Mon 15th – Mon 21st December

Well, after that surreal but fabulous slice of Henley on Mara was dropped into our Big African Adventure, it took me a few hours to re-adjust to our current normality. 

Drinkies anyone??

Drinkies anyone??

I was a bit tired and emotional as we resumed our travels, and as I sobbed in the car Sean asked me what was wrong and I sniffled in reply, ” I’m crying at the thought of spending another 3 months in a car with you” and then blew it by bursting out laughing!! 

On Monday night we spent a bizarre night camping at the Maasai Ostrich Resort – yup that’s right, an Hotel and Ostrich farm in one.  Sean discovered that it was possible to ride an Ostrich for £4, but in spite of his repeated requests, not one big bird was brave enough to step up to the plate.  Our experience here was soured by the female cashier attempting to charge us an additional 1000 kenyan shillings for car parking.  We laughed off this absurd request, and sneaked off without paying it.

On our way to the coast we stopped off at Tsavo West for 24 hours, in the hope of spotting some of its legendary lions, but none were forthcoming.  The park is beautiful though, with dramatic landscapes and distant views of Kilimanjaro’s snow capped peak, which I didn’t manage to photograph well! The park centres on Mzima Springs, where millions and millions of gallons of fresh water come bubbling up through the lava rocks.  This guy thought it was as good a place as any to wait for lunch. 

Waiting for lunch....

Waiting for lunch....

Tsavo was our last wildlife adventure for a while as we’re off to Tanzania next and the parks there are too expensive for us to visit.  I shall miss the Hyenas whooping but hey ho! 

We pressed on to the coast, and we’re now at Tiwi Beach, just South of Mombasa.  The temperature difference was quite a shock at first, having spent so long at high altitude, the humidity and heat here is intense.  We arrived on Wednesday and have decided to stay until after Xmas, a decision made easier by the arrival of our Crazy Dutch friends, Anne Marie and Patrick and Obi the dog. 

At first it was just us and a couple of others, but it is getting really busy, and our beach idyll now resembles a bit of a car park, but it beats sitting at home watching the telly!  One family has turned up with what appears to be a marquee, with not one but two support vehicles.  I suspect they are going to start selling hot dogs. 

Every day guys on bicycles come round, selling fruit and veg and the fishermen also turn up selling super-fresh fish.  The question is, was this one caught or bought??

When all else fails, throw money at the problem..

When all else fails, throw money at the problem..

In spite of this Uber-healthy diet I suspect we’ll both be as fat as houses again by the time we leave here, as we’re eating 3 times a day as opposed to once, and the cold Tusker goes down mighty well in this heat…

I’ve been an eejit and forgotten to compress the images I wanted to post on the blog, so will try again in a few days.  In the meantime we wish everyone a very Merry Xmas, and we’ll be back in 2009 from Tanzania.  Lots and lots of love from us XXXXXXXX

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Bl**dy Mara-vellous!

December 15, 2008

Thursday 11th December

In preparation for meeting our beloved corporate sponsor, Gary, in the Maasai Mara tomorrow we leave Carnelly Camp and drive to the Mara the hard way, over a donkey track which heads steeply up the edge of the Rift Valley and down the other side to Narok.  There is a paved road, but we think that’s for wimps!!  It was great fun and we get to see a lot more of rural African life doing it this way. 

I’m very excited to be in the Maasai Mara at last, and we start seeing plenty of game straight away.  However, our safari is curtailed by an enormous hailstorm, which turns the unmade road into an ice rink and as we skate around in circles, Elsie pirouetting beautifully, Sean reluctantly concedes that we should leave the park, so we retire to our soggy campsite and look forward to meeting Gaz at Kitchwa Tembo tomorrow.

Friday 12th – Sunday 14th December

Although I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks, nothing could have prepared me for this weekend.  I have heard so much about Kitchwa Tembo from Sean and Gary, but I wasn’t expecting this when we arrived!

Kitchwa Tembo Welcome

Kitchwa Tembo Welcome

Stanley, the Manager of the camp, met us as we exited Maasai Mara game reserve, and asked us to park under this tree, where a bar had been set up.  And I certainly wasn’t expecting what happened next, as Gaz pulled up with a mystery guest who turned out to be Janie. 

More surprises

More surprises

 I was absolutely over the moon to see them both, and that’s pretty much how I felt until we left.   We went out on a game drive that afternoon that culminated with Elly, our ranger, claiming to be lost, and then parking in a clearing which had been decorated with tilly lamps, and tables set up for dinner.  It was absolutely stunning, and even the rain couldn’t dampen the brilliance of the evening.  The staff simply put up a tent and carried it over our heads!  Janie and I improvised some millinery while we waited.

