We meet Maghnus, Brian, Burns, and Alan in Moyale, the border town of Kenya and Ethiopia. In the coincidence that we are stuck in Moyale due to money issues, we happen upon the four of them in the streets of Moyale, Ethiopia side. 'Hey bike tourists!' Nate and I run up to them and before we know it, questions start spewing out of our mouths...Where did you start? Where are you going? What's the road like? Where did you find water? Are there good camping spots? Where are you from?...
Meanwhile, a crowd of Ethiopians forms around us. Sooner or later, we are the biggest show on the street--passerbys jumping up and down, trying to get a glimpse of the faranjis; taxis and cars honking their horns, trying to get through; locals mocking our mannerisms, trying to make sense of what we say; 'front row' spectators with jaws hanging open and eyes stuck in a trance, mesmerized by the incessant exchanges gushing out of our mouths.
But our excitement is interrupted by a cool breeze--the sun is fading fast, and the boys have not yet found a place to stay. We agree to meet later at 'Fekadu Hotel' for drinks.
Nate and I arrive at 'Fekadu Hotel', eat our share of injera and stew, and blabber excitedly while we wait (about how we have new people to talk to besides each other). Waiting--8 o' clock--waiting--9 o' clock--waiting...no show. Nate says: 'They probably couldn't find a place to stay until dark, and by the time they got settled it was too late.'
But actually, the conversation went like this--
Maghnus: Where'd you say they'd meet us?
Brian: I don't remember. I wasn't listening that closely.
Maghnus: What do you mean you don't know? You said you knew! I thought you knew, that's why I didn't ask twice.
Brian: Sorry, man. It started with an F. Something like Fruc...fruc...fruc-ti!
Brian: Yes. I'm positive--
Maghnus: Fructi? Isn't that the name of a shampoo?
Brian: What?...No! It's Fructi--
Maghnus: No! That's not right! Fructi is a shampoo!
Brian: Just listen to me. Nate talked to me...not you!
...they walk up to a local...
Maghnus: 'Chyu know where 'Fructi Hotel' is?
A Local: Fructi, fructi, oh yes, yes!(...leads them blindly in circles...) Here, Fructi...! (points to most dilapidated building on street)
All-Other-Locals: Faranj! YOU! You look for hotel? Cheap! You you you! Birr? You! Shilling? Change money? You! Rich man!
...taking matters aside...
Brian: I don't think they're here.
Maghnus: Of course this isn't it! I told you!
Brian: This isn't my fault!
I find that's generally how conversations go when you're traveling with other people for a Long. Time. If you get past it though, it all becomes good fun.
They were headed in the opposite way: from Addis Ababa to South Africa. They were traveling much more high tech than us. They had laptops, ipods (man, haven't seen one of those in ages...), cameras, and video cameras. They had sleek-looking Thorn bikes, and color coded Ortlieb panniers. And Maghnus--crazy guy--brought 150 patches with him. Generously, he lent a few to me. (Thanks, Maghnus!)
On the other hand, Nate and I had what Orian coins 'wingnut bikes'. My panniers looked like lopsided tumors growing off my wheels, after I resewed them to double their capacity; my 15-20 liters of water bottles hung off the sides like Medusa's hair in an intricate strap system; and my bike frame screamed 'whackjob!' because a hippie painted it with leopard prints when he was stoned for three months.
But our new friends found value to our 'wingnut-ness.' Nate and I helped them tune brakes and shifting, patch up tires, and repair Maghnus' bent frame. In exchange, we played with their 'tech gadgets'--music streaming from the ipod like a heaven sent gift to feed the soul...
It's simple moments like these that inevitably keep you going. That there was nothing to be afraid of, even in the vast mystery that lay in front. That these Irish lads were physical proof that the road ahead was passable. That we--we were not alone.
(Thanks: Maghnus, Brian, Burns, & Alan. Keep in Touch.)