You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2010.

Route taken: Eldoret, Webuye, Malaba (border crossing), Bugiri, Jinga

Our last few days in Kenya. We left Nairobi slowly on Thursday; we only needed to get as far as Eldoret to be well placed to cross into Uganda on Sunday. We stopped in Nakuru to get the last of the cheapest fuel. It will be cheaper again when we will cross back into Tanzania again in a few weeks.

An easy journey but the road turned into a warped nightmare towards Eldoret as I had to find the right groove to fit the tyres into, whilst trying to overtake lorries that were going very slowly uphill. It was like placing a record needle on a piece of vinyl. If you missed the groove they would slip off.

We had heard good things about Naiberi camp so we headed straight there. Possibly the best site we have stayed at on the whole trip. It proudly had a plaque outside the reception that said ‘ Bill Gates had stayed here whilst in Kenya’.

We were given a spot to drive into which gave us access to a bandas (a traditional hut). This was open on all sides but would keep us dry from the rain and allowed us to use the giant BBQ and benches for cooking and eating.

And the rains came! Four inches in just over and hour. This fits into the pattern that has been lovely in the day, and then rain in the night. We half expected it, but there wasn’t any thunder this time to announce its arrival! We got under the bandas and started cooking. We had bought some nice marinated steak in Nairobi.

An overland truck arrived that had to journey in the torrential rain and along the warped road. The occupants didn’t look very happy when they arrived and quickly passed us on their way to the bar!

On Saturday morning we got introduced to the crazy owner, Raj, a Sikh man who’s family have been in western Kenya for generations (we didn’t give him the blog address!) He was dressed in a safari outfit and had a mullet haircut. He also wore modern wraparound sunglasses. It was quite a look! He latched onto us as soon as he saw us, asking us about the Landcruiser and where we had come from. He was really helpful and insisted on showing us to anywhere if we needed any help. We said we needed a few things so we headed to his factory first, Ken-Knit a large clothing factory that supplies high quality jerseys and blankets to the army and hotels in Kenya.

He said he was meeting some friends for lunch, so he made a call to order another chicken and asked us to join him. We got our tyre sorted. It had been going down slowly over the last week, so we got him to show us to a tyre repairer to sort out the leak. With that sorted, we met him again to go for lunch.

We went to the base of the Western Kenya Motor Club. It had seen better days but was still a good meeting place for his Sikh friends who all own businesses in Eldoret. We had amazing dry chicken covered in many different spices which came with a spinach type dish that was made from radish leaves. They all came here to eat this dish once a week.

After lunch we went off to see Eldoret’s one and only quirky ‘must see’ sights -a cheese factory! The Doinyo Lessos Creameries cheese factory produces over 30 different types of cheese. Kenyan’s don’t really eat cheese, so most of the production goes to hotels in Kenya from what I could tell. We had a wander around with one of the employees and after got to sample some of the different cheeses.

We started with the cheddar, which was pretty good. The rest of the samples we tried were very rubbery! I’ve lost my appetitie for cheese on this trip. I thought I would be craving some. Then they hit us with the blue stilton – even that didn’t do it for me! We had to make a small order before we left, so Bun bought some cheese, and I got some yoghurt and milk. I quickly gave one of those away when a street kid stopped us after we left.

We met Raj again back at Naiberi. He had arranged for us to join him at his house and eat some qat (used throughout east Africa and in Yemen, it is a mild stimulant, but can be addictive when eaten consistently. It pre-dates coffee and is known by different names in Ethiopia, Kenya and the Arab peninsula. Most of East Africa chew the leaves. In Kenya they chew the stem and it is known as mirra). In Djibouti they eat in in parliament! When I was in Djibouti five years ago, the whole of the captial was nearly empty as everyone was at home eating the stuff.

We got introuced to his partner Maggi, a Kenyan from Nairobi who was in Eldoret for the weekend and the twelve dogs! We sat and watched a film and chewed the qat. We had to eat it with bubble gum as the stems are so bitter. We stripped the leaves of the outer stem and chewed it in our mouths until the flavour had gone and then started again. We packed our way through the bubblegum and we drank it with coffee made with ginger and honey!

We kept asking each other if we could feel anything, but it was so mild. It seemed hardly worth the labour eating it. When we stood up we got a hit from it.

We finished the night by drinking at his bar whilst Raj kept telling naff jokes and kept interupting his partner Maggi, who was chatting to Bun. For some reason he dressed in combat pants and Naiberi camp army style sweater that was made at his factory. He looked like he was ready for combat. We made our escape around midnight!

