Friday, February 24, 2012

Map Lines

I'm writing this one mostly to remind Savannah how much she loves earning lines on the map and hates the flying option....
It was 3 days on the bus to get from Jinka to Harar. The first day I met a 41 year old French guy, Stephan, also going to Harar and he decided to follow my route and schedule rather than his (which would've also taken 3 days but involved going all the way back to Addis). He, like everyone else it seems, is completely fed up with Ethiopia and it's people. He's been here 6 weeks and had spent more time in more areas in South Omo than I did, but from his attempt at doing it independently and his stories, I was wise to bail out. He got stuck a lot due to a lack of transport and had to pay up big to other people for lifts or to do anything really. Anyway, he complained a lot, which in a way was amusing and added to my long list of complaints already heard about here.
The first day I made it back to Arba Minch as I said in my last post. The only annoyance with that day was being 7 people crammed into the back row and the boy next to me puking.

This post is mostly about the following day...

As always, the day starts by getting out of bed at 5am. There was enough noise outside that sleep was impossible anyway beyond 4am as everyone else was also getting ready to move on from the transit hotel we were in. Stephan greeted me with complaints about lack of sleep and we headed out to find our bus. As always, the buses left at about 6am. Transport beyond 6am starts seem to be limited mostly to minibuses unless they are short rides or on major routes.
It was 5 ½ hrs on an often bumpy dirt road to get us dropped off on the side of the road at Shashemene. Shashemene is a big junction town and famous only for its Rasta neighbourhoods, in other words, I had no desire to actually visit it. In the only hassle-free aspect of the day, we caught a shared tuktuk to the bus station to find onward transport to Nazret. Lucky us, it was still early enough that there was a small bus still filling up with people. Unlucky us the touts at the bus station were particularly rude and aggressive, swearing at us and trying to pick fights because we wouldn't give them money or cigarettes. I wouldn't give them my country either and have started telling really annoying people that my country is Kracosia, the fictional country from the movie The Terminal. We had to wait an hour on the bus, not even able to leave it because of the touts waiting for us outside, listening to their abuse.
The ride to Nazret took another 3 ½ hrs with the last 25 km on the main highway linking Addis to Djibouti. Because Ethiopia is landlocked, Djibouti is its main port and so this road is packed with cargo trucks. All the highways in the country are simply 2 lane roads and drivers are constantly swerving around goats, donkeys, cattle, camels, baboons, people and each other. Traffic generally is not that heavy so it's not too bad, but it does get dizzying at times. Ethiopians get car sick fairly often actually.
Having hit the main road and thinking our day was almost over, it actually went like this.....
Stephan: Complaining about something, someone or somewhere as usual.
Me (interrupting): “Our driver is about to kill us. Look.”
Stephan: Looks forward with a sharp intake and holding of breath.
Our driver was attempting to pass a semi-truck and failing miserably. There was no hope whatsoever of passing the guy before smashing into the oncoming semi. No hope at all. It was obvious before he even started the attempt. The bus was gutless and we weren't even going to make it nose to nose with the truck we were trying to pass before we died. He kept going anyway and at the last second, finally realizing that he now didn't even have time to stop and pull back in behind the truck before dying swerved onto the left shoulder (which was dirt and not level), dodged an electricity pole, let 2 oncoming killer trucks pass by before jumping back onto the road and nearly sideswiping the truck behind the one we were originally trying to pass.
Stephan: Jumps up with a very long string of French curses and fist shaking for the driver.
Other passengers: No reaction at all. A few turn to look at this crazy overreacting Frenchman who seems to think something is not right.
Me: Shrug

5 minutes later.....

