Taking a Bus From Nairobi to Addis Ababa(part1)

The day that we were set to travel to Addis via road had finally reached, Monday 11 April 2016. We knew that we had to travel early to get to the Rotary/Rotaract District Conference & Assembly (DCA) that was set to begin in three days. So the only two travelers that had decided to do the road trip and stayed loyal till the end out of a group of a little more than 30 people made it to 10th street Eastleigh at 5:15pm; we knew we had to be there on time as the bus was set to leave in an hour.

The place was very busy and bustling with our brothers and sisters of Cushitic descent. Despite the unexpected condition of the bus; I was more than excited to begin the journey. We paid for our tickets, which cost us each KSH2000 ($20) or 400Birr. We loaded our luggage ready to begin our long journey to the land of the Queen of Sheba on Moyale Star bus.

The bus we boarded was crowded by our neighbors from Somalia and it took a while for us to get out of Eastleigh as it seemed to be a big deal for family members to travel to the Northern frontier. Abyssinian music and shops filled the air with a distinct and dominant touch of Somalia.

After joining the Thika superhighway and passed through Garden City Mall what lay ahead of us was nearly 778 kilometers of tarmac, according to google maps.

After traveling for a few hours, we made a quick stop at Sagana to allow the Muslim faithful in the bus to have their prayers. Once they were done, we continued with the journey and we did not make any stop until Isiolo town. There we had a somewhat long break of around 30 minutes where we were able to have some really good food and tea that at the time felt like it was out of this world.

I was now satisfied and ready for the final stretch onto Marsabit and then Moyale but shock on us when we found a road block by the military and demanded all of us to leave the buses with our bags, except from the ones that were packed on top and under the buses. They needed to ensure that we were all Kenyan citizens so we had to provide our identification, documents or passports to see if we were on transit. We were all inspected, one by one.

We were outside for quite a while. The fresh air was precious for someone like me who came from bustling city of Nairobi. The sky was so beautiful painted with stars that gave us a taste of day light. Blinking one after the other they made us forget the darkness that surrounded us, making us forget what probably lay in the bushes on our left and right is not scary- as the place is known for bandit hideouts.

We then started moving and reached Marsabit at 6:00am. It had been raining and the ground was wet, it was cold indeed. We left Marsabit and onto Moyale where we had a brief stop at a small town called Sololo. I had been asleep for most of the journey so I didn’t really feel the distance.

We finally made it to Moyale town and went to the Kenyan immigration office to get our passports stamped with ease. We only got trouble at the Ethiopian immigration office when we told them that we are going for a conference and they asked us for invitation letters which we did not have. The battery on my phone was almost empty but I was able to contact the DCA Chair-ladies who were representing Rotaractors from Kenya and Ethiopia. I was able to get through to them and they assured us that they would get the letters for us. We sent them our official names and passport numbers and they had to get the letters stamped and approved by the Rotary District Governor. We had to cross over back to the Kenyan side and entered a cyber café where we had to download and print the documents.

The Ethiopian Immigration officers received the letters and there was trouble again when they saw the name ‘Eritrea’ on the cover letter. Just to brief you that the Rotary District that we are in is referred to as District 9212 (D9212) and the countries represented are Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Eritrea. The reason the Immigration officer had a problem with that is due to the conflict that Ethiopia and Eritrea have been having for over 20 years. The two countries seem to be HUGE enemies. He eventually stamped our passports and at that moment we were legally in Ethiopia for the next couple of days that turned to weeks. We later on learned that he wanted a bribe.

We made it to the Moyale bus stage, Ethiopian side, hoping to get a bus to Hawassa but we were informed that no buses could leave to Hawassa at that time (3:00pm) and we had to pay for a bus that would leave the next day.

There was so much confusion due to the language barrier, almost everyone speaks in Amharic and only a few people can understand Swahili and the vast majority of people could barely understand a single word in English probably the word English in itself.

To make matters worse, most of the people knew that we are foreigners and had just exchanged our Dollars and Kenyan Shillings to Ethiopian Birr and they could not stop following us in the name of trying to help us find our way just to make a quick buck.

Luckily I was given a phone number of a man that worked for the bus company that we came with from the Moyale branch. He quickly came to our rescue and assisted us to get the bus tickets for the one leaving to Hawassa the next day. He also linked us up with his friend that was traveling to Shashamane, a town after Hawassa.

The bus tickets were written in pure Amharic and we were indeed lucky to find someone that could read, write and speak in Amharic, Swahili and English. We left the Moyale bus stage in what is called a Bajaj in Ethiopia, Tuktuk in Kenya and headed on to a guest house.

We stayed in the room briefly and then decided to go for dinner. We walked 200 meters from the guest house to a hotel that was down the road and had our first meal while in Ethiopia, we had tibs with injera. It was delicious and that made us forget all the trouble that we had passed through while at the border. When done, we went to our room quite early to sleep and await the journey the next day.

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