Sunday morning, we knew we should head to the Uganda border. As we were about to leave we bumped into Raj who mentioned that there was a lunch function that we would be welcome to attend. He tried to make us stay one more night but we said we needed to head on. We said many thanks for his kindness and help and he responded by saying ‘thank you for your company’. He was an interesting character. It’s easy to joke but he was extremly friendly and generous. For some reason we received some special treatment from him as soon as he saw us.

Two hours later we were at the border. We avoided the trench size pot-holes on the road leading to the border. Easy enough through the border and we were on our way to Jinga. We thought Kenya was green but Uganda is incredible. We are looking forward to exploring Uganda if the rains hold off.

We made good time to Jinga. We got a glimpse of Lake Victoria as we came down the hill into Jinga and them crossed a bridge over the White Nile and headed north on the west side of the river to follow it to ‘the Haven’. It has a great spot overlooking the first rapids on the White Nile.

Jinga has some of the best white-water rafting in the world here. We are going to sort out a day trip on Monday.

There is news lately coming out of the Democratic Republic of Congo that the northern Ugandan group, the Lord’s Resistance Army were responsible for the massacre of at least 321 people last December. The reports have been verified by the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch. They have also spread into areas of Sudan. It remains one of Africa’s longest conflicts.

Jinga –

We journey back to Nairobi for a second visit. Uganda and Rwanda are ahead of us.

Serious rush around Nairobi whilst we are here. I’m gradually warming to the city. The largest city in east Africa. It has a bad reputation for violent crime but we haven’t seen anything to confirm that. We have tuned into the local radio when we have been stuck in traffic to hear about several car-jackings in central Nairobi over the last few days. It doesn’t get the name Nairobbery for no reason. It’s the first place we have locked the car doors when we are driving around. There are also security firms guarding properties and businesses everywhere. It’s hard not to miss the large plaques outside of houses here that tell you what security firm is guarding that property.

It takes forever to get anything done here. We dare not drive around town at certain times of day as the traffic is so bad. The local taxis, known as mutatus, clog up the roads weaving between the traffic and causing mayhem. They are everywhere and are such an iconic symbol of everyday life in Kenya. They are brightly coloured and have stickers on the windows that say ‘in god we trust’. Maybe they feel like they are protected when they drive so fast everywhere.

We first encountered one when we travelled into Nairobi after Lake Turkana, when we had one driving straight towards us. We luckily swerved away from each other. We haven’t ventured into one yet, but have been warned to keep our hands in our pockets to avoid getting pick-pocketed.

We get no sense of the country adrift. The violence here two years ago is still lingering on. A unity agreeement was signed after the last election between the two main parties. Kibera, one of Africa’s biggest slums is where the violence blew up two years ago when there was tribal violence between the Luo (who come from the Lake Victoria region and are also found in Uganda and southern Sudan. They had a bulk of the political power after independence) and Kikuya (the largest and best-eduacated groups in Kenya. Jomo Kenyatta saw Kenya into self-goverment after independence)

One reason we have come back is to pick up Bun’s camera. The shop we had dropped it off at before we headed off a few weeks ago turned out to be right muppets. They were waiting for a part they had ordered from Japan which wasn’t due to in Nairobi for a week or so. We picked up the camera and headed to Fuji’s main office in Nairobi which we found when scanning around for an alternative. I spoke to the head man there. They were super helpful and we got a call later saying it had been fixed. They matched the quote we had from the previous shop and we pick it up on Thursday morning.

The Landcruiser has been looked at again. This time, the front wheel bearings were loose. We had the mechanic at JJ’s look at it and sort it out. We had also noticed a few days before that the stabilizer bushes and link arm were worn and they needed replacing on one side, so we decided to repalce both sides. The front end is sorted and it feels much better now!

A blast from the past. The day after we arrived we saw a couple of  Welsh guys in a Land Rover Defender towing the South African man we last saw when we crossed into Egypt. Three months down the line we would thought he would be in South Africa by now. He was aiming to to get down there as quickly as possible when we last saw him but he became stranded in Ethiopia for two months with car problems. Now he got into problems coming from the Ethiopian border. His car is mobile again. He still has the rubber snake!

We are experiencing the start of the wet season for proper now. Kenya has two rainy seasons. A short one in November and the one we are having now that lasts from March to May. It has been quite heavy at night that lasts until early in the morning.

