Addis to Sudan

 

Left the thick smog of Addis behind us, passing through The Blue Nile Gorge, this is cited as one of Africa’s largest canyon’s. It was indeed spectacular, but a bit hairy at times, our gears started playing up, crunching and the Landy refused to go into forth gear and several others on occasions, believe me, the Ethiopian Highlands was not the place for this to happen. The mountains were enormous, over 2,500 mtres every couple of kms, luckily much of it was spent going at a snails pace. Michael decided he needed feeding (as you do while peering down a sheer plunge of 100ft) so we stopped at what we thought was a rather magnificent view-point, only to have a Landrover full of police arrive telling us to move on, in a not-so-friendly way.

 

A night was spent at Debre Markos, on the top floor of a six storey building, in the centre of town, this also proved slightly un-nerving when you see how they construct their buildings here, we both woke in the night because of the foul smelling drains, we put wet cloths over the plugholes to stem the stench and eventually went back to sleep, dreaming of the bush!

 

Next day,we left, after forgetting to shut the back of the car up, half our kit fell out into the busy road, I rushed around dodging tuk-tuks, donkey’s etc, managing to retrieve most things, with only a couple of breakages, a few locals helped me too, so I gave them our bread rolls and avocado’s, for their kind assistance. I’m actually quite surprised this hasn’t happened before.

 

We then left town and journeyed on to Bahir Dar, the car struggled badly, suffering gear problems and altitude sickness this time (as did Michael!)

 

Things weren’t helped by kids throwing stones, shouting names and spitting. Not very endearing and something wev’e never experienced before. Sadly this dosen’t inspire you to wave and smile as we normally do, but every now and then you get some gorgeous little kid waving and youv’e already passed them by without acknowledgement and you feel so bad for not having waved back.

 

 

The next few days were spent in Bahir Dar, an attractive town, quite large, with palm lined avenues,situated on the southern banks of Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest lake.

 

We were camping, on what appeared to be the public footpath through the gardens of The Ghion Hotel, with no privacy whatsoever, but being quite used to such things by now, it wasn’t as much of a problem compared with those we faced with a sick Landrover.

 

Next day,no less than four mechanics appeared (as they do) this time they stripped the car and took out the gear-box to find the problem, which we soon discovered was no synchromesh/4th gear, but lots of horrible broken bits instead………..oh joy, clearly we wouldn’t have got much further, so better to deal with it there, rather than than middle of the Sudanese desert .

 

We were well looked after, on the public footpath, by a couple of very protective guards who shouted at everyone who came near us at night, as we had the car’s contents scattered around us, including the gear-box,car seats etc, unfortunatelythough, in the daytime we had a fat drunkard, reeling around, shouting and singingwho kept telling me I was beautiful and trying to kiss me with his nasty alcohol stinking breath and believe you me I certainly wasn’t feeling that beautiful and Michael, none too charitable! Stressy times.

 

.Finally got away – complete gearbox required as it had eaten second and 4th – amazing we still moved..

Headed to Gonder spent night in posh hotel – well its got hot water and reasonable food. Heading for Kartoum to see if we can get out of africa via port to Jordan – if not we will have to rethink Egypts clearly getting worse so no hope there!

It may b some time.before next post.

Hopefully posted piccies formatting of some posts might be odd – the mother did something only she knows how and no time to try to correct

 

 

 

Border to Addis

 

Crossed into Ethiopia, easy enough to change money on both sides of the border, but you obviously don’t get very good rates this way, there’s an ATM in the bank on the Ethiopian side, despite what the book say’s.

Other overlander’s be warned,you may meet Biruk, who claims to be something akin to Chris, from Jungle Junction’s long lost brother, he is a tour guide/fixer, potentially useful, but be warned conversations constitute work and therefore require payment . We eventually tracked down Omar, who everyone regarded the best mechanic in Moyale- (0911722353) he sourced parts, then fixed the prop.

We stayed at Koket Borena Hotel, not bad, but not great either, a very busy, noisy place, accomodating mainly locals, but with no other options availible to us,we were just glad to get some sleep.

Set off the following morning, car going well, until about 20 km up the road, when there was yet another horrible noise and we discovered the rear half shaft bearings etc had fallen apart, another success chalked up to the so-called expert Landrover mechanic in Uganda. Phoned Omar, who found a hubb, we had all the other bits,and after a few hours on the side of the road, during which we were inspected by a steady stream of local kids, we were on our way once more.

