31 December 2010
Total Distance: 9739 km
Distance covered today: 347 km
Start: Jungle Junction, Nairobi, Kenya
Finish: Bush Camp, Samburu National Park, Kenya
The last day of 2010 and incredible that yet another year has gone by. Another year with dreams we have fulfilled and with many good memories to remember and the bad ones to forget.
We were in a hurry to leave the city madness of Nairobi and waved good bye to quite a large group of other vehicles doing similar trips than us but from north to south.
The landscape and vegetation changed constantly today. As we left Nairobi, with all its roadworks and traffic, we came upon large fields of pineapples and bought one off course. Apparently Nairobi has the best climate of any capital in the world and I won't argue because during the 15 or so times I have been there, the weather was always moderate. It is situated on 1600m nearly the same as Johannesburg. We climbed steadily to the foothills of Mt Kenya, Kenya's highest mountain standing over 5000m. On the fertile slopes of Mt Kenya basically everything grows - coffee, mangoes, bananas, potatoes. All of which we had to buy some off course. Plenty of wheat crops which reminded us to get some bread. There are lots of cattle farming which made us hungry and we headed to a place in Nanyuki which has apparently the best Nyama Choma (braai meat) Restaurant on the equator. In fact it is only about 1km north of it. At the entrance it said 'Meat Pub'. Now, for the first time in my life I was running through the doors of a 'pub'. And we were not disappointed. We picked 2 large pieces of meat and a lovely sweet bread which they prepare like a pancake and we filled ourselves on some top class wholesome vegetarian beef (they only ate grass).Stopped also at the supermarket which looks just like back home - not really to buy anything special but to wave goodbye to all the familiar goodies because from now on we won't see a proper shop for at least a week or 2. Not that that bothers us at all.
Soon after Nanyuki we dropped from 2600m to just over 1000m within minutes and we entered the semi-desert as we hit the frontier town of Isiolo. Here is an eclectic mix of people - the proud Samburu with their beautiful neck jewellery covering the whole neck, the near feminine faces of the Somali people and then even Islam influence with a mosque in the middle of town. The town is not sure whether it belongs to the rich highlands or the dry desert ever creeping closer to its doorway. We filled up with fuel as we won't get any again until maybe Marsabit and that is not even sure yet. Just outside town we are met by a sign to indicate the distances to Marsabit and Moyale (the Ethiopian border). Both sound very close with Moyale only 526km away but don't let the new tar fool you. This tar will run out tomorrow and we met overlanders at Nairobi who are telling stories of broken springs, destroyed shocks and mangled vehicles due to the rough road. The distance between Marsabit and Moyale is only 250km but the quickest we heard anyone doing this stretch is 7.5 hours!!! One person said it is the worst road they have been on in their entire lives. Bring it on we say. However, we are still full of bravado on the tar but I am sure that tomorrow when the road runs out 120km before we hit Marsabit, we will be crying for some proper roads. But as we say: Africa is not for sissies.
We entered my absolute favourite park in East Africa, called Samburu shortly after 2pm. Actually there are 3 parks adjacent to each other - Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba. How can I explain it to do it justice? It is a bit like the Kalahari, but not. It is a bit like Kruger, but not. It is a bit like Etosha, but not. It has plenty of the most beautiful umbrella acacias covering the grassy savannah with the Matthew Ranges mountains forming a formidable backdrop. Through the park runs a lazy river called Ewaso Nyiro and it is hugged by a hundreds of dhoum palms - the only palm tree that forks. The wildlife is completely different from anything most South Africans have seen. There is a funny looking Gerenuk, which looks a anorexic impala with giraffe neck and a face like E.T. that little out-of-space creature from the movies in the '80's. It stands on its hind legs to reach the higher leaves. Then the Beisa Oryx, slightly smaller than our gemsbok and the grevy zebra. I think it should have been called the Groovy Zebra, because it looks groovy with its very narrow stripes and round big ears. We also saw plenty of elephant and they are really relaxed as we got up to 2 meters away from a large herd completely ignoring our existence.
And tonight, the last evening of 2010, we are camping at the most idyllic camp spot ever. There is not a soul in sight apart from the rangers who are patrolling the area. We are next to the river underneath humongous acacia trees and not 50 meters from us we hear the rumble of the elephant eating close by. The moon is not up as yet and above us Orion stands guard amongst a million starts while the wind blows softly through the leaves cooling the hot day down and a welcoming fire is crackling away. We could not imagine spending the last day of 2010 on this tour any better.
We are thinking of our families and friends spending their day together and hope everyone is in good health and spirit and that you will all have a wonderful 2011.