First of all we wish you a very happy, successful, healthy and adventurous 2017!
We kicked off the New Year in the Netherlands by taking a 10 day break from our travels to be with family and friends. Now we are back on track and ready to share some of the amazing experiences we’ve already had this year.
Going back to 14 December 2016 where we meet the most friendly border crossing officer we’ve met so far. We are invited into his office and offered a glass of water whilst we have to tell everything about our trip. He gets our entry documents ready and we discuss the current health situation in Kenia, which is a hot topic on the TV in the office. Most of the doctors and nurses are on strike to achieve higher salaries and especially the people in the rural areas, where hygiene issues are a problem, suffer big time. We all hope this issue is solved before the holiday season, so everyone can enjoy time with family and friends in good health. Now looking back, the issue is unfortunately still not solved with only private hospitals operating that only 50% of the population can afford. Very unthinkable for us. Whilst we continue talking, a stream of people singing and shouting in traditional clothes dances past the office. Also in Kenia they celebrate the circumcision of boys in December. Eventually we drive through the stream of people who are dancing and singing around our car so Toetoe becomes part of their celebrations.
Our first stop after the very dusty Suam boarder road is Kitale, where we are welcomed by a British Lady that looks after disabled foster children. Its a very friendly and quiet camp site and the first thing we do is un-dusting the car. Toetoe has never been so dirty and luckily we get assistance from some cute little kids.
The next day we enjoy some home cooked English breakfast whilst we listen to a Mosque prayer that is screaming out of the speakers around town for almost 2 hours. Wow, we’ve become a bit used to it but 2 hours is too much! Apparently it’s a special kids day which is only once in a while, so aren’t we lucky….
We drive through the Great Rift Valley, the scenery from the movie “Out of Africa” and climb up to 2200m before we enjoy a long ride downhill through gorges and along cliffs, with views over Lake Baringo. Half way through however we smell something burning and when we get out of the car we see smoke coming of the breaks….they are overheated….shit! We check and see both of our front break disks completely worn out. We decide to wait, let them cool down for half an hour and continue only breaking on the motor. This definately needs a fix in Nairobi!
We drive off to get back on the road when a car takes a hairpin turn way too fast, slips, loses control and spins 360 degrees missing us by a hair. We are in shock! Our first experience of bad driving behaviour in Kenia that everyone warns us about. Lets be very careful….
Early the next day we continue our trip to Lake Naivasha further down south. We drive past huge swamp areas, hotsprings and see storks flying in and out of their nests: looking at all the small storks and many baby donkey’s and zebras we figure it’s breeding season. Very cute all these tiny animals..
Just after crossing the equator for the second time this trip we see a sign of the “Hygienic Butchery”. Since it is lunchtime, and we like the sound of a hygienic butcher, we decide to pop in and order some local meat dishes. Very tasty stews served with chipati. Delicious!
Arriving at lake Navaisha we fold open our rooftop tent under yellow fever trees, overlooking the lake. A hippo wades in the shallow waters and shares his lunch with a bunch of white herrons, sitting around and on top of him. Always entertaining to see. We eat a massive pizza, listen to some good old music and fall into a deep sleep.
The next morning it’s terror time! Ever since we stayed at Joop & Sabine’s place in Kigali in Rwanda, and joined their personal training session, we organise our own terror Tuesday & Saturday. Because the driving stiffens up our muscles, we make sure we do excercise almost every day: running, yoga and… terror! And today is double terror! After our hour of tough excercise, we rent two mountain bikes and start our trip to a crater lake only 20km away. What we don’t realise is that the road includes two steep climbs and over 8km of deep sand and potholes… Super exhausting. However, it becomes all worth it when we cycle past many giraffes and zebras, some of them only meters away. The true beauty of Africa! We enjoy a big lunch buffet at the crater lake lodge and go all out, before cycling back another 20km.
