51 – Land’s End (Into the back of beyond)

Sat 16th Jan, National Hotel, Logiya
The bus from Dessie went east towards to Asaita, but we would be stopping halfway in Semera (41 birr). Semera is the administrative capital of the Afar region, and we are headed there to pick up the tourist permission and compulsory guide to travel the lakes. For the purpose of this and the next couple of entries, the bus route through the towns is in the following order: Dessie –> Bati —> Mille –> Logiya –> Semera —> Asaita. From Asaita, a little local bus goes to Afambo village.

We started off in Dessie, made good progress on good sealed roads, hitting Bati for breakfast. Bypassed Mille, which was on a T-junction joining the road from the south and going northwards The terrain started to change dramatically as we moved northeastwards. From the cold highlands of Dessie, we traversed into the sweltering Afar region.Trees gave way to sparse bushes and rocky expanses of wasteland made more obvious by the complete absence of a water source. And in the midst of all this are the Afar people. Their domed huts dotted the side of the roads. One hut here, a few there. How do they survive in this heat? Why do they live here? Is there a settlement nearby? Where do they get their water supply? It is truly mind boggling, and i think i will not last a day out here. More on the Afar later.

When we hit Logiya, a bunch of passengers got off. Next stop was Semera, a mere 8km away from Logiya. The bus nearly skipped the town, not stopping till i yelled Wora Jaale! Which means stop! We were the only ones to get off, and we should have seen this as a warning of things to come. For Semera, the regional capital, with its stone buildings, is a ghost town. There were buildings, barracks aplenty, but there were no shops in sight, and hardly any activity going on. And it was hot, oh, it was HOT. We got off and found the one hotel in town, a seedy 5 room place by the side of the main road (oh look, a made-in-the-USA condom supplied on the dresser).Placed our things (man, this place is hot) and looked for the tourist office.

It is difficult to find anymore English speaking locals up here, so we were in trouble with our non-existent Amharic. Fortunately, there was a french speaking security guard who tried to help us. Unfortunately, he couldn’t, for it was a Saturday and all the offices were closed. Two options, skip the lakes and go up to Djibouti directly tomorrow, or stay the weekend and come back here on Monday. We took up option 2, and decided to make our way back to Logiya, 8km down south, where there was some semblance of village life. Semera is a dead town, the kind you imagine in those old westerns, with balls of straw rolling on the sandy ground. And it is hot.

We had to flag a passing truck to take us back into Logiya. Now this was a proper little town. We took up a coupld of rooms at the National Hotel (25 birr each) and went out for lunch. Lunch was in a restaurant with a sheep on the restaurant floor (we had tibs for 20 birr). Yes a live sheep, nonchalantly going about its own business. It could be their pet, or potentially dinner, i really don’t know.

There was no power supply in the hotel, and the barely there light emanating from the light bulb in my room was powered by a generator that ran from dusk till 11pm. There were communal toilets, and the shower was a little straw shack placed over some rocks. We had to get buckets and collect water from the trough to bathe with. Sigh. We had Sunday as well in this town, so we might as well get comfortable. Oh and somewhere on the journey from Addis to here, i lost my headlamp. I replaced it with a chunky made-in-china torch (25 birr).

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