Kenya

Day 56:  5th August 2009

 

Marsabit: 164 miles

 

A: Up nice and early, we had a quick breakfast of scrambled eggs and fresh bread then went about trying to order 8 boiled eggs with 4 bread rolls to take-away (for lunch) which puzzled the staff no end. Joel needed fuel so set off to the petrol station only to discover there wasn't any as the power was down so the owner kindly siphoned  fuel out of his own car and gave it to Joel for free as he thought he was a total hero for coming so far on his little Honda.

 

We decided the night before that Hannah and their luggage should travel in the car with us to make it easier work for Joel to tackle the infamous Moyale-Marsabit road. The road was completely horrible and poor Donkey and his three passengers were being rattled senseless. Compared to  Joel though, we were having a pretty easy time and after just a few kilometers he encountered the first of many problems, the chain had come loose from all the vibration which was quickly tightened and we were off again. Over the course of the day, the bike very nearly shook to pieces and we soon had several parts of its parts in the car with us which had literally rattled off, the back box, chain guard, rear view mirrors!!! 

 

Joel at one stage lost the sensation in his hands from the vibrating so pulled over for a quick break, I looked down at his bike and notice oil pouring onto the ground, turned out the sump plug had fallen out so Andrew pulled out our spare nuts and bolts box to check if we had anything we could use as a temporary fix. Nothing fitted but clearly luck was on our side when a huge truck pulled over to check we were OK and very kindly checked his spares, to our amazement we found a bolt which would serve it's purpose until we reached Marsabit. Harri the Honda was little more than a carcase by the time we arrived but made it all the same with driver in the expert driver in tact.

 

We arrived in Marsabit at roughly 5pm and headed into town to check out a place called Jay Jays which was just horrible so we went to a campsite a little out of town where other overlanders had recommended. It was just lovely, no hot water but everything was spotless so we set up camp and I went about cooking pasta a la Angel!

 

Q: Today was a horrible day. Arriving in Marsibit all in one piece with no issues and no bandits brought a tear to my eye. Tomorrow is supposed to be better … bad, but better.

 

Day 57, 6th August 2009

 

Nanyuki: 222 miles

 

A: Up early again so we could spend the morning fixing up Joel's bike and giving Donkey a once over before this next leg of rumble tracks to Nanyuki.  As we drove out of the camp Andrew noticed some guys at a shop welding so we went over to see if they could offer us any help with the sump plug on the bike. He took a quick measurement of the hole and then disappeared. Five minutes later he came back with a perfect fit bolt that he had just made especially for the bike, luck really is on our side....

 

We'd heard on the grapevine that this next section of road wasn't quite as bad as yesterdays but after only half an hour on the corrugations Joel was suffering. Shortly after we'd stopped, our friends Jane and Sherief pulled along side us and very kindly offered to put the bike on their roof if Joel could fit in with us. Within a few moments, the bike was secured in place and both Joel and Hannah were nicely squeezed into the back of Donkey and we were off.

 

The terrain was how I'd imagine it to look like on the moon, black rocks and no vegetation. The road was far worse than the day before and were overjoyed when we reached Isiolo to discover asphalt for the final 50km to Nanyuki. We could finally listen to music and hear one another again, what a treat!

 

We had arranged to meet Jane and Sherief in Osiolo to offload the bike from their roof. While we were having a drink, they suggested we stay in Nanyuki at a Country Club they were members at so we followed them for the final 50km and booked into a rather lovely colonial hotel. The hotel we decided on staying in this evening had to fill three criteria: 1.Ice cold beer 2. Hot water and 3. Steak!! It had all three so we were over the moon and Hannah and Joel very kindly treated us to a meat feast as a thank you for our help. Yum!!

 

Q: I firmly believe that our Donk is indestructible. After what we did today, and the fact that we had no problems on route at all … if Donk does not manage to get us to Cape Town, then I will eat my shorts. It is amazing … 6 hours of relentless corrugations and dips in the road surely must rattle something loose. 

