The route

Day 1 Departure from the Axumite Kingdom

We take off from Axum in front of the Stelae side. These obelisks are living proof of the mighty kingdom Axum once was.

We hit the road south, visiting some attractive but very remote villages in Tigray. First we will be cycling on a plateau, with the Damo Galila Mountain – looking like a bullet pointing to the sky – waving us goodbye. Then we will slide down into the mountains.

Find yourself ready for a whole day of dirt riding watching the beautiful terraces on the slopes of the mountains.

Distance: 70 km
Elevation gain: 959 m

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Day 2 Crossing where no colonists got through

Discover how dominant nature is…

The Italians tried to occupy Ethiopia twice but were stopped in Tigray (battle of Adwa). If it wasn’t for the Ethiopians, the steep river beds definitely made it a huge challenge to cross the valley of the Tekaze river, second to only the famous Nile river.

We will need this day to get Africa under our skin, to adapt to the altitude, to cope with the climate & heat and to prepare for the next days of demanding and adventurous cycling.

Unlike most foreigners, we will leave the beaten track, hiking with local guides, crossing Tekaze from the north to the south, as our bikes will be transported and waiting for us on the other side of the river. Don’t think the Italian colonists could have counted on this service!

Day 3 Canyon at the right, massive mountains at the left

Starting in Degabray, a truly unknown town, however housing a school for 1200 students who walk up to 6 hours a day to benefit education, you just can’t believe how far we are here from any city.

Don’t be surprised seeing people actually jumping into bushes, not familiar with the sight/speed of a bicycle. Let alone kids being confronted for the very first time with foreigners.

After cycling on dirt road, red sand and through a mountain river for the first hour, you’ll be happy the road turns into tarmac as the distance we’ll cover today is a double marathon. But also, because it’ll ensure you a safe ride as you will be staring at the jaw-dropping mountains, emerging 3000 to 4000 meters above your head. If you’re scared of heights, just look the other way and you’ll see a fascinating canyon leading us to our next camp.

Distance: 181 km (or 141 km if you want to take it a bit more easy)
Elevation gain: 2624 m

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Day 4 Climbing Hors Catégorie

As you were examining the magnificent peaks yesterday, today’s stage will bring us at the entrance of the Simien National park, allowing you to cycle on top of these mountains.

The road is mixed asphalt and dirt as you’ll discover how difficult it is to build a lasting route not being washed away by the yearly rainy season.

Several rivers are to be crossed, hence several climbs to be made as well.

The last one, being the longest climb in this race, will reward you with a temperature drop as you gain altitude and enter the fine woodlands around Debark.

Halfway the race you can enjoy hotel accommodation in this modest town.

Distance: 120 km
Elevation gain: 3368 m

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Day 5 Single track on the edge

The utmost beauty regarding endemic fauna and flora is to be found in the Simien National park.

Today you’ll cycle in the midst of the Bleeding heart baboons. If you’re fluent with languages, you can try to talk to these Lion baboons as these animals have the most advance communication system after human beings.

The entire morning you’ll be offered single track. You’ll cycle trials, up and down or flat on the edge of the mountains, feeling absolutely satisfied looking down what you already have done in stage 3 and 4.

As others go on a trekking to enjoy the stunning views from the cliffs, we are kicking the paths away under our MTB. A truly unique experience.

Distance : 52.4 km
Elevation gain : 1947 m

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Day 6 Hitting tops like an Ibex does

Waking up our second day in the park, you’ll see the first sunbeams lighten up three hilltops in a row (Imet Gogo, Sanyo Sefir and Inatiye).

Reaching Bwahit Pass, at 4283 meter, you can encounter the Walya Ibex, home to one of the highest summits in Africa. The lammergeyer vulture will circle above you as well.

Today’s stretch is short, but the climb not to be underestimated. Most people will have enough muscle power to beat the slope, but without normal oxygen levels, don’t be surprised to find yourself cycling at a walking pace of between 3 and 5 km/h.

If you’re lucky, you might see one or two Simien Wolves in the plains while you go downhill too.

Distance : 41 km
Elevation gain : 821 m

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Day 7 Real Ethiopian back trials

Leaving the park through Deresge, we again pass places few foreigners ever visit. As locals walk to the church west of town, we follow the same trail by MTB and will continue onwards to Woken.

You can spot our destination for the day right from the very start. However from the first climb it is still 75 km and two valleys away.

During this stage the road conditions vary a lot but it is nice looking back where you came from and see your progression towards the two hills marking our destination point for today.

Distance : 72 km
Elevation gain : 1923 m

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Day 8 Finish at Gondar Castle

The last stretch is not too long, and you’ll benefit from some elevation loss towards Gondar. An ideal stage to speed up and turn it into a fast time trial. Signaling in Gondar town will be organized in cooperation with the NGO Yenege Tesfa, so you can easily get through in the old capital of Ethiopia.

The finish will be awesome as you enter Fasilidas Castle, showing you how rich and powerful Ethiopia’s culture was 5 centuries ago already.

Arriving in Gondar, a swimming pool awaits you before we’ll move on the closing ceremony celebrating the brave pioneers of this first edition of Ibex Explore.

Distance : 85 km
Elevation gain : 921 m

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