I left the capital Hargesia with three American Christians and a hired soldier who had a rifle, but one that didn’t seem to have any ammunition… I liked to think of him as my personal Colonel Blimp.
But it’s all about appearance and we were waved through checkpoints as we headed north to Las Geel, an allegedly unique archaeological site that was only discovered seven years ago and had hundreds of neolithic rock art paintings in perfect condition.
We were not disappointed. In the year the site was discovered three aid workers were murdered and consequently global tour companies haven’t been in a rush to promote it, but it is an absolute hidden gem.
The paintings were amazing and not a tourist soul in sight, only a sinuous wadi and the echoes of goats bleating, overseen incidentally by one of the most hideously ugly people I’ve ever seen.
My Blimp underscored his bumbling character by offering me some watermelon, only to nearly slice off my finger with a knife as he did so. Fortunately one of the Americans bound it and also told me my shit would turn black as I had sucked a lot of the blood. I never knew that.
Blimp, however, redeemed himself by playing some extraordinary Somali music that sounded as if it was straight outta the Mississippi Delta. While the Americans took umpteen pictures of 8,000 BC art, we synched our handsets and he Bluetoothed me the song.
Back on the road again as we headed for Berbera, a town on the Gulf of Aden. It was great to run naked into the sea, but in temperatures touching 50 degrees it was exhausting. The Americans and I went out for late-night tea and it was only after I had railed against the world’s religions did I realise they were Christians. Ho-hum.
But a fabulous debate ensued and defined the essence of travel; meeting different people, having one’s opinions challenged, standing one’s ground while letting others do the same. I promised to read Matthew in the New Testament and they promised to read Society Of The Spectacle by Guy de Bord.
I asked around the docks to see if I could get a passage on the livestock-boat to Yemen, but was warned off by the captains. Bad timing, the Yemenis weren’t letting British people in and it seemed a risk too far.
But there IS an international airport in Berbera, something that seemed impossible, but 10km out of town, there it was. With the help of my Somaliland attache friend in Addis, who had seen the Somaliland piece I had written for The Telegraph I managed to jump on the flight from Mogadishu and somehow arrived in Dubai.
So the journey was over. Dubai’s decadence was the antithesis of my trip and I escaped to India as quickly as I could. Even looking at pictures of Ethiopia and Somaliland make me well up with the odd tear. I didn’t make it to Asmara in Eritrea or Sa’ana in Yemen, but like the man says: I’ll be back…ENDS.