 

Donk better make it, cause the sate of my shorts when we arrived in Nanyuki was pretty special given the two days of dust and sweat. There is no point in putting anything clean on before tackling this road … dust gets everywhere. I did wonder what the receptionist at the country club must have thought when we arrived … four people, covered in red dust, some barefoot and all looking completely worn out. 

 

It took 3 washes before I was clean enough to join the others for dinner …

 

Day 58, 7th August 2009

 

Nairobi: 122 miles

 

A: After taking advantage of the hot water situation and having yet another shower, we set off to Nairobi. Joel and Hannah had to go to the police station to tell them that they had no back number plate (that too fell off!) so we parted company and arranged to meet a little later in the city. On our way out of town, we stopped to inquire about third party insurance for the car and after a little over an hour it was organised. We had been instructed that we had to pop into the Nairobi office to pick up a final document which would cover us beyond Kenya into Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia.

 

Nanyuki is on the Equator so on the way out of town we made a quick stop at the  big 'Equator' sign took a few pics and had a look in the pretty curios shops. After being dragged from one stall to the next by eager shop owners, we got on our way.

 

The traffic when we reached Nairobi was terrible and at one stage we covered all of 50m in 20 mins. We eventually found the building and Andrew went on pursuit of a man called Daniel who would have the document waiting for us. After half an hour or so, we had the vital piece of paper and we were on our way to JJ. When we arrived, the gates opened and we found J & H sat on the front lawn sipping beer so within moments we had joined them. Jungle Junction is camping heaven and offer everything from bbq suppers to a laundry service!! I've not managed to do any washing since Lalibela so my underwear stock has almost diminished so no sooner had we arrived I had unpacked the back and handed them two large bags of embarrassingly dirty clothes.

 

On our travels we'd heard of a famous restaurant here in Nairobi called Carnivore so I made a reservation for the four of us for later that evening. We had over three hours to kill so we completely emptied Donkey and went about cleaning the thick layer of red dust that had settled every single surface are.

 

Q: Meat sweats and heart palpitations is what I will remember after my Carnivore experience. It was not as spectacular as I had hoped but the beef and lamb was scrumptious and the ostrich meatballs were pretty good too. They really should take pork sausages off the menu …   

 

Day 59, 8th August

 

Nairobi: 15 miles

 

A: I have come to the conclusion that the Spanish have zero camping etiquette after once again being rudely woken a 5 am!! We'd booked in for breakfast here at the camp so we were summoned at 9am to the dining room for our continental. Had I have thought about it I'd have skipped breakfast, my stomach is still full of food from last nights feast and after a small bowl of fruit and one slice of toast I was done! 

Heading to the Masai Mara we would need to stock up on food so we went to a supermarket a few kilometers away got our goodies and drew out yet more cash. For four bags of groceries and a crate of beers it came to 60 pounds!! So expensive in comparison to Ethiopia, we're going to really push the budget while we're here I think, this place is pricier than the UK!

We arrived back at the camp and scrubbed on the outside to finish the final cleaning process.......what a difference, it looks like new...

We'd been carrying lots of food bits around with us from as far back as Egypt so after the meat feast of last night we decided to 'go veggie'.....and use up some old stock. We used the cooking facilities in the camp to save our gas and after seeing what the other ladies were preparing for their partners, I reminded Andrew  what a  lucky man he was to have such a culinary goddess as a fiance !!!!  One particularly irritating German girl commented that it smelt better than it looked … how rude … her poor chap was getting corned beef and powered mash … I thought it best just to keep my mouth firmly shut!

Q: If you come to Nairobi, you really must visit the elephant orphanage in Nairobi National Park. Getting to the car park made me wonder if this was going to be a good thing to do as almost every tourist who was staying the night in Nairobi obviously had the same idea. There were a lot of people there, but it was a fantastic experience all the same. The orphanage is caring for the highest number of orphaned eles in its history this year due to the really low rainfall over the last couple of years which puts strain on the land requirements for both the local population and elephant herds.

The little ele's keepers bring the orphans out for everyone to see in 2 batches. The first batch is the tiny guys who are in pre-school (one was just 3 weeks old) and the second batch who are up to about 2 years old. The keepers know each little one by name, their personal history and also seem to have a wonderful bond with the babies. They also have a baby white rhino in the orphanage. He was quite a performer … springing about, kicking up the dust … playing hide and seek with the keepers. Very cool pet before the horn and the belly gets bigger.

 

Since arriving at Jungle Junction we have not really met that many overlanding folk. There are so many here … all waiting for something to get fixed or just taking a rest from a couple of weeks of hard traveling. There is a French family camping here in a massive truck that has enough space for two quad bikes and probably a jacuzzi. Looks like it is a very long holiday for them …

 

I hope that our marriage is more equitable than what I was put through this afternoon … from me not wanting to wash the car cause it will surely be filthy by the end of the week, I found myself cleaning the whole thing on my own as Angel tapped away on the computer updating our news. I'm not washing anything else for the rest of the journey …

 

I'm looking forward to leaving Nairobi. It's cold here … plus the migration is on the go so I really want to see millions of gnu roaming about dodging lions and crocs.

 

Day 60, 9th August 2009

 

Narok: 110 miles

 

A: Driving from Nairobi to Narok which sits just north of the Masai Mara was fairly uneventful, the usual poor roads quality in Kenys still continued so more bumps,dust and choking exhaust fumes. Our chosen accommodation was a lovely camp site just outside of Narok heading to the Mara. We were met by a lovely chap who helped us manoevre Donkey to a level spot just to the left of their restaurant. Halfway through setting up our camp, a sweet lady who was looking after the site came and told us we had to move as they were trying to grow the grass in that area ready for the high season, so we drove a hundred meters or so with the tent up to another spot that turned out to be even better and more sheltered from the wind. Happy with the position, we cracked open a beer and while Andrew and two staff got the fire roaring, I made spag bol and salad for supper.

 

Q:I hated today. Bad start to the morning in the internet cafe meant that we were very late in leaving Nairobi which meant that we had to stay overnight before getting to Mara. There was absolutely nobody staying at our campsite in Narok so it was very quite. It was really nice to have a cold beer and dinner with a camp fire.

 

Nairobi is not my favorite place so I am glad to be out of the city. It did not feel very safe … while you drive around people look at you as though you have something that they want. Kinda like Johannesburg I suppose. I am looking forward to getting into the Mara tomorrow to see the back end of the migration. It is one the highlights of being in Kenya. 

 

Day 61, 10thAugust 2009

 

Masai Mara: 89 miles (less mielage mara-lake nakuru)

 

Q: The power converter for charging our electrical things has not been the same since we arrived in Kenya. I think that it is our only casualty of the Northern Kenyan roads .. pretty good result if you ask others what ailments they have after heading South from Ethiopia.

 

In my tinkering with the converter this morning I dropped our fancy SLR which has damaged the screen so badly that you cannot manually set some of the camera settings. Good thing is that the camera still works and takes pictures but you cannot see what they look like until downloading them to the laptop.

 

Second morning with a bad start for me … I think I have tested Angel's patience second day running with my grumpy face. Hopefully we can have it repaired somewhere but as long as it is still taking pics we should be ok.

 

A: The road to the Masai Mara you'd expect to be fairly well kept especially with the revenue they pull in from the extortionate entry fee they charge, but it was little more than a pot holed dirt track, we should know better by now than to expect good roads anywhere here in Kenya!

 

When we arrived it was roughly 10am and we were told by other travellers back at Jungle Junction in Nairobi that the parks work on a 24 hour basis from the moment you enter so going in at 10 am for two days  would allow us an early morning drive on the last day before clocking out. The ticket officer was a really sweet man and after expressing our shock over the entry fee of $60 per person per day totaling $240, he took pity on us and in a faint whisper said he would charge one of us student fees to bring the cost down for us as we were so nice. He knew we were camping so in effect the reduction in fee would cover the camping cost … bonus, thank you nice ticket man.

