Kenya Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Jambo from Kenya

I had been looking forward to the challenge of the Northern Kenya for many months. The road from the Ethiopian border has much hype surrounding it, and is widely known as the worst road of the entire Cape to Cairo journey. It also boasts some particularly nasty armed bandits that prey on passers-by. Charming.

After a quick 200km run through the last bit of Ethiopia I completed Kenyan immigration & customs formalities in record time (less than five minutes). I enquired about the security situation with the sole policeman at the border & he said there were no problems at all...this week. I didn't enquire about the previous week.

Although I had plenty of time while on this road to think about how I could describe it, I couldn't come up with anything that gives an accurate portrayal without sounding obtusely exaggerated. For a high-level description; the length is approx. 520kms between the border and the first tarmac. There is one village with accommodation & fuel, half way along this distance. The first half is characterised by muddy ruts almost meter deep at times, and an incredibly rocky surface the rest. The second half is nothing but corrugations, mostly irregular and some so large they have smaller corrugations inside them. Due to my light baggage weight and more offroad biased bike I was able to set a faster pace than most can on this road in did it in two days rather than four.

Day one was incredibly physically demanding and during a particularly rocky section I didn't leave first gear for almost an hour, making my progress over 10kms considerably slower than my best 10k running time. Thankfully I only had a few sightings of nasty looking armed characters lurking on the side of the road. Most gestured for me to slow down & stop but I tended to do quite the opposite. I also managed to keep the bike (and myself) from submitting to the pull of gravity, although the bike did suffer four small dents on the front rim, one on the rear and a flat front tyre from one of the harder knocks. The bushveld along the road was quite picturesque and there was plenty of small antelope and some baboons along the way. There was also an interesting looking crater (to left).

At the stopover town called Marsabit I just about collapsed onto the farm of a Swiss guy (and family) who offer tented or mud hut accommodation. As per the photo's below the interior is considerably easier on the eye than the exterior. They sold me a few bottles of lager, a loaf of home baked bread and a wedge of homemade swiss cheese, which perked me right up after the tiring day.

Day two was mentally tiring where day one was physical, as the corrugations never ceased for almost the entire day and the 270kms to tar took almost seven hours. Some of the corrugations were like riding camel humps featured on motocross tracks. I started noticing more of the aggressive looking Samburu tribesman along the road, immaculately attired in their traditional get-up and carrying assegais. At one point I came across three teenage tribesman walking their herd of camels along the road. As usual they gestured for me to stop. When they realised I wasn't going to comply one of the chaps launched himself at me with assegai leading the charge. It was probably a mock gesture but afterwards I decided to ride just in front of the only other truck I encountered going the same direction as me, even though it was pushing an uncomfortably faster pace. My bike (a.k.a The Wind Eater) performed amazingly during these two days. Unfortunately the corrugations wrote off the memory card in the smaller of my two camera's so no photo's of the rough stuff until I can try & salvage them.

I finally reached the end of the bad road and start of the tar, and given my square rims and slowly deflating front tyre I pushed-on all the way to Nairobi. Along the way I stopped for a few photos at the Equator and then continued on in the equatorial rain past a hidden Mt. Kenya. I finally arrived at the well known and well appointed overlanders hangout of Jungle Junction in Nairobi. There were many other travellers at JJ's and even more bikes getting serviced by the owner of the establishment. Most travellers were in 4X4's and heading North, and I picked up some very useful information on routes off the beaten track further South. I remained at JJ's for a few days, servicing my bike and repairing a few bits of my luggage arrangement that had taken strain on the rough road.

I left Nairobi (which was strangely my most favourite of the large cities I'd been through so far) and headed South towards Tanzania. Some of the less hardy travellers look forward to travelling from Nairobi to Cape Town as it can be done on tarmac all the way. Given this, and the revived health of my bike I decided to take a much lesser known route on dirt roads through a remote part of Kenya towards a tiny border at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The road (pictured to left) was most enjoyable to ride and part of it passed through a game park, where I briefly road alongside a galloping herd of Zebra & Wildebeest.

It was also on this road that I had a chance encounter with another rider. The charity I'm highlighting on my site assist a few remote areas of Africa with healthcare & medicine by training nurses & doctors how to ride and supplying them with 200cc Yamaha's and offroad riding gear. I noticed a Riders For Health sticker on this guys bike (just like the one on my bike) and had to stop him for a chat. He was taking some supplies to a remote village on this road. I explained that I was trying to raise a tiny amount of cash for them (please donate here) and we took a few photo's. We rode on together until the next village and his ability on the bike was quite remarkable.

As I approached the border I started to see Mt. Kilimanjaro but unfortunately in the rainy season there is nothing more to see than a few low lying clouds. I hadn't heard of anyone who had used this border so it was a gamble but thankfully passing through was Hakuna Matata (no problem). The staff at the tiny border post were pleased to be able to process the 182nd person through the border for the year.

I was looking forward to the beaten track that continued on the other side of the border and then getting back to the coast for the first time since Egypt.

# posted by Mark @ 08:32