green pasture of paw paws and sugarcane...must be near a spring. They drove all year, staying 3-4months in each place...no women, just men/boys.....

Down out of the rough mountain area (and dirt road)...the early morning sun streaming through the clouds to form shafts of sunlight on the mountains...a special effect show just for me...Now piles of wood stacked criss-crossed on side of road, all from dead trees, insidious vine crawling over everything...crushing their life.....but providing wood for another life....termite mounds....conical in shape appearing everywhere....like chimney stacks....colours change depending on the soil. Some I see shapes....a person with a hooded robe staring off into the distance...that perfect african flat tree and the sun setting...a great picture. Housing changing again....now tiny grass huts with no doors, just open space for entry.....huts look small but have high thatched roofs.....smoke coming out from top area.....how often do they catch fire...how many people die? Riverbeds now getting wider....how marvellous they must look when flowing with fresh water....feeding the land and the people.

Routine days....what do I do: wake, dress in tent, pack gear away, pack tent up...try and keep dust out...ha....fight way to lockers....how to get it all in at the same time....wait..go wash hands, make a cuppa, wait for 'breakfast call"...line up or go to locker and put away gear? such decisions so early in the morning....find a stool, hope it's there when you come back with food...usually not.....get out another stool....wash own plates/cups, fight way to locker again.....somehow get on bike and clock out for the morning ride.

Lunch: get off bike, disrobe (hat and gloves)....wash hands, eat fruit first, hoping for mango....sign says "1 piece per person"....oooohhhhh.... bread rolls, sometimes stale, so use it as a plate and put tuna, coleslaw, tomatoes, avo, cheese, or whatever is available on top and eat with spoon....banana with nutella...mmmm. a new experience, most riders devour several rolls.....being a "backpack girl" we get the left overs....and most often no mango....refill waterbottles.....

Some of the serious riders don't even stop for lunch....they need to get an edge on other riders. How they can do it is beyond me...some of the roads are just horrendous.....their bodies are really suffering, they are so thin...all to stay with EFI, (every f....ing inch) and to be one of the 200 in the world to achieve it....I missed out long ago...in the truck, no EFI......

I have grouped everyone as :
Front pack - efi searchers and racers
Rat pack - group of girls and other riders who join them when they want a break from the front pack
Back pack - slower group....usually females, including the Older Ones......just two of us left now.

How odd, here in this internet cafe Dolly Pardon and Chris Christophensen singing "Islands in the Stream".... first english music for months....and I am just that "island" amidst the stream of life.....

Am heading off to eat dinner. Will continue the last days of Ethiopia another day....but I can say that it is a rich country compared to what I have seen of Kenya so far.....No more internet for at least 10 days...so stay safe everyone....keep that smile on your face....life is not difficult compared to what I'm seeing.....

Enjoy each day, savour it all.....would luv to just drop in and see you all for just a minute or two....

luv to all.....

Posted by gennesseb 23:42 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

Addis Ababa

Email update February 22, 2012


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Hullo everyone,

Thanks so much for the updates from homefront. So good to hear news from everyone. Although I am with 40 or so people there is nothing better than to receive news from friends and loved ones. Believe me, none of it is boring, it puts a smile on my face.

Finally here in Addis.....like some many African cities, it is dusty, crowded with vehicles and of course, people rushing everywhere. No doubt, places to go and people to see; just like all of us. Not much to visit culturally. A couple of churches and museum. If you don't know, Addis has the largest market in all of Africa.....but have decided not to go and spend my time updating everyone on the trip since Gondar.

During my clothes-washing duties yesterday, which I did at the hotel's washing area, strictly reserved for the "staff", the head washing lady, who's English was great, advised not to go....."it is full of thieves, the taxi man will also thieve you and the goods for sale are of very poor quality. Even I do not shop there". There are a few items | want to buy before leaving Ethiopia and so she has organised for her sister to take me shopping and will get the right price, otherwise I will pay to much. This morning when I returned for my second load of wash duty, she was showering and we were like two old friends, chatting away, she showering in all her glory and me washing. When finished I was invited to sit in the sun with the other hotel workers and enjoy a cup of black sugary tea (so tasty) and bread. I felt so privileged. Our campsite is in the grounds of hotel, now used only as a restaurant and wedding function area. We have grass under our tents and trees for shade. Shame that not long after we arrived, the water ran out!!!!!! After 5 days on the road what's another night of www (wet wipe wash).....

So, Gondar......a great place to relax, eat and sip those spectacular "juices".....