We couldn’t leave northern Tanzania without seeing one its top safari parks. The Ngorongoro crater is ideal if you want to see as many of the big five as possible in a short space of time. The crater is the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera and lies east of the Serengeti National Park. The crater floor supports large numbers of wildebeest and zebra who are always found together. Near the swamp area is the best chance to see elephants. A leopard sighting would have been great but they are far too shy and they head towards the forest to live up in the trees.

From the main park gate, we took a track that followed the crater rim. We raced along the track to make up a bit of time before then descending into the crater that is 600 metres below. We picked up a guard at the top. We were required to take one as we were travelling in our own vehicle.

The first animals we saw were water buffalo as they crossed the road in front of us before quickly running off. Our guard then started texting his fellow rangers to find out where the best game animals could be found. We passed quite a few safari jeeps all with tourists popping their heads out of the top looking through binoculars.

A lot of the animals need to be found and it’s more like a treasure hunt as we drive around snififng out wild animals. The crater floor is huge and we zig zag our way around it on the prowl.

As it’s the start of wet season, the grass is quite long, so that makes it harder to find lions. We got very excited as we saw more and more animals. Bun sat with the big five list from the guide book ticking them off as we saw them.

Our guide wasn’t much use in the back of the vehicle but he was good at identifying the  animals or birds we didn’t recognise and what time of day is better to see certain animals. We were both wanting to see a rhino and some lions.

Another tick in the book, we saw two lions after we observed  a safari jeep parked overlooking some tall grass. We moved on before heading to the lake to see the flamingoes.

The real treat came after lunch. We finally got rid of our guide who said we were free to drive around the park before the park closed. Off we went like hunters into the vast expanse of the park, except that we were in a giant landcruiser which probaly looked like a elephant if you were looking at us from a distant.

Rhino. Two of them! Stop Bun, lets get the camera. They were a bit to far to get a proper picture. The rhino of the Ngorongoro Crater are different because they appear white. They get like that after they have bathed and rolled in the saline lake and fringng salt flats of Lake Magadi in the middle of the crater floor.

We then went in search of the two lions we saw earlier in the day. On the way Bun noticed a large gathering of safari jeeps all huddled together in the distance about half a mile away. Something was going on over there, so we got a move on and ventured over to see what was going on. We slowed down as we approached and got sight of a pride of lions in the middle of the group of trucks.

They were half sleeping and rolling around. As we made our way round the bend to get a better view, we caught sight of one hiding in the tall grass, just about visible. We couldn’t believe our luck. We were very close but we felt like there was no bridging the gap and getting a stroke of one, however tempting it was. We switched the engine off and waited to see what they would do next. they continued to bake in the sun, their chests pumping up and down. We just wanted to take as many pictures as possible so we passed the camera back and forth as they moved around.

After a while the real joy was seeing them get a wind of something and becoming very alert as they got out from the grass. They scanned the horizon and as we looked in the same direction as they were, we noticed a group of wildebeest in the distance. A sudden transformation as they switched from sleeping doormats to killing lions. They were off! Bun coudln’t even try to grab one of  thelions tail to stop it from going!

Now we sensed that there was going to be a kill. We watched them go as a pack and waited to see what they would do next. it was hard seeing what they were up to in the grass, but as one went off on it’s own, we thought there was going to be some cunning move to kill one of the wildebeest.

The single vunerable wildebeest got sense of it and was off like a shot. It was hard to see what happened next but as I looked through the binoculars, I could make out the legs of an antelope upside down in the grass.

We were buzzing from watching that. We missed the actual kill but could see the pride all around the antelope.

We then drove  off towards the park exit, leaving in a different way than we entered, to get to the gate before it closed.

photos for now

Google map of the crater:,35.59018&z=10&t=h&hl=en

20/03/2010 – An early run. I was feeling fit having managed a good few running sessions during the week, so I went for a specially long one on Saturday morning. Two hours later I returned and noticed Bun in the Landcruiser having kittens. She thought something had happened to me! Something did. I had overdone it and had to walk part of the way back!  I came back with some bananas and yoghurt that I had bought for breakfast with the few sweaty bank notes in the back of my shorts.

Arusha seemed OK, nothing special, mainly a base for organising trips to the Serengeti. We thought let’s get out-of-town for the weekend. We headed in the direction of Lake Manyara,  60 kms from Arusha, towards the Serengeti. We stayed at the’ Safari camp high above the lake. Fantastic view as we saw the last light of the day.

