Some days Africa grinds you down. And some days Africa rips your heart out. Having been searched thoroughly I wait over an hour in the Ethiopian embassy Consular Section to be told I could not be given a visa because I didn’t have a re-entry pass for Kenya. ‘I’m not coming back into Kenya; I’m not reentering Kenya’ didn’t cut it with the woman at the desk, but she sends me to see the head of the Consular Section.
Lots of people are coming to see her, perhaps for her exotic tattoos, for she was no use as a consular official. She had a Greek cross centred on her forehead, and consecutive rings of a crennalated wall pattern all cross her neck. I wait for some time, by-passed by various people and phonecalls, to explain my position again.
“Where is your re-entry pass?” she asks.
“I don’t have one. I’m not re-entering Kenya.” I still don’t know what a re-entry pass is. “I simply want to apply for a tourist visa.”
“Without a re-entry pass I cannot give you one. You are finished.”
‘Potentially, yes’ I think.
My last hope is to try the Kenya Immigration Office around the corner, and see how readily a re-entry pass is offered. Everyone is very nice, is slightly baffled, and I make my way up the chain of command to the Assistant Director of Immigration Services.
“We only give re-entry passes to residents of Kenya” she says. “You fly to your home country and apply for a visa there.”
“The thing is…I’m on a long overland trip…”
“That’s okay. You cannot do what you are not permitted to do.” Very philosophical, if not very helpful. I feel like a thread-bare carpet – largely ignored, worn out, and walked over by everybody. I will have to fly to Addis Ababa.
But first I must cover the distance to the land border, and catch the 3pm bus to Moyale. We pass the equator back into the northern hemisphere in the early hours. And its then that the road gives out. The journey after the tour ends is like being repeatedly winded, the jolts and shudders seemingly throwing my organs about inside my body.
The scenery gets better, even if the road doesn’t. Conical hills, then nothing but flat grassland as far as the eye can see. Passenger comfort is an optional extra no one has paid for. The road goes from unbelievably bad to intolerably bad. I’m thrown about the back like a weightless rag.