Total KMS travelled so far: 20,675
Welcome to Kenya! I’m a bit bored with tourists…..
After dodging more than a few trucks on the road to Eldoret and passing through countryside gradually changing from Uganda type tropical to subtropical as we climbed higher and higher to 2400M, the first night in Kenya was spent at a very good campsite 18kms outside Eldoret called Naiberi River Campsite GPS N 00*26’869’” E 35*25’344”. . A favourite with overlander trucks apparently but there was only one there with us (and they were quiet)! Amazingly we met two South African couples that we had last seen in Lusaka Zambia! It’s surprising how one tends to meet up on the road again and again with people seen weeks ago, but more or less heading in the same direction as you are. However, Kenya was their turnaround point and they were slowly heading back to South Africa after this.
We didn’t quite compute the altitude (2300 – 2600M) that most of west central Kenya is at and how cool it can be, especially at night. It also rained heavily at Naiberi and there was mud everywhere. Camping is always not as much fun in the rain and cold! But there was as “banda” to shelter under. Kenya’s got its own potholes too..Next morning, through heavy mist and fog, we crossed the mountains of the Western Rift Valley on a very potholed but beautifully scenic road secondary road to Lake Nakuru rather than take the main Eldoret/Nakuru highway with its trucks and buses. The scenery was not our preconceived mental image of Kenya at all. More like Europe? Crossing the Western Rift ValleyThe only hold up on an otherwise pleasant drive was a one hour hold up 10kms from Nakuru whilst the local University ran a marathon along the road. The impatience of some of the “Matatu” drivers and others as we waited in an increasingly huge jam created by them trying to drive up to the roadblock on the left and the right was something to behold?
Let’s wait for an hour!
On reaching Nakuru, we headed to a new campsite 10kms East of town recommended to us by the overland truck drivers called Punda Milia and owned by a Frenchman Alex. GPS S 00* 21’954” E 36* 10’435” It was new and OK with hot showers and bandas and we stayed two nights as we planned to visit the nearby Lake Nakuru National Park for a day trip next day, but we were a bit disappointed the 2nd night (a Sunday) that it was full of overland trucks and some local campers who listened to football and music until late that night.
Lake Nakuru NP cost USD$80 each for the day plus $10 for the car (and $5 for a map) to get in= $175 plus a further $50 if we wanted to camp there. Kenya’s parks are nearly as expensive as Tanzania’s! But it was worth it as Lake Nakuru NP is very green and beautiful and the birdlife (including flamingos in the distance) was incredible! Birdlife at Lake NakuruWe saw 5 rhinos for the first time also- now completing our “Big 5”!
The Monday morning we cruised the 135km through Lake Navaisha which still has a fairly large white expat farming community and on to Nairobi and rolled into “Jungle Junction” midday and met the illustrious Chris who owns and runs it. Jungle Junction is a cool and casual place and an incredible meeting point for all us overlanders heading either North or South. Everybody very friendly despite being rather cramped and on top of each other on a plot of land full of vehicles being stored for owners gone home for a while, motor bikes and vehicles being repaired and serviced in Chris’ quite extensive workshop with two mechanics with a good knowledge of every type of 4 x4 and motor bike likely to be travelling Africa. We found Chris and all his staff very accommodating and helpful.
The illustrious Chris (left) and Jungle Junction Nairobi
Tin Can had a major service with all oils and filters changed at Jungle Junction and a loose prop shaft uni tightened up. Our only other problem is the fact that our airconditioning stopped working weeks ago and we had to take it to specialists Relac Aircon Ltd the other side of Nairobi. They diagnosed an electrical problem caused by wiring insulation rubbing off. At least its working again TSH 11,000 ($130) later! (But not for long – read on..)
We spent 4 days at Jungle Junction basically racing around under some stress trying to get:
• A necessary letter of introduction and recommendation off the Australian High Commission to the Embassies of Ethiopia and Sudan to grant us visas. (The Australian Vice Consul was very accommodating, unbelievably quick for Africa! , and issued the required letter for free in 15 minutes).