My friend, Marianne and I took a tour of the three special areas of the town: The Castles, Baths and the Church. The guide was a young man, Philamon. Such a handsome man too. Had originally attended University and studied Law but found it not to his liking and enjoyed tourism more, especially the historical side to share with people from all over the world. He supplements his income by assisting with the running of a guest house. The tour took about 2.5hrs, full of history and fascinating tales of past kings, queens, children and theology. What an amazing country this is....the home of Christianity.....the Coptic church, old testament and the linking of it all with the Jews. The Ethiopian flag includes the 'star of david'. Invasions-English, Italians, Portugese, all bringing their own style of religion and architecture as well as destroying that originally in place. Gondar is 60% Christian, 30% Muslim and10% "doesn't matter". All live harmoniously. The church full of original byzantine paintings, still so clear and well cared for. One side water damaged so rather faded. The church itself is tiny, still open for services but that area was sealed off with curtains so could not view. A verandah had been added around all sides of the church to protect it from the weather. The underside made from bamboo. There were persian carpets heaped over each other on the floor, drums and staffs all with specific meanings. The leather straps across the drums signify the straps attached to Jesus as he hauled the cross through the streets of Jerusalem, the stone inside the drum signifies the soul left behind (Easter). The church is surrounded by a large rock wall and many small rooms built out from the wall house old monks....tiny rooms....they somehow survive. An old monk was sitting on the verandah teaching the bible to a couple of young girls. They were most respectful of him and repeated lines as he spoke. I took a lovely photograph of old and young keeping the tradition alive. The Castle...not at all like the English castles we know.... Shown a "template-type" section of how they tested the way to build the structure before actually building. They originally built with large rocks but found this not structurally sound so built with smaller rocks. Sauna room, bathing area, banquet hall, horse boxes and Queens residence, which is still in use today. So much history, I really need to read up on it all. The Fasil Baths were once used continuously but now only filled for 3 days of the year, over the January 19 period....the date coincides with the baptism of Jesus.
The baths are full everyday for those three days. The city has built beaches to allow more people to watch the ceremony. Big banyan trees surround the pool providing shade for everyone, their root system sprawling across the rock walls. Must be a magnificent sight when in full swing.

The fruit juices: I thought we had it made with our tropical fruits, but these guys have created a drink to rival them. I spoke about these in an earlier email, but finally went into a kitchen to see how they were created. They peel the avocado, mango, pawpaw, pineapple, guava then puree separately. The drink is a spooned layer of your choice, no liquid added....served with lime quarters, straw and long spoon. To die for!!!!! Never thought I'd experience avocado in a juice, but it is a "wow" taste sensation. Had three in one day....all that goodness in a glass and even the locals indulge.

It was so good to relax in Gondar...my legs were so tired, even walking up steps kind of exhausted me... This wonderful hotel atop the world full of Tda bikers lounging around the reception area, all with their computers, Iphones, Ipads, I, I, I......so out of context when you look outside..... Women working on building sites, carrying heavy loads of sand up walkways to higher levels. No flash prebuilt cement walls here!!!

Rest days always involve doing domestics.....this time I washed the outer fly of my tent....OMG.....so much dust....turned to mud...and still not clean....oh well, many more months of dust to come for sure....Nice to have sleep in, listening to the 2hr of prayer calling from a distant mosque, reading a chapter or two of my book, snoozing.....such a change to actually get out of tent at 8.30am instead of 5.30am...

As always, rest days end and back on the bikes. Only a couple of days to Bahir Dar and another rest day. TdA found from previous trip that it was better to enjoy Bahir Dar for an extra day, than doing it in Addis Ababa....

Weather so pleasant for riding...busy city morning with people off to work, children lined up for school, road workers busy at it...essentially the same process as in your own town/cities....just a little dustier I'm sure and to expect a pedestrian, truck, donkey cart or herd of goats to leap out in front on you at any time......In Africa, the pedestrian owns the road.....

Across the valley floor passing tiered cropping; coffee bushes mixed with mango and pawpaw trees. Havent seen a banana tree or plantation since Egypt...but we have bananas everyday for breakfast and lunch and they are always available in the small villages we pass through....mmmmm...

First sighting of monkeys.....how amazing...right there on the road....silky grey with white bums.....all along the hillside close to the road...wanted to take photos but was invaded by hordes of children....money, money, money....touch, laugh.....how to move on through them all...? Big climbs with spectacular views to the Tana Lake, so close yet so far away....we had to get to the other side....where's a ferry when you need one!!!!! Campsite at Bahir Dar, top story of the hotel....three flights of stairs, no lift!!!

