The minute we crossed the border from the Sudan into Ethiopia – everything was different. The people are smaller and slender with bright, sharp eyes and a quick energy. Everyone is an entrepreneur. And as one of our riders wryly commented, our first step into Christian territory gave us beer and brothels.
The country is stunningly beautiful. I’ll be putting pictures up but they don’t really capture the golden glow of the huge fields of grain. In the morning light, the scenes are almost biblical. Farmers are using the same methods they must have used centuries ago. Ploughing with wooden ploughs, women carrying buckets on wooden yokes and threshing by hand. Livestock is plentiful with large herds of cattle, sheep, goats, donkeys and horses.
Everyone walks everywhere. So, instead of our traffic rush hours of the west, you have people rush hours, where hundreds are walking to market, work or school in the mornings.
The landscape veers between rolling hills and vertiginous gorges. Lots of cultivation and then wooded areas and some big slabs of bare mountain.
Then there are the different smells: eucalyptus, jasmine (or something like it), atan – the incense that is burned everywhere whilst making coffee.
And the children. A tiny minority of them plague us. They throw stones and rocks at us, slap us if they get close enough and even use the whips and sticks they have to drive the livestock. It is really difficult when you are tired and sore not to let it get to you, but you have to accept it and try not to let it mar the enjoyment of this wonderful place.
The riding has been really intense. We have done 10km of straight up climbing since we got here – and my back is screaming for mercy. Rest day is nearly over, and we still have some way to go. I’m looking forward to it.