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

Friday, May 6, 2011

Djibouti - Lac Abbe

Day 121
Written in Ethiopia.

Lac Abbe is a salt lake situated on the border of Djibouti and Ethiopia. It was said to be a place of unearthly scenary, because the first „Planet of the Apes„ is filmed there.

This kind of a view on the spot. The photo was taken shortly after the sunrise this morning.
But the whole story started this way: The plan was to visit Lac Abbe and then drive back to Ethiopia.

Actually there are not many options to go further from Djibouti. The land border to Eritrea was said to be closed on Djibouti`s and Ethiopia`s side. No visit to this country. And no sense to go back to Somaliland , because from there to move on could be also only through Ethiopia.

The morning pictures of Djibout city.

Local public transport – some are really quite decorated. It makes one wonder , seeing that the majority of the windscreen is glued , how come the driver can see the outside world.

In a street cafe , in front of a shopping centre at the border of the town.

Very soon khat will be sold here. As soon as the product reaches from Ethiopia.

Water-melon counter..
The next larger populated place is Dikhil. Somewhere here a sidetrack taking to Lac Abbe lake should begin .By the major road there is a police check post. In any case I stop the car to ask the right directio, but they make hand gestures to drive on. I will not drive on because I need info. The map in hand and to communicate. I learn that somewh ere I must turn left and also they suggest to find out more at a nearby hotel. Ok, back to the car and to the hotel. But even before the car has stopped somebody is by the car window and tries to show the location of the hotel., I can see it too – it`s 10 metres away, but still they try to show the way.

The hotel looks decent and the reception is also nice. We have our seats at a table under a shadow, lay the map on the table and try to find out which is the very right road to Lac Abbe. Because the day before I succeeded to buy a very decent Djibouti topographic map of scale 1:200 000 and it shows several different routes leading to the lake. And there is not any willingness to travel 40 kilometres down the wrong road and then again and again.

The map itself looks like this. Examined with interest. Despite the language barrier it is understood that we wish to go to see Lac Abbe. After a while the lake is found on the map and also our present location, Dikhil. And with great pleasure it is shown to us. I myself also know, that I am in Diklhil now , and I try to lead the conversation into the right direction. The hotel staff believes that naturally we need a guide. „We“ means that Zenja and Kostja are also there. We had met in Somaliland.

I try to find out the price of the guide service. The first price is 10 000 Djibouti franks (40 EUR). And when the answer to this price is a firm „no“ then the price is now half of it. I suggest 3000., but the answer is – not sufficient. However, since the map is quite decent - the first plan is to go there without a guide. The main thing is to know the right road. This kind that is used by the local traffic. However, there are many small roads on the map . And the former experience has taught, that even if the road is marked on the large East African Michelin map, it does not mean that this road is passable or in use at all.

But the language barrier begins to interfer the explanation of the direction. Anyway – Djibouti is a former French colony and compared to neighbouring countries there are less English – speaking people. One more citizen comes over , finds the lake on the map and points out two populated spots that should be passed before. No success of getting to know more – everybody is eager to become a guide. We take time out for a while. At the next table the French are having dinner. We find out that they also plan to visit the lake. As a direct invitation to join them is not made, we will not push ourselves to their company. We should arrive there still by ourselves. We get ready to leave and the guide also tries to come over to the car. Asking the price again – and surprisingly now it is again 10 000 local money, while starting the car the price is 5000, while moving it is 3500. No deal this time.

The road is drivable, in some places sandy, but still drivable.
We reach the first populated place. Already before someone is gesticulating to stop, but the locals explain that it had been raining a few days ago and now another road should be taken and naturally only a guide knows the way and of course it will cost again. Driving in to the village - this kind of situation turns out that the road comes to an end after the village . There is only a gate into a military unit and that`s all. All the people, who had run after the car before , now reach the car. I try to get information about the right road but no success. Everybody tries to talk at the same time and in a loud voice. Having heard the word „Lac Abbe“ they try to get into the car. In vain. No success finding the right direction, and no success finding an English-speaking person either. The situation gets interesting because somebody pushes his hand through the window and tries to get out the water bottle from behind the seat. And then from the side mirrows it is seen that some of the members of the Youth Guides Club try to climb on the roof of the car. It seemes that words are not enough here. I take a meter-long forked lever and walk around the car. That is enough, at least the roof is clean.
Quite understandable, everybody tries to earn something from tourists. As it is their village , through which the road takes to the biggest attraction of Djibouti. And now there is a car present without any guide. This kind of situation demands sometimes a local guide or accompanist. Never mind that he speaks no other languages , only the local. At least he keeps the money-demanders away. The matter is resolved in a few minutes this way that someone, who knows a little bit of English, appears and promises to take us to the lake free. As no other way seems to be on the horizon, we agree and pick up the new self-appointed guide.
He shows the direction and after some driving it comes out that he must take a bottle of water and a handful of qatti from his home and then we drive on. One can hardly call this sandy trail - road . Further on we reach better ground and follow the right direction. He says that he is the only English-speaking-person in the village and some time ago has lived by the lake.


Instead of paths going to different directions there is only one road now. And fortunately a cloud of dust is approaching from behind, the vehicle that caused it stops and there are the same French, met in Dikhili hotel, with a guide. Which means that the movement goes to the right direction.

Djibouti2 (2)

More confident feeling to continue.

Lake shore from a distance.

And the ground.

This is an evening view of the lake.
The best view was said to be in the morning, at sunrise.

In the meantime – this kind of ground. Nice and green, because there are thermal springs. Still a vulcanic region. And not just warm but real boiling water springs. Even the ground is hot here. Not to mention the temperature – it is morning, at 6 o`clock and the temperature is almost 40 degrees.

Steaming and babbeling. Makes no sense to walk and drive around in the dark.

As the local guide didn`t ask any money for his services , we decided that something should be given to him for that day. And I gave him my French-English dictionary. A practical and useful thing. And he could complete his vocabulary. Because hardly he himself would go and buy this kind of a thing. But he asked for half of the local guide price that is 5000 local money and was very injured and annoyed, when we gave him 2000. And he didn´t want to know anything that he promised to show the way without any payment at the beginning. This is how it usually ends – with a few exceptions.

The way back was already easier.

The road was a bit rocky but at least quite drivable.

During two days no other vehicle was met.

Back to the main road and towards Ethiopia. At the road-side diners one could pay either by Djibouti Francs or Ethiopian Birrs. Almost all the big trucks had Ethiopian number plates. After all – Djibouti is Ethiopian sea port.
Checkout from Djibouti was without any problems and additional questions. And the same with check-in to Ethiopia, no messing around with engine or chassis numbers. Perhaps it was dinner time at the border and nobody wanted to flutter in this kind of heat. In the meantime it was almost 48 degrees.

As the internet in Ethiopia is on the same level as leaving the country , the video uploads will wait for better days.


No comments: