Quote Originally Posted by alspal View Post
So we finally and unfortunately (have to return to work now) made it to South Africa and just in time before the SA and Swaziland borders closed! 2months, 12000km, 1 speed fine, 1 puncture, 8 corona tests, 0 bribes later. First of all I want to thank all the support and technical help i got over this forum, especially while I was playing bush mechanic in Tsavo west! We crossed the SA border just after new yearís right about the time the mess at the Lebombo border started, we luckily diverted through Swaziland and did not have to wait at all. I must say, looking back now, we did have a lot of luck with border crossings. We were in Malawi when they closed all land borders from outside entry (which is currently still closed), if we were still on the Tanzanian side we would have had to take another route to SA.

I want to share our experiences travelling through Ethiopia. The rest of the countries I think is much better documented on here, and south of Ethiopia the cultural divide wasnít as great. When we crossed the border from Ethiopia into Kenya (Lake Turkana, western lake side) I immediately felt things look like back home. I donít know why, landscape, people, communication, roads...everything looked and felt more familiar than in Ethiopia. While planning the trip I anticipated Djibouti but more Ethiopia was going to be the most challenging country to get through on our journey south. I therefore focused on these two countries especially with respect to border crossings. One of the most important lessons i learned on this trip was that you cannot always go on what is stated on the countries official websites (or even information given by embassies) with regard to documentation required at border crossings, or status of the land border (open/closed). We made that mistake crossing from Djibouti into Ethiopia. I telephoned with the Djibouti embassy in Switzerland and Cape town and was told both times that E-visas are excepted at the land borders....they are not!! Luckily the Ethiopian official agreed to make an exception and helped us get across. It could just as easily have gone the other way. The best and most up to date information i always found on the Overland Facebook group. Travellers were quick to reply and information was up to date. For Djibouti i could not find anything post Corona outbreak. I therefore had to do alot of on leg work in Djibouti trying to gather information and find out which borders are open to the public and what documentation is required.

Once in Ethiopia, we had to alter our route due to the conflict in the North West, which at the time of our trip was just starting. We initially wanted to head to the Donegal depression but decided to go east to Harar instead. The highway leading out of Djibouti (Ali Sabieh) all the way to Dire Dawe is brand-new asphalt built by the Chinese and werenít very busy. There were about 3 or 4 toll gates (all in Chinese) along the way other than that an very enjoyable ride. The town of Harar is something quite special, rich with culture and something different form the other town we visited in Ethiopia. Definitely worth a visit if you are planning a trip through Ethiopia. Because of the Corona test required by most countries to exit/enter the border, our route planning through a country usually started with when and where we wanted to have the test done. I can write a post just on our experiences with corona testing along the way!!
For Ethiopia we required a lot of paperwork from Addis together with the corona test. Luckily I found someone on the fb overland group that recently crossed out of Ethiopia to Kenya (Moyale border). They were one of the first to start their journey post corona after leaving their car in Ethiopia for numerous months. On their first attempt they did not have all the documentation when they arrived at Moyale border so they drove back to Addis!! I got in contact with them and got a list of all documents required heading into Addis.
The road from Harar to Addis was very mountainous, a lot of traffic and generally bad quality but the landscapes incredible. Arriving in Addis we immediately saw that the list of documents we need is probably going to take a couple of days longer to get than previously anticipated. The traffic in Addis is just next level. The traffic at times were so bad that we basically could only do one task per day. Going from one side of the city to the other basically took half a day. I think in total we spent 4 nights in Addis just for the paperwork.

