7 days in somaliland
Replies: 3 - Last Post: Apr 22, 2012 12:50 PM Last Post By: iggyab
Apr 22, 2012 4:48 AM
7 days in somalilandIf anyone is interested in going to somaliland, below is some detail of our time there in early april.
Visas-These are not available on the djibouti or ethiopian borders.We obtained a 3 month visa from the somaliland mission in london,a very easy process just phone the mission,arrange a date and time ,fill in a simple application form hand over 30 dollars and within 10 minutes the job is done.I believe visas are available also in addis.
Safety-Although we had a compulsary armed guard outside of hargeisa we felt totally safe right through the 7 days and managed to walk around berbera and burao on our own.Lots of locals would make a point of telling us how safe somaliland is.The only minor annoyance was because the country is 100% muslim the fact that my wifes head was not covered by a scarf she would get a few nasty comments especially in hargeisa.
We felt like minor celebrities everywhere we went as people would want to talk to us and as soon as we stopped we were surrounded by people.
Day 1-The journey begins in the ethiopian city of harar.Up early to get to the bus station by 6.10am.We easily found a mini bus leaving for the town of jijiga which is the first dropping off point on the way to the border at wajaale.As we were first on the bus we had to wait around 20 minutes for the bus to fill up,they will only leave when full.The cost was 50 birr each,arrived at jijiga bus station at 8.15.A few fun and games here the bus station to put it mildly is a dump,as soon as you get of the bus there is a scrum for your luggage with wheelbarrows appearing from everywhere.With our luggage in a barrow we just shout out wajaale and the barrow boy takes us to the next departing transport heading for the border.Here comes the next shock the biggest heap of junk on wheels you have seen a 40 odd seater alleged bus.After tipping the barrow boy a couple of birr we scramble onto the bus luggage safely on the roof,there are a few people already on the bus so we decide to go for the back seat,big mistake,it is apparently illegal to stand on longer distance buses in ethiopia but they cram at least 3 people into every two seats the back seat should seat 4 but there are 6 of us crushed together.Anyway,off we go at 9am chugging down the road at what seems like about 8mph,the drivers assistant collects the fares of 40 birr per person,arrival in wajaale at 10.15am.Off the bus avoiding more wheelbarrow boys as it is only a short two minute walk to a unmarked white building on the left which is the ethiopia immigration post.Stamped out and short walk to the brightly coloured somaliland immigration building on the right with a flag outside,again straight forward process stamped into somaliland.Now for the next test shared taxi drivers everywhere we agree a fare of 7 dollars each after haggling down from 10 for the trip to hargeisa,the time now is 10.45.Get in the car, again packed solid 3 in the front 4 in the back and 3 in the tailgate,then the driver now wants 10 dollars each,argue with him for 10 minutes but eventually give in and away we go at 11.30 the first section is rough sandy track,then a stop at gabiley, after here the road is good after 4 checkpoints we arrive at the oriental hotel in hargeisa at 1.45 pm.This is a nice hotel in the centre of town and is 30 dollars per night.The guy who helped us with the details of our trip called abdi abdi unfortunately died a few days before we arrived in hargeisa,a chap called ahmed has now taken over.We then went off for a walk round the city,it is a bit of a dusty place and to be honest there is not a lot to see.If you need to change your dollars for somaliland shillings there are loads of street money changers outside the hotel which is quite fascinating as there are thousands of dollars worth in high piles on the street corner.You could possibly get away with using dollars as they are accepted virtually everywhere.
Day 2-After a bit of a delay sorting out our armed guard we are off in our landcruiser with a driver,guard and interpreter to nasa hablood which are two hillocks i would not call them mountains,just outside hargeisa,a rough track leads to them off the main road through what is hargeisas local rubbish dump.After climbing the highest of the two hills you get excellent views of the surrounding area,we are then off to las geel.These are around 8 caves decorated with very clear paintings dating back many hundreds of years and are somalilands best known tourist attraction they were discovered less than 10 years ago.The cost of a permit for the caves is 25 dollars each and are only available in hargeisa not at the site.To get there it is about a 1 hour drive along the main berbera road then a rough track for 7kms to the site,no sign post off the main road.We spent a couple of hours here and is very interesting if you are into this kind of history.Then onwards to burao the 2nd largest city via the coastal town of berbera,the berbera road is not that scenic but the burao road is,you travel through the lovely sheekh mountains on a windy road and is a good hiking location.We arrived in burao half hour before sunset at another nice hotel called the city plaza which is about 3kms out of town and is 30 dollars per room excluding breakfast.
