Saturday, September 24, 2005

The not-so-long but very slow trip to Obock

Assab-Obock - twenty

Well, it looked quite a short trip - about 80 or 100 km down to the border and about the same again from there to Obock. However, there are Toyota Land Cruisers and Toyota Land Cruisers and ours must have been one of the earliest models and, to be honest, we did not expect to be held up by a very fast flowing river in the middle of the desert! OK, after the first 5 or so kilometers there were no roads either, butr tracks in the desert sand are sometimes more easily traversed than bumpy asphalt roads.

But it was a trip to remember for a very long time, the beauty and desolateness of the scenery, notably across Ras Syan, a volcano just out at sea, the vast salt flats, the odd village of round beehive houses, the hospitality of the villagers who offered us tea and palm wine, bread and water, the ever changing fellow passengers, from the old crazy man who kept shouting water at us while he waved his bottle of palm wine at us, the three colourful but shy (we say shy, instead of unfriendly) women we took over the border, the eight goats we picked up half way, joined by another two later on, the old man who crossed the ford, his sarong tied up to his waste, his spindly little legs looking at any minute to be swept away by the muddy torrent, the border procedures, first the friendly man ( who we had disturbed from some private time with his woman/wife) and the fascist bastard of a border guard in Djibouti who refued to let a young student onto our vehicle and so on.

Fred created a great deal of amusement by calling on Moses to help us cross the ford, just as he Moses crossed the Red Sea with his people. The deed having eventually been done, only after others had tried and succeeded from the opposite direction - about the only time we saw another vehicle all day - our driver became referred to as Musa!

As the day went on and we crawled across the desert, I decided to get out of terh crowded front seat and join the goats at the back. In the meantime, as it became increasingly clear that we would be lucky to reach Obock, let alone Djibouti before dark, Fred was getting increasingly stressed and angry in the front. Evetually, after sunset and in the darkness we managed to make out some lights in the distance which eventually turned out to be the lights of Obock. When we eventually stopped outside a FISH restaurant ( of all places) Fred lost control! Nothing seemed to have been arranged by way of accommoation, Musa spoke no English, we had just enough Nakfas for a boat, which would have to leave tomorrow, no Djibouti francs and we were quite tired and a little hungry, the water supplies were depleted and so on anbd so on.

Eventually we found shelter at a place we had delivered the goats to, and mattresses were laid out in the garden, some distance from the gaots which were now tethered. As tempers cooled and we were treated to hospitality in the form of sweet tea, cola and very spicey spaghetti and we had managed to find someone who spoke French, then another who spoke English, things became more relaxed.

Our mattersses were moved indoors and we were invited to go, in an watch television. We found them, bizzarely, watching the film Far From Heaven until someone else got control of the remote control and zapped their way through over satellite channels to find Rush Hour , which made for great family entertainment, while Fred and I fell asleep, exhausted after our long day. Satisfied too.

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