Thursday, April 30, 2009

Our latest news...

We have just come back from 2 days in the Masai Mara National Park. We overheard someone saying that it is the best time of year to go: there has been a bit of rain, the grass is electric green and animals are numerous. So, we decided to postpone the Rift Valley lakes for a bit, and treated ourselves!

It was fantastic. There were very few safari vehicles in the park. The roads weren’t too muddy yet, and we saw many birds and animals roaming the seemingly endless plains.

Giraffes on the horizon

Mother and daughter

Simba wakes…

… getting up…

… Even the King of the Jungle needs to shit!

Sometimes watching the tourists is just as much fun

On the way back, we took a back road which had a lot of sharp rocks. We had our first puncture in 5 months!

Border crossing in Omorate (Ethiopia/Kenya)

Having entered Ethiopia through the main border of Moyale, we decided to go back down to Kenya through the Omo valley and Lake Turkana. It was a very worthwhile adventure, but it was not too straightforward…

There is a border post in Omorate on the Ethiopian side, but no customs office as yet. This means you can leave Ethiopia officially, but your car can’t. We had to go to the customs department in Awasa, on our way to Arba Minch, to have our Carnet de Passage stamped there.

From Omorate we had to backtrack a short distance before taking a sandy track south towards Banya Fort and the Kenyan border. There is a police checkpoint on the Ethiopian side to check your passports as you leave. From here, it was sandy, rocky and muddy tracks until Maralal, some 500km south. We were travelling with the Amazing Swiss (Marc and Roman) in Wolfi, their Mitsubishi minibus. We pulled each other out of the mud a few times, bush-camped a few more, and made it to Maralal without having felt threatened or having had any major problems with the cars. We were both carrying 180l of fuel when we left Jinka for Omorate. We found fuel “out of the barrel’ in Loiyangalani and Barsaloi, at exorbitant prices.

There is no border post on the Kenyan side. We had arranged our Kenyan visas in Addis before leaving. We reported to the Loiyangalani Police Station to announce our arrival in Kenya, where we learned that we were illegal immigrants and that you are not supposed to cross the border anywhere other that Moyale. The police officer was nice enough though, and didn’t send us back to Moyale, which would have been a real mission. After phoning his senior in Nairobi, he let us continue to Nairobi where we completed the Immigration and Customs formalities.

The immigration ran smoothly, but the CDP wasn’t as easy. We had to go to the Customs Department is located in the Times tower. We were sent to the 12th floor, then the 9th floor, then the 10th floor, then the 4th floor… Only to find out that the right person to stamp the CDP really was on the 10th floor. The problem was that the new official in charge had never heard of CDP. It took a bit of time to find his predecessor (who now works on the 1st floor) so he could explain to his colleague what was required. Patience prevailed and we eventually got our CDP stamped. After a morning of bureaucratic fun, we were finally legal - one week after crossing the border!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The road to Maralal

It was a scenic drive down the length of Lake Turkana, across the Chalbi Desert and then up to Maralal. The going was slow: Wolfi, the Mitsubishi bus, struggled a bit with her lower ground clearance…

Lake Turkana, also called The Jade Sea

The Swiss road building effort in Northern Kenya.

A leaking fuel tank

Crossing the Chalbi Desert

We spent one night bush-camping in the desert and another at Katanga community campsite.

Lunchstop before Maralal

Lone Tree Camp, Chalbi Desert

Katanga Community Campsite...

...with room service.

Caro at Thomson's Falls, our last stop before Nairobi.

Sibiloi National Park, Northern Kenya

This park situated on the north eastern side of Lake Turkana is the least visited of Kenya’s parks. It is remote and roads are rough…

A dry riverbed - not!

Stuck again.

Bushcamping back in Kenya

A few million years ago the water level in Lake Turkana was 100m higher than it is now. The climate was different too - a lush forest teaming with wildlife. Today, the exposed sediments at Sibiloi are a fossil hunter’s dream: giant tortoises, warthogs, crocodiles and wildebeest; early hominid ancestors; and petrified forests. The landscape is dry and uninhabited. We saw some wildlife: Generuk, Topi, Grant's Gazelle and crocs...

Shall we go for a swim?

We spent a night at Koobi Fora camp before tackling the road south…

Lake Turkana from Koobi Fora


Makki Village and the Mursi, Mago National Park

The Mursi tribe live in what is now the Mago National Park, some two or three hours drive from Jinka. They are best known for their lip-plates which to women insert into an incision in their lower lips. They are nomadic pastoralists and have a fearsome reputation amongst the other tribes of the South Omo Valley.

