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Africa » Kenya » Eastern Province » Marsabit
April 9th 2009
Published: May 17th 2009
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View from the LandroverView from the LandroverView from the Landrover

Moyale->Marsabit road
Two hours after my truck south is cancelled, there is banging on my room door and I am told that a private vehicle has arrived. I head outside to find a Landrover that I've seen somewhere before, probably Ethiopia. It's driven by a Swiss guy, Patrik, who is overlanding from Switzerland to Cape Town and he says he is happy to take a passenger - he can't guarantee that he will be going all the way to Nairobi, but will definitely be going at least as far as Isiolo, which is fine by me. English is a language he doesn't like and which is perhaps his fourth best - indeed his friends had asked him how on earth he'd be able to travel through Africa with his ability being so poor - but, in that annoying way of continental Europeans, it's actually excellent.

Needless to say, the broker had met him at the border with some BS story that I was willing to pay KSh3000 to get to Nairobi, of which the broker would get KSh1000 and Patrik the rest. I point out to Patrik that this had never been mentioned to me but I will split petrol costs with him. He seems more than
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Moyale->Marsabit road
happy with this as he would be driving this stretch regardless. The broker is less than happy, as the tip I give him is significantly below the KSh1000 he'd deluded himself he would be getting. I feel like punching the guy to try to make him snap out of the little bubble of entitlement that he is in, but realise that this is what passes for morality in places like Moyale.

Patrik is in a hurry as he is already late for an appointment to meet his girlfriend near Nairobi. His lateness is due to a slew of mechanical problems in Ethiopia that seem to have shaken his faith in the ability of Ethiopian mechanics as well as given him an insight into some of the more venal aspects of Ethiopia. We swap stories of our experiences there and it is clear that we are both glad to be out.

Patrik has a great deal of knowledge of both outdoors life and 4WDing, as is evident from the contents of his Landrover. In particular I am fascinated by the GPS, which I've never used before. In countryside with few landmarks and no milestones, it is somehow comforting to
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Moyale->Marsabit road
find that the GPS confirms we are progressing down the correct (only?) road.

However we don't need a GPS to know that our progress is exceedingly slow. The road is bad, and we haven't been travelling for more than two hours before Patrik proclaims it is the worst he has ever driven on. We rarely hit 35km/h and it is uncomfortable to boot. The roofrack is held on by some substandard Ethiopian welding, so Patrik is reluctant to force the pace anyway. We are passed by a number of locals, who obviously know the conditions well and are barrelling along at 60km/h or so. This is actually part of Trans-Africa Highway 8, one of a network of notional roads linking the disparate parts of the continent. The name seems comically grandiose.

The landscape is uniformly scrubby with little in the way of settlements, and it is a constant surprise to see people wandering seemingly tens of kilometres from any habitation. We also see camels, donkeys, sheep, cattle, and goats being herded, plus wild ostriches, dik diks, and weaver birds. It's hot in the Landrover, the juddering tiring, but there is occasional beauty - we pass a camel train with the backdrop of a distant rainstorm, a miniature rainbow arcing across the clouds. The monotony is also broken by periodic roadblocks, though the Kenyan police bely their reputation by all being friendly and letting us pass unhindered. One says he is surprised we aren't travelling in a convoy, adding that the stretch from Marsabit to Isiolo is bandit country.

We have one hairy moment when there is a sudden metallic clanging that suggests something has fallen off the bottom of the Landrover. With Patrik having had almost daily problems with the car in Ethiopia, he fears the worst even more than I do, but fortunately it is a minor issue - one of the bolts holding the traction ramps to the front bumper has sheared off, leading to the ramps scraping against the ground. We stow them inside then continue.

The road never improves and our snail's pace remains constant and wearying. Every passing truck has a number of passengers atop, grimly hanging on, and I think "There but for the grace of God ..." Patrik breaks one of his cardinal rules by driving after dark, as we have still not reached Marsabit and there is no other suitable place to stop for the night. The full moon coalesces out of a shadowy grey disc, its size and brightness impressive.

Finally, almost unbelievably, the GPS shows that we are mere kilometres from our destination and sure enough we see lights in the distance. Some friends of Patrik's had passed this way several years ago, and they had given him the GPS coordinates of the hotel they'd stayed in. We cruise slowly down the darkened main street, braking slowly to a halt when the GPS shows we have arrived. And just metres away from us is the Jey Jey Centre, a brightly-painted conference center with accommodation facilities and several older whities. Oh the power of modern technology. The town is in the middle of a water shortage so there are only bucket showers but the rooms are cheap and more than acceptable. The journey has dehydrated me greatly and I drink four bottles of Fanta in a row. A plate of scrambled egg and chips perks me up further.

After dinner, I have a much-needed bucket shower and then read for a while. It's 11PM when I have lights-out, and I lay there in the dark thinking that, in a parallel universe, I would still be bumping along the road to Isiolo on top of a truck under the stars.

Dull but possibly useful info
i. I stayed at the Jey Jey Centre on the main road through Marsabit, paying KSh300 for a room with double bed - water is available on request.
ii. From the look on Patrik's face, the "beef stew" on the menu is best avoided. However the chips were damned good.

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26th May 2009

the realest travelblog of all time!!!
you're a true inspiration john! so it sounds like this epic epic journey ends in south africa at the end of the year? i wish you could just go on forever and ever, like that singaporean you met! ;-)
8th October 2010

at presently we are heading to moyale from cairo will be there by 10/10/10. we are on motorbikes and just want to know worst case scenario can you arrange transport of bikes by truck at boder to moyale

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