My bag is searched twice within about 500m by Djibouti police and customs at the border with Somaliland. My first impressions as we drive along the dusty road is of a desert converted into a rubbish dump. Camels graze on trees dripping with plastic bag blossom.
It takes me 20 minutes and 2 locations to get the price of the bus to Obock down to an extortionate level I can just about afford. Then there’s lots of waiting in the sticky soup of heat, because its lunchtime. We stop every 20 minutes or so, to ensure we don’t get to where we want to be too quickly. A fight, or a stop for food helps add on the minutes. We climb through low mountains squashed together. A scene much like a borwn rather than red Marscape. Lots of volcanic rocks jutting or resting uneasily on the ground. There is very little vegetation. The road meets the curve of the Gulf of Tadjoura, and follows it most of the way.
As dusk settles I’m still heading towards a hotel, now on foot, that overlooks the Gulf. It looks increasingly deserted as I approach nearer. Its not, but it is closed. I ask the young security guards what I can do as I’m dog tired and have no transport. One of them walks me to another hotel, seemingly in Eritrea its so far. The only thing stopping me from giving up on the day completely is the knowledge there’s no back up team to get me to a hotel. Its me or nothing.
The next morning I follow the Gulf a little further, through the shanty of Obock. Rubbish strewn, poor, and only distinguishable from the rest of the town by the rusting corrugated iron making up the shed-like structures rather than concrete blocks. I gather Djibouti is more or less shut on the tourist side of things from June-August, the hot summer months. From my walk around town I can’t imagine Obock changes much even in the cooler months. Its not only has a frontier feeling – being the last “major” town before closed Eritrea, but an ‘end of civilisation’ feeling too. It could quite easily be the remains of the human race after an apocalypse.
Obock is the end of public transport routes in Djibouti. North is Eritrea that has no overland borders open with any of its 3 neighbours, meaning its as far as I can go along the coast before having to turn back to Ethiopia.