I showed up at the airport to check in for a grueling 26hrs of travel, and the guy at the desk said, “I see your final destination is…dih-jub—where are you going?” “Djibouti….it’s in Africa…” Blank face. He’d never heard of it.
I always enjoy the safety video on Ethiopian Airlines that tells me I can’t use my printer for my laptop during the flight, but when the seatbelt sign goes off, they’ll gladly tell you that you can now use your tablet, walkman, and even your calculator!
After the recent crash, this article in the Ethiopia Airlines magazine this month hasn’t aged well.
I finally arrived in Djibouti and realized that my suitcase hadn’t, so that was a lot of fun. After some paperwork, I headed over to the Sheraton and realized I was the only person there who wasn’t carrying either a briefcase or a duffel bag. It was FULL of foreign military and Chinese investors. I was also the only person there with Marriott Platinum status, likely the only person staying there on bonus points/not a government contract, so every staff member knew who I was, where I was at any given moment, and what I had told other people, since they all seemed to share my details with each other. It wasn’t long until they all knew I was there for tourism, had a lost suitcase, was going on a tour the next day, etc. I got a free fruit plate for my status and had that for breakfast.
Speaking of my tour, I got an email before going to bed confirming and telling me to be ready in the lobby at 8am. I was, and we were off.
Strangely enough, it was just me and the driver. I assumed we might be picking up the guide (since the driver spoke 0 English and about as much French as I speak Russian — like 4 words), but once we got out of the city I knew the ‘guide’ in the tour wasn’t happening. It was going to be a hand gestures kind of day.
The port is continuing to expand.
Saw some monkeys
and some camels.
Our first stop of the day was this giant gorge near We’a, which was awesome.
Next stop was this lookout over the Ghoublet bay.
Next, we headed to the main attraction of the day, which is Lac Assal, a super-salty lake that’s 10x saltier than the ocean, one of the top 3 saltiest and lowest lakes on earth. There’s a desalinization plant running at the lake, as well.
Now, remember that my suitcase hadn’t shown up? I had traveled 24+ hours in the clothes that I was now still wearing, which included black jeans, had no shorts to swim in (which is apparently a highlight of the tour), and was both bummed and overheated at the lakeside.
Salt flats are super interesting.
Next, we passed this small mosque en route to a fissure where the tectonic plates of Africa and the Middle East come together.
There’s also a volcano nearby, which has left behind some cool rocks and caves.
From here, we headed down to “the beach” for lunch. This is where the language issue became a huge problem. Thinking I was being nice and helping out, I was trying to help unload food, and the guy kept grunting at me. Again, thinking I was being nice, I got out of the way, sat down, and then waited for the driver, so we could eat together. 20min later, I went looking for him. He was praying, and I was supposed to be eating, then he’d eat after I was full. Communication wasn’t strong here.
The food was quite good, though, and I ate a ton before exploring while he ate.
I tried to get some close-ups of these little crabs, and then I almost died when I turned around, nearly stepped on a snake, jumped, then remembered I was on some rocks at the edge of the sea, stumbled on the landing, and wasn’t sure if I’d wind up falling on the snake or falling in the water in my only clothes for the next…who knows…days. I managed to run out of there dry and alive. I like snakes, I just don’t like when I almost step on them by surprise.
Back at my hotel, I fired off an email to the tour company manager about the day, asking where the guide was, etc. and then got the hotel to take me to the airport to check on my bag. The bag was still not there (but I finally got a case number to check online), but since they had to go pick someone up, I caught a free ride in the van. The person had missed his flight, so I was solo in the van on the way back and used that to get dropped off to meet a friend who was in town teaching French.
We walked through downtown, I saw this surprising Big Boy statue, and then we had some great, super cheap Ethiopian food at the Ethiopian community center. I never would’ve found this unmarked rooftop restaurant without her. If you want cheap vegan eats, find the Ethiopian Community Center on a map and go to the roof (only 1 flight of steps) able where people are watching TV.
Djibouti is really interesting. It’s a former French colony, but the people are ethnically Somali and speak Somali. Given the choice at the end of the colonial period, they opted to become independent, rather than join Somalia. At present, that looks like quite a good move for them.
Back at the hotel, I was told someone had been there asking about me and that it was the tour manager. Funny enough, I had an email telling me the guide didn’t answer his phone in the morning, but the manager couldn’t come because he’s super sick with malaria and stuck in bed. I replied that my hotel had told me he’d been having dinner there and asked about me, to which he said he was now “better”. That’s some doctor!
I confirmed my ride to the airport in the morning, and they told me to expect TIGHT security, so I should arrive at 4:30 for my 7:30 flight. I set my alarm and was out.
We left at 4 and arrived at the airport at 4:30, as instructed. Oh, the airport doesn’t open the door until 5. That’s funny. At 5:10, they finally let me in, but the check-in counter doesn’t open until 5:30. Why my hotel had dropped me at 4:30 was a mystery. Literally 3 people were boarding my flight, so I could’ve shown up at 7:15 and not had a problem.
Turkish Airlines runs a daily flight from Istanbul that stops in Djibouti, some people get off, the 3 of us got on, and we were off to…Mogadishu, Somalia.This entry was posted in Africa, Djibouti, Lac Assal