So what was supposed to happen yesterday was this: We were to wake up in Mekele and take the 9am flight to Addis. Directly from the Addis airport we had arranged for a driver to take us directly to Harar which is about an 8 hour drive. We figured we would get in around 7pm....check into the guesthouse the company we have used in the past couple of weeks had booked for us....and maybe have a walk around town before bed.
What actually happened was directly this:
We did wake in Mekele as planned but when we arrived at the Addis airport, there was no driver. A local tried to help us out and after a couple calls to the travel office much waiting, someone finally materialized. Off to Harar we thought. Not so fast. He had no idea about Harar and was just going to take us to the travel office which in rush hour traffic took a while. Not sure why we had to make a trip to the office but okay.
Got to the office and they said we would leave in 20 minutes. Almost two hours later we finally end up with a driver and start off in a rickety little van with no seat belts. This is important later. A few blocks later we pick up another dude who is to be our "guide".
The first couple of hours we drove it was clear our driver had very few skills and our "guide" spoke little to no english. There were many big trucks on the highway coming to and from the port in Djbouti as Harar is reached by the main road in that direction.
As the day wore on our driver's lack of skills became more alarming. We have driven with some pretty daring and wild drivers in our travels but this dude took the cake. He was not daring. He simply was not in control of the vehicle. I don't know if it was bad eyesight, poor mechanics or just terrible driving. Likely all three. We had so many close calls I lost count. We went off the road several times and came so close to hitting people, animals, etc on a constant basis. Kelsey told him to slow down many times but it never lasted. I dreaded nightfall as the day wore on and for good reason. Once it got dark (coupled with the fact it was raining) matters just deteriorated. I finally had to lay down and just hold on as I couldn't stand watching the shit driving any longer.
FINALLY reached Harar around 10:30pm to discover that neither the driver or the "guide" had a clue where to go. In fact, it turned out the "guide" had never been there before. How they hell was he supposed to guide us we wondered? We stopped and asked directions to our guesthouse the travel company had booked several times. Nobody seemed to know for sure. We had a map from our guidebook that seemed like it may be helpful but in the sheer chaos of the situation (and the communication barrier), neither the "guide" or the driver would listen. They were beating on random doors, talking to strangers in the street, etc. Creating a proper scene and starting to draw a crowd. Finally Kelsey got so pissed (and I as well), we took all our crap out of the van and started walking on our own.
Harar is a smallish town but built within an old city wall where the streets and alleyways curve and wind with no reason. There are no signs to guide you etc. Luckily the guidebook map was semi-accurate and with the help of a passerby, we found the guesthouse. All the while our "guide" is walking behind us flipping out because we dumped him.
We got to the guesthouse thinking our ordeal was over. Wrong. Waking the nice lady who ran the guesthouse (4 rooms in her home) at what was now 11:30pm, we found out that the travel company had never made the booking and she was full. No rooms. Just having drug our bags and ourselves through dark alleyways of poop and garbage for 20 minutes to find the place and no. That was the end of the rope. There was a lot of angry conversation and in the end, the nice lady allowed us to sleep in a storage in her home. I think she saw how spent we were and likely knew we didn't have many choices. Of course our shit driver hadn't allowed for any stops so we had not eaten since breakfast and she even offered to make us some food. As hungry as we were, we actually declined and collapsed in the storage room for a few hours of sleep.
This morning we woke and went to find a hotel of our own.....unfortunately the nice lady's home was booked or we would have stayed there. She did offer for us to stay in the storage room again which was nice. She also made us breakfast this morning which was much appreciated.
I called the travel company and told them I would not be getting back in that van with Beavis and Butthead so they have booked flights for us back to Addis tomorrow afternoon instead.
In then end, yesterday was complete shit but today was a great day. We walked around the Muslim market and picked up a few souvenirs. The hotel we sorted for ourselves is decent with a nice restaurant/bar area outside. We just had an amazing lunch and several beers for about 17$. And I am fairly certain we each had the most expensive thing on the menu! This evening we are going just outside the city gates to see the hyenas that come into town to be hand fed by the hyena. Apparently this has been going on for many years.
The photos are still giving me trouble so I've given up now...will post them when we get home.
Hope all is well with everyone - love to you all.