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Nairobi - continuing saga through to Kenya

email update 12 March 2012


View Gen's African Cycle 2012 on gennesseb's travel map.

Hey team,

Wow, am sitting in a modern shopping mall in Nairobi, using a borrowed Mac computer...the things I am learning on this trip!!!!!

It is Sunday, shopping mall abuzz with people and I can hear church-type hymns in the background.....

Sadly there was a bomb blast in Nairobi central, at a bus station, last night, 3 dead 21 injured...noone has claimed responsibility as yet...previous couple of days we had to be bussed 175kms because two tribes were fighting and it was not safe to ride....we are so spread out during the day we would have been good targets. Apparently 14 people killed....it has been an ongoing war between these two tribes for a long time, even though they speak they same dialect, they are waring....pay back for something gone down years ago. Anyway, we are all safe.

So back to Ethiopia, which in retrospect was so safe and quiet.. the kids weren't into actually killing you, just annoying the "bejesus" out of you....

As Kenya gets closer, the colours in the women's clothing gets brighter and brighter and the coloured beads around necks in rows and rows....so impressive. Back on the bike after many days in the truck. I didn't attempt the dirt roads and hills...saving myself for the `'meltdown madness" section of Kenya....ha. The campsite at Yabello was a real treat after days and days of bush camping...trees, grass, washing facilities, showers.....well, dribbles of water from a funny shower rose...but water nonetheless.

From my tent I could look out and up to see the leaves of the big poinciana tree keeping my tent cool, a fruiting orange tree, and the biggest pawpaw tree ever....huge trunk with multiple boughs reaching way up high....fruit galore....oh for a ladder....

Lots of travellers sharing the grounds, from France, Italy and Germany mainly, all bird watchers, or "twitchers"...as they are called....they have their "own chef", a woman who had all the necessary containers for cooking, gas burners, and all the vegetables spread around her....kebabs and veges...mmmm. I settled for mixed juices and omelette for breakfast and the injura buffet lunch...wow...potatoes in hot sauce, spinach, cabbage/carrot mixture with spices, rice concoction and lots of it....yum.

Walked the small dusty town, sort of like the "last town before nothing for hundreds of kms, just desert". 2 service stations, lots of trucks with cattle filling up, lots of people waiting for the buses.... Visited a tiny butcher.....ooooo...two girls were eating thin slices of raw meat dipping it in a hot chilli sauce...the carcass just hanging there, no refrigeration. Not at all appetising... Settled for a cup of tea and fried bread with the locals in a tatty tent....the kids holding all the money....which is so used and dirty that it's a wonder it has any value at all.....coins have been produced to replace the paper, but the people still prefer the paper stuff... Nice to know that I'm not the only person who has difficulty with "change".....

One days ride to border town of Moyale - Kenya.....passing houses camouflaged so well with scrub bush and desert...lots of prickly bushes with brown acorn-looking bulks....not edible, even for the goats....wild camels grazing on the occasional tall tree branches...Huge hawk atop the african acacia tree....he took flight and came directly towards me.....ooohhh...am I dinner....was rather scary....he was just ginormous....could have picked up a goat or sheep in those talons!

While having a `"p" stop the familiar ozzi call of "cooee" came floating down the hillside....! I "cooed" back and got the usual response.... and thought "how visible am I", there on the side of the road!!!! A magical moment, in the middle of "nowhere".

Up onto the plateau, plains of patchwork fields of grain. Ruins of a castle...what's its history? Noone could tell me.... Local buses busy and crammed packed with people inside and blue and yellow plastic containers tied on top...flapping in the wind...the buses stop and disgorge people in the middle of nowhere....where are they going to? Emergence of motor bikes (postie bikes) about 7km before the border town....all young guys, so affluent to their neighbours of 10km before.

Border town busy, busy, busy...walked the streets trying to spend my Ethiopian dollars....western-style clothing, english football scarves and caps, so out of place, yet up-to-date for the locals. Where could I buy a traditional shawl....nowhere! The young men trawling the street...beep, beep, beep...calling "where you go" "what your name".....

Cross into Kenya, paid my $US50 visa and now ride on left hand side of road. I say the correct side, but all others have difficulty... Women's hair coiffure now in nets or scarves, so neat and clean looking.... How can children's behaviour towards us change so dramatically with just a "border crossing?" No stones, sticks or yelling...just waving, occasionally....all children are taught English at school so conversation much easier. Moyale border town small with good veggie market, dusty, no pavement or bitumen and, electricity by generator....cold drinks hard to find but consumed mango, bitter lemon, guava and fanta as well as three small bars of fudge chocolate....what a treat to find chocolate....I'm becoming obsessed with food.....

