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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: