My 31st country is certainly not on everyones list of places to visit. Most people (including me till last year) have never even heard of Djibouti let alone want to visit a tiny country in the middle of the Horn of Africa. Surrounded by failing states its stability is remarkable. Sadly however stability comes at a price. Djibouti is very expensive.
I must admit fear played a huge role in my deciding that I would stay at the Kempinski instead of in the city itself. The Ultimate Journey package attracted me for the fact it combined a hike and an over night in Bankouale. After I arrived I spoilt myself with 2 hours worth of massage and lots of slightly guilty food.
Day 2 saw a 160km drive and then a hike of 14 kilometers that wound its way through the millenary uninhabited Day Forest. I felt happier and more at peace with life than I had in a long time. Work was in the back of my mind though with my blackberry out of range I quickly got on with experience a unique opportunity to see animals and vegetation.
After a delicious evening meal of the most amazing grilled fish and relaxing reading my books I hit bed after a cold shower exhausted but peaceful sleep alluded me. Djibouti has many mosquitoes and is a malaria area so being a good little traveller I was taking my anti-malaria drugs. However my choice in drugs had me hallucinating and being extremely paranoid. Nothing like thinking there are rats running all over the walls and that a Ethiopian spirit warrior was standing in the door frame wanting to kill me.
The next morning waking alive and realising the drugs powerful effects I was glad to escape the camp and visit the lowest point of Africa at 155m below sea level. Lac Assal is one of the most saline body of water in the world, ten times saltier than the ocean made me smile. The drive from Bankouale to Lac Assal revealed a remarkable harsh but beautiful country. Lac Assal itself is located in an impressing landscape surrounded by inactive volcanoes, hot springs and lava fields. But it was the accents of two Australian’s that had me smiling. Some people who didn’t speak French did in fact know where Djibouti was.
My previous French lessons got a serious work out in Djibouti. I was able to great and have basic conversations with the staff and my guide so I was more invigorated to learning French. I even listened to my tapes on the plane back. I certainly felt the pinch of being an ignorant westerner that can only speak English.
My long weekend break in Djibouti despite being a little expensive was refreshing. I felt healthy and more alive after finally getting over my illness from my last African continent trip. I have been thinking positive and healthy thoughts all week to combat any more African bugs.
Djibouti was far more remarkable then I would have believed and I am so happy I went.