Running in Yirgacheffe

This is just a series of unedited, unfiltered pictures that I took with my phone as I went for an early morning run outside of Yirgacheffe in southern Ethiopia.

Of course it goes without saying that the pictures in no way do justice to the reality of that jungle-like environment.  It had rained pretty hard the previous evening – so everything was especially lush and damp.  It was a lot to take in over 10km (and way too much elevation change!)















Finding beauty at a road-side onion stall

On the way back into the city Z wanted to stop and buy some onions for her mom- as her sister’s wedding was coming up and many traditional Ethiopian dishes rely heavily on them. They were cheaper and better in the area we were driving through than back in Addis – so we pulled over at one of the make-shift stands that line the highway.

I thought Aaron was exaggerating when he said they needed to buy ‘100kg of onions.’

Nope. Two 50kg bags got loaded in the back after they were packed by hand-sorting and filling them.


propping open the door with the bamboo pole


As seems to always be the case here – there were a bunch of kids hanging around. They were of course quite interested in all these faranji buying their dad/brother/uncle/neighbor/friends onions.

Someone said they love to have their pictures taken – if you show them the image when you’re done. I’m pretty sure I had no idea a 5cm lcd screen could bring so much joy to a kid.

Through the orange glow of the African sun filtered through the tattered tarp that was the roof, these kids just kept lining up – taking turns – and laughing, giggling and shouting when I’d show them the picture I’d just taken.







As we were reaching the city  the traffic started getting heavier – lots of trucks, herds of sheep, taxis, and then some more odd things.

can’t say I’ve ever seen that before. Also must say for a Swiss guy – Philip has that crazed-Ethiopian-call thing down pretty good.

Ethiopia – first 72 hours



I landed at Bole airport in Addis Ababa around 3:30 am. But by the time I realized that – in fact -my bags had not made the connection in Cairo (which I had suspected – and specifically asked the EgyptAir agent “but my bags were only tagged to Cairo – how will they make it?” –

“no problem – they are already on the plane”

Since i was in transit – he was the only desk that I could get to -and I was directed on through transit security – which involved everyone passing through a metal detetor that went off – and you just keep walking.

Needless to say the bag of French cheese that was pretty ripe smelling when we put it in my suitcase – was seriously stanky after sitting in the heat of the Cairo International tarmac for 24 hours before being sent on to Addis.

I didn’t realise it at the time I booked my tickets – but I landed on Ethiopian Easter weekend. (over the weekend one prayer went like this: “Thank you Lord for what you did for us that first Easter – we’re not sure why you did it for the Ethiopians 3 months later – but thanks anyway”) So that meant that the day I landed was a holiday – Good Friday – so there was nothing I could do in Addis as all offices were closed.

Aaron and Zide and some friends were heading down south to lake Longano to stay with some other friends who work there at a clinic/school/kids camp/church on the lake- so I gladly accepted that offer. Slept for about 3 hours and then headed out of town.

On the way out of town Aaron pointed out that the spare tire in our van was flat – so maybe we should have that taken care of – so we found someone who  gently removed the tire from the rim with his pointed 4kg sledge hammer – put in a new tube – and we were off.



On the way out of the city the scenery started changing quite quickly  – and I saw stuff like:




About an hour or two into our drive there was an enormous BANG-THUMPTHUMPTHUMP as we blew out our right front tire. Good thing we had a spare.

Luckily I had just changed our snow tires off our car a few weeks before (which seemed surreal to think of in the surroundings I found myself in) – so I was all in practice so I slid the jack under the van, Aaron popped off the tire and we were off like a professional pit-crew.  But – in the few minutes it took us – people started coming to see why this van full of faranji – white people- was stopped on the side of the road in the middle of nothing. First a few kids came from behind trees. Then people walking down the road. I counted 35 when we left. And there were none when we stopped. In fact – when we stopped you would have sworn that there was no person for a long distance in either direction.

We tried to fix the now flat tire -by stopping at tire shops (road-side huts with a pile of used tires)- but none had the size we needed – so we hoped we didn’t blow another tire and kept driving.

Assistant Manager at the tire store

We passed hundreds of these traditional farms where the family lives in a mud and thatch house and plow the fields with two oxen and a single-blade plow.


the “bridge entering the compound”


Ove the next few days I saw an amazing assortment of animals around this beautiful lake.















