Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did.
So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. --- Mark Twain

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Djibouti - Lac Assal

Day 112
Since the beginning of the journey 16597 km

The first obligatory attractiom in Djibouti – salt lake Lac Assal

Roadside scenary

Monday, April 25, 2011

Somaliland - Road from Hargeysa to Djibouti

Day 109
Djibouti City
16262 km since the beginning of the journey.

It was said that the road from Somaliland to Djibouti would be poor. In retrospect one can say that it is not true, because in some places thare is not any road at all. There are kind of wheel trails going in the direction of the neighbouring country.

Between the two countries the passangers are taken over by 4x4 LandCruisers and the big lorries carry the goods. Considering that a lorry can pass through - then the distance should be driven because usually fully loaded trucks don`t drive along sand dunes.

So the case was decided. The first bit of road.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Somaliland – Berbera

Day 104
Somaliland, Hargeysa
15838 km. since the beginning

Interestingly in Africa when travelling in the same direction you meet the same people several times. The reason is very simple of course – while driving from Cairo southwards there are certain places you have to pass inevitably. In Egipt this kind of place is Aswan, because further on to Sudan only by ship could be reached. The fact that there is a road from Egipt to Sudan on the map does not mean that by this route one can reach Sudan.


Just the route, but in real time the movement can be followed on the blog page „Location-NEW“.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Somaliland – Laas Gaal

101 Day
Somaliland, Hargeisa

In order to visit the Cave paintings in Somaliland it is necessary to drive from Hargeisa about 50 kilometres in the direction of port city Berbera .

Just like in Ethiopia one can see here tanks by the roadside, from the time of war.

And of course – big turtles.

All kinds of signposts that could introduce the way to this kind of rare attractive place are completly missing.

The right way could be found this way – the road goes through a small village. On the right there are two mountains (called Naasa Hablood) and on the left there is a track which is very little used and difficult to find. And the best solution is to ask guidance from the locals.

Laas Gaal (in Somali language Laas Geel) is not in the UNESCO World Heritage List only because the state itself is not recognized internationally.

There is a guard present who checks the visitors permits and directs the visitors to the cave paintings.

Laas Gaal itself became known to wider public at the end of 2002.

And now the paintings themselves.

Even giraffes can be seen here.

Watchman. Thousands of years ago this was very likely a sleeping place covered with skins.

Outside view.

Read more on Wikipedia Laas Gaal
Further on the road took to port city Berbera.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Somaliland – Hargeysa

Day 97
Somaliland, Hargeysa
15,412 km since the beginning of the journey

The idea to visit Somaliland has been in my mind for a long time already. It is the region of Somali, which decleared itself independent in 1991 after the collapse of Somali central government. No country has yet recognized Somaliland and unlike the rest of Somalia the situation should be stable here. More about it a bit later.

First of all it was necessary to find the Embassy of Somaliland and get a visa. Because it was not possible to go there without a visa and the very best place to apply for it is Ethiopia.

I got my passport back from the Embassy of Djibouti and the hope was that perhaps I can arrange everything at the Embassy of Somaliland the same day as well. Having asked a local taxi-driver about the location of the Embassy of Somaliland and also about the price of taking me there – the answer was that he knows the way. We haggeled about the price and then the car started. But a couple of minutes later the taxi turned to the wrong direction, according to my knowledge the embassy was supposed to be on the opposite direction. And so it was. He had thought that I wanted to go to the Embassy of Somali and so he was taking me there. After explaining the political situation in the neighbouring country the car was strarted again and 5 minutes later I was at the right place. But unfortunately this right place was closed for today. What was gained were the exact GPS coordinates , taken directly from the gate.

The next morning I went there early on foot, 3,5 kilometres is no problem, just a good early-morning walk. No queue behind the gate. For visa one photo was necessary and also to fill in a form, of medium length. Just in case I asked if I went by my own car were there any specific requirements then? And it turned out that a separate car-permission is issued in this case. Then I was asked if I had a driver`s license? I showed my new driving-license, which I had received two months ago, it was suitable. Then I was asked to wait a bit and asked to come to the Ambassador. Great. A very friendly reception. And no questions about the location of Estonia.

Somaliland was supposed to be a very safe country for tourists and at the end of the convérsation the ambassador gave me his cell phone number and advised to call him one day before reaching the border. Then he will inform the border that there would be no problems.