In sharp contrast to our previous very quiet night, this night we are rudely disturbed by an overland truck with about 20 middle-aged schoolkids from Nairobi. When they arrive at 9.30 at night, we are in bed already for half an hour and deep asleep. They start to set up their camp, cook, laugh and play loud games. Not a massive issue, but when it is still going on at midnight, we loose our patience and ask them to be quiet. This unfortunately only works for 5 minutes… At 2am we are over it and go out and tell them in a less friendly way to shut up!
After a broken night we clean out our car since we are about to store it for 10 days in Nairobi. Whilst doing our cleaning we see the schoolkids walk towards the lake and towards our good old friend mister hippo. He must have had a rough night too, because when the kids come too close he turns around with lightening speed and sprints towards them. One of the guys can only just jump behind a tree to avoid being run over. We watch and think it is quite funny: justice is served! Little fact: out of all animals (besides musquitos) hippos kill most people in Africa, so you better keep a safe distance…
One of the beautiful aspects of Africa is the community feel, the fact that even strangers treat eachother like family. When we are on a hike, the guide knocks on random doors to ask for water, ladies pick up strange kids when they are crying and here, at the carwash, a random customer corrects the carwash employee when he does something “wrong” to our car. The employee just accepts it. In the Netherlands it would have ended up in a swearing competition, telling the customer to mind his own business.
Driving towards Nairobi, we stop along the road to buy some vegetables. “Can we have 4 potatoes and 2 tomatoes please”. The lady puts on a big smile and gives Linde a high-five. She then grabs 4 big buckets of potatoes and pours them in a few bags. We look at eachother and realises she misubderstood us. “Sorry, we meant 4 potatoes, not 4 buckets…”. For a second she is dissapointed, since she sees this nice deal go past, but then she starts smiling again and gives us 12 potatoes for the price of 4. It again shows the African community spirit as no-one cooks for 2 people but only for full families.
We continue our journey towards Nairobi. Traffic is absolutely freightning, as we have many near dead experiences with overtaking cars. Only one day earlier 55 people died on this road when a fuel truck collided with another vehicle and exploded. Traffic in Kenya is nuts! We really feel relieved when we arrive alive in Nairobi.
Jungle Junction is our campsite and is one of the most famous overland campsite in Africa. We meet many others who are doing the same kind of trip: some of them on bike, on motors, cars like us and even in busses. We leave the car here to have it properly serviced and fixed, whilst we fly to the Netherlands for Christmas. But before we fly, it’s time to spend two nights in the luxury of Hilton Nairobi to smoothen the transition from crazy Africa to the western walhalla. We have dinner with Martin, the Dutch GM, who has been in Kenya for 9 years so we share a lot of our experiences.
Trying to organise our Ethiopian visa is our main aim for today, but it turns out to be a very long and frustrating day at the Ethiopian embassy. Even after 7 hours of talking, pleading and walking from embassy to consulate and back for 6 times, we still get a very stubborn “no”… Apparently the letter we organised from the Dutch embassy is not accepted. “You can only fly to Ethiopia, unless your country wants to take full responsibility for you in Ethiopia, and your letter doesn’t state that”. So no visa for us, very annoying! Now we have to apply in the Netherlands.
A leap in time, it’s the 3rd of January now…
The car is fully fixed (or at least we think) and we catch up with our Canadian friends to try some of the many great local craft beers before we drive to the Amboseli National Park the next day.
Amboseli is the park from where you have the famous views of Mount Kilimanjaro. An absolute stunning part of the World! Swamps, desert, savannah, salt lakes, palm forests and all with a backdrop of this magnificant mountain. The amount of animals and the diversity of animals in this park is quite bizar. Just during our lunch break we see elephants, buffalos, warthogs, zebra, impala, springbok, waterbok, hyena, crested crane and many other birds around us. It’s a real “theatre of the wild”!
At night we light a fire and have long and good conversations under the stars. It puts our current situation in perspective, mainly the differences of 10 hectic days in the Netherlands and sitting under the stars here in Africa.
We are in Masai land again, and it is great to see the beautifully dressed tribes in their villages and along the road. Unfortunately their culture is a bit spoiled by tourism. They want money for everything, sometimes even for chatting to them. It’s quite a shame actually. Fortunately we find some very nice and helpful Masai and we have some basic chats talking with hand and feet. “Me Masai, me no English”.
