65 – Moyale, the Kenyan/Ethiopian border town (Addis to Nairobi – part 2)

Sat 30th Jan, Tawakal Hotel, Moyale, Kenya

This is me catching up on a backlog of entries, finally reaching Nairobi on 2nd Feb. With no power supply, or proper sleeping places over the past 4 days, there was no way to do proper updates.

The bus set off from Dila to Moyale, another 9 hour bus ride. This time, i planted myself at the back of the bus. Largely uneventful trip, tiring, but at least it was on good tarmac road. This is the last bit of good road. Everyone, from travelers to locals, tells me the road from Moyale down is shit.

Moyale-Kenyan half

Moyale town is split into two halves, the Ethiopian half and the Kenyan half. A main road connects the two. The Ethiopian half is more developed with banks, better roads and roadside shops and markets typical of most Ethiopian towns. The Kenyan side has a very dusty undeveloped feel to it, though all the amenities that a traveler might need can also be found on the streets.

It was 4pm when i made my way down to the Ethiopian customs to do my border formalities. Quick  and painless. The problem was i had around 950 Birr to change to Kenyan Shillings. A guy claiming to be from the official tourist office (he flashed his official card for the briefing second), and offered a 5.2 rate. The exchange rate is really bad here (5.9 should be normal, according to a deaf/mute Jap woman in dreadlocks i met on the street. Yeah, talk about out of place) and the bank, which offers better rates, was closed by then. The fellow claimed he offers the best rate and the other black market guys on the street may exchange counterfeit currency. It was obviously a load of BS and i tried to ask around the immediate area. But they were all colluding (this hotel doesn’t change, and that other money changer offers only 5.0 etc etc) and i got damn worked up by the guy following me, going on and on about his being the best rate. In the end, i told him to piss off, walked back up the main drag, stopping any guy with a wad of cash and asking his rate. I got up to 5.48 till i ran out of time. The borders close at 6pm, and it was better to get across to the Kenyan side. Going the next morning would mean i may miss the morning truck out of Moyale, and i wasn’t going to take that risk.

Crossed over to the Kenyan side. A German man of about 45 and his van was arguing at the border to let him through. He looked a bit volatile, possibly drunk and not worth asking for a hitch on the van. The Kenyan customs official and his buddy armed guard were very friendly, and let me through even though they were closing shop when i arrived.

I wasn’t sure how the tout culture here was in Kenya, but the first person who came up to me pointing to a hotel, i avoided. Instead i went down to the Tawakal, much further off the main road. Initial price was 400, i offered 250 KSH and got it. Basic lodging in a dorm, with bucket showers and all locals (i had a room with two Kenyans). Got out for some dinner, and chanced upon two Polish guys, Bartek and Marcin. When they introduced themselves as Polish, i immediately knew they were from the Egypt-Sudan ferry one week before mine, Chris mentioned these two before. The same groups traveling south all meet each other =). Nice people, they were in Moyale since yesterday, because someone had broke into their locked room and stolen their laptop and camera. The owner of their hotel was very upset, since his hotel’s reputation in town as a secure place was tarnished. He apparently paid money for scouts to find out information on the theft in both the Kenyan and Ethiopian sides of the town.

Had dinner with them, actually they watched me eat (70 KSH). The meal was rice soaked in some sort of soup, beans, bits of meat and some vege. It was very tasty and filling. Or i just miss eating rice. We arranged to meet tomorrow morning for the bus down south to Marsabit.

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