And I scratch one more country off my list, goodbye Kenya, hello Ethiopia!
I already had my visa for Ethiopia, so when I arrive in the border city Moyale, I head directly through the Kenyan border control office. They greet me nicely and tell me to just go through. To my surprise there is no border control post in the Ethiopian side, but only an open space next to an old rusty warehouse where a soldier and a guy on civilian clothes are sitting. The second one checked my passport and visa after insisting he was the border control officer and showing me the corresponding identification card.
I stayed in Moyale for a couple of nights where I start enjoying the unique Ethiopian food and coffee.
Ethiopia is a very different country, with a different history and culture. The food is very different from all the other countries I’ve been to, they also use a different alphabet (Amharic Fidel), and they drive on the right side of the road. Even small things are different, like the time and date!
They use a different calendar that is about 7 years behind the Gregorian calendar, so they say that if you come to Ethiopia you are 7 years younger. They use a different convention for the time by which sun comes up at 1 and goes down at 12. So at 1 in Ethiopian time is actually 6 am in Kenya, although they are on the same time zone.
Unfortunately, another difference is that the government has strong restrictions on the use of internet. In Moyale and the next city I visited, Yabelo, private internet is unavailable, and in the rest of Ethiopia Facebook is completely banned. There is only one network company in Ethiopia, there are no options.
I met a Korean traveler on the bus from Moyale to Yabelo, and we explored Yabelo together. He left the next day and I stayed a little bit more. Yabelo is a charming town, peaceful and relatively well organized.
After Yabelo I traveled to Konso, and it was one of the most interesting bus rides I’ve ever had.
I didn’t pay much attention to the fact that the passengers were carrying more goods than usual, as I was busy wondering for how long I would have to stand on one leg since there was no room to sit even on the floor. After an hour the bus stopped in the middle of nowhere and everyone is told to put everything they brought into one single bag because there is a smuggling control point before Konso. When we get back on the bus I got to sit on top of the back of a seat.
After a couple of hours the bus stops again in the middle of nowhere and there are a lot of people waiting outside to get the bags filled with various products and walk a few kilometers through the hills to skip the control point. On the control point they practically let me go through without even inspecting me or my bags. When we crossed the second control I am bound to appreciate more the transport we were using as a I see a truck carrying a lot of people and straw on the back.
I overnight in Konso and went then to Turmi. I met a young Ethiopian guy in the way who tells me of the different tribes that live around these areas, like the Hamar. We hitch hiked on a truck half way. He is surprised on how people tell me a higher price when I want to get on a bus or buy something on a shop. I explained to him that this is normal for me in Ethiopia. It actually reminds me of Tanzania in that aspect.
It even got worst once I got to Turmi, I struggled to find a hotel for a reasonable price because many of them try to charge double to tourists. Every time I went to eat at a local restaurant some customer who spoke English insisted on helping me to talk to the waiter and then told me a higher price for the food. Even a child approached me on the street asking me what do I need; I told him I’m just going to buy water, so he walks in front of me to the kiosk where he spokes to the seller and when I get the water the child told me a price that was double; the seller quickly looked away. Because of this I decided to leave Turmi the next day. I didn’t get to see a Hamar village but I met some along the way.
I moved a lot in a few days and all in all it was very enjoyable. The landscapes full of valleys made the trip more beautiful.