Trading seeds of change

Oromo Coffee CompanyBorn in the Oromia town of Warra Jarso, 175kms north of the capital Addis Ababa, Abiyot Shiferaw was brought up with his two sisters and four brothers in a happy family environment. Like all Ethiopians, they celebrated special occasions by holding a traditional coffee ceremony. From an early age, Abiyot had a strong sense of fairness but saw injustice all around him. He saw how his fellow countrymen and women did not have access to clean water or could not pay for basic medical treatment. He observed how children were denied an education because their parents couldn’t afford to send them to school. He witnessed state-sponsored corruption at the hands of government officials and the police.

And his struggle for human rights, fairness and justice nearly cost him his life.

‘There were political problems in the school’, he says, ‘thirty-seven students including myself were arrested one day for being members of the Maccaa-Tulama Association, a civil society group in the Kuyyu Distinct banned by the Ethiopian government in 2002. The organisation was seen as a threat to the government’s political wishes. We were arrested without any reason or proof that we had done anything wrong’.

Abiyot was imprisoned for three months during which time his family were prevented from visiting him. He was eventually accused of being affiliated to the Oromia Liberation Front (OLF), a rebel group who are still fighting for self-determination.

‘We were investigated but there was no evidence,’ he adds.

After being released, Abiyot studied law in Addis Ababa and was later employed by an Oromo law firm. He says he found it almost impossible to act in the interests of his clients as a result of excessive police pressure or government administrators to exact a favourable verdict: ‘It was very difficult to apply the law independently. In the end, I realised that I couldn’t undertake my duties to represent the people fairly and decided that I could no longer continue’.

But the bloody aftermath of the 2005 national elections where hundreds of people lost their lives in protest was a turning point for Abiyot. He successfully ran as a candidate for the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) and was elected to represent his home town constituency in the federal parliament. The sweet taste of success soon turned sour when the national election results were called early by the incumbent alliance, the Ethiopian People’s Democratic Revolutionary Front, and a state of emergency was declared.

In response to the public unrest that followed, public gatherings were outlawed and Prime Minister, Meles Zanawi, assumed direct command of the security forces, replacing the capital city police with Special Forces drawn from elite army units. Reports of massive human rights’ violations across the country were reported by international observers. ‘The election was stolen’, says Abiyot, with the zeal of a political activist; ‘the government was defeated. They did not win one seat in the capital but described themselves as the outright winner. The government should listen to the people’s voice’.

Shortly after the election, plain-clothed security police arrived at Abiyot and his friend’s residence in the dead of night. They were forced into a car and blindfolded. Abioyt tried to stop them by showing his parliamentary identification card, stating that (Article 54) stipulates that no member of the parliament shall be arrested or prosecuted unless his or her immunity is revoked by the legislature. ‘They trashed my identity card and told me to use it as toilet paper’ he recalls. They were driven to an unknown church cemetery out of Addis and told that their graves were already reserved for them. Severely beaten and threatened that they would be executed and buried unless they confessed that they were inciting students in Oromia to rise up against the government, Abiyot says he will never forget the terrifying moment when ‘one of them put the muzzle of his rifle into my mouth while another one poked my stomach with his gun’.

Determined to continue his struggle, he contacted the international media, NGOs and the British embassy to inform them of what had happened. Knowing that his life was in danger, a petition was presented to the federal parliament in a bid to stop the police intimidation; it was rejected. Abiyot could not go anywhere without being followed by the authorities. He could not visit his friends or family because he did not want to put them at risk. He realised that he had no choice but to flee.

It took six months for Abiyot to reach Kenya. He and a friend travelled on foot through the remote forests of the rural highlands in southern Ethiopia to evade the regular police checkpoints on the main highway. ‘Even in Nairobi, we weren’t safe. We were arrested by the security forces, tortured and imprisoned’ he says. With no one else to turn to, he contacted the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and European Parliamentarian, Ana Gomes MEP, for help.

In April 2008, Abiyot arrived safely in Greater Manchester after being granted refugee status. His first few months adjusting to life in the UK came as a shock to him: ‘When you come to a new country, it is the same as being like a new born child again. The impact of a new culture, different language, and different system of employment was a challenge. My qualifications were not accepted in this country’. However, Abiyot did not want to be reliant on welfare benefits and with the support of the pioneering Lorna Young Foundation, his local MP, James Purnell, and assistance from Refugee Action, he established the Oromo Coffee Company (OCC) with other members of the Oromo community in the Northwest.

