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Monday, 31 December 2012

Kenya 1


Day 1 –20/12/12
We finally arrived in Kenya, for us akin to arriving in paradise. We looked forward eagerly to the supposedly wonderful camp grounds, supermarkets and apparently ATMs. 
The road is a little poorer on the Kenyan side and at times becomes confused. We needed to back track a few times to regain the track.
Maybe it was our imagination, but almost as soon as you cross the border the begging stopped and there were friendly smiles and waves. We registered at the police station at Illeret. It took 40 min to do the 16 km from the border to Illeret.
We decided to take the track through Sibilio NP, rather than the track around it (as suggested by others. This seems to be mainly to save the very high entrance fee). We figured that there may be less chance of a mud bog in the park and a chance of seeing animals. There had clearly been a lot of rain recently, and in sandy places the tracks of previous travellers (2 days ago) had been washed away. In other places there were some severe lava crossings. So we were pretty happy to get through without getting bogged and with all tyres intact. Long may this continue. The 52 km from Illeret to Koobi For a took ~ 3 hours.
We were greeted warmly at the Koobi Fora, a research station; but, no cold beer!

Avril  driving; 200 km; 8 hrs; N 030 56’ 52.0’’ E 0360 11’ 10.6’’





Day 2 –21/12/12
Ray’s big day. He was last in Loyangalani in April 1978, with Jim Barrett and Ian (Chesty) Bond, on a safari from Zambia. So, after 35 years, Ray had completed his Cape to Cairo.
We were fortunate not to get the strong winds that typically come up overnight on Lake Turkana. We set off early from Koobi Fora as we had a long day’s drive to Loyangalani. We had to stop at the park gate to pay the entrance. Ray objected, we saw no animals, the park seems to be now basically grazing land for tribes people and roads are terrible. The protestations were to no avail and we paid the $ 20/person.
Along the way we passed 4 young Swiss  people  (Vincent, Jam’s, Rachel & Goetan) travelling by Landrover and 2 Brits going by tuk tuk. The tuk tuk lacked the power to get up a lot of the river banks and often the tuk tuk passenger had to get out and push. The Swiss were kindly following and providing assistance, lots of pushing and later towing the tuk tuk.
The track was very poor and we did get a puncture. Ray managed to plug it reasonably quickly and we were soon on our way. The track changed between lava fields, large mud areas and sandy river beds. Given our previous poor experience with mud, these areas really got the adrenalin flowing. Still, we managed to get though without getting bogged.
Our reward was some beautiful views over the Jade Sea. Lake Turkana showed the deep colour that gave it its name and the weather was ideal for the views – clear skies and not too hot.
We camped at the Palm Shade site. We had to carefully select our site and it had been raining hard and there was mud around. We then ran into the RSAers (Ian and Heather), Brit/German (Don and Gabrielle)- couples we had met in Addis.
Gabriel, the owner of Palm Shade welcomed us and they did have cold beer!
Unfortunately the new BFGoodrich was leaking. We went to the local tyre repair (no jack, hand pump, no tools etc) and found that it had multiple small leaks. Basically too many holes to plug. Fortunately we had a spare tube and put this in the tyre. This involved a trip to the Catholic Mission to get the machine to break the bead.
We did get badly ripped off by the 2 chaps who did the repair and were gently chided by Gabriel for not asking his advice.

Avril  driving; 205 km; 9 hrs; N 020 45’ 22.3’’ E 0360 43’ 16.1’’






