Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ramblings of the mind -- December 17, 2006

I'm conflicted about my onward journey. I've already decided to stick to my original plan and forego Uganda (I was debating this in my head for a long time! I very badly want to see the mountain gorillas, but I stand little to no chance of obtaining a permit in this busy holiday season -- only a few dozen are granted per day and many are pre-purchased by tour-operators. So, I will save that for another trip.)

I also decided to transit through Kenya rather than travel there. All friends of friends (thanks everyone for your contacts!) will be on the coast, travel will be a nightmare (all flights are booked and all buses and matutus insanely packed with the holiday rush). I would like to travel overland to Ethiopia (and the buses going in that direction won't be as crowded due to the general paucity of people going north). I would see more by bus than flying, including Kenya and southern Ethiopia, as my planned travel in Ethiopia is northern and central.

2 problems. First, the bus to Moyale (Kenya-Ethiopia border post) is known to experience bandit attacks, about once monthly. Usually no one is killed (usually), but all possessions are reappropriated (from the owner to the bandits), including money and passport, traveling gear, etc. I am advised by a fellow traveler to go mid-week as attacks usually occur on the weekend. What I don't know is whether the frequency or timing of the attacks increase or abate during the holidays.

Second, troops are amassing on both sides of the Ethiopian-Somali border. Tensions are high and war looks imminent. Already newspapers have been reporting intermittent violence due to the situation, such as Ethiopian troops shot and killed 4 travelers mistaken for suicide bombers.

The Somali border with Ethiopia is about 300km from the border with Kenya.

Though I've never personally experienced war (being in downtown New York on 9/11/2001 is the closest such experience and I was not in harm's way but close enough to see the events unfold and the towers collapse with my own eyes) -- I know that in war, all humanity and rationality are forsaken along with the distinction of guilt and innocence and any measure of justice.

And I've heard from a friend rough sketches of his time as a soldier in Somalia and that it was hell on earth.

So, if war breaks out, I'm definitely flying.

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