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Published: September 28th 2017
After returning to Dubai I returned to work the following day expecting to begin by new job, didn't really happen though, it is a new team and it took several weeks to get started so in that time I continued writing strategic products.
I also began physio on the injured ankle completing three sessions over a three week period and last week l began walking home from work, it only takes about 15 minutes which is a bonus in 40 degree heat. I have four distinct sets of friends now and I try to socialise with two groups each weekend as different people have interests.
When not working or socialising I have been planning a trip to Somaliland which at times has been quite frustrating, getting a visa for province of Somalia which broke away during the civil war was time consuming but in the end all went well.
I left my apartment at 1am after getting about four hours sleep and headed to terminal two at Dubai airport passed through customs and headed into the Mahaba lounge to have a snack and a few beers. I left for the gate just after 3am and boarded a short
time later at 430am all the passengers (3 white) were aboard and we were soon on our way.
Three hours later we landed at the capital Hargeisa's small airport and I entered the arrivals hall first visa photocopy and passport in hand surprising all went smoothly, I moved in to the cashiers and paid my arrivals tax and was outside the airport looking for my driver who arrived a short time later.
My first sight on exiting the airport was a young camel pruning a tree, followed by muddy roads, women in colourful saris and lots of goats for a moment I thought I was in Rajastan. On arrival at the hotel which was built in the 1950's and almost destroyed in the civil war I was pleased to see wifi, a clean room with an ensuite, I dont kmow yet if there is any hot water.
My attempt to order eggs was unsuccessful so I wandered out into the market area that dominates downtown it is loud, muddy definitely colourful and except for a few exceptions a friendly city. I was interested to the see the huge slabs of cash on every corner waiting for exchange.
Somaliland is almost cash free with most people paying with mobile phones, hence the wheelbarrow filled with banknotes. One thousand shillings is about 10 US cents currently so I wander around with a pocket full of one dollar notes.
I am a huge curiosity here people yell at me in many languages, Arabic, French, Italian and of course Somali none of which I understand, one man tried to give me a stick, when I stepped back he started screaming at me, a merchant then stepped between us and ripped into the man while I moved away. For the most part people have been very friendly particularly the English speakers.
I wandered for a time the area is certainly colourful but it is also muddy, congested so care needs to be taken when walking around. After a time I entered a cafe as soon as I walked in and saw the looks on all the women's faces, I hastily withdrew moving to the terrace where the men sat gossiping and ordered tea. A few stopped to chat those with English anyway, there isn't much to see in this town it is gritty and dirty but the people radiate enthusiasm
and I find myself amused she the dozen or so men can't agree were the museum is so I give up on that idea and move to pay for my tea. I give the man one dollar and he gives me 7000 shillings change and I decide to go to the animal market on the edge of town.
I have visited these types of places before and generally wouldn't go near one again due to the cruelty that rules in places like this but I like camels and was keen to see them. So I found me a driver and off we went arriving a short time later to the chorus of one very stroppy camel being led towards the entrance. The market is open everyday and as walked amongst the hundred or so camels a little man came running over and decided to me my guide. He lead me through the crowds telling when and where to take photos and dealing with a few angry men who didn't like it.
Goats, weird little sheep, cows and camels everywhere and the little man pointing and saying Saudi, or Yemen of Djibouti then running his finger across his throat,
no wonder I dislike these places. I am the only white face amongst perhaps a thousand or more people, children follow me everywhere and a few brave young women smile coyly as a camel hustler tries to get me on the back of one very big camel without any sort of saddle or lead.
My guide wanders off towards a baby I follow with my growing entourage with the guide yelling Australia to all and sundry he knows we have camels in Australia so that makes me special. I trip over one of those weird little sheep and everybody laughs, they laugh again when I tell them I am going to buy all the camels and take them home, except for one nan who looks angry and starts waving his stick so I decide it is time to leave. I give my guide two dollars and get in my taxi, the driver pumps up the reggae and we head back through the traffic congestion to my hotel.
I meet a lad outside we chat and we go inside order some tea and he tells me all about the country it's history and what us happening now he is
a budding entrepreneur who has lost his chance to join his girl friend in the US due to Trumps policies. After an hour or to he goes on his way and I order fish and chips for lunch the fish is a bit spicy. I am tired so I go up to my room for a sleep although the call to prayer wakes me a couple of times finally I wake with a stiff neck, as I write this a donkey is throwing a fit outside my window.
I will go down for a meal soon, Somaliland is dry so no beers with dinner, tomorrow I go to visit the "countries" only real tourist attraction. Dinner was a baguette stuffed with egg and vegetables it was very satisfying.
The mosque went off at 430am and then again at 5am so I had no trouble getting down for breakfast which was an omelette, as I finished my driver Mohammed arrived and I was soon heading north towards the Red Sea with my armed soldier in tow. The city is quiet and congested so we were soon approaching the outskirts of town on a potholes and bumpy road. The was
no rain last night so the mud has been replaced by dust I am not sure which is worse.
After stops for fuel and air for the tyres we were soon passing through the first check point on the edge of the city the road remained poor but I was looking for wildlife and the slower pace allowed me to spot a large tortoise wandering along the road side so I called a halt and went to take a few photos before continuing the journey north. The next sighting was a Mandrill poking its head out of the top of a bushy tree I should have called a stop but I assumed I would see more as I had with the tortoises.
After about an hour or so we reached the Las Geel turnoff and bumped a long a rough track into an attractive desert setting with camels and other livestock wandering through the scrub with the occasional shepherd materialising from behind a tree or rock to give a wave or a child would run behind the van. Soon we arrived at the caves which are the countries premier tourist attraction and as a result are guarded, there
is a building that serves as museum of sorts with description boards on the walls. It seems the overhanging rock shelves were once a village with six decorated "caves" the seventh served as a gaol apparently. Approximately 5000 years old the paintings depict village life as it was then with a big emphasis on cattle and their importance to the tribe, other pictures included dogs, giraffe and women. The paintings are so well preserved that it was certainly worth the effort to get here, after bumping back along the dirt track to the highway we continued north, three and a half hours had passed and we were barely 50 kilometres north of the capital, yet inexplicably the road improved to the extent that we traveled the last 140 kilometres to Berbera in just over an hour.
Berbera is one of the ugliest places I have ever seen much of the town is a bombed out mess, actually it was a bit weird as the streets were almost deserted, it felt a little threatening so I walked back to the driver and we headed for the beach which is the towns highlight but I saw no value in hanging around
so we began the journey back to Hargeisa. Along the way we saw many more camels and more interestingly a herd of warthogs which was particularly cool, on arrival at the hotel Mohammad said he would come pick me up at 530am, I had dinner in the hotel then headed to bed.
The next morning I arrived at the airport around 6am the security was extreme which considering where I was, was a relief, once through the various layers I was content to sit and wait for the aircraft which arrived on time and we were soon boarding, the flight was only about a third full so the trip back to Dubai was comfortable. I was out of the airport and in a taxi in about ten minutes which was a relief.
I only worked for three days this week as I head to Brunei early Wednesday morning, I am a little tired but I have been walking home each night and am planning to go mad in the gym when I return.
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