Arrived in Nairobi in torrential rain, heavy traffic and more crazy driving, eventually found Jungle-Junction, an overlanders institution, that’s recently relocated to Karen, the upmarket suburb of Nairobi. Here you can camp, get your knackered vehicles fixed by Chris- a German BMW mechanic and his expert team (hopefully) he’s been bailing overlanders out for years following the usual bush mechanic bodges. He also stores vehicles for people who to and fro from Europe on Safari holidays and also overlanders like ourselves.
As we are so close to the National park (which runs right into the city) it’s rather strange at night being able to hear the Lions and Hyena’s. We asked Tom ( taxi man) if they ever escape and he said yes. Sure enough Chris came in next day and said he had seen a cone in the road on the way home with a sign saying ” Beware lioness spotted” . Bit different from sheep in the lane.
Besides being here to sort the Landy out we needed to get visa’s for Ethiopia and Sudan, a task we were dreading as we’d heard it was a long, arduous process and what with the criminal activity in Nairobi supposedly rife,we didn’t want to hang around too long. This is how we managed to get them,the information is really aimed at other overlanders,to try and ease the pain!
The Landy was without wheels so we took a taxi (2 hours) to the British high commission, to get a letter of invitation for the Sudanese Embassy. High security here meant, body and bag searches and unable to take anything in apart from documents. After some considerable time we were dealt with and recieved our letter – a bargain at £45.00 for about three or four lines. Efficent they are not!!
Next stop, the Ethiopian embassy, they had just closed as we arrived ( visa section open from 9 am until 12 noon) luckily for us, the security guard pointed us in the direction of the receptionist who was walking by and he gave us the application forms, telling us to return the following morning at 9:00am as visa’s can only be dealt with in the mornings.
We then trooped off to Sudanese embassy – note the Lonely planet map is wrong ( it shows it’s near the Ethiopian embassy and the given address is South Sudan embassy.
The actual embassy is on Kabernet Rd – see Bradt Sudan guide, or google it- where it’s been for some time.
Here we got 1 form – the only one they had apparently and were told to copy it, as we needed 2
We were told you could do your own letter jus stating that you wanted a visa for tourist purposes – as we already had the UK embassy letter we didnt try it – someone with more time might push it as it saves half a day and $50 – as with most visa stuff this seems an outdated requirement as does a residential address in the country but there you go.
Traffic a little less heavy on the return journey,but having spent the best part of 7 hours in a taxi and all we had was a letter and a couple of application forms, we still had a long way to go……..time for a beer.
Arranged with taxi driver to leave at 6:30 am to avoid traffic chaos, typically, we were up at 5:30 and he didn’t arrive until 7:00. Anyway, arrived at Ethiopian embassy just before 9:00. Surprisingly they opened on time and in we went following all the usual bag and body checks, signing in etc. Unravelled all our paperwork which included
2x Application forms
2x Passports (old and new – although this stemmed from the route, number of countries we had visited and in fact they did not look at the old ones in the end)
Copies of last 5 pages in Carnet de passage(car passport)- when we told them we’d been to 28 different countries, they surrendered and said the last 5 would do. Plus copies of front cover and inside cover with all details
2x passport photo’s
1 copy of visa card
1,660 ksh each paid into their bank account, a few roads away and return with receipts. They give you the forms, directions,etc
We were rather hoping to be dealt with by the scary lady with a crucifix tatooed on her forehead who hates men, the one we’d heard so much about, however, our lady, who wasn’t exactly Miss cheery either, was nonetheless quite helpful, she scooped up all the paperwork and told us to return the next morning at 9:00 am
By some miracle the visa’s were ready for us at 9:00 as promised, but only issued for a month – note they only seem to issue them from the date of presentation and would not issue them for a future date, bear this in mind, this means we will have to get an extension in AddisAbaba later on which is supposed to be no problem. We also asked about validity, they confirmed the visas would be good for both Moyale and Fort Banya despite the fact you can only state one point of entry on form. They also confirmed there’s both immigration and customs at Fort Banya– we shall see.
Off to Sudanese Embassy once again and off-loaded more of the same to them- for fellow overlanders this included;
2 x application forms-completed
2 x copies of passport
2x copies Yellow fever certificate
1 xcopy visa/credit card
1 x copy Carnet de passage cover and internal cover
2 x passport photo’s
5,000 KSH each
Told to come back tomorrow at 3:00 pm for collection although signs there plus other info suggests this is at 9 am the following day . It might be that normally, but later for us as they seemed to be quite busy.
Be warned traffic makes the whole thing a nightmare so plan carefully and leave plenty of time or you will waste days!!
