Category Archives: Ethiopia

Aggressive confrontations in Ethiopia

The dreaded Marsabit – Moyala road, Northern Kenya
It is no longer possible to get the Ethiopian visa in Nairobi, so I DHL one of my passports back to Holland to get it in Bruxelles. Travelling is waiting, and together with Jurriaan, another Dutch overlander, I wait for more than 10 days. We stay at Chris’s Jungle Junction, the famous overlander hub in Nairobi. I use the time to get all my documents in order to apply for the Sudanese visa, which they issue within three days. Also staying at JJ’s are Gary and Jamie, bikers from the US. They have been to the Sudanese embassy many times, but are flatly refused the visa. No reason is given, but it is evident that it has to do with the US boycott of Sudan. Tit for tat, it’s all politics.  With a good wifi-connection I also manage to get a good quote for shipping the car from Alexandria to Rotterdam and do some research for the flight with Thimba from Cairo.

Jungle Junction, Nairobi

Jungle Junction, Nairobi

Jurriaan and his Land Cruiser

Jurriaan and his Land Cruiser

Thimba has a great time at JJ, playing with the dogs (and taking an afternoon nap)

Thimba has a great time at JJ, playing with the dogs (and taking an afternoon nap)

After nearly two weeks in Nairobi I am glad to be on the road again. To get from Kenia to Ethiopia there are two possible routes. The Lake Turkana one is more scenic, desolate, and longer; the Moyale road is busier, less scenic, shorter, and has a reputation of tribal conflicts. A man from Isiolo (the beginning of the road) tells me I need to report to the police in Isiolo, and they will form a convoy to escort to Moyale. I don’t feel like driving with an escort so set off on my own. Northern Kenya is one big wildlife region without fences. I see dikdik (miniature antelope), ostrich, zebra, elephant, warthog, camels, and baboons. Construction works going on, so the going is very slow. Lot of military presence (wave and smile), and I see many US troops driving Kenyan trucks. With all these military and the construction workers there’s no sense of danger. From Moyale at the border to Shasheme in Ethiopia is 550 km of bad roads, and it takes me 10 hours. I am completely exhausted and my shoulder is getting worse: I can barely lift my right arm to drink the so longed for cold beer. After a tiresome day like this Thimba’s head is full of wrinkles, but they disappear overnight.

Aggressive confrontations in Ethiopia
Ethiopia scores high in my top-5 of most beautiful countries in Africa. Mountainous, green, almost pastoral. Fairly good roads, fresh mountain breeze, ideal road trip conditions. But never before in Africa have I experienced so much aggression. I am not talking about children and grown-ups begging, or children shouting “You, You!” at the top of their voice. I’m not talking about people walking in the middle of the road shouting things in Amharric when I want to pass. Here are some incidents to show what I mean:

A child picks up a stone and throws it towards the car.

In Addis a man runs alongside the car trying to hit Thimba, who has her head out of the window. Thimba gives a loud bark and growls. The man jumps back 2 meters. Bystanders applaude (for Thimba I presume). I praise her abundantly for this effective reaction!

In a village I am driving slowly waiting for a truck. A man sees Thimba, runs towards the car, his eyes wide open, shouting, foaming at the mouth. I see him reaching for something in his pocket, maybe a knife to attack Thimba. I accelerate and overtake the truck on the right hand side, which causes even more aggression among the other villagers.

In Gonder, a man who’s walking on the pavement spots Thimba and without hesitation throws his plastic water bottle, which splashes against the side of the car.

I have no explanation for this exceptional behaviour. There are dogs everywhere, small dogs, big dogs, dead dogs (I see 8 of them lying on or beside the road in one day, left for the vultures). I speak to a young backpacker from Switzerland, and he meets only very friendly people. Perhaps it’s the car in combination with Thimba. I know they hate Americans, and perhaps mistake every Farangi (foreigner) for an American? Whatever the reason, I’m not feeling very welcome.

Does this justify such aggressive behaviour?

Does this justify such aggressive behaviour?

Thimba's favourite hiding place when she doesn't want to be disturbed.

Thimba’s favourite hiding place when she doesn’t want to be disturbed.

Where are the overlanders?
In Addis Ababa I stay at Wim’s Holland House, another well known overlanders hub. Sadly Wim died recently, but his wife Rachel is continuing the business. Unfortunately, with the number of overlanders drastically decreasing their campsite is used to park vehicles. I can barely squeeze my car in beside the bar, which is a favorite hang-out for well-to-do locals. In Gonder in northern Ethiopia I spend the night at Tim&Kim’s, a Dutch couple that started their accommodation 6 years ago and invested a lot in community projects. Kim tells me that before the Arabic revolution they had 5 or 6 vehicles per day, some 10 people. Now they have an average of one vehicle per month! They have the added misfortune that the road from Gonder, 65 km, is turned into an off-road mud paradise because of the construction work that is going on.

Squeezed in beside the bar. Wim's Holland House, Addia Ababa, Ethiopia

Squeezed in beside the bar. Wim’s Holland House, Addia Ababa, Ethiopia

With the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the unrest in Egypt, it will be more and more difficult to overland Africa.