Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did.
So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. --- Mark Twain

Friday, May 20, 2011

Kenya - Marsabit Road

Day 135
Nairobi, Kenya
Jungle Junction Camping

There is left-side traffic in Kenya. Fortunately the change from right – side traffic to the left – side was not too abrubt, because ever since Egypt it was possible to practise driving on the left. When needful even on the highway opposite direction was used, not to speak about Kairo.

And one more observation, planning to drive from Europe to South Africa or for example From Namibia to Netherlands – then the most fundamental issue is the intention and wish to make this classical Cape-Cairo route. The make and the age of the car is not very important.
Some examples:
Volkswagen of 1970, 41 years old. From Namiibia to Netherlands.

And Lidia and Pleun from Holland to South Africa.

Before our mutal journey to Nairobi. It was said that since the border of Kenya - 300 kilometres of the road conditions are bad and there is very little traffic in this uninhabited area. Safer to pass it together with other vehicles.

The last moments in Ethiopia.

From the car window waiting for green traffic light.

The distance to the border of Kenya was more than 700 kilometres and the intention was to cover it in two days. It means that the border should be reached at least by the evening of the second day. Then there would be no problem. Actually – there was, of course, a possibility to go again to the immigration office and apply for the fourth visa, but then there will be one more sticker in the passport and the number of empty pages is growing lesser in a great speed.

It seems funny to write that some 700 km takes more than one day, but it is a different world and sometimes the road conditions are quite unlike we are used to. Starting with the deep holes and ending with the situation that all people and animals are walking in the middle of the road. And when a car approaches they don`t tend to move away.

In the long run I have learned that a cow and a camel react to the signal and step aside , but when there is a donkey on the road – one must just try to pass it. This animal does not move any centimetre in response to the signal. Sometimes it takes three men to push it off the road.

A bit of more decent road. Neither people nor animals walking. It gets more greener and the trees higher.

The seller of khat by the road.

By the end of the first day almost half of the distance was covered. 360 km. The end of the day means that it was possible to ride till six in the evening. Then it started to get darker and a place for overnight had to be found.

Just right on time there is Tourist camping by the road and after a longer trade there parking place was got for that night. And also a shower with warm water.

Usually it should be asked before if the shower is included in the price. And make everything sure.

As the menu of the camping was in the local language – amharik – and no one particulary was eager to translate, it was a good idea to go town to look for a place to have a meal.
In the town diner the menue was also only in the local language, but somehow the translating was easier. We had our meal and as soon as we had paid the electicity went out in the whole town. So while going back it was clear that on a dark and muddy road the sandals are not the best choice.

At the camp local electricity generator was working and everybody had a good time. As we could not have either coffee or tea we decided to go to bed just to have a good rest for the next day. Fortunately the power went off at 9 am , everything went dark and silent as African night and then - a peacful sleeping till morning.

In the morning this kind of birds caught my eye. And within a minute , when I reached for the camera, only one was left and allowed itself to be photographed.

120 kilometres before the border there is a check-post. The customs. The passport is not enough. They ask for a customs document After some time it comes out which document. The document which was filled on the entry to the country and there are the serial numbers of the computers and cameras. They check the validity and everything is in order. I can continue. The last 120 kilometres is especially easy because almost no population.

The border town Moyale. As in Kenya the diesel is much more expensive, the plan is to tank for the last 300 birr.

Further on to the border. As always you go as far as there is a barrier or cord on the road.
Further on another country already. I look around to find the best place to park.

They gesture to park beside two big tracks on the parking place. And while getting away from the car it turns out that this specially suggested place is a very wrong place. „Wrong„ in the sense that it is not not seen when someone decides to show unhealthy interest in the car. „The right place“ is usually in the middle of the road or a place which provides a good view of everybody taking an illicit interest in the car. People gather. We decide that while making paper-work someone should be on guard by the car all the time.

The formulation of leaving Ethiopia. First – The stamp of the departure of the country. The first officer examines the passport , takes quite a time looking over the pages, finds the right visa and asks whether I wished to leave the country. My answer is - yes and the duration of the visa expires today. The answer is probably correct. The next officer asks my impressions of Ethiopia and the people. Of course Ethiopia is a nice country and so are the people. Finally I`ve got the stamp in my passport and the procedure in this place is over.
Now the customs. Somehow it is easier here. The officer wishes to look the car over. My inner mind is ready for the regular seach of the engine number, but this time the comparing of the car body will do. The paper with the information of the numbers of laptops and cameras will be taken away and I am gestured to drive on. Ready to leave.

In Kenya the reception is friendly. First of all - the border-crossing stamp and next the formalities of the car. Just for a moment a look inside the car from the side door and the checking is completed. Driving to town. Trying to keep left because encountering a few vehicles coming from left side and right side.
We stop at a place which seems to be the center. People will gather around the cars. But the attitude is different, - money exchange is offered and over-night places are suggested.
We find the over-night place behind a local police -station. Can`t find a safer place.

Some kids have taken an interest.

And they just look and try to speak a little bit of English.