Slightly concerned, that at this rate, we’d be needing another year to get out of Africa, we steadily drove on toYabello, on a patchy, pot-holed road for the first half, then good tar after that, stopped again en-route,for a minor brakes repair and overheating issues, topping up with water every 40k,leaving behind us a huge audience that had gathered at every stop- all with their hands out.

No camping in Yabello, so we stayed at Hotel Wabi in a little room with a cold shower and very stinky drains, ate some good Ethiopian food at The Yabello Motel.

From here we went on to the Lakeside city of Hawassa, in the Rift valley, 300 km south of Addis Ababa, camped on the shores of the lake at the Midroc Zewed village,they let us have a shower in one of the rooms, we had to fight off the monkeys who bombarded the car, but it was nice enough as a stop-over.

Had a whizz about town in a tuk-tuk that evening, which took us to “Dolce vita”for a very disappointing pizza, the book had claimed it “the best Italian” in town, so we got all excited, the book lied I think and we should know better by now!

The food is really quite good,tasty and very cheap. The staple is Injera, a huge pancake- shaped substance made from tef. The tef dough is fermented for up to three days before cooking. It is normally served with a bowl of spicy wat stew, plus beans and veggies,sadly Injera dose’nt really do it for either of us,being reminisent of a piece of old grey foam, with a rather strange flavour, an aquired taste me thinks, naturally Ethiopians love it and have it with everything in huge quantities

Tea and Coffee is lovely,drunk black and strong, slightly spiced with plenty of sugar added, in Michael’s case at least.The lumpy camel’s milk has put me off a white cuppa!

We had wanted to visit South Omo,with all it’s different tribespeople,which sounds so fascinating and also the Simien mountains, to find an Ethiopian wolf, but with various on-going car issues, we decided to play it safe and headed straight for AddisAbaba instead.

The six hour journey was long and the road incredibly busy, the landscape’s are stunning in some parts,but it’s all eyes in front of you, Ethiopia has a huge population and most of them are in the road! Along the way we encountered hundreds of camels,cattle,donkey’s, carts and people literally everywhere.

The begging was appalling however and without doubt the worst country wev’e visited from that point of view. The children have their hands out at every opportunity, shouting “you,you,you” or just simply “give me money, give me your watch, give me water” or whatever it happens to be. It is, in a word, exhausting, the hawkers won’t take no for an answer either .

Not alot of produce on sale, as in other countries, the only readily available product seems to be huge quantities of “Chat” a stimulating leaf that is traditionally popular with muslim’s forbidden from drinking alcohol, it is commonly chewed through Ethiopia and in our opinion accounts for alot of the totalled vehicles you see on the roadside. Many lorry and taxi drivers chew it to stay awake on long journeys. Sounds good, but unfortunately it turns your teeth black,not so attractive, might give it a miss!

Arrived, exhausted, in Addis. Set up camp at Wims Holland House,best described as a bar with a small patch of grass to camp on, right in the heart of Addis. Wim is Dutch, married to an Ethiopian and lived here for years. They have been very helpful to us,finding another mechanic and other such things. We spent Christmas here, which isn’t celebrated, so it was a fairly low key affair, however a Dutch couple, Ed and Wilma arrived on Christmas Eve and we enjoyed a few drinks with them. They too are travelling and trying to get to Dubai. They informed us Egypt is not allowing any 4×4 vehicles into the country at present, so we are currently looking at alternative routes to get home. It seems you may be able to ship from Sudan to Jordan, so this is the hopeful plan..

Coast To marsabit and Eithiopia

 

Checked in at Umoja Camp, on the banks of Ewaso Ngiro River, supposedly a women- only camp, it was created as a small village for women to escape their violent husbands a few years back, they then started a curio shop, selling homemade jewellery and finally the camp-site. That said,we certainly saw a few men around, maybe they’ve been forgiven. Either way it has become something of a success story by all accounts.

 

 

Sambaru NP was small but pefectly formed, we spent a fantastic day there. The vegetation and landscape was varied and beautiful, though the river was flooded at present. With many different loops and good sandy tracks to travel on, it was a pleasure compared with some of the bigger, more expensive parks.

