23.Christmas in Kenya - 6 December 2009 to 1 January 2010
A completely hassle-free and fast border crossing back into Kenya on 6 December, and from there we drove to Kisumu on the shores of Lake Victoria- Barack Obama's father was born in a village nearby. We then drove on to Kericho further down the road, the tea growing capital of Kenya, with its beautiful landscape of tea bushes covering the expanse of undulating hills. We had thought we might camp here behind the Tea Hotel, however it didn't appeal and we still had time to get to Kembu Campsite on the working farm, where we had stayed on our way to Uganda and Rwanda. Here we met two delightful girls from Canada, one of whom was working in Khartoum in Sudan as a flight attendant for the UN. She works 8 weeks on, 8 weeks off, so was taking advantage of some time off to travel around Kenya with her friend.
Leaving Kembu Campsite early with more beautiful fresh farm eggs, we planned to arrive in Nairobi early in the day to start the process of getting our visas for the countries to the north of Kenya - Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. Unfortunately, this was definitely not one of our better days, experiencing both corruption and theft on the one day. On the way to Nairobi we were stopped by police to be told that our vehicle had a speed limit of 80km/hr as it was in the category of a pick-up truck. To avoid what we were told should be a court appearance, we paid a huge speeding fine on the spot, very annoyed but relieved to be on our way again.
We then drove on to Nairobi, and having put in our Ethiopian visa application, walked to the building in which we had thought we would find the Egyptian Embassy. We foolishly squashed into an elevator to the seventh floor only to find that the address in the guide book was completely out of date. It was only when we were walking back out in the street that we realised Brian's wallet was gone, removed from a front pocket of his trousers, almost certainly when we were in the crowded lift. Luckily the damage was minimal, with only a small amount of money and no credit cards in the wallet. But all in all, it was definitely a day to forget. However, over the next few days we did manage to get our Ethiopian and Sudanese visas, although it seems we can only get the Egyptian visa when we arrive at the border.
We camped at Jungle Junction in the middle of Nairobi again, a great place to meet other independent overland travellers and swap information and campsites. Bob and Maria were already there, as well as Liz and Peter whom we had met at Ruaha National Park in Tanzania. Over the next 8 days we met so many people, including a South African couple we had been communicating with even before we left home, who were suddenly camped right next to us. It was also an opportunity to get all the city jobs done - car service, new tyres, gas bottles filled etc. And we got to know some great shopping centres and where to find the best coffee!
We eventually left Jungle Junction on 18 December after goodbyes and Merry Christmases to everyone in the camp. We were setting off to spend Christmas at Watamu, north of Mombasa and a short distance south of Malindi on the Kenyan coast. We had booked a campsite at Oceansports Resort, and Bob and Maria were initially going to join us, however Maria flew back to South Africa to see her son before he left for Korea, and Bob decided to stay at Jungle Junction for Christmas. Dickie, Claire and the girls were booked into Turtle Bay Resort close by where they cater for young families. And then Liz and Peter decided they would join us on the coast in a couple of days' time.
The Nairobi-Mombasa road was a nightmare, with so many trucks on the road and mad crazy cars as always travelling way too fast, dodging in and out of the slow trucks with seconds to spare. We passed many-broken down trucks, with the customary broken-off tree branches at intervals before and after the breakdown to warn oncoming cars, a great substitute for reflective triangles! There were also the usual mini-bus taxis and larger buses filled to the brim with passengers, and stacked to double their height with luggage, belongings, charcoal or whatever, and constantly braving the wrong side of the road when they shouldn't have been. There were also quite a few Masai villages along the way.
The campsite at Oceansports was a complete shock, especially considering we had booked in mid-November. There were no other campers, in fact it felt like we might have been the first for 2009. There was very little shade, it was rather uncared for, and although we had been aware it would be situated behind the rooms, we hadn't imagined it would be quite so far down the back - even past the staff quarters! On the positive side, the bathrooms were clean and the showers were hot, and the resort itself was excellent - great pool, great beach and ocean views from the bar and restaurant, great food, and the beers were not overpriced! So guess where we spent most of our time - certainly not at the campsite. If it hadn't been so expensive, we would probably not have bothered to lodge a complaint, but Liz and Peter did the same when they arrived, so we did manage to negotiate a cheaper rate without the Christmas supplement.
But we thoroughly enjoyed the beach experience and snorkelled once and swam often in the Indian Ocean, the beach quite protected by a coral reef off-shore. We also met up with Claire and Dickie and his brother a couple of times, and enjoyed Liz and Peter's company, and also met a young family from Nairobi who arrived at the campsite on Christmas Eve. She was originally from France and he was from the UK though born in Zambia, and worked for the UN. Their two young daughters spoke both French and English and we enjoyed watching them enjoy their Christmas morning under their little African made-of-wire Christmas tree.
After Boxing Day we braved the road back to Nairobi, though there were far fewer trucks, but more buses packed with people returning after spending time with family over Christmas. So it was back to Jungle Junction, and it felt like arriving back home, with so many people we knew returning after Christmas before continuing on their journey north or south.
Now the preparations for our trip north into Ethiopia begin, and we have planned to travel in a convoy of four families - Bob and Maria; Dickie, Claire and the girls; Liz and Peter; and ourselves. We all want to travel the more remote route east of Lake Turkana and into Ethiopia through the Omo Valley, and plan to leave on New Years Day.