Four Wheels Around - A Road Trip from the UK to South Africa

In February 2009 we are setting off on the trip of a lifetime from Brighton, E-Sussex, UK to South Africa. Furthermore, we are raising money for the British Red Cross along the way. This blog will cover our preparation until we leave and our adventures whilst we are on the road.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

From Ethiopia to Uganda, Via Kenya

The border crossing at Moyale was quick and easy. The Ethiopian side of the town was like any other small Ethiopian town, without power, probably without water! There is not any land mark to speak of that separates the two countries at this border, there is a small no mans land which we quickly crossed and suddenly we were at the more modern and organised immigration and customs department in Kenya.

We were luckily able to obtain a transit visa as we would not be in Kenya long enough to take advantage of a full visa. It cost $10 (US) each. We purposefully arrived late into Kenya (getting through customs minutes before they closed for the evening) so as we could make and early start along the first leg of the Moyale toIsiolo road. We intended to reach Marsabit the following evening. We wanted to find somewhere to stop for the night but options were limited in Moyale, Kenya. We decided to ask if we could park up at the police station for the night for security. They were more than willing to let us park and they even sugested a nice patch of grass where we could pitch our tents! (If we had tents that is).

As helpful as they were they managed to present quite conflicting views about security on the dreaded road. One officer argued that it was imperative that we took an armed escort or joined the 9am convey. Another said that although there had been no incidents of late the 'shiftas' (bandits) could strike anyone and anytime and if we were to go it alone along the road that he hoped 'God would be with us'. His comments unnerved us a little but after discussion with Mandy and Jacques we decided to go alone and to go early so we could make sure we made it to Marsabit before dark. We have met a number of people going North in the past few weeks who all went it alone and had no problems, at least no problems of the shifta kind. Every person we met who had taken that road had suffered mechanically because of the roads condition.

Setting off the next morning our main worry concerned the state of the road rather than tribes with AKs! After all the hype the road was not as bad as expected. Don't get me wrong. It was pretty terrible and we managed to crack our suspension in 2 places but we managed to do the road very easily in 2 days. We set off at 7.30am for both stretches and we spent about 9 hours on the road, constant driving to cover 250ks (ish) each day. The condition of the road varied, from, very sharp stones on the stretch from Moyale to Marsabit; to deep ruts and very intense corrugation from Marsabit to Isiolo. The corrugation we found particulary tough as we juddered along for 9 hours. We would get some speed up along the corrugation and suddenly find ourselves clanking into a deep rut, probably a cause for our suspension breakage.

In Marsabit we stayed at a Swiss guy called Henry's place. I am not quite sure what he does in Kenya but he bakes good bread. The camp spot was lovely but it was very windy.

As we drew closer to Isiolo we had really had enough of this bloodyroad. Mandy and Jacques were storming ahead in there Toyota Land Cruiser which doesn't rattle as much as our 24 yr old Landy and we were both getting incredibly frustrated by the slow speed at which we had to travel. About 20 miles out of Isiolo we suddenly saw workmen, building a new road. Although it was no where near complete they had set p a detour off the main track which was uncorrugated, smooth and sandy. It was a welcome releif after miles of juddering and we happily sped off through the sand for the last few miles to tarmac.

In Isiolo we breathed a sigh of relief and Alex and I set out to buy a nice cold coke. We stopped at a small shack and as the old Kenyan woman took our shillings she remarked, 'you white people are dangerous!' Alex and I looked at each other and asked 'why' she retorted back 'you bring the H1N1 to Kenya!' although she didn't look too cross with us personally we still quickly drank our cokes and hurried back to camp. We later discovered that 34 Brits were being kept in Isolation in Kisumu (which was on our route to the Ugandan border) after an outbreak of H1N1. We also read in the same article that all cases so far in Africa barr one have been 'imported' = white cases. We later decided that if Kisumu was having a bit of a swine flu problem perhaps we best take another route to the border to avoid any unnecersary hassle. We detoured instead to the border via Eldoret.

We sadly didn't manage to see much in Kenya as we speeded through as fast as Carol would let us. A few things we did notice/experience include:
  • We crossed the equator 4 times in 24 hours!
  • There are about 5 'butchery's' in every village. Butchery's are everywhere and often they are attached to a hotel. There seems to be a smell of raw meet where ever you go!
  • It is surprisingly cold at the equator.
  • Kenya seems very modern. Maybe it was because we had spent the last month in Ethiopia, but to us Kenya was very Westerned with an African slant. Or maybe it is African with a Western slant! Either way it felt very organised and 'sorted' after the disarray of Ethiopia.
  • They have power and most of the time water! Somebody told us that Ethiopia sells a lot of its electrcity to Sudan and Kenya! How ironic when Ethiopia is in darkness 4 days out of 7!
  • Kenyan people were very friendly. Even the old Woman who resented us for bringing H1N1 to Kenya was still pleasent towards us. Everyone was helpful and friendly. It was nice to drive along the road without hearing the dreaded 'you you you you you' or having rocks thrown at us.
  • All the children go to school! During the day it seemed that there were no children on the streets as in Ethiopia and to a certain extent Sudan. Instead you don't see the children until late afternoon when they are all walking home from school in their colourful school uniforms.
  • The roads are appalling! at least the ones that we drove along. If they are tarred they are potholed!
  • We visited Thompson Falls and camped up at Thompson Lodge. Stunning location and inside the lodge is a fantastic bar! The falls were not bad either!

From Kenya we crossed the border with Uganda on sunday afternoon. We made haste to Kampala where we really have to get the car fixed. For a while now we have been using a ridiculous amount of oil and pumping out a horrible amount of white smoke. We concluded it was a compression problem and thus likely a problem with the piston rings... In Kampala we are staying with friends of Alex's, the Bowermans who are currently back in the UK. We have been recommended their local mechanic and as I write poor Carol is undergoing a delicate procedure! Hopefully she will recover soon and we can stop spending so much money on engine oil!

On Monday my Mum and sister are coming out to Uganda which will be very strange seeing them here after being away from home for 5 months but it is very exciting and I am counting down the days! Hopefully they have a good idea of what they want to do here and give me and Alex a rest from planning!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

love reading your posts! we're planning a similar trip next year, so I'm devouring all the valuable info. keep up the good work and enjoy the rest of your trip!
(the best is yet to come - southern africa is unbelievable!)


9 July 2009 at 12:15  
Blogger Unknown said...

I once hosted 3guys in mombasa kenya kenya from Holland! They drove from Holland to South Africa! Think it took them about 8 months. I couldn't help but envy them! Very exciting!

1 March 2016 at 05:22  
Blogger thagishu tharau said...

I once hosted 3guys in mombasa kenya kenya from Holland! They drove from Holland to South Africa! Think it took them about 8 months. I couldn't help but envy them! Very exciting!

1 March 2016 at 05:22  

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