Kyle in Lake Assal, Djbouti

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Somaliland

I’m doing research on the possibility of riding into Somaliland during Low2High: Africa. It’s not necessary for the route to Kilimanjaro, but I think it would be an interesting country to visit. The security situation in the capital, Hargeisa, seems to be relatively secure, but it’s hard to find information on the rest of the country.

The little information I can find seems to be polarized. One source will say that the security situation is generally safe, and Somaliland is building its tourism industry. Another will say that it’s overrun with pirates, Al Shabab, and bandits. As with all situations that prompt contrasting reports, the reality probably lies somewhere in the middle. The only semi-consistent piece of information I read is that to travel in or out of Hargeisa by land, tourists must pay for and be accompanied by an armed guard.

If it ends up being too much hassle, or seems dangerous, then I’ll skip Somaliland and travel from Djibouti to Ethiopia via Dire Dawa as planned. However, a visa for Somaliland can be easily obtained in Addis Ababa, so I can’t help but wonder if I could bike through it. The plan in my head would be go travel from Djibouti City across the border to Saylaac, Somaliland, then south and east to Hargeisa, and then northeast to Las Geel and eventually Berbera on the coast. I’d then double back on myself, and go back through Hargeisa on my way to Jijiga, Ethiopia.

The only people I can find online who have actually cycled in Somaliland are Riaan Manser during his circumnavigation of the African continent, who was denied entry by bike and had to fly into Hargeisa and then rent a bike, and Kate Leeming who bicycled through Somaliland and eventually Puntland on her bicycle tour from the westernmost to easternmost points of Africa, but she did the final leg accompanied by several armored vehicles and government officials.

The purist in me wants Low2High to be a truly solo expedition, and not rely on armed guards. Maybe that’s something I’ll need to sacrifice anyway since I can’t climb Kilimanjaro without a guide as per park regulations. However, if I suddenly become dependent on several guns-for-hire to make an unnecessary side trip, then maybe I’m being too ambitious and am losing site of what Low2High really is; a human-powered, solo expedition.

Kyle

PS - How was my use of that semicolon? I've never fully understood those damned things.

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