Ethiopian – Kenyan Border Crossing
After all the craziness in fascinating Ethiopia (including being nearly mugged by a burglar with a machete!), the road led me south towards Kenya, the land famed for its wildlife safaris (even its most popular mobile phone network is called Safaricom). Before reaching the touristic south, however, I spent two exciting days passing an over 700km stretch of isolated and barren land from the dusty border town Moyale to the Kenyan capital Nairobi, with Linor, the fake “Muhindi”.
Due to the burglary incident, which I shall cover in a separate post, we crossed the border later than originally planned, and missed the one single daily bus leaving for the south early in the morning. So we tried haggling for a ride on a “minibus” for the same price, as they claimed, leaving later in the day. We paid the money, got our ticket, and was told to wait on standby until the driver was ready with his minibus. After waiting from early morning till mid afternoon in a restaurant, drinking chai and eating sambusa, staring at a vintage TV screen that was miraculously airing a documentary about the history of Shanghai, fell asleep on the table after the show ended, woke up and was told by the restaurant owner to move elsewhere to make space for the rush of customers at lunch hour – we still had no news of the minibus. In late afternoon, we were told that there would be no minibus on that day, and we had to wait till the next morning. As we had already paid the driver, we couldn’t switch back to the normal public bus leaving every morning anyways, which would definitely offer more certainty than a minibus which we had never seen and with its departure time being delayed indefinitely.
Welcome on Board the Toughest Rides on Earth!
As it went the following morning, the minibus turned out to be a cattle lorry, and we were to ride not next to the driver, but on top of the lorry, half sitting on metal bars on the roof of the lorry, with our legs dangling in midair above the cows. We could barely balance ourselves with the lorry consistently bumping up and down along the broken dirt road at high speed. This went on from 10am to 5pm – 8 bloody hours – till we finally arrived in Marsabit.
After the experience on top of that lorry and the great length of road lying ahead, we sworn we had to get on a bus for the remainder of that trip to Nairobi. The seats were relatively more comfortable than the metal bars on top of the lorry, but the road was still bumpy and all my organs were being shaken to the core. The bus also broke down twice in the middle of nowhere, and at one point, we were stopped at a police checkpoint for over 2 hours.
Click here to read more about the toughest rides.
Nairobi – Civilization and Sophistication
Once described as the most dangerous city in the world, Nairobi struck me as a dynamic and well-infrastructured capital, and in some ways, even reminded me of Hong Kong! People were generally friendly and helpful, and I was impressed by the intellect of many of the people whom I had talked to. Even at a fast food joint, I met a Kenyan cleaning lady who could speak some Mandarin – she told me she used to be an English teacher in China for 5 years, but had to return to Kenya due to some visa problems.
It was a delight to stroll around a shopping mall and a real supermarket, to sit in a nice coffee shop with wifi facilities, and to actually have Internet that wouldn’t stop unexpectedly due to power shortage. Last time I had all of these was probably in Turkey – half a year ago. Afterall, I was born and grew up in a city.
Wildlife & Big 5 Spotting
How would a trip to Africa be complete without going on a wildlife safari? As touristic as this may be, I went on a safari to Masai Mara and Lake Nakuru in Kenya, just to tick this item off my checklist. The wildlife was amazing – I was in time for the wildebeest migration and met countless zebras, impalas and giraffes, I spotted big 5 minus the leopard, which just ran off after a killing when we arrived at the scene, and witnessed a baboon orgy. Ridiculously enough, one Big 5 being spotted also meant a train of over 20 safari vans literally racing against each other in top speed to the scene to grab a good vantage point for catching a glimpse of the legendary NatGeo animals.
After four days of pushing and shoving with other tourists on the safari, Lake Navaisha came as a breath of fresh air. Not as much wildlife compared to the national parks, but hanging out with the locals doing laundry by the shores, I felt like I was travelling again.
Kenyan East Coast Beach and Island Hopping
My loooong overdue beach holiday (my last real one was in Dahab over a year ago!) finally commenced as yet more long bus rides took me to Mombasa, Watamu and Lamu Island on the Kenyan east coast. Apart from the usual swimming and sunbathing, I also had some random encounters in Lamu. Aside from being spoiled by the local people from an abundance of chai and snacks at their homes, for two days in a row I was also invited by a girl to join her daily Taekwondo classes. It was good exercise, but also led me to some shame for my meagre knowledge of these fine Asian arts.
Holiday from Travelling – Zanzibar
I re-joined Maputo in Tanzania, and had a 3-week “holiday” from travelling in Zanzibar archipelago. Apart from such events as getting lost in a dense forest, being stuck amidst rocky cliffs at high tide, hitching a truck loaded with beers, and joining an aggressive banana leave fighting festival in Makunduchi on the south part of the island, our everyday schedule can be pretty much summed up as follows: (early morning) cooking breakfast, shopping for cheap fish and seafood from the fishermen; (late morning till afternoon) swimming, sunbathing, beach hopping; (late afternoon) grocery shopping for dinner preparation; (evening) cooking seafood dinner, beer and maybe some parties (getting old for that now!). We had a great time hanging out with some distinctly funny characters, including many stoned Rastas, and the mad crew from the cozily untidy travellers guesthouse!
And here I am now, after a daylong bus ride yesterday, by myself again in Mtwara in south Tanzania, hoping to cross the border to Mozambique within a day or two. However, I just discovered that my camera had just stopped functioning – I am still trying to figure out how and where I can fix it. I never pushed the lock switch on my memory cards but still the screen on my camera only showed message “Card write protected”. What’s the problem??? Can anyone help me?????? 🙁