OCC bagsBased on social enterprise principles that ploughs its profits back into creating employment and training opportunities, OCC works towards direct trade between Oromos in Ethiopia and the UK. All its coffee is sourced through the Oromia Coffee Farmers’ Cooperative Union is organic, Fairtrade certified, and expertly roasted in Huddersfield by Bolling Coffee. From spicy Harar, to floral Yirgacheffe and the darkly roasted after-dinner Limu, the OCC has some of the finest Ethiopian coffees covered:

“The Oromo Coffee Company brings a great concept to the world of Fairtrade and we are proud to be working with them. The coffee tastes great, originating from the birthplace of coffee itself in Ethiopia and the mission of the company is taking Fairtrade to the next level”.

Herriet Lamb, Executive Director the Fairtrade Foundation

Due to graduate in law from Huddersfield University in June this year, the aspiring human rights’ lawyer’s struggle is far from over. He says: ‘Coffee in our society brings people together; it is important socially, culturally and economically. In Oromo culture, people come together under the Odaa tree to make the coffee ceremony and share stories so that we can teach other and manage our lives better. It makes you feel positive and strong. Through the Oromo Coffee Company, we are trading and working together so that we can increase the capacity of the smallholder farmer. This means he can get a fair price so that he can send his children to school and get an education’.

Abiyot passionately believes coffee has the power to change the dire political situation in Ethiopia. More than a commodity, it holds the key to unlocking the vast potential of his country men and women by promoting skills and education through community-to-community trade: ‘If there are no skills or education, we are blind’ he says, ‘only through education can the people know their civic duty to protect and exercise their rights. That’s why coffee and trade has the power to change lives for the better’.

You can be part of that change by supporting the Oromo Coffee Company to help smallholder farmers in Ethiopia earn a decent living here.

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Tour de Ethiopique

When the day of departure finally came, the early morning sun was shining brightly in a big, blue African sky without a threatening storm cloud in sight – the first time in a month. A sign that Kareumt (the long rainy season from June – September) was finally coming to an end as the warm rays bathed the Friary garden with the promise of an Ethiopian spring.

Brother Lucas helps out with some essential bike maintenance to get the Sherpa ready for the (off) road

After bidding farewell to the Brothers over a simple breakfast of honey and bread, washed down with copious amounts of freshly prepared coffee, I took a deep breath and started to turn my wheels once more.

If the truth be told, I had mixed emotions; elated to be back on my trusty steed again, sad to leave the company of the St Francis Capuchin community that had been my home for a nearly a month, and a little nervous about the prospect of encountering the battalions of stone throwing children that I have heard so much about. Whether there is any substance to this myth or not, their reputation certainly precedes them. Either way,  I was soon going to find out en-route to the southern Ethiopian coffee growing highlands of Yirga Cheffe. My mission? To help out with the agricultural activities on a Oromia cooperative farm in preparation for the coming harvest. The only thing that stood in my way was 500kms of winding Ethiopian asphalt through fertile farmland and the Lake Abiata-Shala National Park where tales of highway bandits that lie in wait on the roadside abound. Putting this last thought out of my mind, I pressed foot firmly to pedal and pushed on. There was no turning back now.

The pan-African colours of the national flag to mark the recent passing of the Ethiopian New Year (in the Coptic calendar the year is 2004) fluttered in the breeze as I free-wheeled the gentle downhill into Addis city centre. A quick detour to say goodbye to the good people at Tomoca Café and to stock up with half-a-kilo of their fine freshly roasted Longberry Harrar Coffee – a perfect primer for the Bialetti and calf muscles – and I was on my way: A five-day ride south beckoned. At least.

Leaving the smudge of the smoggy city skyline behind me, I felt like I was cycling out of a high altitude portal of relative modernity into a completely different world. The harsh glint of the, by now, hot midday sun reflected by the corrugated iron roofs of Addis’ suburban tin shacks soon softened into a rural pastiche straight out of a scene from Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Nestled amongst the fields of maize, shady enset (false banana), teff, avocado and papaya, are the impressive Tukus – traditional round huts with thatched conical roofs – that stand like large pepper pots made of mud and straw. Oxen, goats, an occasional forlorn looking mule tethered to a wooden cart, and chickens scratching around in the undergrowth completed the sensation of being teleported to the pastoral idyl of the Shire. High above, vultures slowly rode the thermals in long circular arcs, like the undead Nazgul of the skies, scouting for the next road kill on the menu far below.