Bahir Dar famous for being the "source of the Nile", several ancient monastries out on islands in the lake and an hippo...maybe the latter a "loch ness" look alike, and Blue Nile Falls. Unfortunately the Falls are not as fabulous as in previous time as they have dammed the area for irrigation and so the water flowing over the falls are limited even when the wet season is on. Bahir Dar also a University town so lots of younger people. Unfortunately the tourism hasn't utilized the lake shore and most of it fenced off or has a government building blocking a wonderful vista.....slowly slowly. A couple of restaurants doing well, but the Sheraton resort was closed....something about "going bankrupt"???? Wandered around the Kurift Resort, bougainvillia vine growing over private rock-built villas, sparkling large swimming pool with views out to lake....not that expensive really...$229 executive suite/night, included all meals, massage, pedicure and manicure..... Indulged myself with an hour of full massage....oh...how many lumps and bumps can one person have in their shoulders/neck? Pain and pleasure for $15. Spoke with Dutch man who organizes motor bike tours of one month duration through Ethiopia....Clients were booked in at this resort...a nice way to travel staying at good hotels (well the best for each area), yet experiencing the splendid rolling hills (read mountains) from an engine-powered bike. He had ridden the route several years ago, on bicycle carrying panniers and tenting it....Motor bike a much better way to travel..... Muslim religion more obvious here, two mosques.... so morning prayer alarm back on the program. Spoke with a client, woman from USA who has lived in Bahir Dar for 7 years. Went originally for 3 years, volunteer and work on her PhD. Now lectures in English and linguistics to graduate students and is married to the University President. His story so special. Came from tiny village, all siblings bar youngest, illiterate. He was a shepherd but kept sneaking off to school. Finally the teacher went to his parents and told them he was very bright.....Happy ending. The local market quite different from what I'd previously seen. Wandered down narrow alleyways full of men and women on sewing machines....."sweat shop"??? Sewing curtains, clothing, Manchester etc. Another area specializing in goods made from rubber tyres,shoes, thongs etc. Utilizing the product readily available. Spice and bean section. displayed in big hessian sacks, so colourful, stall after stall, all selling the same product and all staffed by women.....Unfortunately we could not take photos of any of what we saw. Many hands shaking at us whenever I lifted my camera. Such a shame, written reminder and memory only now. Traditional coffee making ceremony: who would have thought that our current "coffee lounging/indulging ritual" originated from this..... It is a traditional woman's meeting. The hot water and coffee is boiled three times before being poured, bread is cut and passed around and then coffee poured. While all this is taking place the woman talk. It is a time for woman to stop and chat and relax.....yeh.....The ceremony is performed by a woman in traditional white cotton dress, the edges trimmed in the Ethiopian colours...It is relaxing just watching it all being prepared before the coffee and cake is brought to you. Had a long chat with a local man who had spent many years in the USA as a social worker....he eventually had to return home as the stress of the job effected his health. He changed his career and began introducing solar panels to the villages. He began with his own small village, connecting them to the grid and bringing electricity into their lives. Word travels fast even when there are no phones and so little by little other villages are following suit. He such a proud man. We spoke of religion and hardship, pleasure and pain that both bring.

A fancy dress night for the family....Whitney Houston dies.....so it was a "remember Whitney" theme and the You You, You call from the kids......The local market did well out of us.....what a laugh....people in white outfits, cotton wool for frizzy hair....big red lips.....and this was on a guy..... He was "shadowed" all night by the minder (movie: Bodyguard)....so aptly portrayed by one of our US riders, from Austin, Texas.....he was perfect....had somehow managed to fit his sports coat into his luggage.....and how useful was his Ipod, as the security ear device....The German boys drew on white t-shirts - Uncle Sam with the pointing finger....Wants You, You, You.... The youngens danced and drank until the wee hours of the morn.....Oldies, like me, went to bed and slept through their laughter and "sneaking quietly....." back to tents.... So just a snippet of my days in Bahir Dar.

Many people sick and not able to ride....mainly diahhorea and vomiting....luckily still free of both, except for my one stint of vomiting from real exhaustion....Some staying on an extra day or so to recuperate and catch a taxi to next ride stop.....