Day 3 –22/12/12
Overnight we did get a small sample of the wind that comes to Lake Turkana, but it was not too serious. More serious was that the repaired tyre was leaking! Ray had worried that the repairers had not cleaned out the tyre properly and some debris had punctured the tube. And this turned out to be the case. So we had to repair this and did not get on the road until 08:30.
The road out of Loyangalani is actually designated as a C77 by the Kenyan road authorities. On the basis they have rated it as a road, we need to rate it as the worst road we have travelled on in Africa - > 70,000 km thus far. The easy way for them to lose the worst road title is to remove the rating that it is a road, cause clearly it is not!
We travelled in convey with Ian and Don. Again, the upside of the trip was some fantastic scenery.
At Baragoi the road was completely washed away and the side track was a mud bath – with a truck stuck in it. There was a small gully to one side and the locals said that other small vehicles had gotten through in this path. Ray inspected it and was dubious, but we decided to give it a go. We managed to almost get to the solid road, but the last ~ 2’ rise was too much and the vehicle was leaning at a precarious angle. A truck driver bought his vehicle down to try and tow us out, but it was not to be. Then all the onlookers got together to push us back out of the gully. All this assistance was given with great humour and generosity; there was no demand for payment etc. So nice to be back in “Africa”.
As all this was going on Ian and Don turned up and discovered there was an alternative track through the village. So at least we had a route out. We reversed the vehicle up the river bank and proceeded to get stuck in the mud at the side of the road. Bugger! Ian/Don generously back came around and towed us out.
The road had become a bit of an ordeal, just when you thought it could not get worse, it did. We also managed to get another puncture.
So we arrived in Maralal a bit after dark. Then the joy of civilisation, we went to the ATM to draw some money.
We camped at the Yule Camel club, which had reasonable facilities.

Avril  driving; 242 km; 10.5 hrs; N 010 03’ 33.2’’ E 0360 42’ 39.8’’






Day 4 –23/12/12
As in theory we had an easy day, we had a bit of a sleep in and then went into town to get the tyres repaired. There was a lad (~ 15 yo) at the repair center and he did a lot of the work. Even though he was going to school, his father thought he should also have this skill. We had a slow leak on the front tyre and he found this and instructed Avril to get out of the car for safety etc. And, they did not rip us off (so got a generous tip). Very nice.
We had a quick look at Maralal and set off for Nyahururu. This road is shown on the Riese Know How map as an all weather main road. Mmm. The road was in bad condition with a very rough surface (either dried mud or rock). There were a number of mud pits to negotiate. Which we did safely. We passed a police post a few kms south of Mugi and asked about the road. They said there was one poor section, but we could definitely get through. Comforting.
When we got to the bad section, Ray waded through the water and the mud etc. There was a side road that was also a long mud pit. After some inspection we decided, no, we would not take the risk. We drove back to the police post and they were surprised. Then they asked, well, why don’t you take the good road? The good road???? We did not know there was another road. Oh yes, go back to Mugi Junction, take a left and then go through the village of Lonyek and follow the road to Nyahururu. And so it was, this is the road all the locals and buses use. It was a good surface and where there was mud there was a clear dry path around it. We often stopped other vehicles to ensure we were on the correct road. Invariably they greeted us with a smile, gave us directions and farewelled us with a “enjoy your journey. Travel safely”. The tar road started at the town  of Kinamba, which is located incorrectly on the Riese Know How map!
So, with the good road we arrived at a reasonable time at Thompsons Falls Lodge near Nyahururu. We had time to set up camp and take a look at the falls. Ks 200pp, Ray objected:”but last time I was here it cost nothing”. The attendant asked when that was and enjoyed the joke. (1978!)
At dusk, just as it was about to rain a Czech fellow showed up. He is hitchhiking around Africa and generally camps at the side of the road. A bit different to us. So we invited him to join us for dinner.

Avril  driving; 174 km; 5.5 hrs; N 000 02’ 44.4’’ E 0360 22’ 04.5’’



Day 5 –24/12/12
Even though we were almost on the equator, it was a cold night. We had mainly good roads (with some pot holes and sections washed away) all the way to Nairobi. We stopped off at Nyeri to get our phone SIM sorted out and buy some food from a nice café.
We arrived at Jungle Junction in the early PM – having crossed the equator.
They had had a lot of rain in Nairobi and the ground was a bit flooded, but we managed to find a dry grass spot. Then we walked off to a western style shopping mall to buy some essentials.
There were lots of other overlanders at JJs for Christmas: Heidi (Australian) and Jens (her German husband) and Jesse & Odette (Dutch) plus a large number of Japanese who seemed to use JJs as a departure hall or such.
Chris, the very helpful owner of JJs put on a delicious Christmas evening BBQ, complete with starters and desert.

Avril  driving; 263 km; 5 hrs; S 010 17’ 20.2’’ E 0360 45’ 37.4’’

Day 6 –25/12/12
This was our 1st Christmas in a long time we were not together with the kids. After a lazy start, we Skyped home to our family. Then we went to an expensive, delicious smorgasbord lunch at the famous (from the happy valley colonial set) Norfolk hotel.
We then went back to JJs  for the obligatory Betros Christmas afternoon nap before a dinner with some of the other folks here.

