Monday, 21 May 2012

Entering Ethiopia

Without access to visas at either the embassy in Nairobi or the border town of Moyale it means Ethiopia is a closed country for North-bound overland travellers. Moyale is nowhere near as grim as I had been led to believe. Its quite picturesque surrounded by green and hills. All the same, its not the kind of place you travel for 24 hours to reach to spend 15 unnecessary hours before turning back the other way. Which is what I have had to do.
The journey south is smoother than the northward one. The driver doesn't see the need to break the land-speed record. The attractive scenery doesn't stop me getting fed up by the constant elbowing, poking, and knocks. The guy behind me doesn't seem able to take hold of the headrest without also grabbing an ear or a fistful of my hair. I loose patience and slap his hands away.
I spend a final enjoyable day in Nairobi, a city I'm not supposed to like. Despite its reputation for hard criminality I actually find a wonderfully cosmopolitan city full of a vast melting pot of intelligent, interesting people. Its altitude of 5000 feet means its cooler than surrounding country, but still pleasantly warm.
The journey to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, would have taken me around 56 hours overland. It takes me 1 hour 40 minutes by air, although I move 7 years to the Julian calendar where its September 2004. Before visiting Addis properly during my final rest week, I whisk myself southwards to cover the distance to the border overland. Joyously Ethiopia's roads are mostly as smooth as silk, and I've soon forgotten my previous woes.
The town of Awassa is 500km from the border, and has a nice holiday resort feel. Ethiopians come here to relax in the many cafes, and walk the watershed of the lake that shares the town's name. And relaxation is exactly what I need.