In terms of geographical phenomena, the Great Rift Valley is a masterwork of Mother Nature in progress. Riding a small part of this massive tectonic fissure in the Earth’s crust that stretches from the Arabian Peninsula all the way down to Mozambique is truly a sight to behold. Scarred, gaping mouths of extinct volcanoes dot the landscape like giant eroded cones rising of out of the expanse of the vast valley floor. Tree-clad tabletop ridges flank the horizon on each side whilst ancient igneous debris is strewn everywhere. A fine red dust of the African earth coats everything; clothes, hair, brakes, chain and, no doubt, the lungs.  Once the primal forces that are literally tearing this part of the African continent in two have finished their subterranean work in another million years (give or take a few), this 4000km long valley connected by a string of lakes will be reclaimed by the deep waters of the Red Sea.

Marvelling at this dramatic story of almost biblical proportions being played out over geological time only added to the drama on the road. Despite being regularly enveloped in the thick black soot that belches out of the back of the ubiquitous Isuzu trucks (often stacked at an gravity-defying angle or crammed full with a dozen-or-so windswept camels) that zoom passed with clockwork predictability (and cringing proximity), I was coming to terms with a force to be reckoned with of a different kind.

With more regularity than an Isuzu, my journey so far has become increasingly accompanied by an entertaining roadside repertoire of call and response. The exchange goes something like this:

Habasha (Ethiopian): Faranj, faranji, faranj, faranji!
Faranji (Foreigner) on a bike:
Habasha!
Habasha:
You, you, you, you, you…
Faranji
: Hey you, how are you?!
Habasha:
Where you go?
Faranji:
Ethiopia!

[Interchangeable with any other destination you care to mention. Recent port of calls have been the Sea of Tranquillity; Dagobah; Utopia; the fourth dimension; Birmingham; Buna ersha (coffee farm); or just plain and simple – but to the point; as far as my legs will carry me…]

Habasha: Money, money, where’s my money!
Faranji:
Sorry, no money!
Habasha:
Good, good, very good. One Birr, give me one Birr!
Faranji:
Sorry, no Birr!
Habasha:
Caramello, give me one caramello!
Faranji:
Sorry, no caramello!
Habasha:
Pen, pen, give me pen!
Faranji:
Sorry, no pen!
Habasha:
I love you!
Faranji:
I love you too!
Habasha:
China!
Faranji:
British!
Habsaha:
Welcome!
Faranji:
Thank you!
Habasha:
You, you, you, you, you, you…!”

[Repeat as desired]

And my all time favourite so far….

Habasha: Never mind.

 [Spoken by a young girl who was herding her wayward band of goats off the road as she nonchalantly glanced at my bike with pity as I laboured up a hill] 

At first, it is easy to feel a little besieged by the attention that a ‘faranji’ on a bicycle appears to attract. But once you start to peel away the vocal layers of this roadside choir, the essence is one of pure excitement. In fact, it becomes more endearing as each day passes. I’ll try to explain.

The choral ensemble is usually marshalled by an eagle-eyed child, sometimes up to a hundred yards away. Raising the ‘faranji alarm’, said child begins to run at full pelt towards the road as fast as their legs will carry them. This in turn alerts other children in the vicinity to the faranji pedalling in their midst. Within a matter of moments, a growing number of nimble-footed ‘faranji alarms’ are now running in hot pursuit. To the staccato cries of ‘you, you you, you!’ they reach the roadside in such a fever pitch that their voices are cracking by the sheer exertion of their little lungs. All you can do is wave and smile with equal enthusiasm. Meanwhile, the adults look on watchfully and either give a bemused wave or join in with the collective ensemble. As you can imagine, any prospect of wild camping has been on a sliding scale between nil and zero.

The question poses, how do you deal with these wide-eyed, adorable, excitable, energetic, vocal scamps of the road? My strategy to date is two-fold. Firstly, I promised to pimp my ride a while back in Lebanon. So I did with the national flag.

Indeed, this only adds to the hysteria but as a mere guest in their country, the least I can do is proudly fly the colours of this enchanting, beautiful, diverse, life reaffirming land of wide, beaming smiles.

