This was about half an hour after I had promised to meet Deirdre and the soldier. Deirdre wasn't a problem - there was no-one else she was going to get a lift with - but the soldier was - we needed him to get through the next road-block. Luckily we saw him climbing onto a truck just as it pulled out from town, so we were able to attract his attention and he jumped off - travelling on the front seat of a Landrover is infinitely ore comfortable than sitting / standing on the back of an overloaded truck.
The remainder of the road to Moyale was just as rough and boring as the trip from Isiolo, and took nearly as long - we arrived in Moyale at 14:00. However, this was the first opportunity to stop for some serious bird-watching (ignoring the fact that the reason we had a soldier was to stop armed bandits attacking us). Soon after leaving Marsabit one reaches an area of red oils with extensive black lava. This is the habitat for some of the rare desert larks in Kenya. Just after entering the habitat, I stopped having seen some small lark fly off and land close to the verge. Finding it was not at all hard, and to my complete surprise - a William's Lark. This endemic literally only occurs in this small area of desert. There were quite a few other larks around, but none would allow a close enough approach to identify properly. Anyway, a good start. Sadly, though, the state of the road meant that I had to concentrate much too much on the road thereafter, and didn't find anything new, although a lot of the more "common" desert species were seen, other than D'Arnaud's Barbet just before reaching Moyale..
Once at Moyale, we drove straight on to the border post, which took about 10 minutes for the Kenyan side. On entering Ethiopia, the first problem was to drive on the right. It was fine on the tarred roads where there was traffic, but once onto the gravel roads where one simply drove on the least potholed line, it was often a problem to remember which side to drive when one met the only vehicle of the day.
The Ethiopian officials were very friendly, and we got through immigration with no problem. Customs took a bit longer, with the official filling in a lengthy form in quintuplicate (?). He was OK, he had plenty of sheets of carbon paper. However, when he asked me to write my name, address and profession, he carefully removed all the carbons, so I had to write it out 5 times. Then he read the letter form the Ethiopian Embassy in Pretoria - which was in Amharic (I often wondered what it actually said), and finally asked me to pay for the honour of importing my vehicle into Ethiopia. US$ 1. As I was to learn, Ethiopian officials are strongly into bureaucratic procedures, but not into trying to take as much of your money as possible. The same cannot be said of Ethiopian businessmen.
At the border one must declare all currency being brought in, and then keep careful records which will be checked before leaving. I had no problems, but Deirdre (having changed some money at the border), was trying to persuade the official that she could manage on US$ 4 and a credit card. He clearly knew she had changed some money illegally, but I think was really cruel when he allowed her in anyway.
While it is a prerequisite that all vehicles entering Ethiopia be thoroughly searched, an old Landrover filled with dirt, dust & bird-watching equipment didn’t appeal to the official. After the first two cases, he gave up, and we were on our way. The whole process had taken less than an hour.
The road north from Moyale is tarred on the Ethiopian side (a fact that they are enormously proud - as are the Tanzanians to the south. It really is a serious indictment of Kenya, which is supposedly so much richer than either country that it cannot maintain its roads. Although the road was tarred, and there were virtually no potholes, it is not a very smooth road, since Ethiopians do not believe in levelling the tar they use to patch potholes. This leaves a very rough surface. In this respect, the standard of the road deteriorated steadily from Moyale through to south of Addis Ababa, where the new road is slowly progressing southwards.
We passed through Mega without actually realizing it was Mega, and there was no hope of reaching Yavello before dark, so I decided to camp in what looked like a small abandoned village. Later I realized it was probably a small market, which would only be occupied during market days. Anyway, it provided a reasonable campsite for me. It was now that Deirdre announced that she had never camped in the bush before - although she had back-packed throughout the world over the previous 10 years. So, out of the kindness of my heart, I let her sleep in the back of the Landrover - why should I worry - I was perfectly safe in the roof-top tent.
Sunday 5th December 1999
Having slept perfectly, I was somewhat surprises to find Deirdre had spend the night unable to sleep through shear fright. Her worst fears were apparently realized when a couple of herdsmen passed by in the early hours of the morning. Not that they did anything, but the fact that they could have attacked us was the problem. Deirdre, for all her worldwide travelling experience was not a "bush-person".
An Ethiopian trip: 27/11/1999 to 17/01/2000Giles Mulholland 31 January 2000