Thursday was day number eight, and our sixth day in Ethiopia. It started off well enough, but it fairly quickly devolved into a map-finding problem. I don't mean that I couldn't find the map. What I mean is that the map did not match our on-the-ground information, local driver’s experience, or even GIS data gathered by my wife back home. I knew the approximate distance I needed to cover that day was about 260 km (approx. 160 miles). What I couldn't figure out was what that terrain was going to be like. Plainly put, I like knowing where the hills are. But that knowledge just wasn't available.
I started at the exact same spot where I stopped cycling the night before. On my human-powered expedition, there is always a flag placed at my stopping point, so that my crew can get me back to where I need to be the next day without missing any steps, strides or RPMs. This flag was a bit in the middle of nowhere, but I had been accosted by a group of motorcyclists about 30 minutes after dark, and we’d decided that was enough for one day. But Day Eight would bring a whole new set of challenges.
I began riding at 6:45 a.m., a little later than I like. But as long as I could keep riding steadily, I knew that I was doing everything that I could to makeup time. We can’t always control our outcomes, but we do have ownership over our efforts. I had to make it to Weyt’o by the end of the day or there was very little chance that I would make it to the Kenyan border by 5 pm on Friday, our cutoff time to get exit stamps from Emigration Officials in Ethiopia to be allowed to leave Ethiopia. And if I didn't make that deadline, the expedition was most certainly over. It would take my very best effort!
The weather was cooler that it had been, and the towns we were going through seemed to be more low-key. Every kid still screamed something at me. Usually, they were just saying hello, asking for money, or just calling me a “firangi” in Amharic which simply means “foreigner.” I was not offended by it in the least. It's what I am! I always respect the fact that I am an outlander and those who live in the countries that I visit are kind to allow me entrance and passage.
At some point in the bike ride, I realized the maps we had drawn and the terrain I had expected – hills included – simply weren’t materializing. Despite our best attempts at planning and plotting and mapping, this land was indeed foreign to me, the firangi. After much fretting and trying to take control over the terrain, to tame it with logic and charts somehow, I realized I had to let go of my need for information and just be still. I let my brain quiet, and I kept climbing the massive hills, some of them bigger than any I've ever climbed. As I continued to ride, I found myself hoping that this would be the last big climb…and then this would be the last big climb…and then this would be the last big climb.
I was driving myself crazy because I was disappointed time after time. I finally understood I had to let go of this too. Eventually, I stopped thinking about whether it was THE last big hill and just focused on the climb I was on. I kept myself in the moment, and as the day wore down, I finally found the last climb, although I didn't know it until it was over!
Harnessing hope that each climb would be the last had put me on an emotional roller coaster. It was torturous. But once I let go of those expectations completely and surrendered to the reality that all these climbs had to be done, regardless of whether it was the first or the last, it became much easier.
Acceptance always helps things work out. And it allowed me to mentally be free of calculation on this day. My only job was to ride the bike.
If you’re following my journey, you already know whether or not I made that deadline and continued on into Kenya. Stay tuned for the next blog to learn ABOUT THE BORDER-CROSSING ADVENTURE AND BEYOND!
See you down the trail,