The second method I’ve tried to employ is to engage in the good-natured banter as much as humanly possible. I’ve saluted, waved, bowed, grinned, pulled faces, and laughed – sometimes to the point where I have had to hit the brakes for fear of falling off my bike from laughing too hard – at the sheer surreal nature of the whole situation. Okay, I admit that I’m not going to start trying to perform some kind of two-wheeled circus act anytime soon, but my desire to interact in a sincere but humorous way is just as strong, even if it does shave a few kilometres off my daily average. Their speed and stamina is astounding too. It really does come as no surprise that Ethiopia is home to some of the world’s finest long-distance runners when entire classrooms of young Haile Gabrselassie’s have given chase for well over a kilometre without any visible signs of fatigue.  My own fitness levels have truly been put to shame.

The ride has not been without its fair share of perils either. Any food strapped to the back of the bike is, par the course, fair game. I’ve heard (and felt) the crack of a whip split the air just a little too close for comfort by curious young shepherds who have turned their attention away from their grazing cattle to see how a pedalling ‘faranji’ responds, if subjected to similar treatment. Likewise, small mischievous hands have tried (unsuccessfully to my huge relief) to poke a stick into the Sherpa’s wheels in a bid to force me to screech to a stop. Yes, I’ve had countless children climb onto the back of the bike in an attempt to hitch a ride home. Yes, stones and other missiles such as the discarded remains of a chewed husk of maize have been flung my way with varying degrees of accuracy. And yes, I’m keeping count. (Please see the right hand column for a running tally – currently the ‘habasha home team’ have the lead by a narrow margin).

This is not to mention the uninvited amoebas that had taken up residence in my gut, forcing an unscripted few days’ recovery whilst I nuked my system with an arsenal of strong antibiotics in the lovely lakeside town of Awasa.

A small price to pay for an unforgettable experience so far… Just.

People often ask me why on earth I am travelling alone. The truth of the matter is that in Ethiopia, you never are actually ‘alone’. Well, not for long anyway. Kids of all ages sporting brightly coloured Chinese-made bikes festooned with reflectors have often joined me for a stretch to the next village, only to ‘pass on the baton’ to another budding young gang of cyclists. Safe in the knowledge that there will always be a crowd of cheering children waiting round the next corner, I can’t help but sometimes feel like I’m completing a never-ending final stage of ‘Le Tour de Ethiopique’.

It’s as energizing as it is exhausting.

No yellow jersey or finishing line in this ‘race’ though; only a sure, steady ‘sprint’ towards the birthplace of the bean.

Next stop: The primary coffee cooperative of Killenso Mokonisa to stay on a family run farm where I will be temporarily trading my cycling mits for gardening gloves. A daily routine of weeding, seed bed preparation, clearing diseased crops, collecting water from the river, and cutting back the overgrown shade trees awaits just as the uniquely floral-tasting Yirga Cheffe variety of coffee berries are now beginning to ripen on the branch. Magic.

A Capuchin Retreat

The move from the hustle and bustle of the backpacker Piazza district to the peace and tranquility of the Friary was just the (self prescribed) ticket. After receiving an invitation to join the community for a few days, I set off on the bike in the pouring rain to find the compound 10kms outside Addis city centre. The short but eventful ride involved negotiating around huge mud filled craters big enough to swallow a bus whilst being followed by groups of excitable young children shouting a chorus of ‘Faranji!’ (foreigner). Arriving at the Friary – ecstatically drenched and splattered from head to toe in the ubiquitous reddish-brown mud of the rainy season – was one of those priceless moments in serendipity. It transpires that the mission is affiliated to the Capuchin order of Franciscan Brothers; a religious order who take their origins from the days of St Francis of Assisi back in the thirteenth century. Maybe it’s just happy coincidence, but the resonance of the Capuchin metaphor (where ‘cappuccino’ – meaning small cap –  is said to derive its name from) couldn’t be more poignant for a coffee enthusiast on a bike in search of the bean.

The following morning, the ringing of the church bell to signal early Mass gently awoke me from a deep sleep as a fragrant smell of incense started to fill the room. Pulling back the curtains, I could see the palm and young eucalyptus trees in the quadrangle below covered in a glistening coat of fresh morning dew.  The swirling mists and vapour trails that hung low in the humid morning air were incandescent with the first warm rays of the early African sun. As Mass got underway, the resonant chants of the male members of the congregation lifted as the women joined in with round-upon-round of ululations. Waking up that first morning, and every subsequent morning, has been a magical experience.