Day 7 –26/12/12
We spent Boxing Day in recovery mode, hoping our bodies would forgive the excesses of Christmas day. We took a stroll to the shopping center and attempted to see a movie – but the movies showing were not really to our liking.

Day 8 –27/12/12
A lazy day. Too wet for chores. We needed to go into Nairobi central to register with the immigration authorities and get our carnet stamped. The Kenyan officials were very efficient and this was all completed with a minimum of fuss. We then went to a “stamp” shop and bought a lot of country stickers for the side of the vehicle. We went to the Thorn Tree café, but it is now very up market (read super expensive) so we just had a quick look (for Ray to reminisce) and returned to JJ.
Ray bought some charcoal and with others, we had a BBQ in the evening.

Day 9 –28/12/12
From other overlanders we heard that the Ugandan parks charge $ 150/day just for 4WD vehicle entrance. To that one needs to add park entrance (~ $ 30/pp/day) and camping. This was a lot more than we anticipated. So, we needed to have a  rethink of our forward itinerary and minimise time in the Ugandan Parks.
We decided to drive to Tsavo West park in Kenya for a couple of days. The main part of the drive is down the primary Nairobi – Mombasa highway. The road, which is in good nick, is only a single lane each way and the volume of traffic is massive. There are a huge number of trucks travelling slowly, so the local sedan drivers take ridiculous risks to pass trucks (and get stuck behind the next truck).
We arrived at the park in mid afternoon. Park entrance is 24 hours – and is strictly enforced. We had originally thought to camp outside the park and enter early the next day, but there is no camping accommodation outside the park, so we entered the park “immediately”.
The guide books warn that the viewing in Tsavo is poor, and so it was. However, there are some magnificent views across valleys etc that in some way compensate for the lack of game.
We camped at the Kenyan Wildlife Service camp site, just outside Chyulu Gate. This is generally described as “basic”, but they had (cold) showers, flush loos and wash basins. So, we thought it was OK. In addition, each site had a large thatched roofed rondavel, so even though it rained (which it has done almost continually since we arrived in Nairobi) we had a nice area in which to cook (Fusion: fajitas & tortillas with Asian stir fried vegies).


Avril  driving; 286 km; S 020 54’ 06.4’’ E 0380 02’ 17.4’’



Day 10 –29/12/12
We made a relatively early start to the day and re-entered the park for some game viewing. We drove around until ~ 14:00. During the couple of days we saw: giraffe, Thompson’s gazelles, Kudu (lesser?), elephants (lots), ostriches, dik dik (heaps), zebra, water buck, tortoise, warthog, Oryx (Barnes?)  and interestingly a couple of jackals harassing a Kudu and the Kudu getting very angry. At Mzima Springs there is an underwater tank where we watched the fish (in the very clear water).
The roads in the park are generally in a bad state of repair.
We then drove to the Amboseli National Park gate. The road from Tsavo West to Amboseli is awful.  During this drive it rained very hard. There were great torrents of water running down the side of the roads. We engaged 4WD, stuck to the center of the road and made sure we stayed well clear of the edges.
We wanted to stay at the Community camp ground, but everything was poorly sign posted. Anyway, the camp ground we stayed at was well equipped with hot showers, flush loos etc. Oh, and room temperature beer.

Avril  driving; 186 km; S 020 44’ 15.3’’ E 0370 22’ 36.5’’





Day 11 –30/12/12
Fortunately it did not rain hard overnight. We had come to the Amboseli Gate to try and get a picture of Mt Kilimanjaro without clouds. We waited until mid morning and for a time it looked like the clouds may lift. But, it was not to be our day. We did get a picture of the lower reaches of the mountain.
We then drove back to Nairobi on good asphalt. We again needed to navigate our way along the Nairobi – Mombasa road. In some towns on the highway they have car washing points, complete with power spray cleaning etc. After the dirt of the past few days we decided to get the car washed. The man quoted KS 300 (~ $3.5). Maybe he underestimated the degree of difficulty, so anyway he got a big tip. We did a bit of shopping and we drove back to Jungle Junction to camp for a couple of days.

Avril  driving; 246 km



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