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Camel World  



Travel Diary - 2003
5 January | Senegal
22 January |Gambia
18 January |Guinea
9 February | Mali
22 February | Burkina Faso
3 March | Ghana
19 March | Togo
20 March | Benin
25 March | Niger
12 April | Chad
15 April | Cameroon
16 April | Nigeria
30 April | Congo
24 May | RDC
31 May | Angola
5 June | Namibia
27 June | South Africa
30 August | Lesotho
10 September | Swaziland
9 October | Botswana
17 October | Namibia
19 October |
29 October | Malawi
4 November |Mozambique
16 November | Tanzania
12 December | Rwanda
16 December | RDC
18 December | Uganda
24 December | Kenya

Travel Diary - 2004
9 January | Ethiopia
6 February | Sudan
21 February | Saudi Arabia
23 February | Jordan
3 March | Syria
5 March | Turkey
12 March | Greece
21 March | ...And Home


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17 months, 43 countries, and 2 vehicles


Naiberi River Campsite

My first surprise in Kenya was that at the border the polite customs official accepted the $50 note with the torn corner that I'd been trying to get rid of since Mozambique Island. My next was that the first small town I had had two ATMs that accepted Visa cards, and so I arrived with a tank full of cheapish fuel at Nigeria River campsite near Eldoret, where Paul Dutson was supposed to have been organising the new campsite for Raj.

As it happened things hadn't worked out, and Paul was planning on heading to Arusha to manage a truck park, but in the meantime we had an amazing roast dinner that stretched over two days and involved a variety of animals non of whom died in vain...

Once we'd finished our respective impressions of digesting pythons we, that is Paul, his girlfriend Emily, Paul's mum, and Keith, her boyfriend, set off for the Massai Mara for three days at the Fig Tree Lodge. We dropped the camel off at the Kembu campsite along the way, and continued in an old and decrepit Land Rover 100 V8 that ran with optional third and fourth cylinders. as well as a collapsible exhaust and a novel modification to teh air conditioning that involved taking the air directly from the exhaust outlet. OK, I'm being unfair becuase teh road was exceptionally bad, but it was  more by luck than sound mechanics that we maanged to arrive at all.

Although it was high season we managed to get pretty good rates - about 4,000 shillings each, or $50, for which we got luxurious tented accommodation (these are tents that include en-suites and all the conveniences of a modern hotel room) as well as as much food as we could eat, and it was pretty good eating too.

After a couple of days of storing up reserves for the road to come I concentrated on the serious business of finding my elusive leopard, and set off at dawn on our final day with a Massai guide, William, who was exceptionally talented at spotting - er - other land rovers.

So there we were, climbed in small groups of 4x4s, finding lions aplenty, when suddenly a leopard strolls out of the tree-line,. And then another. And then a third. Bloody typical - you wait thirteen months and then three turn up together. At one point the third leopard passed a couple of meters from our vehicle, and in front of our very eyes got into a squabble with a troop of olive baboons and had to make a hasty retreat - but of course that was when my camera decided to run out of batteries, and so all I got  was a telling off for swearing in from of the wild-life.

Back at the Kembu campsite (Kembu is Kiswahili for Chameleon, of which there are many in the area), and we had yet more relaxation (and a haircut for me) leading up to the new year's eve party. This was a great spot for the occasion - not too crowded, but Andrew and ZoŽ were the perfect hosts, and it really was more like staying with friends than staying at a campsite. It was a sad moment indeed when we had to say our goodbyes - Paul and his party were heading on to Mombassa - for me it was the road to Nairobi.

Nairobi, 6 January 2004

Nairobi, or now-rob-me - has a daunting reputation, but I've found that it's no worse than, say, Dakar - you have to stay street wise as everybody is looking to scam you, but generally I've had no problems. The Ethiopian visa was $63 and same-day service, I've sorted out my rear springs by adding the helper spring which they insisted wouldn't fit in Jo'berg - the boys at Bush Rover seem to know what they are doing, and it was a good opportunity to hang around in Karen, named after Karen Blixen who wrote Out of Africa.

Just up the road is the house where she lived, and although most of the furniture was sold off when she left Africa, it's still  well worth a visit. Half-an-hour up the road in the Ngong hills lies the grave of Karen's lover, Denys Finch-Hatton, who died in a plane crash. The incongruity of having to pay 200 shillings to visit the grave soon wears off; it's a quiet and evocative site, with a neat garden that is filled with the scent of rosemary. After he was buried a pair of lions used to visit his grave according to local legend, though nowadays you'd be lucky to find a lion within a few hundred kilometres.

A coupe of Swedes have turned up at the Nairobi Backpackers where I'm staying - they are also heading North so it looks like we've got us a convoy.

North Kenya

The road North from Nairobi is notorious for both its banditry and the appalling condition of the roads. Clive and Virginie, whom I'd met in Rwanda, and who invited me for dinner in Nairobi, went over a lot of very tempting options, but regardless of my route I was always going to have to face at least one days journey along. In the end I decided to miss Lake Turkana and head directly North, skirting West of Mount Kenya to Isiolo, then Marsabit, then Moyale. The Swedes were staying on in Kenya for a few more days so we arrange a possible meeting in Addis.

I took a leisurely drive to Isiolo, and the following morning picked up a passenger who just happened to be a policeman with a Kalashnikov whose family live in Moyale. The drive is a mixture of pleasure and pain - Northern Kenya is little visited, and once you get beyond Isiolo you start seeing tribesmen wearing skins and headdresses that are the sought of thing you only see in tourist pageants further south. It's arid country, and if you stop people are likely to ask for water, rather than money.

As for the roads; it's hard going with rough surface rather than particularly bad corrugations, though I gather the conditions are constantly changing according to traffic and weather. My suspension was taking a beating but with my double spring set at the back I was getting an obscenely comfortable ride, all considered. As it was I stopped at midday with one of my headlights handing loose - 4 screws had managed to make good their escape for that one!

At about halfway through day one we were passing a village when a stone smacked into my rear window. I stopped and Shade, my escort, and I inspected the damage - an ominous chip in the glass. A group of retreating children were raising a cloud of dust behind us.

"Shoot them" I said to Shade, gesturing to his AK.
"They are running away" he replied.
"Well give them a little lead then." I suggested.

That night I stayed at a Catholic mission in Marsabit - a peaceful spot for inspecting what was left of my radius arm bushes. The following morning as I was packing up I slammed the passenger door shut and the pressure was enough to blow out the rear window. Shooting is too quick for the little buggers. After getting piece of plywood cut to size and inserted I was back on the road by 10:30 a.m. with every intention of getting across the border before it closed at 6 p.m.

At first it looked as if I had no chance - the road got steadily worse and I was averaging 20km/h. Ahead an impressive mountain floated surreally above the horizon dead ahead - getting no closer it seemed as hour after hour passed. It must have been visible for about 100km, because it wasn't until I got to the halfway point for the day (120km) that I reached the mountain, and the road suddenly improved.

Taking advantage of the surface I slipped in to rally mode and put my foot down - always fun except for when you fly... I was having great fun- but the hitch-hikers that I was picking up along the way weren't quite so sure.

Everything was looking great until about 20km from the border when my engine started suddenly losing power - only for a second at a time, as if I had some sot of fuel blockage. I started thinking that maybe this was where my turbo was about to die on me... a seriously expensive repair...

It was 5:30 p.m., border formalities took ten minutes, and then it was across the frontier into Ethiopia.