Sisters Inebria and Hilaria

Sisters Inebria and Hilaria

The next morningI languished in my luxuriously appointed tent with the worst hangover I’ve had in three months – funny that!  Sean however was undeterred and made of sterner stuff.  He alone went out on a game drive with Elly and sods law, saw firstly a leopard up a tree munching on a Topi calf

Lucky leopard, unfortunate Topi

Lucky leopard, unfortunate Topi

Then, the leopard can see something coming and exits stage left

Leopard making good his escape

Leopard making good his escape

and two young male lions appear, and over the course of an hour, extract from their burrow and kill two warthogs. 

Nature red in tooth and claw

Nature red in tooth and claw

Needless to say, he was justifiably horrifically smug when he returned crowing something about ‘early bird catching worm’ but I clutched my acheing head and tried to ignore him. 

The rest of the weekend was just as awesome.  The  food and ambience at Kitchwa are fabulous, and each member of staff is exceptionally welcoming, professional and friendly.   I’ll put some more pictures up when I get the chance, but now Sean and I are going back to our humble Hotel du Van and try and adjust our expectations on the catering front!  I recommend you all go out and find a friend like Gary, life wouldn’t be the same without him and we’re both completely overwhelmed by his generosity.  It really is hard to try and find the words to say thank you for something like this, so this’ll have to suffice.  Thanks Gaz XXXX

Rift Valley Rambling

December 15, 2008

Tuesday 2nd December, Nakuru National Park

The national park at Nakuru whilst very pretty, is located really close to the town itself which is a little incongruous and makes for some interesting photo opportunities. 

Nakuru flight path

Nakuru flight path

We camped as far away from town as we could, at Makalia falls campsite, which was exactly as it said on the tin, by the side of a water fall, and very peaceful as there was only one other couple camping there.

Ooh, scary!!

Ooh, scary!!

 This sign warned of the wildlife, but we could only hear chickens and livestock on the other side of the fence a few 100 feet away.  In the morning we drove down a track to the lake shore to admire the pelicans, and spotted a lion a few feet away from us. 

Lion Number 1

Lion Number 1

We watched it for a while and it had just started to call softly (to what?), when some idiot Italian tourists pulled up and got out of their car, scaring him away.  We caught up with him on the road before he scarpered. 

Effecting his exit

Effecting his exit

Nakuru is of course most famous for it’s flamingos, which at various times of the year are here in their thousands, but were a bit thin on the ground when we visited.

Nakuru Flamingos

Nakuru Flamingos

 Wednesday 3rd – Fri 5th December, Lake Baringo, Roberts camp

We stayed on the shore of Lake Baringo for three nights and did nothing much.  We met a lovely dutch couple, AnneMarie and Patrick, and their dog who had been on the road for nearly 2 years in their Unimog, and were on their way home.  We also met an English photographer who was completing a trip he’d started about 15 years ago, and a South African girl, Lindsay, who was bravely backpacking around on her own for a few months.  At night marauding Hippos would come and graze around the car, waking us up with their loud munching.  There is also a healthy crocodile population in the lake which Sean taunted frequently, apparently in the hope of getting a limb bitten off. 

Saturday 6th December, Lake Bogoria

Onwards to another lake.  Lake Bogoria is another one of the Rift Valley’s geography lessons in action.  It’s a soda lake, the colour of spinach soup, and is ringed by volcanic hot springs and geysers shooting plumes of steam and boiling water into the air. 

Do not attempt to bathe!

Do not attempt to bathe!

Oh, and there are even more flamingos here than in Nakuru.  There is only one road through the park, following the lakeshore, so we pootled along the edge, admiring the flamingos and trying to ignore the smell.

Squillions of flamingos

Squillions of flamingos

We camp at the far end of the lake, underneath a stand of enormous fig trees.  It’s down a very steep rocky track, and it felt like proper wild camping. Sean was in his element as it fit all his criteria for jungly Africa, and the vervet monkeys chucked figs at us from above.

Crossing stream at Bogoria

Crossing stream at Bogoria

Sunday 7th December – Wednesday 10th December

On Sunday night we stayed at Naiberi River Camp, where we met the crazy but extremely hospitable owner, Raj who would’t let us leave the next day without taking some fresh veg from their garden.  We headed into Eldoret on Monday morning to get some money and stock up at a supermarket. 

