Travel Through Djibouti on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter & Kay Forwood

Djibouti on a Harley (9/3/06 - 13/3/06)
Distance 408 km (451928 km to 452336 km)

This is part of the twelfth section of our around the world trip.
Complete Trip Overview & Map  

Coming from
Somalia (Somaliland) or read our previous visit to Djibouti 

9/3/06 Our entry to Djibouti was a little more frustrating. Despite the border also opening at 8 am the fat official necessary to stamp everyone's passports did not arrive till 10 am and then proceeded to show all his colleagues photos of his family. We spent the waiting time tightening bolts on the bike and were politely looked after by his subordinates. We were allowed to buy a visa at the border, $US 30.00, each as there is no Djibouti embassy in Somaliland but it wasn't till 10.45 that we were finally underway. In tying the bike down in the back of the 4x4 we had secured the rear wheel tightly to the floor. In hindsight this was an error as the bike's movement and upward jolting on it's rear suspension broke the internals of both rear shock absorbers not designed for that action as the rear wheel would normally be lifted off the ground on a bump, not held tight. So without any dampening, bottoming, metal to metal, we slowly rode the last 20 km of dirt to Djibouti city, found a hotel, washed off five days of dirt from our bodies and emailed our son to send two new rear shock absorbers via DHL as quickly as possible because Djibouti is an expensive anomaly in Africa.

10/3/06 The small country,Temporary fix to rear shock, strip of tyre sidewall attached gained independence in the late 70's but France still has it's influence and with thousands of French troops stationed here greatly affects the economy. The one supermarket in town is not much bigger than a western suburban one, carries mostly imported French goods at high, even by European standards, prices. The other end of town is the local markets. A definite divide is felt between the French and African sections of the city. Business hours seem strictly enforced and we couldn't find an internet office open today, Friday Muslim holiday. A telephone call to our son revealed the needed parts were unavailable in Australia and would have to first be sent from America. We did not want them to be sent directly as the true invoice cost would have to be declared causing high import duties. Normally our son repackages and indicates for personal use any parts he needs to send. We phoned back requesting an old spare pair of rear shock absorbers, that we have at home, be sent. They should arrive four of five days earlier than any new set. The cost being offset by not having to wait, and that two of our visas might expire if we waited for the new parts. Had little interest in the city today as we are still recovering from Somaliland and catching up on those necessary jobs of life.Volcanic landscape of Djibouti's Rift Valley

11/3/06 Found out DHL doesn't operate from our home town in Australia on weekends so the old shocks wouldn't have been sent for another two days. Might as well wait and get new ones. In the meantime we tried to make the shocks on the bike serviceable to get us to Eritrea and back.  On checking closely it seems the right one is functioning. The left one, the shaft slides inside the spring, broken. We took the sidewall from an old tyre, and cutting holes concertina'd the rubber hoping the folds would give a reasonable amount of support and spring. This took most of the day however there was a lot of discussion time over lunch or having a tea before coming to this solution where we could watch and talk to locals. Most of the refugees from Djibouti's three neighbours, all having been at war recently, were sent home a couple of years ago as the fighting had ceased. Being ethnically part of Somalia many have close ties and often relatives there, but Djibouti being relatively wealthy and small can't cope long term with economic migrants.

12/3/06 We hadThe road Obock to Tadjoura hoped to catch a ferry across the bay to Obock to ease pressure on the modified shock absorbers but the best information we could find was that the boat was not currently running. The tourist office has no information and doesn't speak English. Travel agents seem only to be booking international flights, in all getting any snippet of information was difficult. We decided to travel by road tomorrow.

13/3/06 The 170 km to Tadjoura was a good sealed road however a recent storm in the area had washed away some low level crossings and undercut sections that had collapsed. We passed along the coast through an old lava field and past a salt lake. Tadjoura to Obock had a formed dirt road through the mountains, also extensively damaged by flood waters with washouts cutting gouges on hillier sections. We were welcomed by locals in Obock about lunch time, offered Yemeni petrol, brought across the Red Sea and sold for $US 1.00 a litre, cheaper than official Djibouti petrol at $US 1.30. They also, luckily, advised us to get our Djibouti exit stamp at the police station before proceeding, else we would likely be turned back from the border town of Moulhoule some 90 km of dirt road further ahead.Crossing sand roads to the Moulhoule border post There is no actual road from Obock to Moulhoule, just a number of parallel, well used tracks all heading in the same basic direction, across a variety of flat hard packed clay, limestone and sandy areas.  In the dry it was comfortable riding (would be very different after rain), although slow, taking three hours. We got lost at one stage, heading for a small village, only realizing when mangroves appeared on our left side, with the ocean on the right, that there was likely no through road. The coastal scenery on this section was magnificent, tropical turquoise ocean, islands, sandy beaches, almost uninhabited. The modified, repaired, rear shock absorbers were performing well, however the ride was much more bumpy and hard. Kay complained of sore breasts from them being bounced continually and we needed more rests than usual. A casual passport check at Moulhoule and we continued the last 20 km to the Eritrean border.

Move with us to Eritrea