Africa Plus travel blog


Up and out early to ck on train...no gas so no go today, they don't know if gas is coming today or tomor & don't know when train will leave when gas comes from Djibouti. Man in charge of 'program' who can tell us at least how much it will cost is not in his office and no one seems to know when he'll be back. Mari is sick and in bed so Bon, Jake, and I get a tuk tuk to take us to bus office. When we arr. at 9:30 it is locked and the info we get from people outside is conflicting so we wait...about 15 min. later a fellow high on qat arrives, opens, speaks some English and tells us the bus leaves between midnite and 4 am so we can come back then or if we want better seats we should buy our tickets now, 125 bier each($14 US).

We decide to check on airplanes and get a tuk tuk to airport...there they say no passenger planes 'til Monday at 11:30, plane tomor(Sunday) is only cargo(we read in the LP that all business stops in Djibouti at 1:30 when the shipment of fresh qat arrives from Ethiopia, hmmm, could it be that this plane is the transporter???). They tell Bon & Jake to go to Sun Travel Agency for more info or get tickets. We head back to the hotel to pow wow w/ Mari in bed. After much discussion we conclude the train is really no longer an option cince it is so iffy. Marie Niege in Djibouti is lvg the 21st so to have any time with her(our main reason for going in the 1st place) we need to get there by Monday. The bus is an option...definately cheaper(plane is 800 bier=$90 US), but Mari is in no condition to go tonite which would be a 12 hr + ride time 'til mid afternoon, over rough roads, in a questionable bus w/ a driver probably chewing qat. Since we would most likely not leave via bus until tomor nite then and arrive mid afternoon Monday, the only positive for bus is cost! Soi we go to Sun Travel...tickets are payable in bier or dollars, good since our bier(Ethiopian money) is getting low. Got tickets and by noon we're in a minivan to Harar. We kept a room rented in Dire Dawa and leave our packs since it was only 35 bier($4 US)

The first place in Harar was full, the 2nd too expensive...we ended up in a pretty basic but clean place for $4 US. The streets of fHarar near the gate to the old city are jammed with people buying & selling qat(also spelled khat and cot)! It seemed on the trip from Dire Dwa that most of the cultivated land was planted in qat. Agriculture in this part of Ethiopia is totally human powered... they use a long handled tool with a sharp spike or narrow spade blade on one end and a rounded, heavy weight on the other to give the tool more force driving it into the ground...mostly clay.

In Harar the walled city is mainly about the Ethiopians...commercial stalls and street venders of staples, so it is a working city not really much tourist stuff except for the many 'guides' who approach you to show you around. Some jewelry shops and street venders with baskets plus lots of beggars. All in all we were quite disappointed in the place not at all what I anticipated even for an ancient walled city.

Harar is no exception to the Ethiopian cities we've visited in one aspect...there are people lying on the sidewalks or squating along the gutters and begging or sleeping, at least one every block. There is definately the Indian feel of abject poverty here in the cities, people with virtually nothing but the clothes on their backs and very little of that sometimes! There is no safety net when times turn bad, the tribe or family becomes the only fall back and for many who leave the countryside this is not an option anymore either!!

Remet two Danish guys(once in Lalibela) who are here to avoid some of the conflict in Kenya, but now hear things are calmed down so are heading back to Mumbasa via Nairobi in a couple of days. They turned us on to miswak, the native toothbrush/paste from a local bush or tree...they cut short sticks about the size of a pencil and then chew the ends to release the stuff good for whitening and protecting teeth.

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