We tried to do this in 2002 but had to ship our truck back to Europe as we had ruined our tires in Ethiopia.
Here is some information I found in my file (please keep in mind that this info is not based on my personal experience):
: As (end 2002) there is no border post on the Djibouti – Eritrea border we went to the Immigration in Djibouti Town – N11.36.003 E043.08.883 –. Lac Assal – Djibouti – 510 ft below sea level – N11.34.796 E043.26.238 . Bush camp in the desert just outside Obock. The road from Tadjoura to Obock had been maintained and there was no need for 4 WD. From Obock to Assab the road is desert track all the way and was no problem. We bushed camped in the desert (very hot). We were trying to get to Assab before 12.00 to get our passports stamped for entry into Eritrea. If we missed the 12.00 noon deadline we would have a long afternoon wait till everyone came back, if they returned at all. Hotel Grounds – Assab – 08/08/02 - N13.00.906 E042.44.811. We were expecting the section between Assab and Massawa to take us 4 days of hard driving and we were stunned to hear that Barry had done it in 10 hours. It appears that the different times of year and weather have a vast influence on this type of terrain.
Djibouti to Massawa – 1000 km through the backyards of Djibouti and Eritrea
The trip from Djibouti to Massawa is one of the most beautiful and remote routes one can travel in Africa. It is by no means easy, going is slow for most of the trip, and there are sections that will test your driving skill and your vehicle’s ability (and your ability to accuracy copy co-ordinates into your GPS). The scenery and terrain is mostly desert and semi-desert, there is an abundance of rock, gravel and sand, but it’s unspoilt and the geology is raw and exposed. If you liked Namibia, you will love this.
We left Djibouti on a Tuesday afternoon and got to Massawa on Sunday evening having spent most days driving from early morning to late afternoon. Be prepared to spend a week without any inputs from anywhere, though you can get food, water & fuel in Assab. Bush camping is the only option throughout this trip and it’s easy as locals tend to ignore you and there is little or no traffic. Remember in Eritrea it is not advisable to venture off visible tracks as land mines from the recent wars still abound.
We used GPS co-ordinates and route descriptions that we copied from “Durch Afrika”. Since this information was compiled the route appears to have changed significantly in places, so the information given here is a combination of that from the book and that which was encountered along the way. Distances are approximated because it depends on how often you get lost and exactly which of the multiple tracks one drives and how far you drive off the track to camp.
Section 1 – Djibouti town (Djibouti) to Assab (Eritrea): approx 450 km
Djibouti – Tadjoura: approx 200 km of good tar road, including a 35 km detour to Lac Assal. The last section has some bad erosion and undercuts on the seaward side so don’t stay too close to the edge. Several rivers have taken the road with them where they have crossed it.
Tadjoura – Obock: approx 59 km
Leave Tadjoura via the north west part of town, looks a bit like you’re travelling through a garbage dump, follow the road up the steep embankment. At the first fork in the road keep going straight. Road/track is clearly discernable all the way to Obock. For the largest part a good gravel road through the hills. It is clear that maintenance is not a feature in this region of Djibouti as the rain has washed out some sections of the road very badly. The most difficult sections of the entire trip are encountered here. The most significant obstacle is a stretch of several hundred metres where none of the road remains, only the original boulders. Good ground clearance and low range gears are a must. If your vehicle is top heavy you might be in for some additional exhilaration. Luckily the boulders are rounded (as they are for most of the trip) so at least your tyres don’ get cut to shreds.
- N11º50.496’ E42º55.262’ - take the right fork
- N11º50.742 E42º59.299’ - take the right fork: the more worn track which rejoins a couple of hundred meters further
Obock – Assab: approx 180 km
Fairly easy driving. Desert track all the way, mostly on gravel with stretches of sand that get muddy after rain. The track remains flat and close to the sea all the way.
- N11º58.759’ E43º17.990’ - town intersection: head through the river bed towards the guard post and light house
- N12º17.37’ E43º21.52’ – deserted military post (single building)
- N12º23.04’ E43º20.05’ – village, ANDOLI
- N12º35.38’ E43º11.75’ – village, MOULHOULE – border post for Djibouti at the military base. Passport and vehicle documents cannot be stamped here but make yourself known anyway. Will be required to show your Eritrean visa (or Djibouti visa if heading south from Eritrea).
- N12º43.49’ E43º05.01’ – village, RAHAYATA – Eritrean border post. Cannot complete immigrations or customs formalities here either. Do this at Aseb (Assab) Port
- N12º44.96’ E43º03.66’ – turn left insight of but before reaching the village. Name unknown.
- N12º45.19’ E43º00.61’ – intersection and take the right split.
- N12º46.20’ E42º58.53’ – turn left onto gravel road at the large sign. Do not go right on the gravel road as this goes to a Military security zone at Halib Island.
- N12º49.97’ E42º46.88’ – turn right off the gravel road onto a track.