Massai country all the way. Instantly familiar, the men drape themselves in toga like red blankets and carry wooden poles. Their wealth is judged by the number of cattle they own. One conversation I heard , said one Massai man had enough cattle to buy several new Land Rovers. Their language is similar to the Nuer people of southern Ethiopia and the Bari in southern Sudan.

They are found in a vast area of  Tanzania, all the way from Massai Steppes to the Ngorongoro Highlands to the Serengeti plains. They lost 50% of their land to game reserves and settler farms during colonialism.

19/03/2010 – We left Mikidi camp realy early. The Massai guards were on duty, walking around the camp. Known as fierce warriors, they are employed as guards who patrol the camps at night for protection. Ferry to Dar and then a massively long drive to try to get to Arusha. no more coastline until Namibia now!

We had followed most of this road on our way down. Bun  was stopped for doing more than the 50 kmh speed limit. She said it was going to be 20,000 Tanzanian shillings. So £20 – here go again. A bit of negotiating and we were off again wIthout paying a fine. Luckily they have no system of recording if we had been stopped before so , once I said ‘t’s the first time we have been stopped, they were OK with it.

Pit stop in Segera. Out came the flask and we have some sweet milky tea for the journey ahead. Also two lovely ripe pineapples that were skinned and cut up and put in a plastic bag for eating in the car. I’ll forget the kid who tried to overcharge me for them! We got to Arusha at six.

18/03/2010 – Zanzibar/Ferry to Dar es Salaam – We originally decided to return to Dar the same day but we stayed the night in the old town. We wandered around the old town before the heat arrived. Breakfast at the hotel then we returned the death trap (sorry, scooter) before getting the ferry back.

17/03/2010Zanzibar – We woke up at five in the morning to go to Zanzibar. We left the vehicle at the Mikadi camp across form the harbour which you get to by local ferry. This involved catching a ferry to Dar es Salaam as a foot passenger. We waited patiently behind the barred gates with all the people making their way to work. Then we got a taxi to the Azam Marina boarding centre so we could catch the Seabus Express 2 to Zanzibar. We arrived at 6:30 and the boat set sail at 7:15 so thankfully they provided a free breakfast I chose to have Ice cream because it was already too hot. Finally we boarded the boat and they let us sit in 1st class, which was good.

We arrived in Zanzibar and battled our way through all the touts but then gave in and asked someone to take us to a scooter hire shop. We thought this would be a good idea, so that we could see as much of the island as possible in the short time we had. Also, the idea of feeling the wind on our skin was blissful in the sweltering heat.

I was left guarding the camera bag whilst Al went with the scooter guy to a local football pitch to prove that he could ride it properly. When they came back it had been established that some work was needed on the brakes so Al and I tucked into some fresh lychees. Twenty minutes later they switched to another scooter and we were off shortly after.

We decided to grab some food. We found a good place called Beyt  al Chai. We parked the scooter outside and took off the army style helmets they had given us for protection. The food in Zanzibar is sensational  amazing fresh food everywhere. It has a real mix of flavours and it is similar to the food of southern India. Coconut, limes, ginger, cloves are used a lot.

We went north after lunch. We wanted to see the Mangapwani slave chamber. The square cell was cut out of the coral. Boats would arrive from the mainland and unload the human cargo onto the beach nearby before being taken to the chamber. The chamber was used after the abolition of slavery by Arab slave trader who continued the trade for years after. The slaves were destined for the Gulf states in the Middle East. The chamber was underground to keep it secret.

Zanzibar was the main hub for the slave trade in East Africa, similar to the Gold Coast in West Africa. Many explorers came to Zanzibar to follow trails made by Arab slave traders from Oman. The Arab slavers only went so far into the African interior looking for slaves and were met by hostile tribes before turning around. Explorers like Stanley used the information to trace the route of the Congo river.

Slowly, Zanzibar was the direct place where Africa was being discovered piece by piece. The book I read ‘Blood River’ calls Zanzibar the Cape Canaveral of its day.

16/03/2010 – Bagamayo to Dar es Salaam / Tanzania – one of the nicest towns on the east coast of Tanzania, 70 km north of Dar es Salaam. It was the terminus for slaves coming from near Lake Tanganyika en route to Zanzibar. Germans, Portuguese, Arabs and the British have all had their time here. We stayed here for one night, checking out the town and picking up some more prawns before heading off.

Swahili – Common language of the coast. It came about from the inter-marriage between Arab, Persian, and African slaves from the 7th century onwards. Mainly Muslims, there are many sub-groups including Bajun, Siyu, Pate, Mvita, Fundi, Shela, Ozi, Vumbu and Amu.

