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Old 24 Sep 2004
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djibouti - eritrea

I am currently in Addis but just about to head to Djibouti (via Dire Dawa) and from there to Eritrea (Assab). If anyone out there has any info on the route from Djibouti to Eritrea I would love to hear about it. If anyone has done this recently have you gone along the coast via Obok, Moulhoule and Raheita or further inland through Assa Gaila and crossing the border at Deda'etu or Sidina Monghella. For either of these is there a visible route (in which case my map and compass would be enough) or do you have to make your own route (and I therefore need to scab a GPS off my mate?). Any info on this or others would be great. Thanks. Miles
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Old 24 Sep 2004
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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):

http://www.angelfire.com/trek/jabula...ry/log18a.html : 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
FAX: 00-253-351765

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 teddy@yodit.com
with best regards, Tedros B.
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Old 6 Jan 2005
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Miles, please let us know what route you took and where did you go to. Did you go to Saudi Arabia or Yemen?
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Old 13 Jan 2005
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I rode from Ethiopia to Dibouti (via Dire Dawa) and on to Eritrea (Assab and Massawa then up to Asmara) I flew from there back to the UK. Bit of an unusual route but I had family there so it made sense for me. I know that you can get a ferry from Djibouti to Italy and it may be possible to get from Eritrea to Sudan but I'm not sure.

The road from Addis to Harar and Dire Dawa is new tarmac and in good
condition apart from a few wash-outs but there was work being done them -
the road itself is a stunning alpine ride and Harar is an amazing city. The road
from Dire Dawa to the border is a good graded gravel road and once you
are on it you won't have any problems finding your way (I wasn't using
a GPS at this point). I was riding alone at this point so started off
early and followed some local busses until I was happy that it was all
ok. The border crossing went very smoothly. The road does pass very
close to the Somali border so its worth checking the security situation
before you start off but it seemed safe when I rode it in Oct. A few teas shops along the way but not much else.

Once you cross over into Djibouti you are on good tarmac and can be in
Djibouti town itself within a couple of hours (although there are back
roads if you want to take your time). Djibouti is quite a busy town -
lots of legionnaires, french supermarkets and good food - I enjoyed it
but it is quite expensive. I ended up hanging out with some australian
and dutch bikers who work at the port - very friendly and they looked
after me very well (you can get in touch with the aussie through horizons
- under the travellers looking for travellers section). It can get very
hot in Djibouti so it would be worth trying to plan it so you are there
in the cooler season (it was just starting to cool down a bit at the
beginning of October when I was there and I think the cool weather lasts
at least until Christmas but its worth checking for yourself). You can
get motorcycles tyres in Djibouti if you need a new set. I'm not sure
what your route is like but there is a ferry from Djibouti to Italy which could make a nice option.
>From Djibouti I rode to Tadjoura - via a detour to see the forest du
day and on up to Randa because the direct road to tadjoura had been cut
by the rains - the ride from forest du day to randa was spectacular
riding along a dry river canyon and finally emerging to a view of arid
mountains stretching as far as the eye could see. I spent a night at the golf
hotel in tadjoura and was able to get petrol there. I started off early
the next morning for Obok (using the GPS coordinates that are posted as
a reply to my question on the HUBB - these GPS coordinates were great)
the road is sandwiched between the mountains and the red sea and was a
great ride. I reached Obok around 09:00 and after breakfast started
asking about the route to the border. It seems as if there are 4x4s that
go from Obok to the border most days - but Sunday and Wednesday would be
your best bet as the ferry from Djibouti arrives then - but they seem
to leave in the afternoon (although this might just have been the d
ay I was there). The route from Obok to the border is across sandy
plains that have lots of tracks - all heading off in different directions
- i took a guide with me on the back of the bike since I was riding
alone and didn't want to wait until the afternoon and follow one of the
4x4s. The sand is quite deep/thick in places and it had just rained so
there were some muddy patches that were super-slippery. It took about 3
hours of riding to reach the Djibouti border where I got some lunch and
even managed to buy some petrol. The border crossing wasn't a problem - but they couldn't stamp my carnet.
Its 30km from the Djibouti border to the Eritrean border and I had left
my guide behind at the djibouti border so was relying on my GPS from
here - but had no problems. There was a border post at Rahata (the
eritrean border) where I got my passport stamped (unlike what the guide books
tell you) - I had bought my eritrean visa in Djibouti - it cost $40 and
took one day - although I think its only open on Wednesday (when
I was there). From the border to Assab is mostly good gravel
although the first 20 - 30 km is small tracks - once again the GPS coordinates
from horizons worked well. There were a couple of check points between
the border and Assab and the soldiers didn't speak any english but I
managed to get through without too much hassel (although it helps to be
Assab: I stayed at the Assab hotel which was cheap and good and the
owner was very helpful - I would recommend it. In assab I had to get a
travel permit from the Ministry of Local Government - which once again
took some patience. Although customs didn't want to stamp my carnet!? I'm
still in the process of shipping my bike home so I'll let you know how
that goes and if you should insist that they stamp it. When I was there
there was a petrol shortage in Assab and I had to spend a bit of time
trying to find some on the black market but managed to get it
eventually - go speak to the Afar in the muslim end of town.
Assab to Massawa: 550-600km but the road is very good almost all of the
way - just at the end it got a bit rough but they were working on it -
if you start early you could do it in one day but it would be a long
one - the road follows the coast (I didn't use the GPS here as the road
was so good and i think they used another route that went further
inland) and once again can be very hot if you are there at the wrong time of
year - very harsh and empty area - it reminded me of North West Namibia - more check points so make sure you get that travel permit but
even then be prepared to wait every now and again. I didn't start early
and therefore slept at a truck stop between Tio and Foro which was great
- there were a couple of restaurants and even a hotel (beds out in the
open under the stars - perfect on a hot, sticky night).
Massawa: no problems getting petrol here - I was in a rush so couldn't
stay long which was a shame - I would definately advise you to spend at
least a couple of days there and go snorkeling in the islands.
Massawa to Asmara: 115km - of good tarmac - about 60km of it is strait
up the escarpment - 60km of hairpin bends - just great fun but would be
even more fun if the trucks kept to their side of the road - keep your
eyes open!
Assmara: great place - funky town - quite calm and peaceful but has
good food and funky art deco architecture -
well worth spending time there. I had to go home from Asmara but if you
have time it would definately be worth exploring some more of the

Security: the border demarcation between ethiopia and eritrea after
their recent war is still ongoing so its worth keeping an eye on
the situation.

Enjoy - and do let me know if you have any questions.


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