Life on the Road
While resting for a few days here in Nairobi , I thought some of you might be interested in how the trip is going day to day. This really is life on the road - all we own is packed in the back of the car. If it doesn't fit, it doesn't come. Shelter, clothes, food, spares for the car - it's all here with us.
The Land Rover is the car we all have. Thiemo bought them all in London, had much of the servicing and fitting out done there and then had them shipped to Aqaba where he worked on them some more before handing them over to us.
The back seats have been removed and a platform built so that we have storage room under and on top of the shelf. We were supplied with 5 large plastic crates to store our own things in, and some more fit right at the back under the shelf with general spares for all the cars. So we have a box each for our clothes, a box for food and sundries, one for our plates, cups etc, and one that is full of all the things we need in the tent and that we just take straight there. Just behind our seats is a cooler that plugs into the cigarette lighter for cool drinks and to stop chocolate melting (very important...). There is still room to put our cabin bags in the car, which store our computer, camera gear, toiletries, souvenirs, books and maps and all the stuff we want to put our hands on quickly. A plastic bag full of toilet paper is always accessible!
On top of the car is a lockable box which stores the tent, the tent fly and poles and a ground sheet we bought in the market in Gonder. The tent is an Oztent which is quick-erect - literally in less than a minute. We were also supplied with folding stretchers, a folding table and two folding camp chairs. We brought along self-inflating mattresses, sheets, pillows and sleeping bags, along with towels, washing line and pegs and torches. We are quite comfortable and have generally been more comfortable on our own beds than on most of the hotel mattresses.
Debs caters and cooks for us wherever we camp. We purchase our own meals when in hotels. Given that she has limited food to choose from in many places, she always comes up with very tasty meals - no-one is ever hungry. And so far we don't seem to have had the same meal twice! Lunch was a stop along the way when we were in more remote areas, but as the countryside has become more populated and areas to pull off have been less available, we have made sandwiches to take with us each morning.
We rise at an agreed time, get the tent and other gear packed up annd then have breakfast. After that we are off to our destination. Sometimes it is follow-the-leader; other times we drive at our own pace and meet up at the end. We have radios in the cars and can, when we are within range, talk to the others. In difficult road conditions such as the desert crossing in northern Kenya, we keep in radio contact and the leader car warns of conditions such as washaways or oncoming traffic. At times like this Thiemo is the last vehicle, so that he can fix any breakdowns or other problems as he comes across them.
On reaching a camp, showers and toilets loom large in our minds - will they have them; will they work; will they be clean; will there be water. Priorities! We then set up camp and settle down with beers and other refreshments till dinner. While Debs does the cooking, we all do the washing up with all hands on deck. Mostly our days have been long and tiring and it's usually not long before we slope off to bed.
Bush camping at least ensures that the toilets are clean! That is because we dig them for ourselves. And a shower is non-existent - a wash is all you get. Oddly enough, the lack of a daily shower ceases to bother you. Clothes are washed whenever you get the chance and enough water. We bought a barrel with a screw top in Amman and we pack it with dirty clothes, water and detergent. On goes the top, it goes into the car annd the bumpy roads do the washing for us. A quick rinse at the destination, onto the line and that's it. We both brought with us only adventure type clothing - Kathmandu brand and the like. It dries so quickly that we haven't had to pack too much clothing at all. It has been most successful.
It is quite a pleasure to stay more than a day in one place - less packing and unpacking, and more time to sleep in an extra half hour. And obviously those are the days you go exploring. We have always stayed in great locations everywhere and are only a walk away from interesting places.
We are now halfway through our 16 week adventure. While, if we were traveling alone, we would have liked to stay longer in many places, we know that the trip has a schedule and so we keep moving. We are certainly seeing all the highlights, and more, along the way and, being on the ground so to speak, we are meeting many of the locals and seeing life in these places at first hand. A normal organised tour could never give you what we are experiencing.
It is all very exciting and we have loved every minute so far.
After our horrendous entrance to the city through all the traffic, we stayed put for 5 days at Indaba Africa Camp on the outskirts of Nairobi at Karen. Time to have some R and R in one spot at the halfway point of the trip. Still plenty to do though...
We had our first experienceof a matatu - the minivans that are used as local bus transport. With Hans and Jenny, we hailed one and were squeezed into the seats. Three seats across accommodates 5 people, and a van licenced for 14 passengers can easily get 17 or 18 into the back. On the way back, we got into another one to return to camp. And an almighty argument erupted outside the van. Apparently, we should have got into the one in front, but as we are charged more than the locas for a trip, our "conductor" (well, the man who takes the fare and squeezes people in) didn't want to loose us. So we sat and waited for 10 or more minutes while things were heatedly sorted out. And then our driver was not keen on going because he didn'e have enough passengers! Eventually we left, picking up more and more along the way
Nairobi National Park was just down the road - in fact, we could hear lions roaring at night! It is right on the edge of the city and the city skyline can be clearly seen. We had a full day driving around the park in our car and saw too many animals to list ( and bore you with). The highlight though was coming across a pair of lions resting in the grass - lions are notoriously difficult to spot and we we really lucky that we turned down a small track and saw them.
Witin the park is the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, so we made another trip there. This has been set up to rescue baby elephants that have lost their motherthrough one cause or another, such as poaching for ivory, and to rehabilitate them and release them back to the wild. This process mostly takes about 7 or 8 years. Once a day for an hour they open to the public and bring along firstly a group of babies only months old and then an older group up to about 2 years old. They are fed and then allowed to play with water and mud, and with balls and a truck inner tube. The entry fee is a donation to furthe their work, and it was well worth the visit.
Christmas was spent at the camp. The camp is generally quite busy with overlander trucks coming and going all the time. But we had the camp to ourselves for most of the day until late afternoon when a small truck came in. The only others there were the managers and staff and their family. On Christmas Eve, there was a goat tied up to the entrance gate, and the poor thing kept getting its rope tangled in the trees. We heard it bleating all day - sometimes it sounded exactly like, "Help, help"... Later in the day, it seemed so happy to be led away from its predicament. But alas, it was unaware of its fate.
The family set up a big rotisserie over a BBQ on Christmas day - big enough for a whole goat in fact...
Debs went all out and set up a wonderful brunch under the trees. The table was stocked with ham, smoked salmon and mackeral, salads, nuts, olives, sweets, crackers, party poppers, and champagne and orange! Later she and Thiemo went off to friends, so we had other plans.
Down the road is a famous institution called Bomas of Kenya. We wandered down early for the 3.30pm dance and music show. No sooner had we settled in our seats in the auditorium, when at five past three, the show started! Just as well we we early. There was a mixed bag of traditional dance and music with marvellous costumes, as well as comedy skits (which left us a bit non-plussed) and acrobats in zebra costumes doing tumbling and the like to the most frenetic and unmusical squeezebox in existence. There were few foreigners, and the hall became progressively packed with locals as the afternoon wore on. They especially liked it when a muzungu (white person) was dragged onto the stage to try to dance - it was met with huge cheers and laughter. They obviously enjoy seeing muzungus making a fool of themselves! After that we went to the adjacent restaurant for dinner and these muzungus made suitable fools of themselves when Fred produced his hand-made crackers and hats! Those who had the steak spent the rest of the evening enjoying getting it out of their teeth - the chicken was a much better choice, and for a change it wasn't the usual African Racing Chicken that is the norm here.