Bantu – Massive linguistic group, known more as a language group than a distinct ethnic group . Making up two-thirds of Africa’s population. The Bantu migrated from the  Congo and the Niger Delta. Swahili is the largest Bantu derived language used by 50 million people in East Africa.

15/03/2010 – Tanga to Bagamayo / Tanzania – we drive inland to get to Bagamayo, which is on the coast. We drove through rolling hills covered in banana trees. We did the journey via Segera, avoiding the traffic police who look more like Navy officers, dressed all in white. We got stopped a few times – nothing more than a check of my driving license. Speed humps are in every town and drove us mad when we want to get a move on. We have to slow down to go over about three massive hump in the road.

14/03/2010 – Tiwi beach to Tanga. Route taken: Tiwi beach, Lunga Lunga (border crossing), Mariza, Tongoni, Pangani, Tanga

Easy border crossing. Kenya and Tanzania are part of a the East African community which, is meant to make life easier travelling between the two countries. It also includes Uganda and some say, Rwanda – but we have heard otherwise from some people. Usual stamp and customs sorted. One officer after asked for a back-hander, but I quickly ended that one. He was writing my details down in a large book that was destined to end up on a shelf,  never to be looked at again. We arrived in Tanga quite late. The drive from the border was longer and harder than we expected. Another border road that had been forgotten to be tarmacadamed!

Route taken: Kilifi, Mombasa (inc ferry), Tiwi Beach

Just when we thought life couldn’t get any harder – another overland favourite, Tiwi beach. A world away from northern Kenya. White sand and palm trees and we could park the Landcruiser right on the beach. The wind was high when we arrived, so that took the edge of the sweltering heat. We packed the car with tropical fruit on our way down from Kilifi. We are surviving on small bananas, passion fruit and mangoes.

When we arrived at Tiwi beach the owner slashed open some green coconuts for us to try. We also got approached by men selling sea food. We missed out on the best catch, so we asked him to pass by on Saturday morning. There is also a man that goes round called Mangoe Man. He pushes his bike through the sand with baskets of fruit attatched to the sides. We took some limes of him for our prawn marinade. It must be hard work , as his tyres were flat

We finally got hold of some jumbo prawns and spiced then up in some chilli, ginger and garlic on Saturday night.

Not a massive amount to report. It is so relaxed here. Some Germans we met in Nairobi arrived in their old fire engine. When we said goodbye at Jungle Junction we said we would see them at Tiwi in a few days. Almost a week later, we bumped into them again.

09-11/03/2010 – More relaxing, and a visit to The old town and Fort Jesus in Mombasa on Thursday. Ellen and Philip have been fantastic hosts; probably why we stayed longer than expected. It was also great to take it easy and we really felt at home there.

08/03/2010 – Took it easy all day. We were left with the house to ourselves. It took a while to get going after all the drink last night. We headed into Kalifi for a short while. I tried to set up my wireless internet so I could catch up with things – no luck, so i’ll try again tomorrow. We ended the day by sitting on the beach looking ino the Indian Ocean.

07/03/2010 – The rains have passed, and we woke to a sunny day. The storms seemed to have got the frogs excited and we passed some swamp land along the track back to the main road that was alive with the sound of them. An incredible sound.

We got to Mombasa around one thirty. The landscape got flatter as we neared the coast and the temperature climbed to near 40c. We set the GPSs to the Tamarind resturant for lunch. Set in a Moorish style building overlooking the harbour and creek with views of the old town. The seafood was out of this world. I had piri piri jumbo prawns straight from the Indian ocean which were fantastic. Bun went for the sea food stew (crab, lobster, prawns, squid, red mullet and talipia) in Swahili sauce which is a tomato and coconut based sauce like a curry which was also yummy. We took it easy here for a few hours taking it all in.

Bun had made contact with a family friend over the last few weeks who put us in contact with Ellen, who lives in Kilifi, an hours drive north of Mombasa. We were going there after lunch to stay for a few days. On the way we visited the Bombolulu workshop, which gives vocational training to physically disabled people.

We were amazed when we arrived. A beautiful house, with a swimming pool between the boabab trees and our own room with a bathroom. We instantly thought we might stay longer! Doris, the housekeeper, showed us to the room and we took it easy waiting for Ellen to arrive home. We were also greeted by the great dane that slobbers everywhere and the staffordshire bull terrier.