 

Zebra, wildebeast, worthog, giraffe, springbok, kudu, blesbok, waterbuck, hyena,baboons but none of the big five....yet. Andrew and I were following the map of the Masai Mara out of the Lonely (lying) Planet which just didn't seem quite right. We came to what we thought was the Mara River but there was no sign of the Migration so we were either map reading badly or the map was wrong, we saw so much it didn't matter and we continued to drive and drive.

 

We spent the entire day in the park scanning the savannah for different animals and before we realised, it was almost 5 pm and we still hadn't organised a place to camp. On our way back to the gate we stumbled across what looked like a very expensive lodge on the edge of a river bank so we decided to try our luck and see if they would take us in for camping. A young man called Wilson came to our assistance and invited us into the lounge area which had the most spectacular view of the Mara.

 

After sitting and chatting for over ten minutes, the manager David came along and, we explained that we were looking for a spot to camp, that we needed very little other than a toilet and shower. He mumbled in Swahili with his fellow staff and came to the conclusion that a fair price of $600 had been decided!!!! What!!! After a good old giggle and a very obvious look of shock, we said good bye and set off on our merry way to exit the camp to pastures more affordable!!

 

We exited through the Talek Gate on the North Eastern side of the park and found a wonderful place to stay called Aruba Camp. We pulled in and we were instantly greeted by Patrick, a local Masai who showed us the facilities and introduced us to two other staff, Daniel and John. All were wearing the traditional dress of bright red cloth, beads and the all essential masai blanket thrown over one shoulder.

 

Q: The sun set this evening was something really incredible. Pity that we were not allowed to be in the park to experience it as the gate closes at 6pm …

 

I like the Aruba camp and I think we will stay for a few days … it has HOT showers and the guys working here are very nice. Dinner was chicken braai with sweet potatoes in cooked foil - too good. See what I mean about the backfat issue … Its coming for sure.

 

We have organised for Daniel to take us into the park at 6am tomorrow to go find a lion and hopefully some other good things. He has lived here all his life so he should know whats going on and where to find everything we missed today … well hopefully.

 

Day 62, 11thAugust 2009

 

Masai Mara:  97 miles

 

Q: If I had known that Daniel was going to have one eye when we agreed the price for him to be our guide I would have asked for a discount? The good thing is that we quickly realised that even with one eye he could still spot anything way before us. It was amusing when he pointed out that there were four lions sitting in the road a few feet from us which took both of us a few minutes to spot. All in all it was a great day in the reserve with our one eyed Masi warrior guide. We saw cheeta (4 of them), ellies strolling through the savana, many lions, very smelly hippos and we almost saw a croc take a wilderbees as a group of them were crossing the Mara river back towards Tanzania.

 

I was very ready for a sundowner on the roof of the truck and another round of chicken when we got back to the campsite. 

 

A: We quickly set up our camp, showered and cracked open two beers while watching yet another beautiful sunset from the roof o the car. The sky was lit with pinks and purples fading into orange and finally red. Round two of bbq'd chicken  on a superbly made fire by the Braai Master himself .

 

 

 

Day 63, 12thAugust 2009

 

Masai Mara: 56 miles

 

Q: Today we got up very early again .. but this time without Daniel. We had a better idea of where everything was in the park so we headed out to see if we could find the lions which we saw the previous evening. Sure enough, there they were close to where we left them last night but this time with a kill.

 

The rest of the morning was filled with lions and elephants. We stopped to have tea under the trees at Governor's Camp which looked like a nice place to stay at something like $1000 per night. Our tea was only $2 … plus we got a few peanut muffin type cookies that the birds in the tree above we pretty good at aiming at.

 

We were back at Aruba just after lunch and spent the rest of the day snoozing underneath the tree next to our tent.

 

A: When we got back to camp I prepared a light lunch and while I was cooking, a sweet lady selling curios came and sat under the tree next to us. I told her that we already had plenty of things but thank you we'll pass. Andrew came back from the shower and within minutes, the lady had convinced him to buy two bracelets, a Masai blanket and a wooden baboon stick for those occasions where he needs to save my life from them so he says ....