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With all the documents in hand we headed direction Omerate border, we wanted to do the Lake Turkana route (initially East route). On the first night we had a super nice stay over in Dorze. The next day we aimed for Turmi but was stopped just outside Konso by a police road block. Driving through Ethiopia was a strenuous task. I donít know if it was because of the war in the north or always been like that, but they had police road blocks every 10-40km. They pick out cars and thoroughly search them, the green defender was hot on the search list throughout our entire Ethiopia crossing. Now our vehicle was fully loaded, most of the items were stored in ammo boxes plus we had a roof tent (which Ethiopians have clearly never seen before). So every road block same story, whatís on the roof?...open up. Whats in the back?.. open up!. This process takes up alot of valuable daylight time. Driving in Ethiopia at night is a clear no go. Asphalt streets are made for cattle not cars...it often felt like. Cattle donít get out the road and the locals donít make an effort to get them out the road. So with all the road blocks, cattle and not driving at night we were glad to do 400km a day!
After the first day i took a photo of the opened roof tent to show the police official whatís inside without having to open everything up every half hour. That often helped, plus the excuse that we were just stopped by his colleague and we have to get somewhere before dark. Eventually I got so fed-up, when the officer said stop i just waved him down and pointed at my watch that i have to get somewhere.
Anyway the police post outside of Konso did not want any of that! Here again I tried my, I donít have time I have to get somewhere trick. Driving past i saw on the guys face that this was not going to happen. The police officer jerked up his AK and aimed it at me. I of coarse immediately stopped. A lot of officers then jumped on the car opened the tent, jerked me out and started searching the back....and no one obviously could speak any English. It got very tense, very quickly. Luckily after not finding any ground-to-air missiles, where the roof tent is, or any explosives in the back, they were ready to communicate by hand signals. A taxi driver eventually came to the rescue that could speak some English. Turns out there were some gun fighting in Konso and the route was currently blocked off. But no problem sir, there is another route over the mountain!...i was told. I hindsight, if I have to do it again i would probably take my chances with fighting in Konso then drive that road over the mountain again!
The diversion meant that we had to drive at night and that we were going to be one day late at the border (corona test validity). The road over the mountain took us to Jinka (from Chamosee through Kemba), we were at most times the only car on the pass. Brutal pass with altitudes varying between 2000-3800m and outside temperature at 30+ degrees, meant that the Landy with the aged radiator wasnít having a good time! The landscape up there was simply incredible and one which stands out to me from our trip down south. The small mountain towns we crossed on the way, where we got some diesel from some local selling from drums in his garage, i had the feeling they'd never seen a foreigner before. In no time half the town surrounded the car and just stood there staring at us. Up and down we went, the road was mostly asphalt up to the last short cut over the koppie standing between us and Jinka. Those super quick dirt road ďshort cutsĒ from google you should avoid at all times driving through Africa! No preplanned route or reliable information to fall back on we started the mountain pass which very quickly turned from asphalt to just rocky gravel in the dark. 2nd gear diff-lock low range at times, we crawled up and over the mountain. Took us close to 2hours for what google said would be 30min. The next day, Jinka to Omerate, flat open asphalt road this was going to be easy!

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We got up earlyish and reached Omerate shortly after lunch. I remember on the way thinking that Ethiopia was actually not soooo bad compared to what i read online in preparation for the trip. We reached the border post, no other vehicles in sight or looked like have been there for a while. Immigration and Custom official come to us, we didnít even have time to go to their office. And then the Ethiopian border intimidation started! Border is closed! Go back to Addis! I donít know what is with border official, they always want to send you somewhere to go speak to some other official, just so that they donít have to deal with it. I started wiping out paperwork with fancy stamps on then, this helped for a short while. We had our TIP, corona test, EVisa, customs paper for the vehicle drafted in Addis stating that we are allowed to exit Ethiopia at Omerate. This was all nice and well but the customs document was not stamped by immigration in Addis allowing us to leave with it (our mistake, here again we were convinced by custom officials that we have all necessary documents required to cross the border). So they said the car can go, but we canít, we have to go back to Addis!! This is now friday later afternoon. The central town of Konso is blocked due to fighting and the mountain pass we came over, i swore i would never drive in my life again!! Go back to Addis! It took us 3 days hectic driving to get to Omerate, and they wanted us to go back? To get the document stamped and get back to the border will take at least 1 week, and that is if all went extremely fast in Addis! Time in African has no value. Officials have no problem to make you sit around for hours or days. No matter how many times I tried to explain to this official that it is impossible, given the current situation in Konso, he just didnít want to help us find a solution. That was the only time during our trip that I felt powerless. After the third day at the border, cash was running out and no atm, food is low, and we had no real solution insight, the mood hit rock bottom. Luckily we had a glimmer of hope! On the Friday afternoon we managed to get in touch with the South African embassy in EthiopiaÖit was a long shot. The SA official was very helpful, but said that he can at earliest discuss our situation with the ambassador on Monday. So we had to wait. Saturday, Sunday, Monday nothing. Tuesday morning shortly before lunch the SA embassy emailed us a letter drafted by them and stamped by immigration in Addis!!! At Omerate immigration they fine combed that letter and even telephoned their colleagues in Addis to query its authenticity! Eventually we were cleared and free to cross into Kenya! Our, by-now-outdated Corona test, no one luckily asked for again.

Crossing into Kenya was like a breath of fresh air. The moment we crossed the invisible border Ethiopia/Kenya I felt at home. Kenya was great, we really enjoyed itÖ the people, national parks, beach. Things made sense again. All countries down from here was more or less AfricaÖ the way I imagined/know it. Ethiopia is culturally very different and definitely worth a visit. I just want to say prepare yourself for it, but then again nothing can really prepare you for might come your way in Ethiopia
Nice to hear you made it through.

Just for peopleís reference the overlanding fb group is https://www.facebook.com/groups/OverlandingAfrica/

I moderate the group so let me know if there are issues joining. The group also has a WhatsApp group for travellers on the road to exchange info more rapidly.

Safe travels all!