It was time to bid farewell to Northern Kenya , her great hospitality and those roads , Ethiopia was not even a kilometre away , so after breakfast we packed up and headed out , the crossing out of Kenya was just great , the customs official offered me a seat and some of his samosas for breakfast , scanned and stamped me out and I was on my way . The immigration process on the Ethiopian side was fantastic , and I was stamped in , all that was left to do was get my Carne signed , stamped and with so many hours left I was convinced our first night stop would be Dilla 400 kilometres from the border .
I took a walk across the road , to customs , found the office open , no staff , just very unhelpful police . I was told by a money changer that he would have to phone the customs officer to come and stamp me in . It being a Sunday they don’t work and if they do come in that there is an overtime charge . So my five hour ordeal started .
I met Mohammed a clearing agent while I was waiting and he offered to help me , he phoned the supervisor , who promised to send an official , and so we waited , by now me fearing I might have to return to Kenya and try again in the morning .
The police , so many , so unruly , having the run of the small border town , their uniforms worn as badges of fear and authority , yet dishevelled , no pride , all about big guns , cammo and ammo , like bandits they roam . So I waited an observer of border life with my new friend Mohammed , as the hours ticked by.
Eventually the customs official arrives , what a nice guy , introduces himself , shakes my hand asks me a few questions and that I should follow him into the office . In passing he mentions the overtime , but he is glad to help me . Finally we can be on our way , the noon gun long sounded and I needed to get going . Thinking I was only minutes away from my departure , so began another chapter . I was transported to a world that only existed in slow motion . His movements so slow they formed their own shadow , his pen stuttering and stammering across the official documents , duplicate , triplicate , more questions and so time dragged . I just needed one more piece of paper , he turns to me and those words , please wait I need to phone the examiner to come and verify the chassis and engine number . The call made and so we waited , so I stood , so I sat , so I paced , so he paused . Finally just after 14h00 Vic and I said our farewells to Mohammed who without him I might still be there , we went in search of petrol.
This was to be equally frustrating only one of the 4 I tried had regular but I had to wait for the power to return , tank full tyre pressure done at a price we set off . I had to change my destination for the night to the town of Yabello , luckily only 200 kilometres from the border , a breeze . Then I saw the condition of the road , diversion signs to many to count , road works , trucks , busses , we were back on mini hell road , the first 100 kilometres like a teenagers first bad acne outbreak , it would just not clear . I was thinking to myself , this is one of those days the sun beats us home .
The landscape started changing , white dryness replaced by red dryness , more anthills I have never seen , the diversions covered in that fine red powder Vic hates so much , it clogs her pores terribly . So the first 100 kilometres haunted us .
In this place the only colour comes from the clothes the people wear , the sand and the pale blue haze you find surrounding the mountains in the distance , in this place hard labour returns to the roadside , the wind and sun the dominant constant .
I must have inadvertently rubbed a genie lamp , before my eyes it appeared , smooth as silk , wide and dreamy , the road that took us to Yabello Motel before the sun and moon changed guard .
Yabello Motel where you trade big dollar bills for no frills , where being a faranji ( foreigner ) costs you double , the pricelists compiled with invisible ink , rooms that have not experienced fresh in years , a shower that shocks while the dribble tries to make its way onto your skin. That been said the shower done , sitting out under the trees having my first Ethiopian coffee , heaven it could have been.
Light starts to fade , the heat of the day replaced by a cool evening breeze , carrying words I have never heard until this night , mixed with German , Italian and loud claps , as the locals demand service . I sit once again the observer in a place that feels ever so café life , sipping my macchiato . I look to my left the neon motel sign flickers to life , as night arrives , not in its entirety but enough to beckon the weary traveller . I initiate myself with a Ethiopian red as the plump moon , still a little coy using a cloud or two to cover her fullness rises . The customs , the ragged road , washed away as the delicious red of the wine and hypnotic moon take my mind to beautiful Ethiopia .
Until we meet again.