The Friary is a small close-knit community. The simple surroundings are home to a Brotherhood of five Fathers and eight Brothers who are studying in preparation for their formation, or acceptance into the order. Irrespective of status, all wear the familiar brown hooded habits of the Capuchins, punctuated by a waist height cord of white rope to signify their solidarity with the poor. The rope is commonly tied with three knots, each representing their vows of initiation; poverty, chastity and obedience. Their duties consist mostly of work in the community, pastoral matters, study and time put aside for reflection.

Father Daniel, a priest with a fierce intellect and encyclopaedic memory, told me over breakfast this morning that they essentially act as social workers in the community; serving an important public service that the Government can’t – or doesn’t – provide. Whilst ‘good works’ are bread and butter for the Brotherhood, he said, there wasn’t enough time to concentrate on philosophical or theological matters. ‘We have a rich history in Ethiopia with a wealth of ancient literature going back more than a thousand years. Do we translate or spend time interpreting our philosophical or sacred texts for today’s modern age? No. We are a nation in danger of forgetting our own history and with each passing generation, we are losing the keys to unlocking the greatness of our past’, he said with a sigh.

Behind the living quarters stands the spacious Capuchin Franciscan Institute of Philosophy and Theology which draws students, academics and pilgrims from all over the world. A seat of learning and academia with an extensive network spanning the African continent and beyond, the Institute is complete with a well stocked library bursting with poetry, religious and philosophical literature. There are airy classrooms and an auditorium for lectures; the most recent focusing on the Franciscan view of incarnation. There’s even a Spiritual Director’s office. To the side of the high vaulted and colourfully interior-decorated church is the garden from which all the fresh fruit and vegetables are grown. From organic cabbages to potatoes, carrots to oranges, runner beans to bananas, barley and teff (the grain used to make Injera, the staple food of Ethiopia), every meal that is produced from the Friary’s nutritious soils. A dozen goats meanwhile keep the lush green grass of the Institute garden in check and ensure a ready supply of fresh milk is on tap.

If the austere aesthetic of monastic life represents a lifetime commitment to material poverty, then the debates that take place around the dinner table and in the common room are far from impoverished. Listening to the Brothers discuss alternative perspectives on ‘Original Sin’ from a feminist standpoint with sincerity and passion wasn’t something – and please forgive my prejudice here – I was expecting to hear. There is also a playful humour that touches every conversation, even if the topic of discussion does concern the apocalypse. Whoops of unrestrained laughter are a common feature of the intellectual exchanges whilst differing points of view are presented and openly challenged with unbridled glee.

It’s taken a few days but the contemplative rhythm of the Friary has helped to clear the malign residue left over by the Mefloquine, and I can now start to think clearly again. Without a shadow of doubt, Larium derailed my body and mind for a good week or so. Now firing on all cylinders after a quiet period of retreat, it’s high time this Bean on a Bike hit the road once more!

Coming Home to the Birthplace of Buna

It took the jet propelled fly-by-wire tin can a mere four hours to reach Addis. As we descended out of the turbulent storm clouds, it felt like being transported to a completely different world. The parched earth of the Eastern Mediterranean was now replaced with lush semi-tropical pasture, pine and eucalyptus forest that fringed the sprawling city below.

“Welcome to our shower!” smiled the sprightly young taxi driver as I emerged from Bole International Airport into an early morning deluge. The first drops of rain on my face in more than six weeks felt cool and refreshing. My first instinct was to scan the precariously balanced bike box being fixed to the roof of one of Addis’ quintessential taxis – a lovingly maintained old blue and white Lada with No Fear! emblazoned across the rear window – for any signs of visible damage. The montage of ‘fragile’ stickers that I had so enthusiastically decorated it with hours earlier appeared to be of no consequence, and the box clearly bore the scars from a baggage (mis)handling ordeal of its own.