One thing to note is at almost every town/village there is a police checkpoint, with having our guard we were waved through every time.I did hear that it is possible to independently travel to berbera without a guard but am not sure how you get through the checkpoints.
Day 3-The start of three fascinating days to a very remote part of the country erigavo,this area is alledgedly quite dangerous as it is close to a disputed border area of puntland,but again we felt totally safe.At 7am start driving along the main mogadishu road then the driver cuts along a sandy track,you need a driver that really knows where he is going as there are a few tracks in the sand and knowing which one to take requires good knowledge.We even asked our driver if we could come back a totally different way from erigavo and apart from the first 50 or so kms out of town he obliged.The drive from burao to erigavo took us around 9 hours with stops, through some fascinating landscapes ranging from arid desert like conditions to mountainous areas,along the way you will see many nomads and colourful nomadic houses lots of camels,goat herders and also many gazelles.We past through a couple of permenant villagers/small towns they all looked as though they had been bombed with piles of boulders and bricks everywhere,these are all owned by individuals in the hope they will build a house but it never seems to happen.Arrive in erigavo at 4pm to the one and only hotel the sanaag which as you can imagine is very basic.The lovely owner of the hotel abdul offered to show us around town(no guard) who everyone seemed to know.We have now gone from minor celebrities to major ones as it seems the whole town has come to see us and wants to know why we are there,at certain points we could hardly move for the scrum surrounding us.2 1/2 hours later we get back to the hotel,i would say it would normally take 20 minutes max to stroll around the town.A good day all round.
Day 4-Off to the nearby dallo mountains,another rough track about 75 minutes away,a fantastic view point at the top ,we did a fair bit of hiking but other than the viewpoint you are restricted by trees ,there is a difficult climb down into the valley far below to a village,we started the decent but then it got very misty,so that idea was abandoned.A further short drive to mount surad on the other side of dallo with some more hiking and good views.There is some wildlife in the mountains including leppards but you would be lucky to spot anything.Back to town late afternoon and another walk round town this time on our own.
There is also the change to get to the coast on the other side of the mountains, a full day is required for this as the road is very bad.
Day 5-A 9 hour drive back to burao, this time a different way stopped at a town called garodag,again the centre of attention i dont think anyone here had seen any whities before.Scenery ever changing arrive back in burao 4pm.Stayed overnight at the barwaago hotel in the centre of town,rooms ok staff crap,far better option is the city plaza,walked round the fascinating market for 2 hours.All in all a great three days.We noted away from the main road only 8 or 9 vehicles passed us in around 15 hours just shows the remoteness of the area.
Day 6-Drove from burao back through the sheekh mountains to the mansoor hotel in berbera right on the beach 3kms from the town 60 dollars per room includes breakfast.Wandered around berbera town around the port area there are 3 or 4 scrapped ships at funny angles in the bay.Then back to the beach for the afternoon ,walked in the sea along the coast for three hours,guard free, very hot only saw a couple of fishermen.
Back to the hotel at sunset,then shock 4 white people,the first we had seen in 6 days,two were teaching in hargeisa the other two were his daughter and partner from aylesbury.
Day 7-A lie in then drive back to hargeisa,arrive 11am,quick look around the camel and goat market 2kms out of town ,only on in the mornings,again people clambered around us,back to the oriental the new owner ahmed kindly offered us a room for free till our next adventure at 5pm that evening,a last look around hargeisa then onto djibouti.