Stephan: Still complaining, but justified in that it's about the driving habits of Ethiopians (our driver was far from unusual).
Me (interrupting again): “He's doing it again. Look”
Stephan: “Woah woah woah!” Followed by a very long string of French curses yet again for our driver.
This time our driver had tried to pass with no left shoulder for emergency bail out. He would've failed again had not both the truck coming at us and the one we were passing come almost to a stop and we still only survived by inches. We were probably even trying to pass the same truck, since all we'd do is pass a truck and then pull over to drop somebody off and let the trucks pass us again. The line of trucks ahead of us was continuous so there was really no point at all in passing with that kind of traffic. Once we got to Nazret and the road widened a little he tried to pass on the right, driving on the shoulder and forcing people to jump off the road or be killed. But he was still not the only one and had many a fist flying and shouts for the other terrible drivers to let them know what he thought of their skills.

On arrival at the station:

Stephan: Goes to the front of the bus and has some choice words to say to the driver which shall not be repeated here.
The driver: Smiling and laughing points at himself saying “Good, good” and seems perfectly ok by it all.
Me: Shakes head in weary disgust, shrugs and gets off the bus..
At that point Stephan declared his body trashed and that he was going to splurge for a nice place (one with a shower). I walked with him to a nearby hotel. As the $7 price tag was too much for me I left him there and went in search for something more reasonable.
I round the next corner and laying on the ground on the side of the street, face up in front of me was a man with blood and bubbles coming from his mouth and down the side of his face. Having just witnessed quality Ethiopian driving my first thought was that he had been run over and left there dead. A second quick glance showed no brains splattered out behind his head as I expected and he was twitching a little so not quite dead yet. I took my cue from everyone else around me and kept walking like nothing was out of the ordinary...
I did pass by the same street 20 minutes later and he was gone so obviously somebody did do something about it.
Knowing that there had to be cheap rooms back by the bus station, I looped back and into the market beside the station. 3 grubby street boys started following me in an attempt to “help”. This is normal. The 3rd attempt at a room was finally successful. $3 like every night since leaving Addis. But unlike all the others, this one came with no lock and I couldn't find the key for my own lock. And I had 3 guys trying to push into my room demanding money for their assistance. Sigh. Words were unsuccessful so I resorted to physically shoving them out of the doorway and slamming the door shut and trapping myself in the room just to have them pound on the door for a bit. Sigh.
2 hours later I ventured out to eat my 10th injera with vegetables in a row, carrying all my bags with me since I still had no lock for my room.
Being exhausted after a long day and knowing I had to get up at 5am again for the final day to Harar, I declined all further offers from various touts and wannabe friends, fled to my room and shut the door on the world outside. I took stock. A double bed, a small table, electricity but no plug this time so still can't charge anything, a bottle of water for washing and a small plastic pot which I think is a chamberpot. My local hosts in Cameroon were still using them and someone was making that kind of indication here for its use as well. When you see the state of the shared bathrooms, a bottle of water to wash your face and a chamberpot don't seem like bad ideas, but actually I just stick to peeing in my empty water bottle instead...
Went to sleep. Woke up a couple hours later realizing I was under attack by my worst enemy, bedbugs. Bedbugs and I can't coexist under any circumstances. I have been lucky to not have had to deal with them since leaving the bedbug republic (Brisbane) but I was attacked by some sort of blood-sucking weevil-looking beetles a few days ago as they were hiding in my pants and lunching on my legs. Half a dozen massacred bedbugs later, I came to the conclusion that where there are half a dozen dead ones, there are many, many more waiting to take revenge so I resorted to my only available safe option (as long as you are not in the bedbug republic), the floor. Cold, hard, stone floor. It was reasonably clean and I'd only seen 2 small cockroaches on the walls that didn't seem to want to run around on the floor so it was better than the bed. Nevertheless I did not get much more sleep and 5am was actually slow in coming for a change.
The next bus was another 8 ½ hrs to finally reach Harar where I am now. I'm exhausted and filthy so have splurged for a $4 room with a shared shower that actually has cold running water.


At 1:17 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am SO glad I was NOT there for that particular "adventure"......
Lol, Dad


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