On our second morning two of us when for a run along a dirt road past mud and grass huts where all the little kids come out and yell “faranji faranji faranji” or “You You You You”. We pretty much had a parade as we ran through these tiny settlements. We finished that run in a torrential downpour where said road turned out to be a dry river bed, and very rapidly turned into a river.


camels being herded on our way back into Addis


Pretty amazing first 3 days in the country – and I felt so overwhelmed with hospitality as Aarron and Zide are friends of friends that we have only met a few times in France- and the people whose house I stayed at I met as I was brining my stuff in to stay the weekend.

Nice start to the trip….

Trying to leave

running past the Damascus gate as the sun rises over the Old City

Since all we had to do our last day in Jerusalem, was wake up, get the bus to the airport and leave on a 1.30pm flight, you’d think that there wouldn’t be much to say.

well – you’d be wrong.

I got up early to go for a run. I was running along some of the roads that were already closed off for the marathon that was going to be held later that morning. I ran along the ancient walls of the old city. Then I had this striking sharp pain in my chest …left hand side. Strange. Felt just like the fake heart attack I had before.  But then I realized that between the incredible amount of Israeli Defence Forces around, plus the fact that there were IDF and police everywhere to block off the race course- plus there must be medics etc for the race – this would probably not be a bad place to have a heart attack while running. As you can probably guess – it was just another fake one. Lots of fun those…

When I got back to the house I thought we should probably bump up out taxi/bus as there would probably be some delay in getting to us as part of the course was quite close to our place.

the foreboding prophesy of the upcoming marathon

After we called the driver to bump up our pick up time – he called back – about the time he was supposed to be there and said…”I can’t get to you. Come out to main road”

“towards Bethlehem or towards the Old city?” I asked using the only two points I knew of along that road.

“towards Bethlehem”

“Goat rodeo” was the phrase Rob used to refer to the 12 of us running along – not as in ‘along next to’ – but actally as in “running the course” of the Jerusalem International Marathon that morning.
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After running for a long time -we asked some Israeli Defence Forces to call the taxi driver for us (which they did….very hesitantly). We had gone so far – surely we must have missed him – or he was on a side street.  When the IDF officer got off the phone she told us “another 2 km”


We were now seriously running out of time and had our 8 kids between 18months and 12 years with us each trying to drag their own bags. We had to finally actually cross the marathon  route- not something the race officials really like when you are a heard like we were…but what can you do?

After we found our driver – he loaded our stuff in- quite leisurely  We tried to say that we were in a rush, now that we were leaving much later than expected…but he didn’t really seem to want to be in that much of a hurry.

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He dropped us off at the main terminal with not much time to spare at all. Then we looked up  at the departures board to see which desk we were supposed to check-in, and found that since we were flying cheap-o EasyJet – we actually had to check in at the other terminal. The one that is I think for cargo, and Easyjet. So we quickly found a bus that took us back from the terminal we were actually in  – to the other terminal.  Well – ‘quickly’ after the running in and out of the airport, being sent both upstairs and back down – and finally finding where the bus really was.

making sure he still fits as a carry-on

After going through the 11 steps in security (at least that’s what I counted) we finally made it to our plane and were on our way home.

safely at our gate

We finally relaxed a bit once in the air – and the kids were busy playing and chatting.  Even when we hit turbulence that made the plane drop so much that you were temporarily weightless, and many in the plane were obviously nervous as their cries would indicate – our kids seemed to all be going “whhoooo” and “yeahhh” as if they had just found the best ride at the amusement park.

So perhaps there is no other point to this post than to serve as a warning to those who would one day think of  travelling with us.

running in Annecy – Take II

Last year after I crashed my mountain bike down the side of a mountain while out in the middle of nowhere by myself and hurt my shoulder pretty bad – I took up running to keep me from getting too sedentary.

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I decided that I needed some goal to aim at – or I knew I couldn’t possibly keep up this incredibly boring activity of just placing one foot in front of the other repeatedly along the side of the road, so I signed up for and ran a half-marathon in Annecy, a city nestled against an alpine lake about one hour north of us.

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I guess a few things happened over the past year – the most shocking to me is the fact that I actually enjoy running, and do it a fair bit.

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This year Jonah, Matea AND Micah were all old enough to run – so all three of them did – and they loved it.  They got t-shirts, and medals, and a race number to keep – so that was lots of fun.

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I was really hoping to improve my race time, however I was actually feeling pretty rough the day I ran – so ended up finishing the 21km in 2hrs and 31 seconds.

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There were lots of other things to do – especially for the kids, games and activities, Matea did a round of athletics where she did shot put, javelin, tripple jump, hurdles etc.

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So despite the fact that once again  the weather was rather dismal, rainy and wet – it was a pretty fun day overall.