If anyone is going to attempt the next bit plenty of stamina is required,ahmed had booked us a shared taxi the day before to take us from hargeisa to djibouti city,the cost is 35 dollars each,luckily we decided to pay an extra 30 dollars for a vacant spot in the back seat for a bit more space.If anyone is going to attempt this do not get to ride in the tailgate bit of the car.We knew the journey was going to be difficult,the other option is to fly but the airlines are too unreliable.
A smashed in landcruiser arrives at 5pm to pick us up from the oriental,bloody hell this has got no chance of making djibouti.We are the first two in the car,luggage on the roof drive 2kms collect more people,at this point there are 3 in the front ,3 in the back and 2 in the tailgate,then 4 more cramb into the tailgate,unbelievable,the luggage is sheeted on the roof,then two more people scramble on the roof,there not coming with us surely,yes they are,so we have 14 in or on the car designed to seat at a push 9.6pm off we go,within 15 minutes as it is getting dark,the headlights dont work, back we go to find a garage,headlights fixed,away again at 7pm.At 8pm we stop at a village for the driver to have his dinner,this is going to be a long journey.Away again at 8.30,bumping and bouncing all over the place this is one bad road,no chance of sleeping,stop at 1am,this time glad to get out,police checkpoint,passports required,seems to be some problem,maybe they cant believe we are doing this,after some negotiation and debate 50 minutes later they let us go.Another stop at 2.30,bush toilet break,off we go again at 3.45 stop again,this time driver lies in the sand and falls asleep,wakes up 90 minutes later away we go again, cross a couple of dodgy rivers only just make one of them,if there had been any rain this would have been impassable,stop 8am,driver wants his breakfast.At last the border is in sight,drive through the town of loyaada up to a barrier across the road,the time now is 9.45am.Unmarked building somaliland immigration,stamped out straight forward,then walk for 10 minutes across no mans land to the djibouti post on the right,welcome to djibouti sign printed on the wall,wanted to take photo of the sign,miserable gits would not allow it.A long protracted check of passports finally stamped in,wait for the car,all luggage off the roof,searched and back on again.Away at 11.30 dropped all the somalis off first at a real rough part of djibouti city,finally arrive at the bellevue hotel at 12.30 pm.
NINETEEN AND HALF HOURS START TO FINISH.
Distance covered in somaliland over the 7 days was 1798kms
That was not our worst border trip ,the dubious honour was kedougou,senegal to mali yembrem,guinea,which ended with a 3 hour trek on the back of scooters but thats another story.
So thats it,if anyone wants any more info then please let me know
Apr 22, 2012 4:59 AM
Apr 22, 2012 8:30 AM
2Sounds like an interesting trip - I love your description of the taxi ride to Djibouti!
Apr 22, 2012 12:50 PM
3Sounds like quite an adventure! Erigavo is something I am looking into, glad to hear an accurate time for the drive as I have heard everything from "You can drive there in a day!" To "It takes three days of constant driving." The trip to Djibouti sounds grim too.
For fear of coming across as a total dick; Harar to Jijiga was 40 birr two weeks ago and Jijiga to Wajaale was 30. I will be doing the trip again this week so I will mention if it has gone up but the prices have been set at that as long as I have been here, regardless of minibus or bus.
What happens when you travel independently without a guard but with a permit (assuming you're on public transport) is that the whole car gets stopped anyway and they take your passport and permit and check the name matches before waving you on. Often the lovely secretary at the office gets the names wrong. I've had three separate permits and none of them managed to get my name right.
Travelling to Berbera we were just waved through each time. The driver didn't even ask us if we had permits when we left. Returning to Hargeisa it was only the checkpoint on the outskirts of Berbera which checked, it slowed the car down for about ten seconds. My experience of having a uniformed officer in the car is that it slows transport down as they seem to all know each other and want to catch up for ten minutes at every damn check point!!
The other thing about public transport is that after the first stop when they've seen your passport they are usually brave enough to ask you who you are. They then adopt you for the rest of the way and announce who you are and where you are going, that you have a visa and a permit, what your job or favourite football team is...it speeds things up. I also think if I was Somali and ever wanted to smuggle anything I'd stick a white man in the car as the police don't look at anyone else twice!
A good and interesting report by the way!
Edited by: iggyab
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