 

We thought that maybe we were being a little lazy not going back into the park for a late afternoon drive but having been so lucky seeing absolutely everything from ellies to lions ten times over in the morning we decided against it and the afternoon off was just what we needed. Its surprising how exhausting it can be driving around looking for those illusive animals....I know not to expect any sympathy from anyone over that last comment!!

 

Day 64, 13thAugust 2009

 

Lake Nakuru: 171 miles

 

Q: It was raining today almost the whole way to Nakuru. We were going to meet Hannah and Joel in Nakuru (who have now fixed their bike in Nairobi).

 

Of all the countries that we have been through, Kenya has the worst roads plus they are beginning to have the worst drivers. The worst are the matutu drivers (minivan taxis) who don't seem to recognise that there are other people using the road.

 

The first and last thing that I will remember about the town of Nakuru is the drunk and obviously very high people who live here. It seemed like everyone in this place has a habit of some kind. Thankfully we only needed to spend an hour in town to visit the supermarket to get some more chicken …(I cannot seem to get enough of the stuff). Hannah found some Harveys Bristol Cream Sherry which made her so excited that I think she was almost about to burst. Perhaps we should have bought two bottles for her … it seems like those who visit here pick up their old indulgent habits.  

 

A: I have never in my life seen anyone so excited over a bottle of booze as Hannah was, I'm not saying she's a raving alcho but beer seems to be the drink of choice here because its cheep and easy to come by so when she saw her beloved Sherry sitting on the shelf, nothing was going to stop her, a little like me with a good G&T. We pondered over telling a little white lie about the cost of it but she came clean....even Joel thought her excitement was priceless!

 

With meat, beer and of course the Harveys in the bag it was now time to get the fruit and veg so we drove to a wonderful market a little further out of town to an area that seemed to be even more densely populated with drunks and drug abusers. Andrew and I jumped out to get the rest of the things we needed and while we were inside this indoor haven of a market, unbeknown to us, Joel and Hannah had attracted a crowd of over 30 people who had surrounded them like they were some kind of freak show. Seeing the look of distress on their faces we quickly threw the groceries in the car on squeezed our way out of the crowd.

 

The aptly named Flamingo camp site  sat just on the outskirts of Lake Nakuru's park gate. It was a great find by H & J who'd popped in there en-route into town to check it out. The black clouds were looming so we set things up pretty quickly and got the BBQ started. The sherry was opened within minutes of setting up the camp and lasted little more than an hour!

 

Day 65, 14thAugust 2009

 

Lake Nakuru National Park: 131 miles

 

Q: For some reason I thought that it would be a good idea to get up early so that we could try do some game viewing in the morning … but as on arriving to the nearest entrance of the Nakuru National Reserve we were told that we needed to go to the main gate to get our tickets which was back in Nakuru town. Facing the drunks of Nakuru town would be far to difficult before breakfast so we went back to the campsite where Joel was forced (by Hannah after finishing off that Bristol Cream last night) to make Linconshire's breakfast specialty - eggycheesebread. It was very good.

 

A: The policies at lake Nakuru seem far less relaxed than at the Masai so when we were told that they work on the 24 hour system we figured we'd head back to camp and go to the park at 11ish so we could fit in a drive tomorrow morning.

 

Breakfast was divine, totally indulgent and fattening but so so good!!.....If I ate that every morning I'd be the size of a small house, not quite the look I was going for for our wedding day!

 

We finally entered the park and to my disappointment couldn't convince the ticket man to give us student passes! After reluctantly handing over the extortionate fee to enter the park we slowly drove in. Lake Nakuru is famously known for it's huge population of flamingos so that in mind we headed straight to the water.

 

The entire lake was covered with birds and wherever you looked it was pink, it was just beautiful. We drove pretty close to the waters edge over white sand or so we thought that's what it was but on closer inspection discovered the crusty white surface was indeed dried guano!! Photo op...we jumped out and took a few shots of the lovely scene and soon realised that the under the crusty surface lay a very squishy layer of ….pooh!....You'd think with flat feet  Andrew would have a better chance of staying on top of the crust but oh no, he sank, the flip flops were off and between the toes it went...lunch anyone?

