Thursday, May 01, 2008

Vertical Ethiopia

Day: 218
Time: Evening
Location: Boulder REI

Wednesday was a well deserved rest day. Our legs were tired from the last few days of exercise. It was good to keep it going and will help us as we get ready for the Colorado tour.
Most of the morning was spent preparing for China. We now have plane tickets and a hotel reservation. Now we just need those visas. The applications are in the mail and we are confident that everything will work out. All of the news articles and discussion forums seem to contradict themselves – we’ve stopped reacting to each new report.
The evening took us back to Boulder – this time in the car. We attended an awesome presentation given by Majka Burhardt, a local climbing guide and writer. She is on a national book tour to promote and discuss her recently published book, Vertical Ethiopia. The hardback chronicles the journey of four women climbers (led by Majka) in search of new routes in Northern Ethiopia. Through both pictures and words, you not only get a feel for the climbing, but the culture and landscape as well.
The geography of Ethiopia is quite interesting and our speaker did a great job of hitting the highlights. The country was never colonized and is Africa’s oldest independent country. With a land area of over 400,000 sq miles, Ethiopia is twice the size of France. Most surprisingly, the elevation of the country ranges from 125 m below sea level to its high point at 4,550 m. The capital, Addis Ababa is actually the highest capital city in Africa at 8,000 feet. From a cultural standpoint, Ethiopia is just as fascinating. Christianity and Islam share equal parts of the population and Majka shared that each group attends the holidays and functions of the others. Not what one would expected in a region of the world where religion is at the very core of most conflict.
One part of the presentation really resonated with me. Majka spoke to the common misconceptions of Ethiopia, both from the world and her own. She shared that she found a country that was much more diverse and beautiful than what she had read and heard about. I think Chris and I feel the same about the countries we have visited. It’s now hard for us to believe all of the bad things we hear – you can’t really know until you go and experience a place for yourself.
The most exciting part of the night was when Majka shared that Ethiopia has a great potential for many outdoor sports, especially mountain biking. I think this country in the Horn of Africa might just find its way on to our list of “places we want to ride”.
Here’s to endless possibilities,

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