I'd mentally and physically prepared for this moment. The day before I'd wandered out to the bus station, partly to find where it was and get a sense of the layout-essential when there are hands aiming for your pockets and backpack from every direction and also partly to get the worst of the 'FERRANGGGII!!!" out of the way.
It was a good idea in theory.
"WHERE YOU GO MY FRIEND?"
Some bloke made a grab for my bag with the money hidden in it. I have a money belt but I don't trust it. I worry I'm going to realise it's fallen off or been unhooked. As a result I keep my money-wait. Why am I going into details in the blog? I keep the money, the passport and the debit card in SEPARATE secure locations!
I followed a fairly healthy looking (not sure why it matters, I wasn't planning to sleep with him) young man to an almost full minibus and stood back while he had a furious argument with a tribesman in Amharic. It seemed the tribesman (understandably) didn't want to share the front seat with a Ferrangi and two backpacks. After a few minutes of bickering the tribesman gave in and for some reason attempted to hug me. So far so not Megabus.
I squashed into the front seat next Mekonnen the driver and dumped my bags on the poor tribesman whose first impressions of Ferranginess hadn't been entirely positive so far.
Mekonnen wanted to practice his English, Tribesman wanted to point out the various ethnic groups along the way, some with a positive smile and string of pleased Amharic, some with a furious glare and barking Amharic, one of the less favoured locals got a plastic bottle tossed at his head. It missed and hit one of his goats.
It intrigues me how Toyota Utes can meet the Qat plane coming in from Yemen and bomb across the desert to Harar in under two hours despite being massively overloaded with narcotic branches yet it takes the minibuses infinitely longer, possibly because we stopped in a tiny village, seemingly just for a shouting match with some locals.
I wasn't entirely comfortable sat on the lap of the Tribesman. He seemed to be enjoying it a bit too much. Eventually he got off. Mekonnen kindly didn't sell the remaining space, leaving a toothy woman with half a papaya tree growing out of her head glaring furiously.
We arrived in Harar, Mekonnen gave me his phone number (I'm not quite sure why) and the adventures started...