The road for the first 4 days is "meltdown madness". OMG.....I survived 3 days only....corrugations, potholed and sand...then lava rock the size of three story buildings....`(read large large rocks)..Nobody wants to go to Ethiopia from the south it seems.....didn't see any of the landscape while riding, just staying on the bike was hard work....up hill, uneven outcrops of rock and dirt, pick your way through, bump, bump. Fast riders thrashing their way through it all...how they stay upright is beyond me and not even on mountain bikes!!!! Lots of falls, a broken hip....guy flown to Nairobi for emergency operation - replaced smashed hip with metal....I fell twice, but luckily in the bull dust spots...how to unclip from pedal when grinding through that stuff at nought mile an hour?

Everyone filthy with red dust....no showers in bush camp....Somehow managed 3rd place in the women's time race that day....the others must have been dawdling at the coke stops.....First wind and rain storm.....whoosh...tents blown everywhere. Watched as girl with detached shoulder injury lay over her tent...we all laughed, then kindly went to her aid.....Luckily my tent zipped up tight, but unfortunately left air screens open....tent full of sand and dirt....Ahhhhhh but dry!!!! Grit for days in my clothing....the usual www (wet wipe wash) not really cutting it.....

The rain made riding in the sandy areas, a dream....just "hummed" along at a great rate.....of course all that changed when the lava rock appeared.....

This trip has seen lots of people injured and ill with gastro and UTI's....injuries include:
• male - broken hip (left the trip)
• female - broken ribs (rejoin in Nairobi)
• male - UTI in Khartoum- turned septic, rushed to Nairobi – nearly died....(gone back to NZ)
• male(our chef) - UTI - dispatched to Nairobi....off tour
• female & male - detached shoulder - takes 2 weeks to heal....as the Dr. said to the female....you'll never be a "shoulder model"...

Lots of gouges and scrapes on bodies from the lava rock.....miles and miles of black lava rock, mountains of it, spread everywhere, hardly any vegetation.....sort of moon-scapey.....had to walk in some of that section, just impossible to ride over....oh my aching hands....my bike performing admirably over such horrendous conditions - no punctures or split tyres like many of the others (yah Justin!!!!)....Where does all this rock come from.....? Where can you pitch a tent amongst it all...our first very hot night.....heat coming off rocks and ground and no breeze.....sweaty, naked people in tents!!!!!

Trucked the last day, only sighted a herd of wild camels on the horizon on the plain of yellow grass and lava rock....no humans....Then just one man and one camel.....Picture perfect but impossible to capture on film...shot to memory. Finally the "lava rock crater". Huge......how tall, wide, deep was that mountain to spray so much rock so far???? Another history search for my retirement years!!!

Trees....looked like a fake white tinsel christmas tree. No leaf, just silver thorns...and white greenish trunk. Quite spectacular really. They were everywhere in all shapes and sizes...great photo. Deep in the crater depths a green green lagoon.....but no animals, or sign of human life....maybe too far down to be worthwhile....?

The corrugations so bad that the truck battery rattled free and lost.....the back truck didn't see it....probably picked up by one of the livestock trucks going the opposite way towards Ethiopia.. our loss their gain.... Lots and lots of tracks, trucks choosing their own way through, sliding and slipping in the sand, but better than the corrugations.....poor cattle, they must suffer!

Lots of riders in the truck....veritable sardines...road just too difficult, plus strong head wind...The town of Marsabit, where I ended my last email.....the convent and the business "nuns".....

Even though we are in Kenya, Islam still the main religion so far....although have seen SDA church and other Christian denominations, but the mosque still doing the usual prayer call for hours and hours.

Leaving Marsabit the landscape changed constantly, from thick forest/jungle to desert plain....it was a "mando" day, but I struggled with the roadscape!!!! Finally got "swept"....in TdA talk that means "you are last"....Am now officially a tail-ender...