Big days of climbing ahead....Leaving Bahir Dar fresh from lay days and massage....especially stronger in my legs...how exhausting is all this riding!!!! Now weight 59kgs....very skinny arms and legs, my bike shorts legs have nothing to grab onto, and my ribs stick out.....bit ugly really....many of us older woman looking the same....sagging skin at arms and inner leg. For those who live in Townsville, I resemble the old lady who walks her dog along the Strand (one of many she has had over the past 20 years), always off lead, and up through Gregory St to Alexandra St.....just take a closer glimpse of her wonderful tanned but saggy legs and arms.....that's me!!!!

Climb of 1631m....so much for a rest day!!! The day was a 167km number..... Many villages involved with timber (gum trees) milling, quite lucrative for them....but all lengths cut by hand saw.....and hand loaded onto trucks, donkey carts, new and old.... Donkeys stagger with huge black plastic bags either side full of water....how do they last going uphill to their villages? Quite painful to watch, sadness wells up inside of me...the master does not seem to care.... More donkeys lined up outside a building where the grain is being poured into bags....you can hear the generator clacking away, unsure of its job, but possible to move the grain along a conveyor belt and into the hessian bags.....then hoisted onto either side of donkey and another on top.....off to home with the grain for a family....Here the donkey is the workhorse, it is not ridden, the owner/family walk behind....and more landscape as a patchwork quilt of agriculture.....

Kids go to school for half days.....one lot in the morning, another lot in the afternoon. So the herding and tending of cows, goats etc still happens. While kids in school either morning or arvo, the father tends the herd....

Saw my first "servile" cat....unfortunately, partially squashed on the road. It is a local wild animal rather like a wild feral cat, with orange/black dots.....very beautiful markings....haven't seen another....Lasted 100kms that day before flagging down the lunch truck.....There goes my timing.....if you don't finish the day (clock in and out) you are automatically given a 12hr day.....even if you have only ridden 6hrs...So if anyone is watching my times.....you can see when I "hop the truck"......if it is a " mando day" and you get in the truck, 16hrs are added to your time...... Change of campsite, from bush to forest.....literally in a forest of pines.....the locals are kept back by a thing layer of rope.... We are quite a scene for them....crazy looking people on bikes, staggering around putting up tents, laughing, crying, aching...rushing to wash hands, grab dinner plates, eat....wash up, stagger back to tents....maybe a www, or just crawl into sleeping bags and snore.....

Two more days of big climbs....1805 and 1881m..... Early morning beauty of valley veiled in mist....read smoke haze....the trees glistening through the sunlight and peace and quiet everywhere as we glide down the hills and up the ascents....Palm trees growing along the edge of creeks....first since Egypt....not sure what type, look like date palms...Huge vultures, brownish and menacing, feeding on a carcass in the field....shivers up my spine as I pedal past, alone......Villages getting bigger, always on a hill and I pass through breathing like a train!!!! kids yelling at me....how can I answer when I can hardly breathe???? They play "chicken" games as you creep along at zilch kms/hr.....I don't cares if they don't move......suffer the consequences.....ooops, ran over a foot!!!

Worst feeling is being pulled backwards while struggling up a hill.....the kids take full advantage of your inability to "shoooo" them off.... I get angry, yell and gesticulate....they laugh and run off....I'm left to readjust my bag and struggle on upwards, always up.....

Come across kids selling "whiskey".....oly 50Bir....about $3.... apparently made in a bathtub out of local grain and can send you blind.....no purchase....instead Iindulge in two delicious mixed fruit juices, only to get indigestion at 94km mar, walked for about 4km....too much pain to ride....flagged down the truck...again...lay on floor of truck till camp....ouch the pain...and so.another 12hr day....

Finally the day of The Gorge ride has arrived.....only 89kms today. When you read the white board each evening and the kms are low you know there is going to be pain and hills......and so it is for the 1881m climb....and also a time-trial. If you are "racing" then you must do this leg.....ah...competition... The early morning ride is across the plain...what a change, no rolling hills, just flat, flat, flat....wheat plains either side. Round bales of honey coloured wheat piled high spread for kms across the plains. Lines of men and women trekking across the plain carrying smaller bales to the bigger bales.....no donkeys, no tractors, just human carriers.....like ants across the sand...How do the bales get so high.....closer inspection as people cross the road carrying their loads....ladders. The smaller bales are dropped and then transferred by hand up the ladder, layering as they go.....a human conveyor belt!!! Women carry the bales on their backs, so they are bent over yet their head is up.....how crippling can that be? Men carry on their heads, one hand holding and they walk as if they are doing a "marathon walk"....hips swinging and their feet gliding, nearly running..... Just like the kids who run alongside you up a slope.....you are doing 16km and they are keeping up with you, yelling and laughing..... The country needs to harness both the hip swinging men and fast running kids for athletes....they'd win hands down everytime!!!!