As we were leaving the supermarket there is a commotion outside, lots of people surging up the road and shopkeepers slamming down their metal shutters.  This area was home to some of the worst inter-tribal violence at the beginning of the year so for a moment I’m afraid of a riot kicking off, however it turns out that someone had been caught stealing, and some Kenyan mob justice was dispensed.  I caught sight of the guy running up the road, minus his shirt and Sean assures me that seconds earlier he was being whacked with a stick around the head and has a fairly serious head wound.  Summary justice indeed!

We then head back down the truly atrocious Eldoret-Nakuru road.  It’s ‘under construction’ so most of it is a dust track diversion, where you are blinded by clouds of dust behind lorries and end up taking a fairly cavalier attitude to overtaking.  We survive however and cross the equator for the third time.

Third time over I finally get in the shot

Third time over I finally get in the shot

Tuesday 9th– Wednesday 10th December

Back at Carnelly Camp we find Lindsay, a South African we met at Baringo, and Colonel Guy Levine and his wife Yvonne.  It turns out that Guy knows our friend Ed Simpson from the UK!  We stay at Carnellys for a couple of days, it is a very relaxing place to be.  However we do commit a fairly serious bit of sport, deciding to cycle around Lake Naivasha to Crater Lake, which is as you’d imagine in the crater of an extinct volcano. 

Big bowl of spinach soup

Big bowl of spinach soup

 It is a 22 mile round trip, up and down some serious hills, and we’re at an altitude of 7500 feet remember……

Jiggle my bingo wings!!

Jiggle my bingo wings!!

We had thought that corrugations were tough when in the car, but the damage they do to one’s a*&e when cycling is much, much worse.   After 3 months of doing no exercise we’re both very proud of ourselves and extremely relieved when we make it back to Carnellys and find some big, comfortable chairs to sit in.

Heaven at Hells Gate

December 1, 2008

Hippo and Papyrus

Hippo and Papyrus

Saturday 29th November – Monday 1st December

We arranged our Kenyan and onward insurance this morning with the Kenyan AA, but will have to return to Nairobi to collect the COMESA Yellow Card on Monday. 

Decide to have a weekend in the country so headed up to Lake Naivasha, where we stayed at the very lovely Carnelly Camp, on the shores of the lake.  Leigh and Megan, if you’re reading this I thought of you and really missed you here, you would both have loved it.  Perfect campsite, and a fabulous bar.  There was an inquisitive Colobus Monkey keeping an eye on us from above, and in the morning the tatty looking Hippo pictured above wandered nearby.

Colobus Monkey

Colobus Monkey

On Sunday morning we headed a few Kilometers up the road to Hells Gate National Park.  Hells Gate is in the Rift Valley, and has some beautiful geology and remnants of it’s turbulent past –

Fishers Tower - thats a volcanic plug to you

Fishers Tower - thats a volcanic plug to you

and it’s turbulent present as it has one of the world’s largest geo thermal fields, which is being exploited in the hope that it will eventually provide half of Kenya’s electricity. 

More big dramatic scenery, steam plumes in the distance

More big dramatic scenery, steam plumes in the distance

Hells Gate NP is unique in that you can walk around it without a guide, so Sean & I explored the Lower Gorge on foot, apparently Tomb Raider – Cradle of Life was filmed here…

Hells Gate Gorge

Hells Gate Gorge

That night we had the whole campsite to ourselves, Hyenas whooped very nearby, I retreated up the ladder jolly early, and this was our view from bed in the morning:

View from the Hotel du Van

View from the Hotel du Van

Hells Gate has a healthy population of ungulates, or grazers, owing to the fact that there is nothing around to eat them.  We saw lots of Zebra, Eland, Thompsons and Grants gazelles and the ubiquitous Impala, or Swala Pala, as I found out they’re called in Kiswahili.

No table manners!

Dribbling Giraffe - no table manners!

We’re now back at Jungle Junction, and have finished all our Nairobi admin, so we’re ready to head off to Lake Nakuru National Park tomorrow.  At the moment the moon and two stars are making a smiley face outside – unfortunately, I can’t get it on camera but it’s wonderful.

Kenyan Katastrophes

December 1, 2008

Saturday 22nd – Monday 24th November

The Ethiopian immigration official must have wanted us to stay as he stamped our passports at tectonic speed.  The Kenyans by contrast were jovial, welcoming and speedy.  We forked out $100 for our visas, and were through the border and into Kenya, our sixth African country. 