Ellen arrived home later from a lunch party, with her husband Philip and a few freinds. We had a great evening having some drinks and telling them about our trip. We got in the pool later after we had all had too much to drink.

06/03/2010 – On our way out of Nairobi we made a few stops. I finally picked up my safari chair which I have been after since we left. I was waiting untill we got to Kenya to pick one up. I can finally stop bugging Bun to use hers which she has had from day 1! We headed to Mombasa with the intention of stopping along the main road before dark. We tried to camp at the site in the Chyulu Hills National Park but as they got their official ticket book out with the $75 fee to park the vehicle, we decided to head back up the track and ask a family if we could camp on their land. We offered them 500 Kenyan shilling, about £4.50, and they were happy to let us park for the night. We chatted for a while and one man stayed with us as we cooked. We were told we might see elephants crossing the field as they leave the park to come and snack on the villagers maze crops, but we didn’t get a glimpse of any.

We experienced torrential rains in the night accompanied by blinding lighting and ground shaking thunder. My new chair got soaked when I left it out overnight!

Were listening to: Gorillaz – Plastic beach. Loving this! Especially Empire ants, featuring another Africaoverland favourite, Little dragon, who got played alot in Turkey/Middle east…….

We ate at the Carnivore resturant last night. Billed on the posters outside as Africa’s greatest eating experience and it has been named as one of the 50 best resturants in the world. It was more like a medieval banquet in safari dress as the waiters went around with swords of bbq meat, carving them at the large table for diners to sample as many meats as possible! It is based on traditional Nyama Choma (Kenyan bbq meat).

We tried crocodile, which wasn’t very nice. A meat like texture but with the taste of fish didn’t quite do it for us. Bun spat hers out! Nothing too whacky came after, only Ostrich meat which was good. It has sorted out our meat craving for a couple of months. It doesn’t quite taste the same abroad. We can’t quite put our finger on it!

The highlight was drinking Dawas. Served by a man with a tray round his neck, a bit like an ice-cream seller in a cinema, he would make them at your table in an instant. He looked like he had been making them for himself all night and drinking round the back out of sight.

Dawa means “medicine” or “magic potion” in Swahili. In other words, a dawa is said to be so potent that it will cure whatever ails you. The recipe is based on a famous Brazilian drink Caipirinha that was introduced to Kenya. It is now one of the most widely consumed cocktails in Kenya.

1 teaspoon of white sugar or 1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 fluid ounces vodka
crushed ice cubes
1 whole lime ,quartered, with skin on
1 dawa stick, twisted in creamed honey

Everything has gone safari mad. Even the air freshners have images of safari scenes on them. Big safari jeeps drive around taking people out of town to see what they call the big 5 game animals (elephant, lion, rhino, buffalo & leopard).

There is a report on the BBC this morning, where some tourists had to get air-lifted out of their camp due to the flash floods in the Samburu game reserve.

We are thinking we might wait untill further south due to the high prices here for entering the parks. In Botswana / Zambia etc we can drive freely on our own in the parks, avoiding any huge costs.

We had the Landcruiser looked at quickly here. We heard a banging noise coming from underneath. Two bolts had fallen out of the protection plate on the rocky roads. The prop-shaft needed re-greasing as well, so we had that done as well.

I’m downloading like a lunatic whilst we are here. Just downloaded Hurt Locker and In the loop.

We’re reading: (me) Season of blood/A Rwandan journey by Fergal Keane &  (Bun) The Zanzibar Chest by Aidan Hartley

Route taken: Ileret/Sibiloi National Park (Koobi Fora)/Loyangalani/South Horr/Baragoi/Maralal/Rumuruti/Nyahururu/Nakuru/Nairobi

We camped at the police barracks in Ileret the day we left Ethiopia. We got a little lost coming into the small town that night as it was getting dark. First thing we noticed at the barracks was the quality of the English. The first four or five people we spoke to spoke it perfectly. We joked with them for a while and Ihad the usual ‘where are you from’ question. I seem to have multi-ethnicity on this trip as I take on the local characteristics wherever I go. They let us camp in the grounds for the night. They took our passport details and said they would be tracking us until we get to Nairobi, where we would get them stamped. Whatever that means!

The next day we got going early. Our first aim was to ge to the Sibiloi National Park. The route south meant going this way so we couldn’t avoid the $20 entrance fee. Even though we were only in the park for two hours we saw the lake at Koobi Fora, one of the park bases on the shores of the lake. It was good to see. It doesn’t have many visitors due to it’s remoteness. We got a glimpse of some warthogs as they ran across the dry mud airstrip. We stopped and had some fruit for breakfast at the base and worked out what to do next. Before long we on the move again and this time heading to Loyangalani.

If you have seen the Constant gardener, you will recognise this small town and it’s surroundings as a location in the film. The scene where the child gets rescued as a UN plane tries to escape from a group of bandits attacking their village.

The journey there was unbelivably bad. Nothing about the drive was settling. One minute we would be crossing a dry flat section, then before long we were down a steep rocky track into a river bed. It went on like this for hours. I almost tipped the Landcruiser over trying to cross a rocky track. It span out of control as I tried to control it. It happened twice and the second time I just let go of the steering wall in the  hope that the vehicle would take care of itself. The sense of isolation hit for a second. We hadn’t passed anyone other vehivle all day during the 10 hours we had bee driving. No phone signal and only a red line to follow on the GPS as it tracked our route to Loyangalani

We arrived before dark again and found a place to stay at the women’s camp, run by women who have lost their husbands. We ate some fish in the dark as there was a power cut and sorted out a Kenyan sim card; the provider having the cool name of Safaricom.

More rain overnight. We thought that we had got going early enough to avoid the worst of the rain coming out of the mountains in the distance. The cloud level was low and conditions were damp all day. We hit our first river crossing after an hour of driving. Just before then we passed a Land Rover with Kenyan plates. The driver mentioned nothing of the journey ahead of us, so we assumed it was plain sailing. Anyway it got me out of the vehice checking out if it was safe to cross. Rolled up my jeans and walked the river to see if it was OK. It was fine and Bun raced through it and we carried on. The first crossing was nothing compared ot the other six we did that day. One or two were looking impassable at first glance but once I walked up and down the bank and watched the way the river was flowing, we found that was a spot we could cross at.

The mud is also a problem; it has a top layer that acts like ice. Once you are through that it has the consistency of clay that clings to everything. We’ve never see mud like it.

There was a truck carrying school children who had been up to Lake Turkana on a field trip. We had passed it earlier when it was on the side of the track, broken down. One boy wanted to jump in with us, but we said no this time! It had finally caught up with us as we pondered the bad river crossing. We were across before they had a chance to speak to us and they followed us through, using the same crossing. Once they were out of the river, they made their way back to the track where they got stuck on the sand! We bombed on!

It must have been four in the afternoon by the time we got into South Horr. The colours of the Samburu people greeted us on the last 20 kms as we drove into town. Women wearing multi-coloured necklaces were a fantastic sight. We headed to Lekuka camp. The owner, John, invited us to stay in the grounds opposite his house. He was married to an English woman and was more than accomadating. We parked next to his battered Land Rover which he said was hit by a elephant on the road to Maralel.

When we arrived in South Horr, the usual chancer tried to help us. We asked if we could find some meat. All the butchers had sold out of goat and ox, and cockerel wasn’t quite what we were after. Word had got round town, and our host, John, wanted to make us happy so he bought us goat and sacrifced it right in front of us! I was getting ready for the noise but he held it’s mouth as we watched from the sidelines as spectators!

He had his Samburu friend do the dirty work. He studied the intestines like he was looking at the stars trying to study the life of the goat and if there was any illnesses. His blunt knife wasn’t quite doing the job of skining, so I gave him our sharpe knife (thanks for the knife, Richard, I know your a veggie) that usually acts as a weapon when we wild camp in the tent at night! Before long we were eating fresh kidneys and liver cooked up with onions and tomatoes. I’ll take the liver, but Bun wasn’t enjoying any of it! She secretly fed the dogs that were on the hunt for whatever they could find.

Then came the BBQ. Oh yes, we were feeling pretty full by that point. John handed me a whole leg! It was a small goat, but it still took some getting through. I could only eat so much and then I was done. He said he would give it out to whoever wasn’t there later. As it was placed perfectly on a plate waiting to be taken away, a cat ran off with it. Happy days for the cat! End of a great day and we slept well that night.

The only stop worth mentioning was in Maralel. The first big town we hit where I could get out some cash. We picked up a man who was trying to get to a medical lecture there the next day. He paid us the same price as the bus to get him there which paid for our lunch.

One long flooded area where we had to wait for over an hour for trucks to get through. The truck behind us said this was swamp area that floods in the rainy season. The rains have come early this year. He kindly mentioned that this was bandit country, but we were safe in numbers as his truck had many passengers, one including a police officer off duty but still carrying a gun. The other passengers on his truck were two hundred goats destined for market in Nairobi!

The rest of the journey was more up and down drivng untill we hit tarmac after six days in Rumuruti. It shines at you from a distsnce like a mirage in the Sahara. The first feeling of  tarmac after so long was pure joy. We pressed onto Nairobi via Nukuru where we wild camped near a lake outside of town.

On the 3rd  March we arrived at Jungle Junction, an overland site half an hour from the centre and owned by a really nice man called Chris. He runs a workshop for huge trucks coming from Europe and South Africa. The huge garden is quite muddy from the rain but we found a spot amongst the other 4×4 and motorbikes. A good crowd here and we can come and go as we please.

We’ve heard as few horror stories from other big trucks that have come via Lake Turkana which have been stuck in riverbeds for days waiting to be dug out. We were lucky to pass before the rains got too bad!

We are here untill Friday before we head east to Mombassa. We have an urge to get a good curry here and visit the Carnivore restaurant, a meat lovers favourite!

We can finally get insurance here for Kenya and also for all the other countries we will visit before we get to South Africa. We haven’t had any insurance in Sudan and Ethiopia. We can find pretty much anything we need here in the supermarkets. Our charging cable for our GPS broke a few weeks ago. We found a replacement pretty easily in a shop near where we are staying.

Were watching: Mad Men-season 1


Route taken: Arba Minch/Karat-Konso/Omerate/Turmi/Ileret (Kenya)

I’m typing this late from the roof tent at jungle Junction in Nairobi desperate to get back on track with the blog. Having last detailed that we were going to miss southern Ethiopia, our original idea of a loop to cross in Moyale all changed after we met some British cyclists, Rob and Polly who had just arrived after travelling from Kenya up the west side of Lake Turkana. All the information we had received up untill that point was saying don’t even attempt this route on your own.

In true British fashion we completley ignored this advice and after chatting to the cyclists we sussed that the east side of the Lake would be our best bet. We sat down with them and discussed the route and were keen to get going the next day. They came up the west side as they were cycling. The east side would have been harder for them in the rain and the going was rocky and sandy which is why they chose the other side. We knew the risks. If rain was heavy enough to make river crossings impossible, we would have to wait until the water level went down enough to cross safely.

So we took in Konso and gradually got ready to leave later on the 24th. We had a job trying to get diesel. Konso is the last place in southern Ethiopia if you intend to travel south where you can get fuel. Funny that the petrol station wasn’t selling any due to a power cut! We drove in and quickly got approached by some chancers who wanted to offer us some black market diesel instead for an inflated price. I wasn’t havng any of it and then one thing led to another and we persuaded the man running the pump to get the generator going. We would offer him a little extra on top for doing this. It was vital we had both tanks full up before leaving. It would be a week before we might hit a fuel stop again.

We got going. We were aiming for small town called Turmi, a good base to see the Hamer tribe the next day. As we drove into town, we found a really nice campsite where we had the grounds to ourselves. We had some rain in the night.

We heard the next day that there was to be a bull jumping ceremony by one family of the Hamer Tribe. This is quite a rare sight and wasn’t to be missed. It is an initiation ceremony where a young man jumps any number of bulls to become a man. Also, as part of the ceremony women are whipped very hard with thin branches. They show no fear or signs of pain as they stand there taking the lashing. I’ll add  a few more datails of this later.

Before this we had a mission to drive the 75kms offroad to Omerate and back to get our visas stamped out of Ethiopia and the carnet stamped. We had to do this as there was no exit post on the Ethiopian side of the border. Luckliy, Omerate was set up for us to do this. We did the journey in just over an hour each way; last night’s rain made the road worse.

Later that day, after the ceremony and buying some last provisions, we set off to try and get to Ilaret, the first town we would reach on the Kenyan side of the border. Half way back along the Omerate track we made a left turn and said goodbye to Ethiopia. We were heading into the unkown from here. We had a track of the route on our GPS but it was still only a sandy track taking us into the bush. We crossed plenty of dry riverbeds that required some slowing right down to get into and out of. It was quicker going than we expected and after a hour and half we arrived at a checkpoint. This was our last dealing with Ethiopians. They checked our papers and let us go.

Ethiopia has been a  fascinating country to travel in. It has almost everything and on grand scale. If it sorted out its border problems with Eritrea it would easier to get to some great coastline as well.

The police barracks we stayed at in Ileret:,36.227617&z=16&t=h&hl=en

March 2010