Day 13 - Cross the Border to Ethiopia

Trip Start Aug 07, 2007
Trip End Nov 07, 2007

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Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Monday, August 20, 2007

Hair: That Serbian guy who chases that American guy in Behind Enemy Lines
Beard: That Serbian guy who chases that American guy in Behind Enemy Lines
Distance Travelled: 2120km
Frame of Mind: Enthused
Falls: 1

Woke up at 3:30am.  Not on purpose.  Had a long afternoon kip true enough, there were also jackals tearing apart a tin can in the courtyard (maybe) but I think it was probably more about nerves than anything.  I had a full day of driving from Marsabit to Moyale on, by all accounts, hideous roads, full of bandits and goodness knows what else.  Was planning on travelling with a truck but for some reason there were none when I looked for them at 5 (when they're supposed to leave).  Asked around some more.  There had been no trouble for 'quite some time'.  The definintion of that seemed to vary...a couple of months, a year.  One bloke the evening before had begged me with tears in his eyes (although they may have been from the keg-loads of beer he'd drunk or the forest of herbs shoved in his mouth and spraying liberally all over me) not to drive alone.  His argument was detracted from slightly when he suggested his mate accompanied me in his landrover...for a fee of course.

It was a cold, misty morning.  It has been raining pretty much all of yesterday and couldn't really face another day in Marsabit (despite the many 'high fashion' shops and my personal favourite a shop I had originally thought to be some sort of traditional tribal circumcision shop that in fact turned out to be a hair dressers owned by a man called Richard).  I thought I'd chance my arm - of course after asking the police at the checkpoint what they thought.

The police evidently thought that sleeping was a little more important than manning their post, and as there wasn't a stream of white and black striped swag-bag carrying robbers taking advantageous of this lapse in security I proceeded on towards the border.

Despite all warnings the roads were actually not as bad as the last stretch - well at least for a pikipiki, I can imagine that the deep grooves make it pretty difficult for a four wheeler - and I was making very good time.  The only danger were the shale filled ruts that I had no choice but to drive in.  Too slow and every rock you hit bounces your front wheel all over the place dangerously, too fast and you lose control anyway.  Spent most of my time playing the 'if I were a bandit I would ambush me right about now' game.

About 40km in I had my first fall of the trip so far.  At about 25kmph in one of those grooves.  Broke my clutch level, smashed my side mirror and the front cover but escaped without any real injury - thanks to my improvised bespoke motorbike 'leathers' (raincoat with PVC patches sewn on the elbows and shoulders; pair of combats with rainproof trousers over the top; Hitec summer walking boots; and a pair of gardening gloves.  Beauty!).
Spent an hour changing the lever and getting everything re-packed and straightened whilst eyeing a camel herder suspiciously.  Had to take it v slowly from then on.  No extra spare clutch lever.  The rest of the drive was uneventful aside from the dramatic scenery: driving past giant volcano craters, black sand deserts, endless scrubland.  On one of my many stops I had the feeling that I was truly alone.  I often have that feeling in Africa but then turn around and am confronted by a kid selling bananas, or see a shop with coke and top-up vouchers for sale.  This time no one appeared.  I could see no signs of civilization whatsoever.  It was a nice feeling.  I could urinate without fear of repercussions.  So I did.
I had my last conversation in Swahili (although I didn't know this at the time or I may have made some more poignant comments) whilst having a soda (sorry, that's what they're called now) near the border.  After two years my Swahili is still embarrassingly poor.  Thinking back on the conversation it was probably just past 'Peter and Jane' level but maybe not quite into 'Village with Three Corners':
"I am going to Ethiopia.  I left at 6:30 from Marsabit.  The road is very bad.  I am tired.  I dislike roads made of many stones.  I like very much roads made of sand.  Stones are dangerous.  The dog plays with a ball.  I like the dog."

The border was a dream.  No problemo.  After a spot of lunch I breezed through at 3pm.  May as well plough on to Mega (Meka).  115km away but...we have TARMAC [cream cheese]. Woo hoo!  The kilometres melt away.  For the first time in 600km the little red light on my dash that says "SPEED" lights up.  It goes on at around warp 7, or 85kmph in real money.  The view over the Mega escarpment is superb.  I am grinning ear to ear for practically the whole hour to Mega.  I like Ethiopia already, although I understand it is just some sort of cupboard love based on tarmac at the moment.

Mega is small and dim.  I had expected that ;)  I get a room in what is effectively a barn and a crowd of up to 20 watch me as I take a bucket shower.  Ideas of privacy may be a little different here.  I wander around a little meekly but eventually find a beer and some injera (spongy flatbread staple here).  Top quality.  The tarmac goes all the way to Addis Ababa.
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charlesaclark on

Re: Super-mega-interesting
If you're on hols then I'm touched. If you're supposed to be working from home then I'm a distraction! Hope the family are doing well.


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