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Published: August 17th 2009
Crossing the equator
I arrive in Nairobi and head straight to the rendezvous with my truck - Hyena. The first 73 days of my trip through Africa will be on an overland truck, from Nairobi to Cape Town. We will pass through ten countries and cover more than 5,000km, starting off in East Africa and working our way slowly south and west, to finish at the southernmost point on the continent.
We start off by driving north through the great Rift Valley, stopping on the way to buy provisions. While the truck is parked up, I chat to Christian and Justin from the Democratic Republic of Congo - refugees who have walked hundreds of kilometres to camp outside Nairobi’s UN compound, in a desperate wait for a job or Western sponsorship. I expected stories like this in Africa, but not so soon or in the largest city our truck will visit.
The first part of our trip is focussed on one thing - trekking with the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, so for the first few weeks most of our driving will comprise a mammoth round trip through Kenya and Uganda, ending back in Nairobi to continue the journey south.
Fishermen on Lake Baringo
stop is Lake Baringo, home to hippos, crocs and eagles, and our first chance to see the game that many on the trip have come to see. But before we get there, we have our first taste of overlanding by breaking down a few kilometres from the lake. Within minutes, what seemed like a deserted road begins to teem with life, as a gaggle of kids emerge from the bush and start playing with a wire car... posing for photos and demanding biscuits! Within an hour, dozens of passing locals have managed to fix Hyena and we limp on to camp. We pitch our tents, leaving a clear two metres between each one to allow the roving hippos passage, and heed our guides’ warning to be exercise caution when leaving our tents at night... and to never get between a hippo and the water!
On the lake (everyone realising that drinking until 2am probably wasn’t the best prep for a 6am start...), we watch as a fish eagle repeatedly swoops down for fish thrown by our guides, and sail as close as we dare to groups of hippos lounging in the shallows... doing as little as possible and exposing
Fisgh eagle catching supper
only their brows and noses. Locals sell fish from single person boats on the lake, and we manage to spy a few small crocs enjoying the morning sunshine on the reed beds before heading back to camp.
In the afternoon, we visit the Pokot tribe in scrub close to the lake. The village is nothing more than a collection of small mud huts around a central square (read patch of dirt and rubbish) - an archetypal African settlement. We’re surrounded by tiny, grubby and malnourished children, who claw at our clothes and try to grab our cameras and sunglasses. We visit one of the houses and try our hand at firing a bow and arrow, then join the tribe for a few rounds of jumping up and down... traditional dancing which never seems to end! After my second go I retire to the back of the group. The experience is slightly uncomfortable and clearly not very authentic - the chief chats on his mobile phone as we tour the houses, and there are plenty of western clothes on display. The piles of litter strewn all over, and the overriding smell of cattle manure don’t make for a very quaint
Hyena and the Pokot tribe
picture of rural life - it looks like a tough, squalid existence, and I’m at least satisfied that they need the money they’ll get from our visit.
We return to Hyena to head north to our next country - Uganda.
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