From Nairobi to the border

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January 26th 2014
Published: January 28th 2014
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October 14

There's been so many amazing excursions in the past seven months but today was an unexpectedly brilliant day. Who knew that there was such a thing as the Nairobi Goat Derby?? Not only that but it's so well organized and all in the name of charity. Here we were thinking we'd go take a look for an hour and we shut the place down almost ten hours later...

Most of the group came along for a look and we pulled some tables together with prime viewing of the starting line. A few goats munched happily on the grass and bushes, seemingly unaware of what was in store for them. The hilarity began when the teams tried to dress their goats in t-shirts. Obviously the goats weren't overly keen and it took several people per goat to get them on. Then after some pitiful bleating, they went back to happily munching grass. All the while we kept the nearby bar staff amused with our own silliness and some peoples' drinking capabilities. Then it was race time.

Without knowing very much, it seemed there was a team of local school boys, a team of mzungus and a few other mixed teams of both old and young, locals and expats. Goats were led on ropes and would be running with their teams who were armed with what looked like short straw brooms to 'encourage' them. They haphazardly arranged themselves in a line and at the signal, took off for the 50m (maybe it was 100m?) dash. The goats were unimpressed. Most were dragged along, the straw brooms proving to be useless. One team even carried their goat though they were later disqualified. And so the schoolboys won, proudly carrying their goat back from the finish line and trying him near a bush for a well-earned snack until the next race.

This continued all afternoon with maybe five races in total. We purchased raffle tickets, wine, miniature desserts served on little plastic dishes, listened to the local bands on the stage and then we spotted the amusement area. It was a bit of a free for all and that's how half a dozen of us found ourselves on the jumping castle with children half our size and much less than half our age. It's possible we had more fun than them! They also had what I now know is called zorbing, but minus the slope. Alexis, Britt and I climbed in with three children clambering in behind us while Nico rallied the children on the outside to push us around. It was chaos. We tumbled and fell on each other with us three adults trying to stay out of the way of the kids (who laughed hysterically through the entire thing). Eventually Nico listened to our increasingly violent threats and stopped the orb so we could climb out and leave the kids to it. We headed back to our table for a much needed glass of wine...

After the final race which I think the school boys won yet again, the raffle was drawn and Kevin won the grand prize which was a holiday for two to Mombasa! Graciously he went up and thanked the organisers and told them he was donating the prize back to them which won him a lot of cheers - and a few 'why didn't give it to me??' on the way back to our table.

By the time we left, almost everything had been packed up and the lights were turned out, leaving us with the odd overhead light and the moon. We were split up as some went to a nearby tent, doubling as a late bar and others jumped into the last few taxis. Kevin and I found a minibus which dropped us off at what we thought were nearby shops and ended up hopelessly lost, asking a security guard posted outside a house to call us a taxi. He was alarmed to see us walking about so late at night and made us wait with him until the taxi came. After haggling about the exorbitant fee, we realized very quickly that we were only a street away from where we needed to be. Lesson learnt.


October 18

We're en route to the border and we've stopped at a camping ground outside Isiolo along the main road. It was a bit of a steep turn off the main road but Suse wasn't as worried about that as she was about fitting through their front gate. As usual, the local guys were just as adamant that we would fit as Suse was that we wouldn't. Guess who was right? In the end, rather than break down their fence which they were quite willing to do, we parked outside the fence and carried our gear down the back, setting up shop in the neatly landscaped gardens. Everyone then made a beeline for the bar and seats in the shade.

Being in an area close to where the Samburu lived, Suse was asked if we wanted to see them in their traditional dress and watch them dance. And about an hour later, we had set up chairs in front of a volleyball net and met a local tribe who had come especially for us. The men stood off to one side and the women in another group, both huddled as they discussed what they were going to do. It was all very impromptu and I think we all appreciated that. It didn't feel forced, they looked relatively comfortable and enjoyed themselves, as did we. Some of our group danced with them after they'd finished and we all played with the kids that had tagged along either with parents or to watch the show. Suse did cartwheels which of course they all could do as well and we introduced them to wheelbarrow races. Some of the younger ones just didn't have the upper body strength to beat the older ones so we would pick them up and carry them while good-natured protesting followed us to the finish line.

As the sun set and the Samburu went home, we sat around the truck for what was to be Britt's last dinner. Although she had originally planned to finish the entire trip, she had visited a charity in Uganda and decided to end her trip to do volunteer work there. She would backtrack through Kenya by public bus and we would all be sorry to see her go. We crowded onto the truck and said our farewell speeches before begging for one last rendition of her now famous Grade Three performance of The Star Spangled Banner. Unbeknownst to Britt we had party poppers and two cans of Silly String which were unleashed only seconds into her singing.


October 20

Yesterday, waving goodbye to Britt and driving away from her was weird. Her bus wouldn't leave until later but we were pushing for the border so we left early. It was futile in the end as the roads were poor and upon reaching Sololo, the decision was made to stop there. With a huge thunderstorm approaching we wouldn't make it across the border before dark and couldn't camp at the border town of Moyale due to banditry so we turned off and drove slowly down the potholed road, trying to avoid low branches and looking for somewhere to park the truck. Locals helped as best they could and children stared wide-eyed at our truck, only a few waving back at us.

We met the local police chief who invited us to camp outside the police station which would be secure and that's how we ended up sharing dinner and drinks with the local police force and watching BBC news. Set up in a square tented room was a television with benches for seats. Talbot, Kevin and I stumbled across it and settled in to watch the local news, unable to understand but content to follow the pictures. Then the locals very kindly switched the channel to the English-speaking news for which we were grateful but almost embarrassed about. Now only three of us in the crowded room could understand. We caught up on the world news then thanked everyone profusely and quietly left.

Early this morning we left for the border. It was slow going on the roads but uneventful and we cleared the Kenyan side with ease. Parking the truck on the Ethiopian side (also called Moyale), we had to fill in paperwork and then present it in person at the office. When Suse returned, she told us the man had no sense of humour and was ill-tempered and we should go in, speak when spoken to and get out. In the end, he was fine but didn't speak much English so when we were laughing amongst ourselves, I think he thought we were laughing at him. We quit, stared at our shoes, answered the questions he asked, thanked him when he stamped our passports and headed back to the truck. We were officially in Ethiopia!

Additional photos below
Photos: 16, Displayed: 16


Roped in at the last minuteRoped in at the last minute
Roped in at the last minute

This woman is off at university and returned home in time to join the singing and dancing
Group photoGroup photo
Group photo

Thanks to Kevin O'Kines for the photo
Wheelbarrow racesWheelbarrow races
Wheelbarrow races

Thanks to Fred Jones for the video he made where I could pull these photos from
Samburu childrenSamburu children
Samburu children

Thanks to Fred Jones for this shot

28th January 2014

Goat racing, what a scream
Raffle tickets, wine, sounds like you had everything you needed. Loved hearing about your night in the tent outside the police station. The kindness of others.

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