Thursday, September 29, 2005

The bus to Dire Dawa

The bus to Dire Dawa
The bus to Dire Dawa
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
5 am the next morning, and no sign of Faisal so we wait a quarter of an hour and still no sign of him. We now have very very few Djibouti Francs left, so if we take a taxi, we have no money for food, maybe just some water. In the end, we have to plea with the taxi driver for a very low fare and he brings us to the bus station.

And so begins the bus ceremony. How to get our rucksacks (and are we glad that we bought dust and rain covers for them... I remember standing in the shop - Carl Denig - in Amsterdam wondering whether or not to buy them as they seemed quite expensive but they have paid us back many times since). Money is required and again Fred has to plea poverty to get a reduced rate, before I find that he has a 500 franc coin, which is enough for a water and a packet of strawberry cream biscuits, which should keep us going until lunchtime in Dire Dawa, so we think. (I have to hide this transdaction from the boy on the roof!)

Then to find a seat. There are numbers written on the back of the tickets, A8 and A9 and we think they maybe seats, but no, it is first come first serve and we are still early enough to get a couple of seats next to each other on the left hand side. The bus gets fuller and fuller and fuller until it is overfull and the ticket inspector comes on. This is followed by an awful lot of shouting and bad tempers before a couple of women without tickets are forcefully ejected. Fred swears there were a couple of lads who didn't have tickets but maybe they were friends of the inspector. An old lady is setaed next to me. Ancient she is. Her daughter tells her how to sit in her seat and arrange her bags and she just sits there like a stone the whole way. Amazing.

The bus leaves a good time after 6 and although it is a tight squash, sideways and forwards, we try to perch our heads on the seat in front and get some sleep. We first travel along the road to Lac Assal, keeping alongside the train track - the train was due to have left at 5 am, but we didin't pass it, so it much have been delayed. The countryside looked lovely in the morning sun, bumpy mountains and hills in the distance, a bit of green in the valley, the odd camel and flocks of goats and colonies of baboons along the roadside.

Before we knew it we were pulling into Ali Sabieh, which represented the border. Here we saw two buildings with people behind cages, one for men the other for women. It looked like the gaol. It was in fact the place where illegal immigrants were locked away, until the next train or bus or lorry or whatever came to take them back where we came from. We chatted to a few of the lads in the bus, until we were called for our passports, ooops.... we hadn't received an entry stamp when that idiot let us in from Eritrea, but as it happened the only problem they had was with Fred's signature..... not for the first time this trip either!

We load up just about to go before another shouting match starts and again it is two women being picked on. On and on it goes and the women seem to be very naughty, trying to run away from the border police but eventually they are captured and put in the cage. It turned out that they had stolen jewels from their employer in Djibouti and were making a quick dash to the border. Not quick
enough it seemed as the guards were already on alert!

Next stop the Ethiopian border where we were greeted by an English speaking
border guard who welcomed us to his country. So far, so good, after all the horror stories. All we have to contend with here is the mad scramble for seats. The strange thing was that although this bus looked bigger from the outside, there was even less room, but we had good company and we were already half way there, so it seemed.

How fine to be in a bus driving fast along the dusty road to Dire Dawa, surrounded by qat chewing men, colourful ladies, with a lot to say for themselves, listening to

LOUD Somali music, passing plains and mountains, wadis and woods, termites nests and local villages. It was only just a bit too long.... good for a few hours but always the destination seems further and further away and we are getting hungrier

and hungrier. We hope it will be no Obock and sure enough by 3.45 pm we are arriving in Dire Dawa, albeit in the middle of a sand storm, with dark clouds gathering ahead. This is to be our introduction to Ethiopia.

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