 

Home to several semi- desert beasts, we saw most, which include Gerenuk, Grevy’s Zebra, Fringe- eared Oryx and Somali (blue legged) Ostrich.

 

Huge herds of big tusked, big eared Elephants and large groups of Giraffe. Plenty of birdlife too, we spotted a secretary bird, Bustards, Orange bellied parrot to name but a few.

 

Next day, we drove 244 km to Marsabit,the first 60 k being pristine tar, but of course this was just too good to last. Camels and Storks on and along side the road in their hundreds. Stayed at Henry’s Camp,which was lovely, peaceful and had water, the shower was simply amazing and HOT- just what was needed the night before the dreaded road to Moyale.

 

Well rested and raring to go, we left a misty Marsabit early next morning prepared for the worst, luckily the sun soon came out, clearing away the drizzle and having established a police escort was not needed as some had suggested, others pronounced the road safe, so we decided to go for it.

 

The first 30 km was perfect, but after this, things started to deteriorate,though not nearly as badly as we had feared and in parts it was alot better than some roads wev’e travelled on. Apart from Camels,there’s not much to see, though through the thick, red dust it was hard to tell. With road improvements going on in parts, huge lorries came thundering past, chucking filth at you that gets into every nook and crannie.We certainly wouldn’t want to tackle this stretch in the rain, with the dust being preferable to getting stuck in thick mud. Wev’e heard some horrendous stories and there were plenty of vehicles on the side of the road that hadn’t made it!

 

We pushed on, past Turbi, the only small town en-route and with not far left to go, after being on the road for nearly five hours, we could hardly believe we were almost there ………… then, a horrific noise came from underneath the Landy,we stopped and jumped out, only to find the prop-shaft had dropped off, or at least one end had. At this point we were only 5 km from the border at Moyale. Michael got to work in the blistering heat, managed to remove it completely, luckily being a Landrover, we were able to continue without the prop-shaft and limped on to the border. Luckily for us, the border crossing was very straightforward, as we really didn’t need any hassle at this point, to say we were pooped is putting it mildly!

 

 

Ne

Nairobi to Coast

 

Left Nairobi, with visa’s finally stamped in passports and safely locked away. The main route to Mombassa quite simply is, the highway to hell, 90% lorries, 10% buses and us, everyone drives like lunatics, this road is definitely not for the faint-hearted (like me)

Relieved to reach Tsavo West, which is technically semi- desert and should be burnt to a crisp at this time of year, however this was not the case and everything was very lush and green.

Arrived at the gate to National park very late, only to be told the only camping was 35 k away in the middle of the park. Off we went,meeting a couple of large bull elephants, who didn’t appreciate our headlights too much. Found Chyulu camp, which turned out to be lovely, no water but nice and wild with only us, a Leopard coughing nearby and some very noisy hyena’s .

Next morning it was raining, but this soon cleared and we set off to explore the park. We weren’t really expecting to see much, as the animals disperse when there is so much food around ,but we were pleasantly surprised to discover what a beautiful and varied place this is, with good roads, lots of signs, always helpful. We saw Dik-Dik’s in huge numbers, common as rabbits, as well as Duikers .

Stopped to have a look at The Shetani Lava Flow, being only a few hundred years old, it’s quite a strange sight. A vast expanse of black lava spreads for about 50 sq kms across the savannah, at the foot of the Chyulu Hills. The last major eruption being around 200 years ago. There are still a few plants growing among the cinders.

Moving on we spotted some beautiful reticulated Giraffes with fantastic detailed markings on our way to Mzima Springs, this again is a weird phenomenom, resulting from the porous volcanic rocks. The springs apparently produce an astounding 250 million litres of fresh water daily, this is then piped to Mombassa several hundred kms away.

Home to Hippo’s, crocs, etc, it also has an unusual underwater viewing chamber, it was interesting to watch all the fish and strange beasties, swimming by through the portholes. We thought it might be a good idea in other parks too.

We had decided to head for the coast , abandoning our plans to stay in Tsavo East, because of the dispersion of animals and also our time limit, here it also very wild and covers a vast area.On our way, travelling through the park though, we did see the famed “Red Elephants”, which are quite extrordinary, not quite pink, but you can spot them from miles away for a change. It was really nice here and Well worth a visit.

