Ethiopia: a truly adventurous cycling destination

At Ride Velo we love cycling abroad: Alps, Pyrenees, Mallorca. These are truly wonderful cycling destinations. But our imagination, adventurous spirit and wanderlust were stirred even further when we heard about Tadele Travel who are offering cycling holidays in Ethiopia.

We spoke to Richard Nerurkar who runs the company with his business partner, Ethiopian born, Girma Tadele. If Richard Nerurkar’s name is familiar it may be that you remember him as a former 10,000 metre and marathon runner from the 1990s who competed in two Olympic Games for Great Britain and was once tipped as a favourite to win the London Marathon.

Hailing from the rather less glamorous Wolverhampton, Richard and his wife, who is a doctor, moved to Addis Ababa after he retired as a professional athlete. He set up, along with Haile Gebrselassie, the Great Ethiopian Run, Africa’s biggest road race. Richard and Gail became spellbound by this magnificent country and immersed themselves into the culture, learning the complicated and difficult language and living there for 10 years.

Ethiopia doesn’t usually spring to mind as a road cycling destination but Tigray, in the northern part of the country, has been the lucky beneficiary of a big road building programe over the last 15 years. This in a nation that only has 700,000 cars in a space three times the size of Germany. Richard says that, for much of the time, cyclists have the roads to themselves.

While the asphalt roads may be new, the dramatic scenery is one of ancient history with heritage sites that date back to the first century. Starting out from Mekele you will pass through the ancient city of Axum, once the heart of the Abyssinian Empire, and the scenic Gheralta mountains. Throughout the region, the cliffs hide rock-hewn churches which have existed for over fourteen hundred years.

The terrain offers options for all types of cyclists through green rolling hills to punishing mountain climbs .While Tadele have various tours for different abilities they can also tailor-make one for you. Richard leads the cycling tours himself along with Alemayehu Sitotaw who has a 35 year history as a competitive cyclist in Ethiopia. Although Richard describes himself as a runner who cycles, one suspects that this former Olympian can set quite a pace if wants to.

The climate here is dry and sunny with temperatures in the mid twenties from October to June. It’s dry and with little wind. The scenery is stunning with views of mountain ranges and peaks that are out of this world.

All this has spawned a burgeoning cycling culture in Tigray where Bahrain Merida rider, Tsgabu Grmay bases himself and uses as his training ground. He says it’s the perfect place for him to prepare for his big races like the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia.

Accommodation on the rides is in lodges and hotels along the way that are 3 and 4 star rated. They will provide a western diet if you’re not feeling too adventurous but there’s also the option of trying out some of the traditional chicken and lamb stews with injera, a maize like pancake. Vegetarians are well catered for with lentil and chick pea stews, delicately flavoured with spices and chilli.

Ethiopia is one of the most politically stable countries in Africa and the government have been shifting their attention to attracting more tourists to experience their ancient culture and stunning landscape in recent years.

Having seen the jaw droppingly beautiful pictures and heard Richard’s passion for this fascinating country, it’s definitely now on our wish list of future cycling holidays. We leave you with an Amharic saying: “ke fit-fitu feetu” which means, “It’s good to greet people with a happy face.” Couldn’t agree with that more!

Special offer for a cycling tour in Ethiopia
We have teamed up with Tadele Travel and their newly-launched cycling tours in Ethiopia to offer you a 15% discount on an amazing 8-day cycling holiday this coming November. The Ethiopian Highland Explorer Tour runs from 27th November to 4th December 2017 and gives you the opportunity for a completely different cycling and cultural experience in one of the world’s new road cycling destinations.

For the duration of the Giro (from Friday 5th May until Sunday 28th May 2017) Ride Velo readers can take advantage of a special tour price of £1,850 (discounted from £2,175) which also includes a Limited Edition Giro print.

For more details of the tour and how to book, click here.
Please quote RVGIR17 as your discount code.