244 km, 6948 km from Cape Town
JOU MA SE MARSABIT
The second half of this great road, started in an extraordinary dry mist which dissapeared after we descended from the plateau of Marsabit and we spent the day on this rough and rocky road with long muddy sections which sap speed and we only got to Moyale late in the afternoon. It was a great ride though and mud spalattered we all are.
We crossed over the Kenyan border and when we got to the Ethiopian side were told that the immigration guys had gone home for the day and we should sleep in Moyale and return in the morning.
We met a money changer and he guided us to the best place in town – a town that is a sea of traders, goats, donkeys, mud and functional mayhem
Another tough section of road lay ahead across the Dida Galgalu Desert. Sandy, rocky, muddy in parts, long and harsh. Yet beautiful, despite the barrenness. We saw all kinds of birds, small blue swallows with brown caps and solitary raptors gliding effortlessly in the desert winds. Lilac breasted rollers flipped and rolled after insect like missiles. Plovers, travelling at 70km/h performed aerobatics alongside the bikes. At watery spots we spotted sacred ibis, like porcelain with black markings and beautiful curved beaks silent, elegant and watchful. This was their centuries old African home. We were the privileged visitors. As Garth neared the end of one particular diversion, he saw a huge black ground hopping bird which didn’t fly off in panic. ‘Ground hornbill’ was the guess, which became the standing joke when Kyle smartly commented, ‘You guys think every unidentified bird is a ground hornbill’. Wild camels in a man made bare dusty hollow by the road looked like a posed photo opportunity. What were they doing there? Probably keeping out of the winds and rain which had recently fallen. A little respite. There were sparse villages at long intervals, eaking out a bare living by scratching in the sand and base rock. Goats and cattle were everywhere at every village. Free range and fence free. It had to happen sometime. In fact we had been warned by other bikers, beware of the goats and other animals straying on the road. Leaving one village a small goat balked, danced, tiptoed, trotted and dashed in front of Shane’s bike. There was barely time to react. Avoiding the goat put bike and rider on the slippery slope off the road into the sloping verge. Grass, bush, tree stump, rocks and Trevor shouting nervously
315 km, 6704 km from Cape Town
THE GREAT ROAD
Leaving Meru, plump with fuel and with fine weather we started on the great Marsabit Road which runs essentially rom Isiolo to Moyale on the Ethiopian border and is pretty much the last of the natural untarred great north road. Although the chinese have been busy for a long time with upgrading this and other roads all over Africa, there are still long sections which remain as they have always been.
The road cuts through the Kaisut desert and pans of northern kenya which is home to remote and unique tribes, who we were told have chased off the road-builders on occasion. A great broad highway through the region would change their pastoral ways for ever and so it is understandable.
Riding conditions were pretty tough as the original road is corrugated, rocky and sandy untill it started to rain, when it became just muddy!
Before the rain though, we had to deal with two rear wheel punctures with camels as audience.
We crept into Marsabit quite late and found our guest house.
Riding conditions being fairly hectic it was relatively difficult to spot wildlife. Nonetheless we surprised, and were surprised by, animals and birds as we crawled like ants across the face of one of Africa’s fine natural roads. Strange longnecked guinea fowl trotted away in front of the wheels with a lot of very skittish small dik dik-like buck bolting in terror both sides. What were those, we wondered! At one stage we were stopped dead by a huge troop of baboons, babies, females and arrogant, swaggering males which crossed the road. There must have been at least 50 or 60. The bush had changed since the slopes and was now thorn and scrub. Pin tailed wydahs, blueand plum coloured starling, unidentified robin like birds and raptors were spotted. In between there were small groups of camels in the acacias, each wearing the wooden bell given them early in life to signal their presence in the bush…clonk, clonk, clonk. What strangely benign creatures so adapted to Africa and looking just right in bush or desert conditions. I confess they have become a personal favourite on this African journey. Garth noticed an interesting thing about them, they appear quite thin viewed head on, probably some sort of adaptation to Africas conditions. They ruminate away quietly and are undisturbed by bikes and humans. Termite mounds were large in the surrounding bush, evidence of vast nests which had been building for years undisturbed.
Our first camel sighting, northern Kenya
238 km, 6389 km from Cape Town
We packed up and said our goodbyes to our housemates and left in a light drizzle which soon stopped and we had lovely cool travelling weather for the rest of the day.
Our route north took us firts right into the heart of Nairobi but as it was Good Friday today, the traffic was so light that it did not hassle us at all and we were able to gawp at this immense city and surrounds.
We passed through the small town of Thika which appeared quite affluent and amid quite thick easter weekend traffic chose the easterly B6 route that is a wonder of neat tropical agriculture and skirts the great Mount Kenya to the west. Unfortunately it was again too cloudy for mountain spotting but was a truly great ride which ended in the town of Meru.
A busy vibey place is Meru and we found a downtown hotel with basement parking for the bikes.
Out of the surrounds of Nairobi and riding back through the lush countryside wildlife was a bit sparse. The road is very populated with villages dotting the way. In addition, the slopes of Mt Kenya are tea and coffee, bananas, cane and polenta/sorghum with rice in large paddy fields on the plain below. So it was back to the staples of African daily domestic life, donkeys for transport, cattle, goats and chickens for food and the ubiquitous thin ribbed yellow dogs for company. Bird life consisted of irridescent starlings, various unidentified small raptors and robins. A common bird everywhere was the pied crow which was found scavenging off humans. An incredibly diverse and successful bird.
The Equator! We almost missed this sign!
6151 km from from Cape Town
Unfortunately both Kilo and I have succumbed to a stomach bug and that does leave one flat and uncomfortable. Luckily the amenities are good – there are worse places to have the shits!
We went down to the local KTM bike shop, which carried an impressive inventory of their expensive gear but needed to get certain things and so paid up for them.
Some further shopping being done, we returned along a route where they are doing some impressive new road work developement work. All aimed at getting easier access to the shiny new malls that are springing up.
We bought a second hand tyre from the stock pile that our host has built up and exchanged Kilo’s rear tyre for it, as it had worn too much for our liking, though we will bring it along as a spare.
Lots of domestic herds, humped back cattle, goats and donkeys with the dark crosses across their shoulders all under cloudy skies. We saw a large martial eagle perched in acacia tree by the side of the road. Stopping for a break under a thorn umbrella we could see busy robin like birds with huge communal nests. Then outside Nairobi, one of us spotted a small impala herd by the road. Pin tailed wydahs swooped in looping flight and lilac breasted rollers twisted in flight after insect life.
Everywhere we saw the domestic food of Africa, chickens of all varieties. Chickens tied up, chickens penned, chickens being carted on bicycles, chickens in and on buses and cars. There were free roaming chickens in dusty villages. On motorcycles there were chickens, being carted along sometimes in twos or threes. It seemed Africa’s taste runs on village chicken and Nyama choma or meat with whatever local vegetable delicacy of the day is prepared. As we approached the Ngong Hills area, we saw a huge hammerkop stalking through the green grass and low acacia of Kenya. At some ungodly hour of the morning, whilst camping on the lawn, the local dogs from the surrounding villages began their ancestral howling in unison, a weird and motley pack call which reached a crescendo then it was back to individual dog discussions and challenges across the busy night of Nairobi.
Bikes lined up at Jungle Junction