The Gorge ride is this magnificent descent to the Nile river floor.....takes 45mins to descend....what a view...inbetween dodging bumps, slumping road, broken-down trucks, pedestrians....down down down, while also looking across to the opposite side....up, up, up.....Time trial begins at bottom of Gorge....it is 12.15 or so when I'm flagged out...."mad dogs and Englishman go out in the midday sun" comes to mind as I head up the first hill, no breeze.....first bend....stop...a family of baboons sitting on the rocks.... How amazing, happy mum with baby in lap, dad lounging on a boulder nearby, another investigating the inside of a plastic bag....Upwards and upwards....third corner....boiling, steaming, sweating....off and walk....and so it goes for the next 4hrs. Others pass by with words of encourgement....I laugh to myself....I can walk quicker than I can pedal on some stretches. Pass a patch of damp earth, water dripping....head under drips, dip my scarf in the clear pool and wring it over my head....ah...how cool can I get? More walking, another rider walks with me, but falls behind..cannot keep my pace....Another spring, this time from a pipe....yeh...sitting down I fill my water bottle and drink the cold, cold, clear water...then pour it over my body.....I become the filler of bottle to pass up to the girl riders as they stop....such a welcoming sight for them.....they push on, I stay and indulge myself with another bottle....The lunch truck passes....lots of bikes on top. I keep on walking. Just when you think it's the top, up it goes again....the valley floor getting further and further away.....Meet up with girls at coke stop....yeh....Here we encounter the local kids playing with a small chameleon on the hot bitumen road.....We gather the bright green creature on a stick and I walk with him for a short way. She happy to be safe. Finally I begin to ride and still this beautiful green creature sits on the stick...the kids are left behind and "carmen" (as we nik-named her) begins to climb along my hand and up my arm....whoops....keep pedalling. And so she stays for about 5kms, happy on the outside of my sleeve, away from the sunshine. Changing colour to blend in with the black/grey of my jersey, she goes from lime green, to shades of grey and lime green....what a vision, I pedal on watching this display, and so distracted from the climb.....finally I give her to a small bush, splash her with water and hope she survives her new surroundings! the distractions on a climb make for a happy Gennesse.....I stopped many times to view the scene passing below....levels of farming, richness in the green pastures, rocky cliff faces of coloured rock....wild, beautiful and peaceful, how good is life? Lots of walking, I arrive last into camp to cheers and clapping....but did it..and a welcome "cold beer"..... I pitch my tent alongside a very small banana tree.....I think of home and am happy to be where I am.

The record time for the climb was set in 2009 at 1hr19mins.....the boy racers go, go, go......Paul from Norway, (obviously a man from hill country) breaks the record with 1hr 17mins.....how good is that???

Another day of short kms.....more hills....didn't sleep well, and no energy.....Fancy that!!! My heart sings as I pass through a village lined with silky oaks.....an avenue of them....most times early early morning is so good going through small villages. People oblivious of you passing... The word "ciao" is used constantly....a hangover from the Italians and WWII....passed on down through the generations....Women carry umbrellas....how smart....to hide from the sun.

The kids are good, but out of nowhere comes a rock.....I turn and two young girls are laughing.....I instantly turn my bike around and ride back towards them....they run into their community compound...I drop my bike and chase them....through their wooden gate, along the rocky path, round houses made of dung and thatched roofs confront me....I walk back to the road, villagers have gathered...I wait outside the Australian gum timber fence. The girls appear and I chase them again....this time they run into a house and close the wooden door....there is a lock on the outside, I push, they are holding it closed.....I push harder and force my way into their home....it is dark, no windows, the light from behind me shines on two frightened faces, hands up in horror at this crazy white woman in lycra......I see a small goat and baby kid sharing the inside of the house, a few pots and pans.....A mother comes past and signs that it was not her children.....the culprits ran that way.....a likely story, but I retreat outside to the now larger crowd that has gathered.....I tell people "loudly" that stone throwing is NOT GOOD.....I pick up a rock and throw it on the ground....NO, NO, NO...... Finally a man with some English asks "what is the problem".....I give up.....go back to my bike (which could have been plundered and/or pinched during the debacle), hop on and ride away......I guess I lost my temper.....

