One piece of advice I heard was particularly useful:
If you fly, arrive at the airport much earlier because you never know what time the plane is going to take off.
I don’t remember now how much earlier we arrived at the airport, but I remember that the plane which was to depart at 11.30, departed so early that at 11.35 it managed to land at its destination!
Addis Abeba, the capital of Ethiopia – it’s funny, but we’ve been in the country for two weeks now, but we walk through the capital for the first time. It’s a method that always works with me – I opt for villages and little towns, and only later, when I get used to the country I venture off into a big, noisy and often less safe capital.
I had an idea! The guidebook said that the embassy of Somaliland is somewhere on our way from the airport to the city centre so I thought it would be good to stop and sort out our visas. Well, easier said than done! The guidebook turned out to be wrong – there was no embassy where it was supposed to be. The taxi driver had no idea where to take us and people he asked on the way had no idea, either.
We got off the taxi hoping to find the place somehow. Several peopla asked and nothing.
“Do you need any help?” a car braked next to me and a woman looked out.
“Somaliland Embassy,” I replied, hopeful.
“It used to be somewhere here…” the woman wondered aloud, but then shook her head.
I thanked her anyway and expected her to drive off, but instead she reached into her bag and showed me her ID card. She introduced herself and told us to hop in with our bags. We did.
We drove around and we were happy to have someone who could ask the questions in amharic.
“They moved to the other side of the road,” we heard from a guard after a lot of driving around.
We drove across the main road and then got lost in the maze of small streets before we arrived in front of the embassy. Closed. Open tomorrow at 10. Well…
You could easily see Addis is the capital: bustling, crowded, important. Just looking at people’s outfits and hairdos, you knew it was different than anything we’d seen before.
I had no idea how it was possible, but we got lost. Yes, on the way to the Somaliland Embassy we got lost and couldn’t find it. Fortunately, it took us only half an hour to walk around and we got there.
We got the visas without problems!
The bus station was in a totally different place than our guidebook said it was. We must have looked lost because a young boy approached us asking if we needed help. We didn’t trust him at first, as there had been so many people before him who just pretended to be of help, but this time was different.
He did help us and proved to be a great companion for the rest of the day.
I know I shouldn’t be stereotypical in my judgements, but sometimes I can’t help it.
It happened over and over again in Ethiopia: a seemingly pleasant conversation turned into begging for something and we became more caucious. We didn’t exprience aggressive behaviour yet, but the expectations to ‘money-carrying white tourists’ was something we met every day.
It was good to come to Addis so late. Most of travellers describe the city as place they dislike and want to live as quickly as possible, but we didn’t mind being there.
“Do you want to take shortcuts?” asked the boy explaining it would only take 15 minutes if we did. So we did.
Fifteen minutes later we were in the middle of a muddy market and he said it would take fifteen minutes more. Well, African time. And fifteen minutes later he suggested taking a taxi. Not because it was far, no, it was like… well, fifteen minutes more or something, but we stood out of the crowd and people started paying to much attention to us. We decided to walk for fifteen more minutes….
“Just be careful with your bags,” he added and we kept walking.