• Enduring an interview with a rather rude Ethiopian official, producing copies of every paper imaginable from passports, drivers licences, credit cards, marriage certificate and Carnet, but thankfully our visas for Ethiopia was granted without the feared need “to go home to your home country or send your passport to get it” as others before us have experienced until recently. It would seem the Ethiopians have come to some common sense? We picked up our passports and visas the next day after paying $20 each into an account at the Commercial Bank of Africa.
• Sudanese visas were relatively easy (although once again the Letter of Introduction and copies of just about everything were required plus the need to fill in a rather complex application with Arabic script). We applied at 11.00am and picked up our visas at 3.00pm after paying the KSH5,000 (USD$60) each.
• New tyres for Tin Can. We were after BF Goodrich AT but could not get any anywhere in Nairobi in our size as the “container carrying a new shipment from USA had got lost – and Kenya’s tyres had ended up in Dar es Salaam last week”! So we had to settle for Goodyear Wrangler AT/ST at the heavy price of USD$1,600. (Tyres in Kenya are surprisingly more expensive than Australia or Europe)?
• Shopping for supplies at a huge Nakumatt Junction Mall that Marianne said “great – looks just like home”! But all the imported goodies were expensive.
• Getting the aircon fixed – and dealing with the fact that whilst backing Tin Can in an incredibly confined lane I backed into a pick-up’s rear tail light cracking the lens and causing a huge commotion with arms waving everywhere! The episode cost me KSH 300 ($4) for a brand new lens, but more in stress.
Tin can at Relac getting its airconditioning fixed
• Doing without some electrical connectors and a replacement for a broken LCD screen for our fault code reader which I had hoped to get our son, Gavin to send from Australia via DHL. He told me that it would cost $300 to send the small 500g parcel to Kenya with DHL! So we said “forget it, we will do without”.
We met a lovely young Swiss/German couple at Jungle Junction called Fabio and Anne travelling in a well equipped Toyota Landcruiser who themselves had amazingly the week before met up with Swedes Chris and Mia (whom we had met at Fat Monkeys in Malawi months ago and have been keeping in contact with) – with the outcome that we have all agreed to travel together with the 3 vehicles on the dreaded, bandit prone road to Marsabit and Moyale (far too close to Somalia and Al Shabab who are causing a lot of trouble in Kenya at the moment – including bombings in Mombasa and Garissa) – and at least as far a Ethiopia. We are also formulating a plan with Fabio and Anne to possibly ship the vehicles from Port Sudan to Mersin in Turkey in order to miss all the hassles that seem to emanate in Egypt – from ferry delays at Wadi Halfa to graft, corruption and paying unfriendly Egyptians for things you don’t even know what you are having to pay for? (The reputation is not good from travellers through Egypt at the moment)? The four of us would then fly from Sudan to Turkey and wait on Turkey’s Mediterranean beaches for the vehicles to arrive. We will see how it works out – and costs will have to be considered?
Campers at Jungle Junction. Anne in the distance
All in all, we enjoyed our stay in Nairobi – Kenya is somewhat more civilised and developed than any country since South Africa and certainly easier to drive around in (despite huge traffic jams at times) particularly with the help of Ms Garmin and Tracks for Africa GPS to guide one around. The weather was cooler than anticipated and pretty cloudy most days. not what one would think on the Equator in Kenya, but Nairobi does sit at 2500M altitude?! Security was pretty tight we noticed – thanks to the current issues with Al Shabab after Kenya has invaded Somalia to sort them out.
Friday 6th we set off for to meet up again with Fabio, Anne, Chris & Mia at Isiola – and then northwards on to Marsabit and Moyale in Ethiopia. We will update more blog posts about Kenya later when we are able……..