Got to visit a village where a wedding had taken place the day before. The proud father came to our campsite and asked us to come and see the bride and her new house but secretly I think he wanted to show off the 6 new cows he received as "dowry". The bride very young, only 16, but husband also young. She one of 10 children. Eldest two visited from Nairobi for the occasion, both wearing western clothes, both at University. Very expensive, $250US per year just for fees. Nothing to us but a huge drain on people here. The young bride not to have the education. New house, an oval-shaped construction, bottom half made of upright sticks, top half covered with plastic, hessian bags and hides.....not lucky enough to get a view inside. She was very shy, covered her head and half her face with shawl. Her mother was busily plucking the bits of dried skin off a donkey hide, a wedding present. Mother was small and thin with beautiful beaded hoop necklace and arm bracelets. Her earlobes stretched from wearing heavy earrings....Her youngest child clinging to her back, aged about 2yrs....We had hoped to see some ceremonial dancing, but were too late.... The village kids gathered round us and we took lots of photos of them....they scream with joy and laugher when they see the picture of themselves. Maybe for the first time????? They are just like any kid, pull, push, show me, show me. A warm, special occasion.

Lots of "warriors" in town....what a sight...Samburo tribe. Who said men shouldn't wear pink....just stunning cloth and pink head-dress, feathers and beads...long staffs in hand and also BIG knives, like a cane knife.....Apparently "warriors" are the men who have not been educated, or choose not to go to school.....unfortunately no photos allowed.....up close they are just so handsome, in a raw sort of way!!!! They roam the town and outer areas, and probably involved with the tribal fighting of days previous....an odd feeling when I saw them walking along the road, so strong and forceful looking. I was in the truck and wondered if we were safe....?

Pub life big in small towns....nothing changes eh???? But no electricity, so warm beers....ooooo...not so good. Rode home with our security guards in back of pick-up truck....standing up, holding on to the overhead rails.....Yeh, freedom.....a total NO NO in Australia of course....

Still riding on the dirt, and corrugations....forgot to okistrap my back tail bag.....didn't realise it was gone until I couldn't hear the rattling......Oh well, camera, money (not much), sunscreen, notebook.....etc....happily under someones arm......? Luckily a following rider picked it up about 5kms after I lost it.....Note to self.....strap on the oki.....

The "bussed section" was interesting....60 people watching for tribal fighting and, hoping for giraffes....saw neither...just two running ostrich.....gave us hope for something bigger and better......fantastic mountain formations loomed out of the plains as we zoomed along.....the noise of the bus so great you couldn't have a conversation......not your super luxury number with toilet and TV....lots of "game park lodges", so feel like the real Kenya now. Coke stop: everyone off the bus, but no photos!!!! One young boy came up and asked me for money....when I replied "no money", he said "arsehole" and walked off!!! I laughed to myself and thought "such good command of the english language...."

So good to be back on bitumen...weeehaaaaa.....white lines, even on the side.....but with the good comes the bad....traffic...how spoilt have we been.....now we have peugots, toyotas, nissan, honda cars whizzing past as speed greater than light.....the noise factor is unbelievable....and, who cares if you are a bike....cars own both sides of the road, even your side when they're coming from the opposite directions. Spent my day "waving" people off my side of the road.....lots of riders just took to the dirt....although at one time, drivers behind were tired of waiting for the truck to pass us so took to the dirt left hand lane.....thankfully I'm used to Townsville drivers!!!!!

Now into the christian religion scene. Islam, nowhere to be seen now. The churches of "everything" are here....women are dressed in sombre western clothes with low high heel shoes....they look like they're heading off to church for a "hallelujah meeting" with lots of toe tapping and swaying....signs on shops - "faith supermarket", "nice and lovely faith saloon (think they meant, salon as was hairdresser.....maybe a quick drink while having hair cut????? Kids all dressed in school uniforms, schools everywhere. Good sign, most of them church schools.

Approaching the Equator now.....warm weather.....mmmmm on the day we crossed, the morning temperature was 4.3deg....everyone looking for their winter woollies!!!!! Gosh it was cold, but clear beautiful day to celebrate the crossing.... Views to Mt Kenya....snow on the slopes...no wonder it was chilly....

So guys, gotta go, washing to get off line and tent to get together before heading off to Arusha tomorrow....2days to get there and then 4 days off.....trip to Serengetti...

Will catch up sometime soon.....hope the emails aren't too boring....lots of talk about food...

Will continue with the rest of Kenya sights then....it is a pretty amazing country even if the first half was hard going....

Take care, thanks for all the emails....sorry I haven't replied to many of you. As always, time is tight.....

Sleep well, laugh lots and remember to be happy. Stay safe

Luv to my Mum, sister and Abigail....the Beadman girls...

Posted by gennesseb 16:51 Archived in Kenya

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