And it was all done in a couple of hours, to get a car permit and the visa in the passport.


The picture of border-crossing stamp. The car permit is a A4 list.


From Addis Abeba to to the border it was almost 700 km decent mountain road.

Which means that I reached the border in the afternoon of the second day. Tog –Wajale is a small village, half of it is located in Ethiopia and the other half is in Somaliland. Another border-crossing – first exit stamp in the passport and then the car formalities in the customs. There were no problems with the exit stamp in the passport.

But this time it took more time at the customs. The appointed official had an order from his surperior to fill the papars, butthe filling of papers dragged and dragged on and on. And then wished to see the car and everything inside the car. At first, of course , the number of the chassis and the engine. The chassis check was no problem but as to the number of the engine – it is in such a place that can`t be seen with naked eye. And now it was the problem . He had to see it and check something. And several times the surperiors were consulted. And in the end I read at the surperior`s office from my passport every country I had visited - and nowhere it was with any interest. In the car every box was checked, but my main things were maps, travel – guides and car spare parts and clothes. So I gave an explanation about my 2 laptops and other things. Then there was a delay getting the stamp.

Fortunately other officals were much more friendly. I took a small globe from my car and pointed out Estonia. I tried to show that a nice tourist comes from a faraway country and now such a delay for nothing. And I was prepared to wait and even spend the night there. So a little more waiting and I had left Ethiopia for that time. 

About twenty metres further was another country – Somaliland.

And here it was very simple - come here, have a seat and everything will be in order. Visa was O.K. and as to the car – the document, that the ambassador had given me , was enough. And the customs will give me on the basis of this document another paper which gives me the right to drive around here. The Customs authorities themselves were about 10 kilometres away and to drive there a guide had to accompany me. I thought that it was for safety reasons, but the guide took care that I will not get lost. Actually - the road to the next place was – to put it mildly – hardly passable. All the way there were about 20-30 cm and even deeper holes and even deeper at the beginning of the road. It was possible to drive only in the adjacent wheel tracks and sometimes these tracks went in different directions. That`s why the guide was needed.

At the customs they spoke English fluently and since it was starting to get darker , this place seemed to be the very safe and right place to spend the night. Anyway - safe behind the wall.


In general – people tried to avoid to be photographed. And at the border – they said a clear „no“.


This kind of nature was met by the road.
Somehow unusually large turtle. It`s a real mess while driving and meeting it in the dark.


Hargeysa through the car window. Stopped by the police at least 5 times, but fortunately this letter was enough to drive on.


In Somaliland the money is Somaliland shilling. It`s their own money. While at the shop the prices were told in dollars and the return money was part of it in local money and part in dollars. One dollar is 5900 shillings. And the biggest bill is 500.


Here is local money for 3,5 dollars.

These are the first impressions of Somaliland, strongly positive. Fortunately here is internet and perhaps later some video-clips could be uploaded and of course pictures too.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

More about Ethiopia

Etioopia, Addis Abeba,
Wims Holland House,
14648 km since the beginning of the journey.

Situations not recorded by video or camera

A little village of Dabat. Situated 74 kilometres north from Gondar. At first it seemed to be an ordinary small village The speed of the car was lowed down for safety reasons. They all – children and grown-ups and monkeys and hens and goats are living on the road. And suddenly an unusual sight – two white grown-ups with rucksacks surrounded with local children , walking the same direction . Reaching them I stop and ask whether everything is still O. K .perhaps they would like a ride?

They were Hungarians. Gabor and Ezster. Gabor has been travelling for seven years already with his rucksack and using local transport. Ethiopia is their 121 country to visit. Impressive.

For the locals the performance is over. No pens or money. A couple of seconds later some stones are thrown towards the car. First of all two solutions come to mind – to drive on or stay and throw back. Still the first oppurtunity is prefered.

Since the rear glass is still in one piece Gabor advises to cover it with some kind of material. It is done in 10 minutes time. Bubble wrap and maccaivari tape almost always help out of trouble.
Our conversation is in English, although the Hungarian language belonged to Finno-hungarian group of languages. At least it didn´t work when we tried to talk in our own languages. And we could talk in Russian, which was useful when prices or services were discussed .

