My next challenge was to get a ride to Hargeisa without spending a small fortune. I've found it's been a common custom for most countries' taxi drivers to charge outrageous prices at borders and airports, taking advantage of new travelers' ignorance. I was quickly shown to a waiting taxi and had the door held for me, the driver even did up my seatbelt! Every country I had been to before had charged me at least $25 USD for a short trip to an expensive hotel. My ride to Hargeisa cost me a modest $7 USD. No fuss. No haggling.
What happened next far surpassed my wildest expectations
There's a saying in my country, Canada, that "there is no such thing as a free meal." Backpackers know this all too well. Many times, an offer of anything free results in a scam, where you are later accosted for money or a return gift. With this is mind, I was incredibly skeptical and guarded when, while stopped to put air in the tires along the way, a man gave me a free bottle of water, welcoming me to the country. I was amazed, and a little suspicious. Every time I had been given anything free before, it was followed shortly by demands for money. It slowly dawned on me as we drove away that this was a genuine gesture, something I had rarely experienced in my travels.
It was far from the last.