 

We spent the afternoon scanning the dense terrain for animals but were massively disappointed to find nada, niente, nothing, other than birds and white rhino, we didn't see any cats which was a real shame as this was the first Game Park Hannah and Joel had come to so a big cat find would have been great for them to see.

 

Several hours later we gave up looking and went to our bush camp for the night,. For 25 dollars per person you'd have thought they'd have managed doors on the toilets at least but there was little more than an outdoor tap, a bit of a rip off but the baboons entertained us and the lovely sounds of the animals throughout the evening kept us guessing what was lurking nearby.

 

Day 66, 15thAugust 2009

 

Eldoret: 110 miles

 

A: Up with the sparrows we again spent the morning desperately hunting for cats. Every car that passed us we'd stop and ask if they had seen any leopard or lion yet, everyone had except for us! The stories were incredible, one man claimed to have seen a lion being chased up a tree by buffalo,  another claimed they saw a leopard by the main gate sleeping in a tree!! After investigating we decided they'd made it up because in 24 hours in the park we didn't see a single one.

 

With 15 minutes left on our time card we figured that it would take some sort of miracle if we were to see a leopard now so we clocked out and popped back to Flamingos camp to drop Hannah and Joel off at their bike and have some lunch.

 

After we spent an hour or so re arranging the bags back in the car and having a tidy up, we set off to Eldoret, a halfway point between Nakuru and Jinja.

 

Q: I thought that Nakuru was a place full of odd people … well I think that Eldoret tops Nakuru for wierdos and freaky kids. Thank goodness we were given a card by an Indian guy (Raj) with a ponytail (which is totally not normal in Kenya??) which had the details of a camping site outside of town but close enough for us to try get to … it was in tracks4africa so we decided to try get there before dark.

 

As we turned off the main road towards the campsite Angel noticed the sign for the SOS Village in Eldoret. We had not planned on visiting any SOS Villages in Kenya, but seeing that there was one right here we decided to knock on the gate to see if anyone was there. Mercy was there to greet us and show us about the village.

 

The Eldoret has a 13 family homes with over 150 children staying there - the youngest is only 3 weeks old.  In addition to the family homes and kindergarten, SOS in Eldoret also operate a school across the road that provides for both the children in the village as well as the surrounding area - very much like the SOS Village we visited in Bahir Dar back in Ethiopia. What was really nice to see was the way in which this village has introduced projects on site where each family house tends a vegetable patch as well as producing milk (they have 3 cows and 2 new calves). Three cows produce over 6 litres of milk per house per day … busy cows. Mercy also explained that SOS in Eldoret also involved in regional projects that support families through housing, education funding etc in the area where children are at risk. All in all, over 500 children fall under this category within the SOS Eldoret catchment area.

 

As this village has recently started to expand its library their immediate need is for books for the children, mostly in the educational/ vocational categories. 

 

Once again we were welcomed in such a lovely way … this time Mercy even offered for us to stay the night on the grounds. It was a little bit of an impromptu visit, so we had to decline but left very happy to have visited in the first place.

 

Even though we missed the leopards and lions this morning in the park, today ended up being a wonderful day. Not only were we lucky to see the village but I think that we found the best campsite we have stayed at since leaving home. Riverside Camp has hot showers, good food and a flock killer hunting geese that scared the life out of me when I got up in the morning. They are pretty ferocious creatures. 

 

A few things you need to know about Kenya:

 

1] Arriving at a game reserve in Kenya with both a foreign registered vehicle and an international passport equals an expensive couple of days looking for lions - worth it though.

2] Kenyan roads and the people who drive on them are in general just a joke.

3] A warm Tusker from the Nakomat supermarket costs 75 shillings … in a Masi Mara restaurant they are closer to 200.

4] Fuel costs about 60 shillings per litre

5] Kenyans have a great understanding on how to keep a bathroom clean and smelling dandy (most of the time).