The Road to Hell – Marsabit/Moyale
Well! The mild knot in the stomach that has existed for the past few weeks as the thought of having to traverse the 500kms from Archers Post to Marsabit and Moyale in Ethiopia with all the rumours of “shiftas” (bandits) and Somali kidnappers etc etc is gone! We are now in Ethiopia and pleasant climes and scenery await! We were so very glad to have the company of Chris & Mia in their Landrover Defender and Fabio and Anne in their Toyota Landcruiser for this section.
There is no other word for the Archers Post/Marsabit/Moyale road other than shit! We have travelled a lot of roads by now in various parts of the world and it’s fair to say this could be the worst? In comparison the supposedly challenging Birdsville, Streslecki and Ooodnadatta Tracks in Australia pale in comparison. Not that the Marsabit road is hard core 4 x 4 driving or anything, it is just that there are so many hundreds of kilometres of rock, red bulldust, mud and horrible corrugations at times. Maximum speed at any time is 45km/h and it goes on and on. All coupled with the fact that it is a very remote area with all the dreadful rumours of bandits and Al Shabaab and stories of destroyed shock absorbers and tyres, men going mad and women wanting to fly home etc. Australian DFAT has a “do not travel” warning on the area of course to boost confidence.
The first 250 kms all the way from Nairobi past Mt Kenya and Isiola to about 50kms beyond Archers Post is excellent tarmac. (Built by the Chinese who are slowly completing the rest of the road -expected by 2014, but at what “quid pro quo” we know not)? But then the fun starts. The 130Km section to Marsabit is not too bad besides corrugations. The next 250Kms Masabit/Moyale is the worst with sharp tennis ball size rocks as one travels through volcanic pumice areas and more fine dust than Tin Can has ever seen before. (Mostly now inside the cabin – as the Aircon fixed in Nairobi lasted exactly one day before blowing fuses again! Because of the 35* C heat we had to drive with the windows open and dust poured in)!
We met up with the Swedes and Germans at Archers Post and camped at Umoja Sambaru Womens Camp GPS N 00* 37’883” E 37* 39’ 616” which was quite nice and even had showers (cold) and a restaurant. The following day we made the well known Henry’s Camp at Marsabit (its been there 18 years apparently) and spent a friendly evening with about 20 local school teachers having a sports day party. Next day we only managed about 150kms (at 30 -40km/h) to the tiny Sambaru settlement of Turbi where we planned to bush camp but Anne was a bit nervous about that so we ended up in the courtyard of Turbi Womens Shelter GPS N 00*18’072” E 37*39’616” where they let us camp for TSH 100 ($1.50) each and supplied water. How safe it was, who knows – as in the middle of the night some guys arrived in a car and shone lights on us? At least they took themselves and their Kalashnikovs away again..
Next day we completed the 130km to the border at Moyale, arriving about lunch time. We stamped out of Kenya in no time at all with friendly officials and crossed “no man’s land” to Ethiopia Immigration – to be told that they had closed for two hours for lunch! So we fortunately found a small restaurant and had our first taste of Ethiopian “injera” and beans for our own lunch and pumped tyres and changed air filters while we waited. Eventually Ethiopia fired up and the process was relatively painless except that Yellow Fever certificates had to be produced and Customs checked the cars for cameras, lap tops and radios. Just as well I had hidden away the UHF “walkie talkies” and mounted radio well as he was very suspicious about the antennae I still had attached to the bullbar! We have been making great use of these 2 way radios to communicate between the 3 vehicles throughout Kenya and into Ethiopia.
We made it! All three vehicles without much of a hitch although Chris’s dipstick vibrated and sheared off its mount and spread engine oil everywhere and Fabio and Annes Toyota’s front shock started leaking and their fridge batteries started “cooking” when charged by the solar panel for unknown reasons? Tin Can? Nothing – except heaps of dust and heat with the Airconditioning cactus again. Our new tyres bought in Nairobi don’t look new anymore. Never to be repeated! Ethiopia is lovely and green and mountainous by comparison and with TARRED roads! Although Kenya as well developed and pleasant, none of us would contemplate going South again along that road even if we had to…..
More photos in the Gallery “Kenya” at: https://picasaweb.google.com/110392977689469430264/Kenya