Roads change from tar to gravel back to tar and gravel quite frequently, and we normally inflate and deflate our tires when a long stretch of another surface is ahead of us. Just like today. We however are a bit lazy and ask at a petrol station to inflate our tires from 2 to 3 bar. We pay a small fee and drive off again, only to feel that not much has changed. A quick check learns that no air has been added at all… We have been screwed. Not the first time, welcome to Africa! TIA…
We drive further towards the coast and are told we have to join a security convoy because the area is unsafe. We actually don’t feel like it and chat to the security guards to find out whether there is another way. We are directed to some tiny tracks and drive for hours through the rural but beautiful landscape, avoiding the convoy. The only dangerous thing that we encounter is a tornado that runs straight through our car. 10 seconds of absolute no visibility and loss of control over the car is the result. Nothing serious but quite scary!
After a few hours of off-road driving we get to Mombasa road. This road… This road… This road may be the most dangerous road in Africa. It certainly is the road with most trucks in Africa! It also certainly is a hell on earth… There is not one car that just keeps its lane: overtaking left, right, overtaking an overtaking car, avoiding potholes, it all seems to be perfectly normal to drive on the wrong side of the road. They simply flash their lights when they come driving at you with dazzling speed, as if saying: “this is my lane, bugger off!”.
Exhausted after a long day driving we arrive in Kilifi. Entering Kilifi looks like entering San Trope; white beaches, big beautiful boats and, to African standards, lots of places to go out. Walking into the restaurant of our campsite, we bump into Helga & Rinus again, two other Dutch overlanders who follow the same route north as we do. We have some pizza and drinks, and discuss some possibilities to travel Sudan together.
We end up staying for 1 week in this beautiful place, at an even more beautiful house of the uncle of a friend of us. Paradise! And while Toetoe gets fixed again we are enjoying the Kilifi lifestyle including runs along the beach, snorkling in marine reserves, deep sea fishing, lots of drinks and lovely food!
It’s hard to say goodbye to Kilifi, but we have to move on. To avoid the horrible Mombasa Road, we decide to drive straight through the hart of Kenya through Tsavo NP. This means driving off road for the next 500km. Just before exiting what is most likely the last game park we will see in Africa, we are farewelled by a large hurd of big red elephants, with the biggest tusks we have ever seen. Some of the tusks almost touch the ground… Amazing!
After the 500km off-road we finally see tarmac again, and continue the drive up north towards Ethiopia. Along the road we see people of a new tribe: the Samburu. Beautiful people with the most amazing decorated necks and heads: beads, feathers and jewellery. Very colorful, and a indication of the many different and very intriguing tribes that live here and in Southern Ethiopia.
We are now surrounded by rough desert, lots of red sand with low scrub, contrasted by a sharp backdrop of the mountains and rockformations along the horizon. A group of camels crosses the road, something we expect to see more off in the coming weeks.
Whilst the sun is setting we are only 25km away from today’s stop. But it seems Toetoe does not like off road and long drives, and Kenya doesn’t want us to leave. Because besides the 3 quick stops we have along the way for small fixes, she now breaks down quite badly. This time leaving us at the side of the road in the middle of the desert, with only minutes of daylight left, in an area that is recommended to be avoided where possible… Not good… For an hour we try to fix the issue, but with not much success, so we find ourselves under an amazing sky filled with stars, but with a bit of an anxious feeling of how this is going to end… We manage to drive for another 2km, where we come to a standstill again next to a truck that has broken down as well. Together we work on eachothers cars, and manage to get the truck up and running for him to tow us to our campsite. It is 10pm by now, and dark for over three hours. We always promise ourselves not to drive in the dark, but this time it was ToeToe who didn’t come to the party. Africa stays unpredictable!
So here we are, in Marsabit, waiting for spare parts to come from down south, so hopefully we can cross the border into Ethiopia tomorrow. We will keep you posted!