Moyale to Nairobi
The road from Moyale in Kenya until nearly to Nairobi is, according to Thiemo and Debs, the worst road in Africa. We had, ahead of us, two days of solid driving through the northern desert of Kenya. The roads are in such a condition that we were to travel them at an average speed of no more than 25km/hr. In addition we had to make our targets each day, whether we broke down or not, as bush camping in this region is not an option - this is bandit territory. Tribespeople from Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan cross the borders in this region, taking cattle from others or exacting revenge for their own stolen cattle. They used to be armed with knives, but in later years guns have become readily available and the skirmishes have reached much more dangerous levels. And anyone camped by the road at night is fair game too - hence, no bush camping for us. About three years ago one of the little settlements we passed through along the road was attacked and all the inhabitants including the children were massacred. And so the rule was also that we not stop for anyone along the way either - just keep going at the steady speed and try not to break anything!
So it was 4am wake-up both days, breakfast at five and camp all packed up and cars ready to roll at 6am. We gathered at the police checkpoint in Moyale, where we were asked if we wanted a police escort. The NGOs and UN vehicles apparently avail themselves of this service, but Debs assured us that by day we were perfectly safe. Besides a policeman would have to ride on the roof rack - we all have only 2 seats in the cars.
We took off at 5 minute intervals to minimise driving through dust, but later we didn't need to keep such a big distance between us as there had been rain in the last few weeks and the dust wasn't too bad. The road wasn't too difficult in the 4WD sense of difficult, but there were lots of potholes, gravel, rough patches, washaways and corrugations. Speed had to be kept down so we didn't simply shake the vehicles apart. So hour after hour after hour we crept along knowing that it was going to be a 10 hour driving day.
As the day wore on and the heat took over, animal sightings were few, but we did spy dik-diks, squirrels, hornbills, storks, and at one stage a warthog leapt out in front of the car and ran across the road in front of us. We also saw a colony of Hyrax (Hyraxes??) on rocks at the side of the road, furry, tailless creatures about the size of a large guinea pig, the closest relatives of the elephant. We were hoping for an elephant, but alas we saw none except for a distant view in the rear vision mirror when one stepped out of the bush onto the road in front of the last vehicle in the convoy! There were camels, cattle, goats and donkeys with their human herders and a few scattered rather poor looking villages along the way.
By dusk on the first day, we had arrived at Marsabit National Park with the town of Marsabit on its border. To our surprise the vista from the road opened up and revealed that we were driving along the rim of a huge volcanic crater. It shouldn't have been so surprising really, as we had been travelling over basalt boulder-strewn countryside, and the hills annd mountains in the distance were old volcanic cones rising up out of the plain all around us. We are in the region of the African Rift and so all these volcanoes would have been a part of the tearing apart of the earth.
And so after having seen only about 6 other vehicles besides our own, on the road all day, we rocked into Marsabit for the night and camped at Jey Jey's, a secure campground in the town. The outside toilet especially opened up for us was without a doubt the worst one we have come across - ever... It was a basic footpad-for-your feet hole-in-the-ground. You could smell it from 10 metres away and the walls crawled with very large cockroaches. Then the best bit - look up and see the ceiling completely covered with the creatures! We declined to use it and were quite happy to walk the extra distance to the toilets inside the main hotel.
Next day was more of the same - a 6am start on the road and very slow going all day. Some sections of the road were 4WD with big washouts annd potholes. We shared the driving as we had the day before and that kept us more alert and rested. A couple of big trucks overtook us and sped away into the distance quite early, so that cleared any game off the road for us and all we saw was a babboon!
As we reached areas closer to the south of the desert, we saw more and more cattle, cattle herders and villages. Many of the people were Samburu and were dressed in traditional costume - beautiful brightly coloured cloth wrapped around them, massive stiff beaded necklaces around their shoulders, headdresses of beads and feathers and silver and gold ornaments. They were magnificent. The men carried spears, a nd both men and women carried huge double sided knives as big as machetes. Whether in town at the market or out herding their cattle along, they were finely dressed this way. We tried to take some photos without attracting attention - the Samburu don't like it as they think that the camera steals their soul. So most of the pictures I took are of their backs!
At last 11 hours of driving on the unsealed road was over and we hit the tar. We didn't try to push on to the campsite that Debs had planned as it was getting dark (remember the no driving at night rule...), so we pulled into another which proved quite adequate. But I don't have to tell you the showers were cold, and by morning the water was off...
The third day since the border would take us into Nairobi. The landscape was now becoming richer with beautiful farmland; no desert now. Even the verges of the road were being cultivated by enterprising farmers who were growing potatoes and peas and selling them in buckets by the road.
We crossed the Equator just north of Nairobi, but without the heat one would expect as we were still over 5000 feet high. We stopped for he obligatory photos but managed to resist the hordes of stall holders who descended upon us to try and part us from our money.
As the population increased along the way, we noticed increasing numbers of churches - they are all here from the Jehovah's Witnesses, Seven Day Adventists, Assemply of God and Caholics to the Deliverance Church, the Baptist Fathers' Home Family Church, the Christ is the Answer Ministries, the Glory Ministry, the Eternity Gospel Church and a dozen other Gospel Churches. Yep, they are all here.
And then the tough part of the day - Nairobi City centre. We had to drive through the centre to get to the campsite. Saturday afternoon ... piece of cake ...shouldn't be much traffic ...
If that was Saturday afternoon, then thank heavens it wasn't peak hour. Two lane roads had four lanes of traffic, three lane roads had five and sometimes six lanes when a matatu (minibus) would decide to use the pavement or road verge. We had to drive with the windows up and the doors locked, as grab and runs through even slightly open windows are common - and they did happen around us. Cars, matatus, bigger buses, trucks all constantly jostled for a few centimetres of road, squeezing into impossibly small spaces between vehicles, pushing, pushing, pushing until someone lost their nerve and gave way. Our side mirrors were pushed in by buses coming alongside, we saw one car run off the road and one accident - all in the one and a half hours it took to go a few kilometres. It was traffic chaos to rival Cairo!
Once through all that we eventually arrived at the best campsite ever!! Indaba Africa Camp at Karen outside Nairobi. Hot showers, clean toilets that flush and toilet paper supplied, good internet, grassy tent sites, lots of outdoor chairs to relax in, shady trees, television with BBC, a pool table, books, games and videos and a bar tab with cold drinks. It is a popular place with the overland trucks and each night we have been joined by large numbers of mostly young people on safari. We are here for a few days - it is almost the halfway point of our trip - the cars will have a thorough service and overhaul and we will catch up on our emails and the washing.
We are here for Christmas - things could be a lot worse!