- N12º52.495 E42º44.247 - join up with the line of telephone poles and remain parallel to this line of poles.
- N12º57.30’ E42º42.60’ – end of track turn right onto tar road into Assab.
- N12º58.47’ E42º43.75’ – outskirts of Assab (for the south bound route into Assab)
- N13º00.363 E42º44.689 – Assab port for customs and immigration purposes.
Petrol and diesel are available in Assab. The only petrol available is from the Mobil station on the main route into town. Mr Addonai has the keys and may not always be available. Basic food supplies can be bought here but everything closes from 12:30 to 16:00.
Section 2 – Assab to Massawa: approx 630 km
Assab – Tio: approx 380 km
The track varies a lot on this section from good gravel to driving in river beds. Most of the time, if not distance, is spent driving across or along river beds. Initially these are very rocky but they become sandier the closer you get to Tio. Approach and departure of the river beds is seldom very steep.
We would have liked to stay longer in this section, but the information that we had did not include the good gravel road from Tio to Massawa (which can be travelled in a single day, rather than in 2-3 as indicated by our information).
- Leave town on the tar road heading north towards the airport.
- N13º03.468’ E42º39.951’ – tar road ends and turn right onto gravel road (detour around a mining complex)
- N13º07.590’ E42º32.936’ – the road splits take the left fork (road appears less used)
- At the 30 km mark a ruin of a single house on the left hand side of the road.
- N13º15.77’ E42º19.90’ – village, HLELIKA. Gravel road head at 300º through acacias.
- N13º10.75’ E42º02.86’ – village, GAHARA. The good gravel roads ends here at approx 96 km.
- N13º10.749’ E41º53.906’ - a settlement/village, WADE at approx 115 kms and the track heads out of the village at 360º (north).
- N13º22.918’ E41º46.457’ - approx 140 km, a pass (930 m) at the base of the RAMLO volcano.
- At approx 157 km cross a river bed with vertical sides, approach and departure o the track is good.
- N13º34.16’ E41º30.89’ – village, AFAMBO, also U.N. base visible from the village. Cold cokes are available here!
- N13º29.875’ E41º41.234’ – road forks – keep left.
- Shortly thereafter there is another fork in the road, keep right. (If you miss this one then you can correct by leaving the river bed at N13º34.659’ E41º26.605’ and continue along the ridge, proceeding left at the next intersection.)
- N13º48.59’ E41º24.04’ – village, BEL’BUY, from here the track runs through river beds almost the entire distance to TIO, going is slow because of large stones.
- N13º57.765’ E41º11.998’ - a pass of approx 850 m.
- N14º12.42’ E41º10.66’ - village, IGHIROLI, possibility of obtaining water here.
- N14º00.848’ E41º12.800’ – another small pass.
- N14º16.789’ E41º08.639’ – settlement with red roofs on some buildings, river bed crossing approx 2 km further where the track splits but rejoins.
- N14º21.630’ E41º07.377’ – very rocky pass (approx 300 m) with sand dunes on the right just before this pass.
- N14º28.332’ E40º59.332’ – final pass (approx 360 m).
- N14º38.841’ E40º57.598’ – road splits, keep left. Shortly thereafter turn left onto the good gravel road.
- N14º39.24’ E40º56.39’ – turn off to TIO, continue straight towards MASSAWA or turn right here to TIO approx 5 km further north. Food and cold drinks are available in TIO.
Tio – Massawa: approx 250 km
On this last section the former track has been replaced by a fairly good gravel road. In parts the road is as good as any tar road, with exceptions of the numerous dips into riverbeds that can be muddy or rocky. Other sections the road is very corrugated or stony and sometimes the river has reclaimed the road. The last 20 km outside Massawa looks like the building of a tar road is imminent.
- N15º06.85’ E40º04.76’ – village, GHELA’ELO, military/customs control post – we passed through without being stopped.
- N15º04.75’ E39º44.50’ – village, IRAFAYLE.
- N15º15.82’ E39º37.22’ – village, FORA – administrational centre for the region. Food and cold drinks are available here. Road traverses a dam wall prior to entering the village.
- N15º32.116’ E39º27.210’ – village on the outskirts of MASSAWA. Continue northwards into Massawa.
This route was travelled in February 2002, after some rain, in a 2.6 l (petrol), 109 Series III Land Rover.
If he decides to fly the bike out, there are some air cargo agents who specialize in Africa. DAS Air Cargo is a US company which serves "over 40 African and Middle Eastern cities".
PO BOX 1954
DJIBOUTI TEL: 00-253-353401
CTC: M YOUSSEF
2001: I am happy to inform you that there is no boarder problem with Djibouti. There is a newly built highway or land strasse to this direction. Do not worry there is no security problem in Eritrea, sure you will enjoy it and we are ready to help you to give you a guide or and help needed to make a successful trip here.
please contact me via email firstname.lastname@example.org
with best regards, Tedros B.