At the border my Visa was expired by one day, so the conclusion for them (particularly a woman working there who can't speak English) decided to confiscate my passport without explanation. You can imagine how livid one might become at this moment. I nearly lost it, all the harassment, all the authorities without brains telling me what to do wrong, I just couldn't handle it anymore. However strong my efforts nothing changed. A few hours later a man came to my rescue who knows a little English and he explained to me that my passport is to be mailed back to Addis Ababa to immigration there. I thought why the hell couldn't they have made an easy phone call or done it like every other country in the world where you pay a late fee at the border. This made life incredibly difficult. I had to take a bus back to Addis to retrieve my passport and pay a late fee.
It took 25 hours to reach Addis Ababa thanks to a man who oversaw the entire interaction and gave me a ride in his truck. Though the driver started falling asleep behind the wheel of the truck as we got nearer to Addis. I must have seen 7 or 8 deadly accidents along the way.
Finally arriving to Addis Ababa at 6am I was ready to go straight to immigration. But of course something always goes wrong, my big backpack was in the back of the truck with the rest of the goods it was hauling so I had to wait until unloading happened (they wouldn't unload the truck without the buyers present) that wait took 8 hours. Of course by then I had 30 minutes left until immigration office closed.
I was completely perplexed. Luckily I had an amazing contact in Addis Ababa, my friend Heran picked me up and drive me to immigration and also translated for me. They told us that the passport will arrive in 1 week and that I pay a negotiable fine with whom ever I deal with. I had to stay calm otherwise matters would get worse. So now I had to wait in Addis Ababa for 1 week on something that could have easily been fixed in 1 hour.
I found a host in Addis Ababa where I could sleep for free. I must say thanks to all the kind people who've helped me along this journey, without them it would have been a nightmare. Heran dropped me off to my host as soon as we were done with immigration and first thing first we started to celebrate my massive mistake with a few drinks. Much needed!
A week goes by which I spent time really fine tuning my website and writing numerous blogs (www.mariorigby.com) and I finally go to immigration to pick up my passport. Of course things aren't as simple as pick up passport in Ethiopia. Apparently I now had to pay an $85 USD charge for the fine and a new visa. I swallowed hard and thought ok I'll pay this fine. But I was sitting in this room for 5 hours for them to tell me that I should come tomorrow and I have to pay the fine at a different department. I wondered why it took them so long to realize this. I have been working very hard at being Zen an not let anything get to me.
The next day I spent another 5 hours just for the same people who I dealt with the day before to hand me my passport so that I can take it to the next department to pay the fine. Of course this process seems to be more confusing for them than it is for me, in fact it's quite simple. Anyway the fine was now $125 USD allow of a sudden the price is much more than expected. I expected to pay only $85 USD (they charge only in USD not Birr) because that's what they told me yesterday. I had with me only $100 USD and because I had to wait 5 hours in the previous office the new office closed in 30 minutes, not enough time to exchange money in the black market since Banks don't exchange money from Birr to dollars. Again I had to stay calm.
Another day goes by. I finally exchange enough USD cash $200 this time just in case they increase the price again, and they did. I paid the penalty of not paying the day before which is another $10 USD. No point in complaining, it makes matters worse, no one speaks English at immigration, which is amazing to me since they are dealing mainly with foreigners. I finally get my Visa extended and my passport back the next day since it takes a day to process.
I book a bus ticket right away, it's much cheaper than a flight to Khartoum,.next bus to Khartoum from Addis Ababa leaves in 2 days (Saturday morning at 4:30am). I have to go to the capital of Sudan first to extend my Visa for the country. I can't just start walking from the border of Sudan, once I retrieve my visa extension in Sudan I return to the border to continue walking. My Sudanese Visa has 3 days left on it (time taken because of Ethiopian immigration fiasco).
Finally I'm on my way to Sudan, it's a 2 day bus ride. We stopped overnight in Gondar where I've been before. There I booked a cheap hotel room with a guy who followed me to exchange money, these guys can be seriously annoying all the time. I was tired from a long bus ride and all the stress that's happened before with immigration. I give him some Birrs to exchange to Sudanese Pounds. Of course he disappears with all my money to never be seen again. I should have see that coming, I slipped in a moment of split second trust. Even after all this experience 1 small mistake can cause a lot of damage. The exchange happened at a restaurant where the guy even bought me a meal and showed me around town. I walked back to the hotel quite defeated only to be attacked by some street dogs near my hotel. One of them actually scratched or bit me on my knee. I've never in my life been attacked by any animals, and here it happens in Ethiopia after all this. I walked home embarrassed and completely defeated with my leg bleeding. I looked for a few shops that may have treatments but none had any and my backpack with medical Kit was stored inside the bus's which I had no access to. This took place around 9pm. I made it to the hotel and used whatever I had to clean the wounds. This whole thing is a mess. The thief only stole $35 USD which wasn't too bad but the idea was horrible.
Next day we finally get on the bus and continue of to Metema where I was 1.5 weeks ago. I did not want to spend a lot of time there. It's such a hell hole. However everything worked out well and smooth. Everyone on the bus went through the same procedure which took around 4 hours. We were now on our way to Khartoum, we went through at least 10 checkpoints and police stops. I was always singled out in the bus to go outside and be searched or questioned. Most people on the bus seemed to Ethiopian except for me. I was told even at one point to change my short shorts to long pants.
I finally made it to Khartoum where I had arranged to stay with couchsurfers and I'm now in the process of extending my Sudanese Visa.
What an incredible journey and it wasn't even by foot. That's going to be a major problem, me walking on foot across Sudan, particularly when close to the border. I don't look like I'm from Sudan but with a glance you might think that I am due to my height and skin colour. I'm prepared for it all, to be jailed, interrogated and stopped every 5km.
Let's see what happens. I begin my walk on Saturday or perhaps a kayak expedition along the Nile to the finish in Cairo.
Mario is an explorer currently embarking on a voyage to walk across Africa by foot.