Michael was chuffed as we saw some Vulturine Guinea Fowl, which he’s wanted to see since he was a boy………aah………..we’ve since seen masses of course, they have such beautiful markings.

On a sad note though, there are only 18 Black Rhino left in the whole park, which along with Tsavo East, was once Africa’s stronghold for the species, which numbered several thousand, as late as the 1980’s.

Another 100k back on” The Highway to Hell “took us to Voi, not much in this little town, but we did find a good place to camp at “The Red Elephant Lodge”, very quiet as they had no customers, so they let us use the shower in one of their rooms. Lonely Planet had no camping listed, so we were very grateful to find this place.-800 ksh per person.Camping in this area is not that easy, which we found rather odd.

Voi to Diani Beach,had the sat-nav misbehaving, so we took a a scenic,short/long cut,which actually turned out to be quite harsh, but passed through the Shimba hills national reserve, finally arriviving at Diani Beach.

Although we’d been warned it’s somewhat touristy, it was actually fairly deserted, maybe we arrived at just the right time, before the Christmas holidays.

Chris from Jungle Junction kindly offered us the opportunity to stay in a property on Diani Beach,he has ended up as executor to a will, part of which is a lovely beach villa here, with a fantastic pool at the quiet end of the beach, complete, with the shy and rare “Blue monkeys” leaping around on the roof, which are difficult to see everywhere else in Africa. Sadly we only had three days here, before we had to move on. The beach, as you can see from the photo’s isn’t bad! The Indian Ocean and pool are, shall we say pleasantly warm, no hesitation in getting in here, with temperatures averaging 35c. Plenty of diving and snorkelling to be had around here too.

Had a seriously good seafood pig-out on the beach, King prawns, Calamari and crab, all for a snip fantastic location, on the beach,with great service, something of a rarity in Africa. This was to be our Christmas lunch, as we expect to be in Ethiopia on the day itself, most likely with a tin of beans, Although wev’e been told the food is great there.

Kenyan’s everywhere have been celebrating 50 years of independence with 2 day’s public holidays, apart from some rather dodgy TV coverage and the odd party going on, we kept out of it.

We are finding the people here pretty laid- back, hospitable, friendly and helpful, as we have found everywhere, nobody bother’s you, even the police have waved us on at the road blocks but although they might ignore us, there’s still a very high police presence, for instance, being searched before you enter shops and plenty of military with rather large guns in the aisle’s, only to be expected I guess, given recent events.

Left the coast after a nice relaxing break, stayed the night at Hunter’s Lodge, on the main Mombassa to Nairobi road, they let us camp in their gardens, wev’e given up looking for sites and just have to be bold and ask if we can camp in the car-park. We thought Kenya would be awash with camping, but sadly this hasn’t been the case for us.

The following day we by-passed Nairobi on “The Outering Road!”- supposedly a short cut to take us on to Meru, not so as you’d know it, more like an off-road training course, nose to tail through a very muddy, hugely potholed, seriously busy, part of town,plenty of minor shunts, with everyone trying to sell you the usual stuff, Donkey’s,cattle and kids everywhere, absolute bedlam!

Having got past that minor hurdle, joined the A2 a major road with a 100k speed limit- only problem is, the speed bumps and Zebra- crossings every 30 metres, all a bit random, especially given Kenyan driving practises and ending up in complete chaos!!

Arrived safely surprisingly, in a town called Kibuko, no camping here either, but tired and weary, we saw a battered old sign, claiming “Spa and Accomodation”. Neither in fact were true statements and it certainly wasn’t anything like the spa’s we get at home! They let us camp though after fleecing us on the price, but as we were so tired we couldn’t be bothered to argue.

The bar-maid, a buxom wench offered Michael a massage, which he rather cowardly refused ( I thought) She then took a shine to our much cherished box of wine, I let her have a small glass, but she kept coming back for more, so we had to get tough.

Strange men seemed to come and go throughout the night and with no lighting in “The long-drop” toilets, I really couldn’t bring myself to enter….. the bushes for me again!

The owner of this, no doubt brothel, promised to light us a fire, maybe he felt guilty because he’d charged so much for “accomodation/car-park”………the fire never really did get going until the following morning, just as we were leaving!

Next stop Sambaru National Park