Blue Nile Falls. A dam and an electric power station are built on the falls and so there is only a quarter of it left. But still the picture is magnificent. The place, where the water has previously flowed , is seen beside. The road ends at the gate of the hydroelectric plant, next to it tickets are sold. Everything – edible and inedible is sold on the two sides of the road.

Some words about Ethiopian money. Ethiopian money is birr . 1 euro is 23,5 birr, or 100 birr is 4 Euros.

The ticket costs 15 birr, but afterwards it comes out that it is not allowed to go alone, a local guide is obligatory. So in addition 50 more birr. Fortunately the guide speaks fluent English, so guestions about local life could be asked . Coming to the car it turns out that there is someone writing out a parking receit and wishes to get 5 birr. Not that the price is killing but it is the question of principle already. And I explain to him that I am going to the falls now and I don´t intend to park here. But they intend to get the money and say that that is the ticket for parking by the Fall. O.K, let it be this way then. The road to the Fall allows speed not more than 20 km/hr.

At the Fall a young man appears and announces that he will watch the car while we are way. One can think that what a nice person! But life has proved that at first nobody speaks about money and later on a decent sum is asked. I am showing him the parking receit and point to my guide. Now it is his turn to communicate to the man.

Fortunately I can talk to the guide about local traditions. Coming back to the car I again try to get an explanation why everywhere the white people are asked at least twice the price. And the answer is that white people are rich and then why not. Familiar story and attitude.
Next to my bus is parked a new a local Toyota SUV . It is at least 10 times more expensive than my 24 years old car.

As it is more than +30 degrees I buy two „sprites“, for myself and my guide. Of course the tourist price – 10 birr a bottle. And later my guide invites me to have a cup of coffee at a local cafe of the hydroelectric power will at his expense and at local price. Here a cup of coffee is 2 birr. Elswhere it is usually 3 and in Gondor 10 birr were asked.

Roadside pictures.

It was a car some day, now adapted for living.

Northen Ethiopia. A church located on Debre Damo plateau. The church can be accessed only by ropes. The visit was supposed to be free and only men allowed.
Two repaired ropes are hanging down from the top. One end should be bound round the body for security and the second should be used as climbing-assistance.
Both ends of the second rope are up, one end is firmly fixed and men , holding the other end, are are pushing it up . At once it is clear that here I have not done my homework properly. – without a security rope I could not have reached either up or down. Still 15 metres – nearly the height of a 5-storey house. I should have practised mountain-climbing before. You never know when a skill would be needed.

And then it appears that one has to pay for going down. That`s how the things are. Gabor took the rope and went down. Later it turned out that he was better in climbing. The locals raised their voices seeing that somebody comes down without paying and tried to pull the rope up. Thanks to him here are now some pictures of my decent.
Later – looking at the pictures a thought comes up – is it really the only way up and down, because up there is a cow herd. Were they also pulled up by ropes?
There is nobody to ask any more.

Lalibela. Bet Giyorgis, inside and outside

Old tires can be used to make footwear.

Morning, 4th of April. The plan is to order a taxi and go to town. My plan is to go to Djibouti Embassy to apply for visa and Chris needs a new laptop. Chris is a motorcyclist from Germany, who had an accident a week ago in Ethiopia and now uses crutches. After the accident his laptop was totally broken. We order a familiar taxi- .driver, who speaks English. The taxis are old Ladas or Zigulis. . . The car refuses to go uphill with the first gear. We come out of the car and push. It helps. I will go to the embassy and the taxi-driver will organize a new vehicle.

The procedure in Embassy goes quite fast. Double-sided A4 form, 1 passport photo and tomorrow after dinner the visa should be in the passport. The visa is valid for a month and the first day is today already. Just in case I ask if there are any special requirements, when I am going by my own car. The answer is a clear – no. Nothing is needed. . Well, let`s see at the border.

A new vehicle is waiting outside. The first impression is that it is a copy of the previous one. And that`s correct. We drive to a shopping – centre. There are many stores of computer goods. But no little “netbooks”. And if there are some, then the price is about 100 Euros higher than in Estonia. After discussions the price is a bit lower but not enough. We decide to drive back to the camping and use local acquaintances. The new taxi-driver tries to get “faranji “ price for waiting for an hour and driving 3 kilometres. . But the real price for waiting for an hour is 70 birr, which means 3 Euros.

So soon there is time to move on. Perhaps the net connection is better somewhere and some videos will be uploaded. Let`s see.