In the morning after covering the first 100 metres it turns out that one tire of the Netherlander`s car needs pumping.

We make a stop and I take out the compressor. More and more people join, because it is not an everyday sight. Mutal photographing is going on. After a while the tire pressure is in order again and we can continue our journey.

Animal carcasses. In some countries more of them the are in sight and in other countries less. They are just passed.

In some places it is much greener around the road.

Even open water is visible.

And around the water the place is full of vivid life.

Further on it gets drier.

During the first day a little more than 100 was covered.

The morning of the second day. Another 100 km of desert road is waiting ahead.

The next inhabited place is Marsabit. The locals said that when we leave at 6 o`clock in the morning and move on with the same speed , we should reach the place before dark. But in the morning it is past seven already when we leave and the sky shows that rain could be expected. But only single raindrops are reaching the ground. Good as it is. The hope is to get through with dry feet.

Passing through this kind of a road in rain is noticeably harder. Do not want to think what is the mud here then like.

And the road is full of sharp rocks. The tires last out as BF Goodrich T/A tires just need to win through.

On two sides of the road is stone desert – Desert Chalbi.

A few hours later the Dutch`s car will stop - the vibration and stones have done their job - the muffler has broken into two parts almost in the center.

The jack and the rocks – safety first . There is no sense to rely only to jack when the other half of the muffler has to be got hold of from under the car. Next – something should be done with the first half of the muffler. The first end of which is connected to the engine and the other end reaches the ground. A cord around the car and the matter is solved for the time being. The main thing is that it would not be drabbeling along the ground. And the welding could be done at the next inhabitated spot – Marsabit.

The passing cars stop and ask whether any helo is needed. Not this time. We can handle the situation ourselves and tie the muffler up.

Another LandRver passes, stops and turns back. Offers assistance. Fortunately not needed any more. Then some men with a microphone and camera in hand come out of their car. Kenyan TV crew. The result of an half an hour interview and filming is a 3-minutes video clip of the passing the legendary Marsabi Road.

We move on.

Single shrubs are tightly surrounded by animals. There is sufficient heat.

Further on this kind of horned animals in sight.

And further on some more unplanned additional stops because sharp stones have broken one tire of the Dutch`s car and another one also requires exchange, as it is getting empty too fast. Fortunately they have got spare tires. Then the cord around the car , which keeps the muffer off from the ground , needs tightening.

And in the long run evening is almost here.

It is less than 10 km to Marsabi. And actually – driving in the dark should be avoided as much as possible, and this region was said to be not very safe. We move on at a speed of 10 to 15 km per hour. And in a short time there is a Toyota Landcruiser in the middle of the road. Surrounded by 6-8 men.

The Dutch stop, exchange a few words and drive on. I drive closer – the first part of the car has been raised up by the jack and the first right-side wheel is oddly tilted. Actually the bolts of Sarniis have been broken. I stop and ask if any help is needed. On those desert roads , while noticing a car has stopped, it is elementary to ask if any assistance is required.
I go closer and have a better look. It is quite certain that at first the wheel must be taken off.

I bring my car key from the car and 5 out of 6 bolts come away without any problem. The sixth bolt is a secret bolt. And the men have no key for that. I take out my chisel and hammer and will try to hammer it into a six-sided bolt. Succeed in the long run, in the dark sometimes the hammer hits the finger, but at last the wheel is off. At the moment that`s all I could do. The men plan to call a mechanic from Marsabit. They try to phone - but no phone coveridge. I try my Tele2 card telephone but the same – no coverage here too.

I put my tools together and one of the men comes with and we drive on. In a couple of kilometres there is a police check post and notice the Dutch car. I make a stop and we decide to overnight here. Fortunately a vehicle approaches from Marsabit`s side and now further on the locals can manage the situation themselves.

In the morning it is 5 miles of stoney road to the settlement of Marsabit. First of all the tires should be repaired and then a workshop must be found to weld the muffler.

In the middle of the town there is a gas station, and of course, it is possible to repair the tires here. – say the locals. And at a nearby workshop – the welding can be also made. The tires are patched and pumped full with a hand–pump. I don`t remember when I last practised it myself.

he men in the gas-station say that a little further on there is a garage, where welding works are performed. Life has taught us that prior to any work or service the price must be agreed. We try to find out and in the long run it comes out that the service is 1000 KSH ( 8.30 EURos).

Someone of the locals says that it is a very high price and itakes us to his friends`workshop. Here this job should take half the price – that is 4 EUROs. We drive to the workshop and wait. Somehow the name on the label of the next house is familiar.

The workers arrive. With the help of the rocks the car is raised higher to have enough space for welding.

Sunglasses on and the work will soon begin.

No plugs. The wires are tied into knots and isolated by a piece of plastic.
After some time there is electricity and the welding can start.

Pictures of the onlookers.

At last the work is done and the car is in order to continue driving.



Anonymous said...

Could this road be done by a normal 2WD car?

Tarmo said...

Yes, in dry season. Need to drive slowly. My car is also 2WD.