Now it was another long day of driving on the infamous Moyale – Marsabit road, legendary amongst the overland community for eating tyres and smashing suspension.   And it was pretty awful, deep ruts at first gave way to sharp rocks as the road ran through shattered lava fields.  Huge patches of churned up dried out mud made us grateful that the rain was a few weeks back.  The plains were covered in bright green fresh grass, and the black lava rocks that were everywhere as far as the eye could see made me think of Ilkely Moor!   We subsequently found out that the rain up here is the first in 10 years, so we were very fortunate to see it so green.  Sadly I didn’t take any pictures so you’ll have to take my word for it.

On the road we caught up with the Poles, who were really struggling with their bikes on the loose rocks, and making very slow progress.  We said that we’d meet them in Marsabit and pressed on, finally reaching Marsabit, only for Elsie to drop her drawers!  All the corrugations had caused a bracket on the exhaust to shear, so we tied her up with a bit of string, and will have to get it welded.

Hand knitted road signage

Hand knitted road signage

We reached Henry’s camp just before sunset.  The camp is on a working farm.  Henry’s Kenyan wife has a bakery on site, which smells fab.  The camp isn’t in any guide books which means it’s quiet, and the clean hot shower was very welcome and a tad overdue.  Sean & I lit a fire and awaited the Poles, who texted me later to say that they were staying at a hotel in town, and will catch us up tomorrow.   Listening to Hyenas whooping has once again become my favourite way of dropping off to sleep.

We’ve stayed here for 3 nights, taking time to get Elsie’s exhaust welded, do a lot of washing, and get drunk with the Poles last night.   Today (Monday) we discovered that Marsabit has a working ATM so have gleefully stocked up on funds, and bought another gas canister as ours has proved difficult to refill. 

Tomorrow we’re going to tackle the last section of the awful road, to Isiolo.  Hopefully Elsie will survive!

Long and bumpy Marsabit - Isiolo Road

Long and bumpy Marsabit - Isiolo Road

Tuesday 25th November

An early start, as we were expecting very slow progress on the last stretch of ghastly road.  It turned out to be much easier than we’d expected and we even found time to talk to some of the Rendille we passed on the road. 

Rendille Laydeez and me

Rendille Laydeez and me

The men are even more elaborately head-dressed than the women, but harder to photograph! 

Unfortunately, our blithe optimism took a major hit when Sean stopped to check that the exhaust weld was holding up and Elsie refused to start again.  We were really in the middle of nowhere – the sides of the road were thick bush, no villages for miles. 

Nice scenery though!

Nice scenery though!

The starter motor clicked, but that was it…  Knowing that the Poles were behind us, I remained calm and confident of a push.  An hour later they arrived and bumped Elsie into life.  We drove non stop for our overnight stop, just South of Isiolo. We were very pleased to see our first surfaced road in a lot of miles. 

Thank you Mr Macadam!

Thank you Mr Macadam!

We’ve decided to change our plans, and head to Nairobi tomorrow and get Elsie seen to. 

Wednesday 26th November

A bump start got Elsie going again in the morning and we headed for Nairobi.  Kenya is so different to any countries we’ve been through so far, the European settler influence is very strong and visible.  I was surprised to see a helicopter for the first time in at least 2 months, and laughed aloud at the first sight of road signs which are just like the ones in England.   At about midday we crossed the Equator.  I couldn’t turn the car engine off so Sean jumped out and I took the obligatory photo at the sign. 

The North South divide

The North South divide

Just before Nairobi we passed the outskirts of Thika, of Flametrees fame.  Hilariously, a sign proudly declared “Thika, the Birmingham of Kenya.”  The only similarity I could see was the dual carriageway we hit soon after, but perhaps I missed all the Balti houses. 

Nairobi has spectacularly horrible rush hour traffic, but we struggled through it, terrified of stalling, and found Jungle Junction at just about beer o’clock.  It was great to discover that Johann, our South African biker chum was still here. 

Jungle Junction is quite a bizarre place, it’s a suburban house straight out of 70’s England, but the immaculate lawn is covered in 4 x 4s and motorbikes on their way up or down Africa.  It has everything you need at this stage, laundry, wifi, clean loos and showers and cold beer.

Jungle Junction

Jungle Junction

Friday 28th November 

Got up early to take Elsie to the recommended garage, Ndovu, to see if we can get to the bottom of the lack of starting engine problem..   Eight long and tedious hours later, and a lot of Shillings lighter, we can leave the garage without pushing.  A new alternator and two new batteries appear to have solved the problem.