9 weeks in Ethiopia = need for a vacation
So, my boyfriend and I decided to head overland to Somaliland.
First stop - Hargesia.
I remember most of this trip in terms of comparisons to Ethiopia where we had been for the 7 weeks prior. So take this perspective within that context.
Here are the logistics -
First off you will need dollars for this trip. There are no ATMs in Somaliland. Therefore, if you need money while there it will be a transfer. If you must take care of this while in Ethiopia, we came to realize that the only place you change birr to dollars are the Dashen Banks. And if you are getting money out of the ATM - keep your receipt. This is a difficult process, and Ethiopia takes it seriously. We did all of our changing in Addis at the Sheraton Dashen Bank.
On the Ethiopia side you will likely travel through Harar, Jijiga, and then through Wajalee. We spent the night in Jijiga before heading over on the 5:00am bus - which was a fine night, but could also be skipped quite easily. Jijiga is an interesting town - we spent
our evening here walking around the streets - exploring some of the non-profit, usaid, UN, presence. Most of our walk this evening was really refreshing. Met a lot of Somali refugee children who were incredibly well-behaved and polite. We had a good 2 hours that we were never asked for money or called "ferengi". And then we crossed the street to the Christian side of town, and basically were mobbed by crowds of children - pulling at us...and yelling "ferengi" in a sugar doped daze.
The following day started at 4:30am, where we got a Badjaj from our motel (no name) to the bus stop - for 15 birr.
The bus station in Jijiga was one of the worst in Ethiopia for me. The presence of annoying middle-men demanding payment for nothing was a little overwhelming here. LADIES - this is where I would begin covering your head and dressing modestly (aka - baggy attire). I didn't bother with anything fancy and had no problem...just a scarf over the head, baggy pants, and a long sleeved shirt (no elbows can show).
The bus from Jijiga is about 1:30, and should cost you about 25 birr, including your bag.
If you are having trouble getting this price - I would just mention (in a non-threatening, tourista tone) - "really? well, we just spoke with the police before heading over here and they said it should only cost 20 birr for the bus, and 5 birr tip for the bag. They said pay no more. If you want we can go get them?..."
This seemed to work well for us.
2 checkpoints and Wajalle.
On the Ethiopia side, you have the usual chaos, disorganization and "ferengi, ferengi". You will need to get stamped at the Green MAO building just to the right of the bus station and in front of the jail. This building is not marked and is rarely occupied. But your backpack will get the attention you need to finish the job.
BAM, BAM, stamp, stamp.
Head over land, chat with the guys sitting on the border line. Walk straight into the Somaliland border office where smiles and a sense of humor will likely greet you. The chat about safety in Somaliland will begin here and carry you throughout the trip. Be sure you know that the difference between Somalia and Somaliland is Safety. This will
earn you major points with the locals.
Then it's shared taxi time.
The taxi to Hargesia cost us $7ea and 50 birr total for our bags. This seemed fair. However, on the way back from Hargesia, we only paid $5ea and no charge for the bags...so it's all relative I suppose.
The taxi ride is an exciting one, flying down the dirt road with flat barren landscape in all directions around you. Memorable.
You will travel through 3 checkpoints before reaching Hargesia. You do not need your police permit for this, just make sure your passport is in order.
The trip took us about 3 hours, before arriving in Hargesia.
In Hargesia - we stayed at the Hadwanaag - AND HIGHLY recommend it! The taxi driver will gladly drop you here, just work on your pronunciation of (Had -waaan- aag).
The rooms here cost us $12 a night and were the best we had in the 9 weeks were gone. Spotless bathrooms, a little TV, and an excellent attached restaraunt. The owner was amazing. He new excellent english, and helped us arrange police permits, and a trip to Las Geel.
In Hargesia - a couple
days will likely do. The covered market directly across from Hadwanaag is an exciting journey, and there is plenty of internet to catch up on. Mostly, Hargeisa is about the expereince of being in Somaliland. To each his own.
It is quite easy to arrange day trips out of Hargeisa to Las Geel, and other "lost cities" and ancient rock painting sites. Will post more on this topic separately.
Hope this helps get you over the border and into a bed!
For More travel info check out our webpage - www.themapmakers.org
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