Rock throwing in Ethiopia… the kids in Ethiopia… where are we and how far away is Earth? Until we had come here, I never thought it I would entertain the idea of hitting a kid. In fact, when working as a part-time waitress in my teens, I had accidentally kicked a 2 year-old baby at a wedding ceremony. I have still felt guilty about it to this day. Disclaimer: the baby was fine (mostly). Actually, his dad found it funny when his little legs ran against the bar door and he burst into tears. I was mortified.

But here, in Ethiopia.. Aggghh Ethiopia. This place does things to you! I will admit it: I would have gotten temporary satisfaction out of punching one of these kids. There I said it. I am a terrible human being. I am not proud to say it but, really, that’s how I felt. When you realise what you have to put up with on a bicycle in this country, I can forgive myself for feeling this way. Cycling in Ethiopia is very different to taking a bus.

One incident happened when cycling from Gondar to Gorgora on Lake Tana. In our experience, the rural roads usually have the friendliest people. By this logic, we thought the smaller roads of Ethiopia can’t be that bad. We were also told there was a ferry across the lake every week and we thought it would be a nice ride. Plus we could spend a few days at Tim & Kim’s Village – a Dutch owned campsite popular with overlanders.

On the way, we noticed many herding boys near the road. They were out in the fields by themselves with cattle. It is always a bit nerve-wrecking in Ethiopia when you see groups of children with no adults around. We were right to be nervous, because half way to the lake, a group of herding boys started following us, demanding money, as usual. When they realised we weren’t giving them anything they started throwing stones, as usual. The problem was, we had just started going slowly up a large hill! Following behind us, the stones kept flying. They were scarily accurate – I had to watch the stones until they were almost at my head before breaking or accelerating. If I didn’t do this, the stones would have hit me, square on the head.

Soon, the sound of the stones exploding next to me were getting louder and louder. I was horrified to notice that they had morphed into massive rocks the size of my fist. Looking back at the kids, I could see they were standing approximately 20-30m from us, throwing the rocks fast into the air. And I was even more horrified to see that the group of 6 boys had turned into a mob of over 30. As we continued up the hill, they screamed at the other herding boys around to join in. There were also a few girls following too! I thought, if one of these rocks hits my head.. it was better not think about it and keep pedalling.

Every time we got off the bike and chased them, the cowards would run away. Then, when we would get back on, they would just come back and continue throwing rocks at us. There was no chance to stop or catch them. And they were determined to hurt us.

We did the only thing we could and continued on our bicycles. I was now trying to dodge an almost constant stream of massive flying rocks close to my head. In the confusion, I had bumped into Simon and fell hard on my leg. When I tried to stand it was painful. I was continuing up the hill at an even slower pace now. Simon tried to chase them every now and again to let me make some progress to the top.

Because this was a rural road, there were not many cars. This was a big disadvantage. On the main road, there were more cars and people willing to help. Fortunately, after what felt like ages, a car came by and saw the situation. They immediately stopped, got out of the car and tried to chase the kids. Staying behind us, they defending us with their vehicle, until we made it to the top of the hill. They escorted us through the next village before leaving us again. They saved us from a scary situation!

We had a few more stone throwing incidents that day. We also passed a well dressed teenager who decided it would be funny to unzip his pants and pee on the road in front of us. His friends looked on and laughed. How messed up in the head do you have to be? Really? What was the point?

We were extremely relieved to reach Lake Tana and Tim & Kim’s Village. When we got there – Kim told us that the last cyclist arrived a year ago with a cut open face and his teeth knocked out. The kids had thrown a stick in his front wheel as he was cycling downhill and he wiped out badly. Sadly, this is a common game kids in this country play with cyclists.

My leg was pounding with pain at this point and I could hardly walk on it. Simon and I just wanted to unwind by the lake with a cold drink and forget the stressful events of the day. Only, there was one problem: there was no ferry.

For more photos from Ethiopia, see here.

3 thoughts on “Rock Throwing Kids of Ethiopia (Ethiopia #2)

  1. I’m Ethiopian who lives in the U.S. and I now the area the writer is talking about.
    Northern Ethiopians are a very proud people. They always talk about how many times they defend Ethiopia from White colonizers. So when you go there you are in a very hostile environment than the south. The best way to deal with the kids is be polite, talk to them, have a candy, or a few changes in your backpack. If you don’t like to chat with them, have a local guide.
    Don’t fight or try to tell them what to do. They are a very tough kids who grew up fighting with wild animals. You might not win.
    Kids ask for money in most undeveloped nations. Asia, Africa & south America and even some European nations. Very common in Ethiopia. People also urinate on the streets even in Paris, so not a good reason to think that they have a twisted mind. They are just untrained and fullish kids trying to impress you & their friends.
    Overall Ethiopia is one of the most peaceful country in Africa if not in the world toward outsiders or tourists. Have seen single European women traveling by themselves.
    Remember don’t look-down Ethiopian kids. Regardless of their poverty they are a very proud nation.
    Travel as a group if possible.

  2. When I lived in Ethiopia in the early sixties, we white people were pelted with rocks and animal shit. I was a child then. My dad used to get furious and stop the vehicle and jump out and give chase. He never caught anyone! But he did enlist the help of adults and also police. Your experience sounds horrible – I’m really sorry. I had stones thrown at me in Yemen in the mid 90’s – invoking the word “ shame “, and enlisting the help of adults passing by helped a lot. However, I don’t suppose I’d be very welcome in Yemen just now. In Ecuador, I had balloons filled with sewage, ink or just plain water thrown at me. As a cyclist or a hiker one is in a very vulnerable situation. Maybe a bit of forward planning would help? Just an idea, but use social media to find local cyclists – clubs or whatever – and see whether any of them would be up for being companions, a kind of escort?! It’s gojng to make the journey less spontaneous for sure, but maybe less stressful.

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