Progress at last!
Out of country no 124, back to no 122 on the way to no 125.
I finally managed to get my visa for Sudan. So that was great. But before that I met Michele from Italy.
Michele and I were in the same issue of the Swiss newspaper 20 minuten:
Now Michele was in Djibouti and reached out with an invitation to break bread at a table of fine cuisine. As it turned out Michele wasn't traveling alone. His Ukrainian friend (living in Sweden) was there too, Mykhaylo. They were both Couchsurfing at Kajsa's place. Kajsa is from Sweden and is working for the EU in Djibouti. Kajsa incidentally lives with Amira from Egypt who works for UNHCR. So there we were...all 5 of us, with as much nationalities between us as possible :)
That is Michele on the left and Mykhaylo in the center.
We had a nice dinner and towards the end Kajsa was organizing a boat trip for the following day, where those who wanted could hope to go swimming with whale sharks! It was towards the end of the season for the massive but friendly fish, so it was pretty much last call! I had been trying to go for 2 weeks, but couldn't get on a tour so this was perfect! Kajsa and Amira had to go to work the next day and couldn't join. But a Greek traveler named Petros joined in and added another nationality. So we were now 4.
The 4 of us met up the next morning at the port. A guy coordinated which captain would take us in his little speedboat and off we went. We didn't see any whale sharks and we were struggling a bit with the language barrier between us and the captain. At one point we thought the captain might have been trying to rip us off. But in the end I think it was just a misunderstanding. We cruised around for a while in the area where they are commonly seen but nothing.
This photo does no justice to reality. It was beautiful!!
Then we proceeded to go snorkeling on a magnificent reef which completely blew me away. My initial disappointment about not seeing whale sharks was soon forgotten as I laid there in the surface starring down into this alien world full of life and color. I've done a bit of diving on the past, but I often enjoy snorkeling on a good reef over gearing up and heading further down.
A lot of the in and out of water photos are credited to Michele and his GoPro.
As we later on blasted our way against the wind, back to Djibouti City, Mykhaylo rightfully observed that it had been a great day in great company with lots of beautiful views to behold. And that it had been.
It was only now that I could finally turn my head in all directions without feeling any pain. The bus ride which caused the pain had really had a prolonged grip on me. But finally I was released. And my health had likewise returned. All I needed was the visa for Sudan so I could move forward - but it was getting complicated. Fortunately I have some good friends within Maersk (www.maerskline.com) and Mohammed, the country manager of Djibouti is a well connected man. Through his connection to the Dean of Ambassadors in Djibouti aka the Ambassador of Palestine aka H.E. Kamel Qazzaz set up a quick meeting with me. He's a really great guy! Unfortunately we hit another weekend - but after the weekend the Ambassador arranged for a meeting for me and the Consular of Sudan. That quickly untangled the "visa predicament" and I was promised my visa by the end of the week.
I'd recommend the budget traveler to check out Kadar at Hotel Horseed. It's pretty much as good as it gets if you're not a millionaire. Single room at $35 and double for $40. Great service and location.
Before Mykhaylo left he gave me lunch for two days which he bought in Sweden :)
Amira and Kajsa now invited me in to stay at their place which I happily accepted. They are two great women and I quickly felt at home in their apartment at the sea.
To my regret I didn't get a photo with Amira and Kajsa. Next time :)
Somewhere along the line Mohammed (Maersk) introduced me to David Hanse who's the Managing Director of BMMI in Djibouti (www.bmmigroup.com). BMMI is a multinational cooperation which handles logistics and storage of food and beverages - among other things. The office in Djiboiti is especially tied up with relief and there's even a frozen warehouse which keeps temperatures of -18c to -22c. That's a real contrast to the Djibouti weather! I showed up as a public speaker and made a lot of new friends :)
The days went on and we finally reached the end of the week when the Sudanese embassy called and told me I could collect my passport. Leaving Djibouti without flying is easier said than done. But naturally it's doable. There simply isn't much info on how to do it. A taxi will get you to Balbala from where you'll find busses leaving at night towards the Ethiopian border. My bus reached the border around midnight. In fact it stopped 5km (3mi) before the border as it turned out we would be sleeping there? Just go with the flow...I rented a floor mat for 100 Djibouti franc ($0.50). I brought out my sleeping bag and slept for about 5 hours under the stars. Or well, I guess I didn't really get that much sleep as the mosquitos found me and made the night miserable.
In spite of 2 inaugurations the train still wasn't ready for passengers when I left.
At around 06:00am the bus left to bring us the remaining 5km to the border. A man (from immigration I presume) came to our bus to collect all our passports. Collective passport control? I've never tried that before? After about 30 minutes the immigration had to see me...I guess as I was the only foreigner. He asked a few basic questions and stamped my passport. Then the bus continued to the Ethiopian side where the trip ended. In Ethiopia we each signed in at immigration individually. A bus from there brought us to Dire Dawa where we arrived towards the evening.
It's a beautiful country of extremes which makes you check reality ;)
Meanwhile I had made friends with Said from Djibouti who was traveling with his mother. Said is a clever fellow who studies at the university of Djibouti. He speaks English, French, Somali, Amharic and probably something other than that as well. Our friendship would turn out to be much more valuable than I realized. But that's a blog for next week.
The Sudanese visa cost 10,000 Djibouti franc ($56)
Before Said and I parted he refered me to a nearby hotel just around the corner from where the bus stopped. I was basically a zombie and needed sleep. I managed dinner and brushed my teeth. A few hours later the alarm rang: it was 03:30am - time to get up. I secured the very last available seat for the bus heading to Addis Ababa. And 11 hours later a really tired traveler stepped out of the bus...
That's all for this blog. Thank you for your support and please leave a comment if you're in the mood ;)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - needs more sleep!
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga