We woke up at 5:00 am. It had rained heavily the previous night and it was still raining lightly at dawn. The rain had affected the electricity and so we were covered in darkness. We then called Garo who was assigned to take care of us by Adan from the bus company. We left immediately with the Bajaj that he had come with. We got to Moyale bus stage at exactly 6:00am and headed towards our bus.
Unlike our other bus travelling experiences this time the seemingly tough conductors and some contracted controllers were literally opening the locals luggage and inspecting inside. They even took some new shoes and clothes because they thought they were illegally transporting the goods for sale. Some had to give up to 50Birr for conductors so they could board the bus with their stuff.
We waited patiently for all of them to be searched and it was finally our turn. They seemed to treat us with more respect and did not even open our bags due to the fact that we were foreigners.
I was only shocked when they told me that I had to pay 80Birr so that my suitcase could be kept on top of the bus. We boarded the bus and I was lucky to get the front most seat next to the driver and so I was able to see clearly the land of the Queen of Sheba and get a few other perks like charge my phone through the USB port of the radio and get to play my music once in a while until the other Habesha travelers demanded for Amharic music to be played.
So we embarked on the somewhat 788 kilometers (Google maps) to the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. We passed through the Southern part of Ethiopia which is mainly rural towns such as Yabelo, Finchawa and Hagere Maryam. There were very many annoying and innumerable police stops and custom inspections that they have on the roads and that is why it takes so many hours to make it from Moyale to Addis.
During the inspection, the passengers are required to get out of the bus and make it across the barrier. At some of the checkpoints a lady and a man inspect all of the passengers from head to toe according to their gender and then one or two customs officials are also assigned together with the bus conductor(s) to get on top of the bus and open all of the bags to check for contraband. If found they are taken down from the bus and the owners of the bags are left behind with the police and customs officials to face the law.
At around 1:00pm we stopped at Hagere Maryam to have lunch and shortly after we proceeded with our journey. The road is actually quite okay up until Hagere Maryam and then it becomes marram with a few tarmacked sections almost until you get to a town called Dilla which has very clean streets, very beautiful and peaceful.
We continued with the long journey until dusk. We were supposed to spend the night in Shashamane but luckily my dear friend from Addis had been communicating with some friends from Hawassa who would pick us from the bus stop at Hawassa. We were fortunate to have Garo’s phone to communicate with the guys in Hawassa and at around 9:00pm, almost 12 hours since we started our journey, we made it to Hawassa. The two gentlemen received us warmly and once again we were on a Bajaj and they found us a good place to spend the night not far from where we would take a bus the next morning to Addis Ababa.
The hotel we slept in was really good and cost us each around 250Birr. The next day at around 5.30am I was up and I was able to call our friends who had checked us into the hotel. About 15 minutes later, when the sun had already risen, they showed up. Actually the bus that we were going to board to Addis Ababa by the name of Selam Bus was literally a stone throw away from where we were. We literally walked about 20 meters from where we were.
The Selam Bus was unbelievably comfortable and I remember sleeping for most of my journey with the usual annoying police and customs stops that forced us to leave the buses each time. Once again the road from Hawassa to Addis is mainly bushland with many informal settlements. As you get closer and closer to Addis, signs of development start to show. You start seeing very well developed highways, formal housing around Kality as well as commercial buildings.
We finally reached the city and the bus was going to alight at Meskel Square. I had been talking to my dear friend through a passenger’s phone. We eventually got to Meskel Square and my dear friend was a distance from where I was. I spotted her first and at that moment I was very glad to have seen her and all the struggles of the journey seemed to have never happened. We got into a cab and went straight to Ghion Hotel, we paid for our accommodation and we began our stay in the land of the Queen of Sheba for the conference that was beginning on that very day.