Kenya: The Hell Road, A Broken Hand, and Spluttering Motorbikes.

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November 16th 2013
Published: December 3rd 2013
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The border process between Ethiopia and Kenya was smooth and friendly, which was a relief after the hassles we experienced in Egypt and Sudan. We were knackered after a long day, but the hotel we checked out was a bit expensive so we trundled off to find something cheaper. We succeeded by finding a guesthouse for locals who allowed us to ride through their restaurant to store the bikes in an area down some stairs. Tricky to get to, but nice and safe for the bikes. Soon after we arrived the skies opened. Proper rain. The first we had experienced since Europe. A novel buzz in some ways, but also pretty concerning as we were to face the most notorious road of our trip the next day, the two day "Hell Road" from Moyale to Isiolo.

The start of the ride was painfully slow, with slippery mud that soon put Chris and Jaap's bikes on their sides. Later on, one particularly boggy patch ensnared Brett, and he fell. Initially we were worried about his leg which got pinned under the bike as he fell, but it soon become apparent that his hand had been twisted and was causing him real pain. As he was preparing to ride out of the mud, he said "not sure why, but I think I'm going to faint" and went a deathly white colour. He was trying to take his gloves by fumbling at the thumb of his glove to detach the Velcro which was actually on his wrist. We finally persuaded him to get off his bike, and after ten minutes and a couple of pain-killers he was ready to ride on. Later on in Nairobi he found out he had broken one of the bones in his hand.

The afternoon sun dried up the road a bit, and the area was a volcanic rock strewn wonderland, but the rocks jutting from the road smashed up Jaap's tyre and rim on two occasions. I avoided this wheel abuse, which was fortunate as I was still nursing a large rim dent from Ethiopia. The appearance of brand spanking new Chinese-built tarmac after 190kms was pretty exciting. Worth a handshake!

For a real taste of the day, you can see an edited video of the day here.

We stayed for the night at Henry's Camp in Marsabit. Henry is an older Swiss guy
who has been Kenya for 25 years or so, and treated us to a large feed, and brilliant little 7-bed traditional sleeping hut.

The next day was only 140km off-road, drier than the day before, and not as rocky. However the corrugations on the road were fierce and the bikes were well and truly shaken up. After a while I found a sweet spot in the road right at the edge on the opposite side from the prevailing wind; here sand had built up in the rut, and I was able to float along untroubled by the corrugations. Brett also ventured into this sandy track, but was discouraged after a sandy incident, and reluctantly headed back to the corrugations. This part of northern Kenya is very remote, and we were treated to some very traditional and colourful locals. Rather than money, the things they wanted most from us was water. Jaap was relieved of a bottle of water, much of his Camelbak, and a bottle of coke by one persuasive individual.

See here for the edited video of our second day in northern Kenya.

Our third day in Kenya saw us cross the equator at Nanyuki. While
doing this trip, it's not often that you think about the trip as a whole, most of the time you are just focussing on the day ahead of you, but crossing the equator provided a moment to reflect on the distance we had covered. From 55 degrees north, I was now in the Southern Hemisphere where I belong, and apart from the water crossings I had covered every inch by motorbike. Satisfying.

We had been lucky enough to be invited to stay with a family Brett knew in Nairobi. Literally a few kilometres from the house my bike started to lose power when the engine was under load, and over the last kilometre it got so bad that it was difficult to get up even small inclines. Amazingly Jaap's bike also developed the same problem, and by the time we got to the Chesterman's place I almost needed to walk my bike through their front gate. Nairobi was the first place with a KTM dealership since Egypt, and we had planned for a big service, so the timing of this issue couldn't have been better! As suspected the fuel filters were completely clogged with gunk due to the poor quality fuel we had needed to use, and after they were swapped out, the bikes ran good as new.

We stayed for a couple of nights at a well known Overlander campsite in Nairobi called Jungle Junction. Here we enjoyed lightning fast internet, and meet up with Paul, a South African based Swiss guy who has done hundreds of thousands of kms in Africa. With his help we planned a rough route for the rest of our trip.

We ordered pizza during one of the evenings at Jungle Junction, and they called to ask us to open the gate. Jaap couldn't find the overnight guard to do this, so pushed what he thought was a bell, but it was actually the panic alarm, and within minutes a pick-up truck with massive spotlights and six guys with AK47s turned up!

We left the barbed-wired, high walled, security guard infested sprawl of Nairobi and headed west. The land transformed quickly brown to a lush green, and as night fell we stayed in Keroka, a town that must not have many Mzungu stay. We were absolutely swamped by people, and the hotel owner Theresa said we were the first Westerners
to stay at her place. Theresa invited us to her house the next morning for breakfast, and then we headed towards yet another border crossing, this time into Tanzania, and what was to be some of the best days of our trip so far.

Additional photos below
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3rd January 2014

Lovely pictures
Your photos are mesmerizing, wanna see more of them, congratulations
17th January 2014

What happened next, a very interesting blog, but nothing after Kenya other than a mention that Tanzania was great? What happened?

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