A nice drive through southern Sudan to the border crossing, where I arrive in plenty of time to still arrive in Gondar later in the afternoon. My good fortune in Sudan continues as I immediately pick up several people at the border who want to help me get through. It’s a good think, because instead of the bureaucratic mess I had on entry, this crossing is anything but formal. No gates, no guards, no real delineation between borders except 2 ropes strung across the country lines. I quickly get my passport stamped from a shack about a half block off the main road, get my carnet stamped at another non-descript building and I’m into Ethiopia in about a half hour.
The same man Sudanese man who pointed me in the right direct on the Sudan side, follows me to Egypt and does the same again. Immigration is very non-formal with a young nonmilitary Ethiopian woman working the desk to process my paperwork. She’s what I would consider average looks, weight and height. A very nice and helpful lady who was very personable and made the experience quite quick and painless.
The next and final building is similar, an office cut into the side of a shipping container with two desks and a young nonmilitary man anxious to help me out. I sit down and let him know how easy the previous process was and how nice the lady was. He says, “oh, the large lady”, I give him a puzzled look. He responds again, “are you talking about the fat lady?”. As I’m sitting there looking at the skinny little Ethiopian who weighs about 90 lbs, it dawns on me; this guy thinks anyone over 100 lbs is fat. How funny.
We begin the process and it’s going quite smooth until he asks to see my motorcycle documents, so I hand him my carnet, which is an international document showing ownership of the vehicle, required to cross the majority of country borders. He tells me Ethiopia doesn’t recognize carnet’s, so I hand him a copy of my title (registered in the business name). He reviews and then asks for the Ethiopian vehicle authorization paperwork. This is where it started to go south. I don’t have any such paperwork, nor have I ever heard of it, so I try to re-direct him to the carnet, title, authorization of use from RMR, amongst articles of incorporation from the business showing me as the sole owner. He makes a couple of calls, then somberly tells me I cant enter into the country with the bike. He recommends I send someone to the capital (which is two days away) to secure the paperwork for me so I can continue on. So….I can’t get into Ethiopia, I can’t get back into Sudan because I had a one entry visa – I’m essentially stuck between the borders. There are movies about this sort of thing – stuck in no man’s land, and in this case in the middle of f!*cking nowhere. No problem – I subtly offer the young man a bribe to look the other way and I give him my word I’ll go straight to the capital and get this worked out.
As it turns out, I may have come across the only border guard who takes offense at the offer and threatens me jail time for the mere mention of a bribe. He steps out and cools off for a bit before coming back to find out what I want to do – like I have any choice in the matter. I go through my documents with him one more time and urge him to call his superiors to get authorization. Whether Ethiopia recognizes the carnet or not, it is still an international document showing ownership of the vehicle. He picks up the phone and after a half hour or so, apologizes to me and says I may pass.
Holy shit that was close!!!