The road from Harar to Jijiga passes through the Valley of Marvels. The hills are made up of vertical shafts of rock that peak through the green of low shrubs like megalithic stones of Stonehenge or Malta. They rest on and against one another in different states of freedom, some free rocks sitting on top of others just waiting to be pushed off. The rocks become camels munching on the shrubs, then the dirty white and multicoloured layers of cloth from nomadic yurt style dwellings.
Beyond Jijiga and a change of transport from a smart new minibus to dirty old schoolbus the scenery flattens and becomes what I expect of Somalia (Somaliland currently being an unrecognised independent state); its brown and lifeless save for trees dotted across the landscape. The temperature seems to jump as soon as I cross the bridge of the dry Wajaale river that marks the boundary.
Its difficult to walk for any length of time without stumbling into a conversation with someone, making Hargeisa, the Somaliland capital, a very friendly place: Many people speak good English from either pre independence times or from having lived in the mother country. Its so much more alive and colourful than my days in Ethiopia. There is also a surprising amount of wildlife around, lots of dikdik, large eared hares, a tortoise trying to hide under a bush, lots of birds.
As it gets dark on the journey out of Hargeisa I try and sleep. The rough road makes it near impossible to rest my head anywhere, so I have to let it hang limply. Eventually its morning, but I begin to fear the Gulf of Aden does not exist. But there behind the Somaliland immigration office I catch my first sea sighting for a long time. Its grey, flat; uninteresting.