The upshot of all of this was that most riders had a terrible day with the kids......I think we are all "over the stone throwing, whipping and pushing and pulling".... Tomorrow will be a better day.....

Each evening after the rider meeting, we have the "Golden Bicycle Award" presentation. Many weeks ago the girls, I call them the "rat pack"....four youngens, ranging in age from 22-30, have bonded together and are the clowns and partygoers....purchased a gold medal with a bicycle embossed on it. A blue ribbon and so we have the daily "golden bicycle award" to a rider for special deed, be it helping another riding who has had a fall, breaking the Gorge record etc, etc..... So yes, on February 19, 2012 at the top of the Rift Valley Gorge in a campsite of rocks....I am awarded the prestigious prize.....for being bold enough to enter a local's house to admonish children.....hopefully I haven't damaged them for life!!!!!

The campsite, although rocky, offers the most peaceful of nights....Before sunset I sat on a tree log, wrote my diary and watched the rocky cliff walls change colour as the sun made its was to sleep.....Looked across the campsite to the coloured tents of my "family".....everyone in their own place, one couple had made a rock perimeter entrance around their tent....a special touch amidst the black rock and thorns.... It was another 12 hr day for me....a truck ride, indigestion again, maybe altitude as at 3122mt during the day...Am I on a bike trip or walking tour......? The richness of patchwork fields passed quietly by the window, both sides of the road, rich brown soil. A country so agriculturally rich...and, at the highest point (3122) a "cement factory" belching smoke..... I wondered what was happening elsewhere in the world.

Peaceful night, but the church bell ringing and prayer calling that followed for 3 hrs....was rather excessive. Previous day the campsite was blocked by the local priest, and a guard with a Kalashnikov rifle..(do they still make bullets for such a rifle?). They wanted all of us out of the area......Maybe the priest and the muslim mullah got together and organized the extra hour of prayer calling and the 3am church bell ringing....

So finally to Addis Ababa.......Everyone excited, another short day, (read rolling HILLS....) and a convoy into the city.Race is to lunch only.
A beautiful ride, early start on my own, my eyes watching the morning shape itself...the colours of the fields, the long climb up from the campsite, smoke haze, small roadside stalls selling coptic-style crosses, religious artefacts but not yet open..... So silent is the hour. Pass houses with cacti rock walls...piles of donkey dung, built high like a haystack....dried and ready for sale....used instead of wood for their cooking fires..... Wonderful downhills.....pleasant grind uphill.....made 64km/hr on one descent....wheeee.....eyes streaming, the road to myself..... Treeless plains, difficult for a "P" stop.....another cement factory, abandoned...through villages where the dung walled houses are painted in colours....pink, green.....most attractive....!!!!

Stopped for a drink, was actually a family home....TV on, benches inside, cold drink...chat with young boy, english very good, learns a lot from TV, wants to be a dr.....mother brings freshly made bread....crispy, freshly dipped in oil. Yummmmmm.... the kids ask for "1 bir" (money). I laugh and ask for 2 Bir.....they have mobile phones, I point and say "you rich....have phone", we all laugh. The climbs keep coming, the downs, mean up....Finally, the lunch truck. Others ride on and do the big climb to the 97km meeting point. I opt for the truck to meet up with the convoy and ride into Addis..... I spend 20mins watching our lunch cook, Noah, take the leftover bread and food across to the "rope barrier", He has the children sit down and quietly and slowly he fills each roll with food and passes it to the children, smallest first. Their beautiful big eyes watch as he repeats each movement, waiting for their turn to receive. Noah is a soft, gentle soul. I like him very much.

So guys, it is Addis and time for me to go to bed.....I haven't responded to anyone this time...but thank you for keeping me on your radar....another 6 days before next rest stop......maybe internet, who knows. There are noisy boys playing pool outside the internet door....the traffic is still going and it is about 9.30pm.....my messy tent awaits....back to repack my clean washing, clean my teeth and sleep.....One of our girls fell again and broke three ribs....she is flying back home to recuperate and will rejoin us in Nairobi.....

I have yet to learn how to upload my photos.....I took several shots of the inside of my "home" (tent)....my golden bicycle award lying on my pillow.....my life in a 6x4 space.....how easy is that.....

Take care everyone. Keep happy, hug your friends and laugh lots.

Luv to my Mum.....xxxxxxx

Posted by gennesseb 23:02 Archived in Ethiopia Comments (0)

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