The fact that the rest of my luggage was to languish in Beirut for the next few days was of little concern. The main thing was that I had arrived. By some stroke of luck, I had managed to persuade the customs official to waive the tax (based on the sum value of the Sherpa which I was in no position, or could afford, to pay!) on the condition that it was; a) used and not for resale; b) my sole means of transport around the country; c) I would be leaving Ethiopia overland via the Sudanese border on said used steed and therefore would not be returning to the airport to collect my deposit. The feeling of total elation to be finally on Ethiopian soil was only ever-so-slightly tempered by the sight of the rear axle poking through the torn and battered cardboard bike box at a suspiciously odd angle. Above all, the overriding factor was that I had thankfully reached – although not necessarily by the means or manner in which I intended – the birthplace of ‘Buna’ (Amharic for Coffee) with the bike hopefully, all in one piece.

Acclimatising to Addis

It’s taken a good week to acclimatise to Ethiopia’s alpine mountain capital in more ways than one but Addis Ababa (meaning ‘new flower’) is starting to grow on me. With each foray that takes me deeper into the myriad of back streets that cluster around the network of Embassy lined roads, I’m slowly realising that its bark is worse than its bite.

Churchill Avenue, Addis Ababa

It’s the smiles that strike you first. With the odd and to be expected exception, there is a genuine warmth and friendliness to every interaction. This is usually along the lines of trying to take my first faltering baby steps into speaking Amharic where nine times out of ten, my pronunciation is gently corrected (always with a smile). I’ve clearly still got a long way to go before I can even stand up, never mind walk the talk. Meanwhile, English is widely spoken which puts my own linguistic attempts at speaking the lingo to utter shame. Still, I can only keep on trying.

The cherry on top of this sea of smiles is – and apologies for my predictability here – the coffee! Addis is undisputedly one of the few high altitude Meccas for the pilgrim in search of a sublime shot of the black stuff. The city is literally awash with busy, independently run espresso bars; each offering a tasty selection of freshly baked cakes and pastries with which to line the stomach. It really does feel like I have come ‘home’. In most cafes, the coffee served is from the Harar region in the Eastern Highlands or Sidamo to the south, and I’m bowled over at how consistently outstanding the coffee is. Every buna I’ve tried bar the odd exception has excelled. Gosh, if this is only just the start of a roller-coaster Ethiopian coffee adventure then I think my taste buds have already sealed the deal and gone for a honeymoon.

Chat for all Occasions

The other addictive substance that seems to be vying for the affection of the nation’s heart – second only to coffee – is chat. Every morning without fail, an energetic twenty-something guy called Teddy latches himself to onto me like a limpet and proceeds to extol the virtues of this mildly narcotic plant. The seemingly genuine overtures are however a tried and tested confidence trick but the conversation is nonetheless stimulating. According to his philosophy this widely available, water intensive cash crop really is the wonder cure-all drug that we’ve is all been waiting for. Paradoxically, it aids sleep whilst promoting alertness. It can cure a cold in 24 hours. Aside from bringing on a natural high, the sour tasting leaves also serve as a potent aphrodisiac… The list of benefits grows with each passing day. “Even the Prime Minister chews chat!” he tells me reassuringly with a slightly manic look in his bloodshot eyes.

Based on its evident popularity on the streets of Addis, I’m sure he’s right. The sight of men (I’ve not seen a woman chewing chat yet) – young and old – sitting in the doorways of chat houses clutching a bag of leaves, cheeks bulging, whilst munching away intently is a common fixture to the city’s furniture. As a self-confessed caffeine addict who has never indulged in a chat chewing session (yet), I’m certainly in no position to judge, but for now I think I’m going to stick to nurturing a healthy obsession with coffee until the right time and place presents itself.

On a Mission

It’s currently the height of the rainy (kremit) season here. A least one deluge each day turns the streets into a running river of brown flotsam and jetsam. This is usually heralded by a dramatic show of thunder, lightning and hailstone that falls down from the heavens in sheets and hammers the corrugated roofs with a ferocity that I’ve not seen before. It’s hard to comprehend when the worst famine to stalk the Horn of Africa since 1984 displaces millions of people, and causes needless human tragedy to countless more, is unfolding just a few days ride away towards the Somalian and Kenyan borders to the south.

Waiting for a dispatch of spare/replacement bike parts to arrive from my ‘support team’ back in South London (thanks Ross and Soph!) provides the perfect opportunity to set up camp in the lively backpacker area of the Piazza district in the north of the city. Currently sharing my cozy, budget accommodation in The Wutma Hotel (there are no hostels in Addis) with a whole host of other creepy crawlies who have taken up residence with me, I’m using the time to shelter from the rains and prepare for the mission that lies ahead.

Introducing Bean on a Bike HQ: