You are currently browsing the daily archive for March 3, 2010.

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

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/amillerphotos/

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: http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?ll=4.3123167,36.227617&z=16&t=h&hl=en

March 2010
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