Travel Report from Kenia (08 February 2004)

Jambo from Kenya!

We spent our first night in Kenya in a nature reserve on the Moyale Border, and quickly got acquainted with Tusker Beer, which made a more than suitable replacement for Ethiopia’s Dashen Beer. The road from Moyale to Isiolo is notorious for Shifta’s - bandits which attack and rob vehicles driving along that route. We had to leave Moyale with a convoy of trucks transporting cattle. No sooner had the police opened the gate, the trucks powered off and soon left us behind. The road was bad, although better than what we had grown used to in Ethiopia, but our going was slow as our front tires were unbalanced. Nevertheless, we soon started overtaking the trucks that had overtaken us as, one after the other, they all suffered punctures. Slowly wins the race. Although the convoy never really stayed together, overtakings were always accompanied by the thumbs up signal to check if everything was ok. We lost the petrol canisters attached to the back of our vehicle, and the truck behind us collected them and gave them back to us. We drove through desert similar to that in Sudan before reaching Marsabit. Marsabit is a little village on the only mountain in the desert, so it was cool, green and misty - a welcome change from the heat.

The stretch from Marsabit to Isiolo was wet and muddy. Although it is normally dry season in Kenya, the rains have come early this season. Driving down from Marsabit we passed many Samburu people on the road. They are very colourful: the women have large disc shaped necklaces which spread over their necks and shoulders and partially cover their breasts. Both women and men have a headdress constructed of beads which outlines the lower jaw and crosses over the head to connect with the earrings that they wear which are like weights, so their earlobes are long and stretched. The women also have a talisman dangling in the center of their foreheads. Very pretty! We reached Isiolo without a hitch and met South African motorcyclists, Ken and Angela, (retired) who are doing the same trip as us, but traveling in the opposite direction. They were concerned about the condition of the road because of the rain and decided to put their bikes on a truck and travel with the truck to Marsabit. We stayed in the Bomen Hotel in Isiolo and enjoyed the first real T-Bone steaks since we were in South Africa last year! The food was so good, and the staff so friendly, we stayed for an extra day before leaving for Nairobi. This gave us the opportunity to meet the chief and mayor of Isiolo who was at the hotel to attend a fundraising event for houses that had burnt down recently in the village. As he was chatting to us, various people came in to talk to him and he handed out money to them in return - "just like a politician", he explained. We donated some money to the event which was greeted with much clapping, cheering and ululating from the ladies. I also visited the local hairdresser who squashed me between all the mama's having their hair done, and released me from my Ethiopian braids.

In Nairobi we stayed in the Upper Hill Campsite and used this as a base to explore the city. We didn’t have any problems with theft or robbery and enjoyed walking around the city and taking in the mixture of colonial and modern architecture, and the most incredibly decadent homes belonging to ambassadors/UN officials and the like. Wildlife lives and breaths amongst tall buildings. This we witnessed in the form of Maribu Stalks that nested in Acacia trees along a very busy avenue lined with supermarkets. It rained heavily whilst we were in Nairobi, which left us with little to do other than to read, relax and chat with the other travellers in front of the fireplace in Upper Hill. To our surprise, we were joined at the Upper Hill by Ken and Angela. The truck that they travelled in to get to Marsabit was shot at and they were robbed. Their bikes were not taken, but they lost all of the cash they had on them, their reading specs, sunglasses, phone and camera with all the films they had so far taken on their trip. The bank immediately cancelled their credit cards, but would not send the new cards to Nairobi. They are now on their way back to Joburg as they can't continue their trip without any money.

From Nairobi we left for an overnight stop in Voi. To get to Voi we had to drive through the Tsavo reserve, and we saw many giraffe, baboon and zebra on the road. At the Red Elephant Safari Lodge, we were joined by a Masai visitor who stayed for a chat and to try some of our food. This part of the reserve is famous for its ‘red elephants” who acquire the colour from the soil that they throw on their backs - all soil in the area is a reddish colour. Christian bought himself a pair of Masia shoes in Voi, which are made out of tires.

Mombassa is a charming, tropical and terribly, terribly hot coastal center. My mother lived in Mombassa and was able to tell me all the best places to visit. This took us to Fort Jesus (old Portguese Fort built on the sea), the Old Town which has fabulous carved wooden doors, and we even found the hotel that my great grandmother used to work at! We made full use of the Matatus (minibus taxi’s). They are colourful and have crazy names like “Field Marshall Freedom Fighter”, “Punishment Starts Like That”, “Necessary Noise” and “Da Stopper!” The co-pilot hangs out of the sliding door shouting out the Matatu’s destination. Once you are in the Matatu he bangs on the roof to signal to the driver to move off. Inside, all sound of traffic is drowned out by very funky Swahili Hip Hop played at top volume. We learnt that many police own Matatu's. The new government has just initiated a crackdown on Matatu's which now have to have seatbelts and yellow line painted along the side of the vehicle by 1st Feb 2004. On D-Day the country was plunged into chaos as police were forced to pull hundreds of (their own)Matatu's off the roads and issue fines. What the government did not anticipate was that the police did not restrict their checks to Matatu's: they targeted all vehicles on the road, in particular large transport vehicles and government vehicles, and pulled them off and fined them as well. In addition, they lengthened the checking process at roadblocks which created lengthly traffic jams. The country was effectively brought to a standstill without demonstration or strike and the battle of wits between police and government continues. We stayed in Likoni and used the Likoni ferry to cross to Mombassa everyday. This was a great way of getting to mingle with the people. Kenyan’s talk to anyone and everyone, their English is impeccable, and the level of education excellent.

From Mombassa we headed for Twiga Camping on Tiwi Beach. This was definitely the highlight of our stay in Kenya. We had the entire beach to ourselves and soon got to know the local community there. Every morning Mango Man would call by on his bicycle laden with straw bags containing fresh fruit and vegetables. We bought what we needed for the day and then waited for the fishermen who came past with their morning catch. We tried everything!!!! Crayfish, shrimps, crabs, blue and red snapper, tuffy fish, etc. which we cooked on the fire in the evenings. During the day we walked along the beach and chatted to the Askari’s working there. They are very excited about the new constitution that is being written for Kenya, and especially the vote of no confidence which is being introduced. All over Kenya you see signs saying “No Corruption”. The last government has left a great mark on the people of Kenya today. On the beach, we also met Ricky, who cooked us a lunch of octopus over a fire in the Swahili way. On the day we left, Ricky gave us a present of a coconut. He told us to take it back to our village in Europe and place it in a warm sandy spot where it could get a little moisture. He suggested that we place it at our front door so that when we arrive home in the evening, we can wash our feet over the coconut shell before walking inside, just as he does. This gives the coconut the perfect amount of moisture it requires. We should just make sure that none of the other villages walk off with it. The Twiga Lodge Bar hosted us on many a night when we watched the African Cup football games. Especially fun were the Kenya matches!

The only upset we had in Tiwi was that Christian fell ill. We drove to the hospital in Mombassa the following day, and he came away with a small paper bag of medicine to treat him. I decided to see the doctor as well for very general feelings of tiredness, lethargy and a cold that I couldn’t shake and came away with a large paper bag full of medicine to treat me for the malaria I was unaware I had. This left Chrisitian feeling usurped in the illness stakes.

We reluctantly said our goodbye’s to Mango Man, Ricky and all the Fishermen and made our way to Lunga Lunga where we left Kenya, and we are now in Dar es Salaam and will leave for Zanzibar this afternoon. We have sent out the highlight pictures with this mail. As always, the remaining pictures will be posted on our web page in a few days time:

Goodbye for now from

Julianne and Christian!!