Unhinged in Ethiopia

Two Thousand Kilometers of Hell and Heaven on a Bicycle

Non-Fiction - Adventure
284 Pages
Reviewed on 02/25/2023
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Author Biography

George Balarezo is an adventurer, university lecturer, podcaster, and author who lives in Seoul, South Korea.

Accused of being a CIA spy, he went on to hike the Hindu Kush with five military escorts in Pakistan in 2011, immersed himself in Vipassana meditation in India in 2012, hitchhiked across Southern Africa in 2013, and threw his backpack aside to embark on his first tour-cycling journey in 2014 with a $180, second-hand bicycle.

During his first long-distance bicycle adventure, he scavenged for water in the deserts of Uzbekistan, was pelted by summer hail on the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and learned how to fix a flat tire for the first time while savoring stale bread, butter, and tea at every meal. That first expedition led to unsupported, solo cycling journeys in Oman, Bangladesh, Turkey, Russia, Mongolia, China's Xinjiang Province, Kenya, Ecuador, and Pakistan.

George is also the host of the Intrepid Global Citizen Podcast, aimed at spreading peace by sharing travel stories and providing the listener with an adventure-based education.

He recharges his adventure battery by motivating South Korean university students to step out of their comfort zones, competing in speech contests as the only non-native Korean speaker at Toastmasters' meetings, sampling fermented bean paste and silkworms in South Korea's traditional markets, and sweating it out in CrossFit gyms.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Maria Victoria Beltran for Readers' Favorite

Unhinged in Ethiopia: Two Thousand Kilometers of Hell and Heaven on a Bicycle shares the fascinating adventure of George Balarezo as he explores Ethiopia's mountainous terrain on his bicycle and learns about the continent's rich cultural legacy. Balarezo teaches English in South Korea and when he lands a job at a university that includes four months of paid vacation each year, he goes on a bicycle tour of exotic places at every opportunity. After tour cycling in China and Mongolia, his next destination is Africa’s most mountainous country. With his newly purchased second-hand bicycle, he lands in Addis Ababa, the country’s capital. While waiting to cross a busy street, two children persistently ask him for money; his adventure has just begun and this is his story.

George Balarezo’s Unhinged in Ethiopia is an informative and mesmerizing tale of his journey through a beautiful, poor, and culture-rich country. Written in the first-person, it felt akin to accompanying him on his tour. Balarezo writes in vivid detail, especially about the people that he meets along the way. It's a must-read for those who want to experience the world on a bike and learn from their experience. Struggling with the heat, illness, mountainous roads, and children throwing stones at him, he ends his tour with a better understanding of himself and the world in general. I found the African proverbs that introduce most chapters very interesting. Balarezo reveals to us his mindset while traveling and it is very enlightening. Highly recommended!