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Published: November 28th 2007
We had all been rather dreading this leg. It has the reputation of being one of the worst roads in Africa, and we were not disappointed. But as we drove out of the town, through a police check, we had to forfeit our passports while they recorded our details. Jeremy and I were then hauled off to meet the local Chief Supt of Police, clearly a very important person, who at great length detailed the position regarding shifta on this road. But because there had been no trouble for several months and because the road was well policed, he would not insist on us having an escort policeman with us.
We of course expressed our delight and eventually set off, at least 45 minutes later than we had hoped! The first part of the road wasn’t too bad, dense scrubby bush and the road surface scarred by struggling vehicle wheels during the recent short rains. We made reasonably good progress. But we had only covered about half of the 150 mile leg when we hit the really bad stuff. It was like the China Road and The Road to Hell rolled into one! For over 2 ours we drove at anything between 5 and 15 mph and even so we were shaken to bits. It was real misery.
The terrain was bleak dessert, scattered thickly in boulders which went on for miles and miles. In the middle of nowhere we came upon a local walking the other way so Ian, who was in the lead, stopped and gave him a bottle of water to drink. The man was very grateful but either because he had been chewing some funny stuff or because he was dehydrated, he fell over once or twice before marching off to the north on his lonely journey. I wonder how he fared?
Towards the end of this desert section we did see some Grants Gazelle and some Somali Ostrich - and we wondered how they, too, existed in this environment. Eventually the road started to climb towards Marsabit
, a mountainous area surrounded by deserts. Again we found a crater by the side of the road where we stopped to admire its classical outline. The vegetation was now green and abundant; and indeed the top of this mountain is clad in rain forest and often shrouded in mist - a real paradox of the land all about.
Having refuelled and replenished our provisions we sought out Henry’s place. Henry is a Swiss who lives on the outskirts of the town and has a well deserved reputation of providing excellent camping facilities for the likes of us. We eventually found him and indeed he lived up to his reputation. We were offered a large area, with scattered small acacia, where there was a small open hut with table and chairs and laid on water which we could use, and there were 2 spotless loos and a shower with abundant hot water. In fact, after we had availed ourselves of this shower, we unanimously voted this the best equipped campsite of our trip. Indeed, judging by the shower alone, it was better than many, many of the hotel facilities we have experienced! The only drawback to this place is the rather strong and persistent easterly wind.
To our utter surprise, in line with all the toilet buildings, was another entitled “Nagayo Bakery”. And it was open and functioning. One of Henry’s enterprises is this bakery where he makes bread for Marsabit shops as well as shifting a daily consignment (along that hellish road) to sell in Moyale! We bought some and it was very good indeed. Sliced loaf, neatly wrapped in cellophane, in one of Africa’s remotest places - almost bizarre!
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