The intention had been to get stamped out of Kenya in the morning ( City immigration) then pick up Sudanese visas. Had a re-think and decided to abandon the Fort Banya / Lake Turkana route because of time and the fact the locals seem to be involved in a fairly serious war at moment.
We returned to the Sudanese Embassy on Friday at 3:00 as we were told, although I always thought this would be touch and go. We waited….. and waited…. and waited, not a soul in sight, except for another three customers, pacing the floor. At 4:00 we saw a man outside who told us they had all gone shopping for the day and the visa’s hadn’t been signed off, therefore we must return on Monday morning. Words can’t describe how annoyed we were, this meant spending another weekend in Nairobi and precious travelling days being lost. But what could we do? We had heard about one couple causing a fuss about their treatment and ended up having their passports taken away and locked inside the embassy for the night.
We know Sudan is cursed with the largest bureaucracy in Africa and that speed and efficiency, all a bit of a mystery to them and you’d think we’d be used to it by now, but at the end of a week spent in embassies,travelling to/from and sitting in for hours, we were totally fed up………time for more beer.
Watch this space for further developments !!
Whilst spending the last few days visting embassies, we managed to break free and fit in a few other activities, one being a visit to “The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust” close by.
Here they raise Orphaned Black Rhino’s and Elephants and re-introduce them back into the wild (Tsavo National Park) when the time is right,about two or three years after feeding ,nurturing and generally helping them get over the stress they’ve been through, many have been found standing over their dead mothers, willing them back to life, some never recover from the trauma.
Their handlers who stay with them night and day,bring a dozen or so baby Elephants into a viewing area, where the visitors can watch them being bottle-fed, this is such a heartwarming, but rather depressing sight as they are nearly all there due to poaching.
After they’ve guzzled down 2 large bottles of milk (a special formula) they romp around, playing with footballs and wallowing in the watering hole, as their keepers explain the history of each one.
When this group is led away, another older,not so dependant group arrives. After many photo’s we ended up sponsering a 12 month old baby elephant called Lima Lima, for the girls Christmas present, I’m sure they would have preferred a Ferrari, but there you go. They can follow her progress, look at photo’s and generally get updates and info every month via email. A very well organised set-up,where you feel your money ends up in the right place for once. I’d read the book by Daphne Sheldrick (An African Love Story) a few months ago, which inspired the visit here.
Spent some time with Kev, a young Irish guy living in Australia and travelling on a motobike and a Swedish couple, Jannie and Fabie in a camper-van, the three had met in Aswan and travelled through Sudan and Ethiopia together, so it was reassuring listening to their stories and how they managed to get through with no real problems to speak of. We picked their brains and got a few tips on places to go and routes to take,such nice people and a relief to get some recent info on that neck of the woods.
Wev’e also been kept updated by Richard and Sophie (Morgan Safari) who have recently done the same route home as we are taking, so not completely in the dark .
The big question for us was whether to take The infamous Marsabit- Moyale road into Ethiopia, which has a reputation of 300km of rough as hell road, or the longer, but more picturesque route along Lake Turkana, which takes up to, 6 or 7 days and isn’t really a road at all in parts, this also gives you a good old battering. Kev et al said the roads were just rough and tough on vehicles ( it was quite dry when they travelled ) We think to some extent its reputation is based on fact that most South/ East African roads are generally good so it comes as a shock to many people, whereas we have travelled on so many bad roads we,still comment on how good they are all the time. We will see in due course!!! The problem with the latter, is the risk of bandits, intertribal conflict and security issues generally, ( Kenyan Govt has upped its prescence over last few months to bring things back under control a bit although, theres no indication that things have improved much.) so that,coupled with the fact we have to be out of Kenya at the begining of January, wouldn’t leave us enough time to see all the places we need to, so we’ve opted for the Marsabit- Moyale route. (will report back later and keep fingers crossed for dry weather)
Spent a lovely afternoon with an old school friend, Alexandra and her husband at their stunning house, in the leafy suburbs of Karen, they’ve lived in Nairobi for the last twenty years, but have travelled all over the world.
Sunday was car cleaning day and lots o otherf jobs. A fellow traveller, Dan a kiwi (also mechanic) tried to sort out a bike he had hired – fuel tank revealed a minor problem!!!
Also came across a nice flap necked chameleon while getting water from tap
Heading towards Mombassa next, The Indian Ocean beckons for a few days chilling and Chris has kindly offered us the use of a villa, on the beach……we could hardly refuse now could we.
In case we are not able to blog again this year, we would like to wish all the wonderful family and friends A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR !!
Looks like we will be in the desert on the Kenya/Ethiopia border Christmas day…… a joy, and communications unlikely, but you never know !