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 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“.

In Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, there are two main over-night places or campings – The Blue Nile Sailing Club in the centre of town and National Campsite in the southern part of the city. The first one is good because it is situated in the downtown, close to the embassies and it also has free wifi, never mind that a slow one. The advantages of the National camp – half the price, a large European-style Afra Shopping Centre near –by, the toilets are much cleaner , very many local and less non-local people. For example – from Eritrea . and Libya.

The next obligatory stops are Gallabat and Metama, situated on the border of Sudan and Ethiopia. Theoretically one can drive through South-Sudan to Uganda, but no sense to be wise about this topic.
The next place to encounter both either downwards and or upwards moving people is in the capital of Ethiopia - Addises . Wims Holland House. Not much advertising but everybody who needs it knows it.
From Ethiopia to Kenya there are two roads. The first and the main one is Mojale-Marsabit-Isolo Road. The second road - Lake Turkana – has practically no traffic. The choice must be made at least a few weeks later, because first of all it is necessary to reach back Ethiopia.

And so you meet again the same travellers. For example Erkan or Mustafa from Turkey. His plan was to go to Djibouti through Egipt, Sudan and Ethiopia and then to India over the Red Sea through Yemen, Oman and Pakistan and at last back to Turkey through Iran.

For the first time we met in Egipt, Aswan, as we were going to Sudan by the same boat. And then we waited together in Sudan, Wadi Halfa for a day and a half until our vehicles arrived. His motocycle and my bus. The second encounter was in Ethiopia, Addis Abeba , in a local telecommunications company. And the third time was here, in Hargeisa. Almost at random in the middle of the main street.

From the left: Erkan from Turkey, Evgenia and Konstantin from Russia. So I can speak in a familiar language again. As they also planned to visit Laas Gaal and Berbera we decided to share the „security“ expenses. After all there are three seats in front of my bus and the security can be accomodated at the back. This kind of accomodation was already tested in the mountains of Simieni. The next morning we started towards the sea.

The daily fee of the security service or as they call it here „security „ was said to be 20 dollars a day, half of which was wished to get in the morning to buy „khat“. A plastic bag full of green leaves, and everything was ready for a drive.

Khat is a slightly narcotic plant of Ethiopian origin and its leaves are chewed for hours and it is legal here. And quite common. And at the end of the day the chewers eyes have turned red. Anyway – it can be purchased at every twenty metre almost. Read more in Wikipedia.

The pictures of Laas Gaal Cave drawings are in the previous post. But it took quite a time to find the right place because there were no road signs. According to the first information the security was supposed to know it but then we just asked about it in the next police check-post . And it turned out that we had passed the proper turning already quite a number of kilometresago. We tried to figure out the location of the right turning place and then a man, whose English was quite good, came to assist us. He was a local school teacher, and supposed to know the right place. Having reached the right village - again the way-asking began. He said he had been there several years ago and had forgotton the right way. Having found the right path we drove on until we reached a barrier and a guard.

In the meantime there were this kind of interesting places, but on the whole – the path was quite a drivable one.
And having reached the right place it came out that in order to visit Laas Gaal one must have a permit from the Ministry of Tourism. In Hargeisa. And the talk of going back to the capitan began. Then after a number of phone calls it turned out that the permission was also given from the place our local guide had accompanied us. So – back again to find the right person, who arrived half an hour later.

Having visited the Laas Gaal the plan was to reach the seaside by the evening.

To be more exact – the Gulf of Aden. Berbera is a port town of Somaliland. Until 1941 it was also the capital of Somaliland.

Looking for the hotel in the dark was quite a challange, because there were almost no street lights. In the first hotel the price of a single room was 10 dollars , it was too much to pay and the search continued. Next we looked for the hotel that Mustafa had advised and had succeeded to stay overnight there for 3 dollars. The hotel was found but no vacancies. Probably the price was too good. At the third place fortunately a double room with shower and toilet for 10 dollars was available, The only disadvantage was that there was no restaurant at the hotel.

And so nothing else to do but taking the security with us to town to find a diner. Luckely – finding one was no problem at all. Unfortunately I had no camera with me so the memory of eatingthere was only the bill.

The total sum for four of us was 49 thousand Somaliland shillings or 8.16 USA dollars.
Back to the hotel. The security told us that he didn`t need a room and he would chew khat. And he wanted to get the second part of his daily fee.

And the hotel owned a closed courtyard which meant that it was possible to sleep in the car, side doors open with peace of mind. Because in the daytime it was almost 40 degrees C outside and at night it was only a little bit cooler. In the morning the local cats tried to get into the car through the open car door.


A diner by the sea recommended by Lonely Planet.

There seemed to be no shortage of customers here. In the parking place there were predominantely white Toyotas with UN letters.

Fish – that was so tasteful that I would have ordered more if I could eat more.

Observing and taking pictures of crows is quite a sort of fun.

In the middle of Berbera port - a couple of such wrecks.

This should be a pelican, if I´m not mistaken.

And while going away from the table the crow is present at once.

And a kilometre from town almost an empty beach began.

By the Gulf of Aden. Emptiness and silence, only the sand and light blue waves.

Local youth.

Going back to town my eye caught sight of abandoned port buildings and this kind of birdies moving between them.


The first impressions are that Somaliland is quite a nice place to visit. The prices are quite normal , a decent hotel room can be got for 5 USA dollars.

So for the first time during this trip overnight at the hotel. Internet (wifi) is included in the price and is available in the room. And much cheaper and more comfortable than to be in the internet cafe.

Hotel Siraaj, single room.

The local money – economy works this way – both – USA dollar and local money are in use , but as the biggest local bill is 500, then using only local currency one must have a very large bag for that.
In Ethiopia they warned that there could problems with availability of petrol and diesel , but the only problem was that nobody was interested in serving customers during their lunch-time.

There is an airport in Berbera, the 4140 m runway was built in the middle of 1970 by Soviet Union. Due to the long airport runway it was NASA Space Shuttle emergancy runway in 1970-1991. I tried to find from internet whether it had ever been actually used but could not unfortunately find any more info.

Mobile connection and internet in Somalialand.

The local TeleSom advertisments are everywhere to be seen. I bought a SIM card. It cost 5 USD and talk time for 2 USD. You never know when you might need it.

AirBalticCard has no roamingpartner here. The same is with Tele2 and Elisa. Anyway, could not have the network connection. Besides TeleSom there is also a network called Som Gol. As to the prices – 4-minutes call to Estonia cost 0,7 dollars or 0,5 EUR. Not so bad because the minute price is 12 eurocents.

No more experiences now. Something should be left for the next posts too. It is already after midnight and tomorrow morning the journey toward Djibouti will begin. According to the map it is a little more than 400 kilometres to the border. They say also that the road is very bad and the public transport (4x4 Land Cruisers) between the two countries cover the distance in 20 hours. I guess they make no stops to make pictures and recordings of local life.

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