Published: February 21st 2011January 17th 2011
After four days in Djibouti City, it was once again time to head south towards Cape Town. I had eight days to reach Nairobi - 7 journeys, and 60 hours, away...
The first two days were long but relatively uneventful - as uneventful as the public buses in Ethiopia can get anyway. They did however make me realise quite how much I've found myself liking Ethiopia, bouncing along on a bus full of 60 Ethiopians, crammed shoulder to shoulder with a young Muslim to one side and a Yoda-esque grandmother to the other, listening to tinny high-pitched Amharic pop, has a very unique charm. And, yet again, I was bought bought food and tea at each stop, and not given a chance to pay myself. The well documented Ethiopian hostility towards tourists that I'd read about before arriving was nowhere to be found. But still, after the first two journeys, I arrived in Addis ready to enjoy a day off, and catch my breathe, before heading down towards Kenya.
The second stretch of the journey, from Addis to Moyale on the Kenyan border, was another two days in the hot tin ovens known in these parts as buses. After
the first 10 hours we reached Dilla, the last large town before Kenya and stopped over for the night. A night which was spent watching United play Tottenham - there's something brilliant about watching The Beautiful Game in Ethiopia, packed into a darkened room with half the town's population, saying a few Amharic words to the delight of the locals, and bantering with the ever present Arsenal fans - the perfect way to spend my last few hours in the country.
The second half of the journey, as so often the case in Ethiopia, passed through some stunning scenery. It began in rolling hills covered in forests, which then gave way to scenes of red earth and tropical vegetation glistening in the morning dew, as smoke rose from round thatched huts and caught the light of the rising sun. A scene so ubiquitous of tropical Africa, but a world away from anything I'd seen elsewhere Ethiopia. Later in the day, the scenery changed again, from the tropics to a pan-flat desert dotted with acacia trees - from one slice of Africa to the next, and all within 100miles of each other in the least 'African' of African countries. And
a few miles further on the desert was dotted with white termite mounds. As far as you could see, the skyline was filled these huge white structures, growing out from patches of chalky earth, abstract human sculptures, resembling ghosts walking the barren plains. If the bus had stopped I would have taken a photo, but even then, I don't think people would have believed the sight. Ethiopia - a fantastic, bizarre, indescribable country, changing from one extreme to another in the blink of an eye. It may sound melodramatic, but I'm not sure anything will quite be the same again.
But I guess all good things must come to an end, and as the afternoon turned to dusk the bus pulled in Moyale, the fairly dire (but not as bad as the guidebooks make out) border town. Border formalities were straight forward, and disconcertingly friendly, and almost three months to the day after leaving the UK I'd made it to Kenya. There were a few changes from Ethiopia, mainly no cheap beer, better English, and worse food, but it still felt quite Ethiopian, and as if I hadn't left the country at all. However, some things did change - almost at the exact spot where the two countries meet is the last place you see the luxuries of tarmac, street lighting, and running water, for the next 300miles. It almost felt as if things were taking a backwards step - a very odd feeling coming from Ethiopia, which is at times 200 years behind the rest of the world. I checked into the best budget option in town (the competition is poor to say the least), failed to find anything of interest in the town, headed to bed, and awaited the home stretch to Nairobi, a mere 4 days away...