Mursi herdsmen

River crossing to Maki Village

We had heard that there was tension between the Government, who charge visitors to enter the Mago National Park, and the Mursi who don’t receive any benefit from the revenue generated for the park. The result is that the Mursi will demand a payment from the visitor over and above the ‘official’ price paid at the park entrance. The Government and Mursi representatives were negotiating a settlement while we were there.

The Amazing Swiss with a Mursi woman and child

Young mothers

Curious but shy

Oli Seraili's first wife in her hut - each wife has her own

Her son..


We spent one night at Makki Village before driving south to the park headquarters. We had intended to continue south through the park to Omorate, but a heavy storm came through and we were advised that the roads would be impassable. We decided instead to backtrack to Jinka and take the less adventurous road south…

Our camp under the trees at Makki Village

Scouting roads under water


Made it back to the main road!

To Jinka and the South Omo Valley

The road to Jinka passes through the village of Kai Afer. We heard that the following day was market day. People from Banna and Tsamai tribes would be travelling to the market from thoughout the district: an opportunity to trade and socialise.

The Amazing Swiss, keen for a chicken potjie at Rocky Hill Campsite, Jinka

The following day the road to the Kai Afer was busy with people and livestock on their way to the market.

Scarlet, drawing some attention

One of the young men referred to as a ‘bull jumper’ was at the market to find a bride. We later learned that a ‘bull jumper’ literally jumps over a series of bulls as an initiation rite, before he is allowed to marry. A man may marry any number of wives provide he can afford to buy her - each wife is a fixed price of 38 cows.

A 'bull-jumper', his status indicated by the feathers in his head dress.

The woman wear a calabash on there head, which also doubles as an eating/drinking vessel. Most woman wear goat skin garments studded with cowrie shells. The shells are traded with people to the south, ultimately coming from the Kenyan coast.

High Street Fashion



South to the Omo Valley

We met up with the Amazing Swiss (Marc and Roman) again at Wim’s Holland House in Addis Abeba. We agreed to travel to Nairobi together via the Omo Valley and Lake Turkana, mainly for the security offered by travelling as two vehicles but also because they seemed like pretty cool guys.

Our farewell coffee ceremony at Wim's Holland House

We stocked up with food for the next two weeks, bought some extra jerry cans and then we hit the road south. We stopped at Lake Langano for one night before reaching Arba Minch.

Our campsite in Arba Minch - a spectacular view when it wasn't raining!

We visited the Dorze tribe high up in the mountains above the town. They are most well known for their “elephant houses” constructed entirely of bamboo and false banana tree leaves. The houses are built very tall, but shrink with time because the bases are continuously eaten by termites. After twenty years the house is replaced. We were shown how they spin cotton into thread and use it to weave the traditional scarves and gabis (capes).

Our first elephant house!

Steve trying to weave - man's work

Caro trying to spin cotton - woman's work

We were also shown how to prepare bread from the stems of the false banana stems - traditional fruit bearing banana trees do not grow at this altitude. First the stems are grated to produce a pulp, which is wrapped in banana leaves and buried. It is allowed to ferment underground for three to six months before it is recovered. The pulp, which now has the consistency of bread dough is then flattened, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked on an open fire. Delicious!

The bread making process

Everything made from false banana and bamboo

Marc duelling with a local - his shield made from hippo hide.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More details on where we have been

102 - 29 June09: Cape Town (Home!). Good tarred road.
101 - 23/29 June09: George (Rivendale, “the HQ”). Excellent tarred road.
100 - 22/23 June09: Smithfield (Pula House, 5 stars guest house : so much to celebrate !). Excellent tarred road.
99 - 16/22 June09: Johannesburg (Steve’s parents’ house). Excellent tarred road.
98 - 15/16 June09: Gaborone (Mokolodi Nature Reserve’s campsite). Excellent tarred road.
97 - 14/15 June09: Serowe (Khama Rhino Sanctuary’s campsite). Good tarred road from Rakops to Serowe. We tried to go to Kubu Island in the western Makgadigadi Pans, but the road was flooded there and we didn’t make it much further than…
96 - 13/14 June09: Rakops (The Motel’s campsite). The road from Moremi to Maun was a good dirt road. From Maun to the Makgadigadi Pans Game Reserve is a good tarred road but we decided to follow the good dirt road south of it towards Orapa’s mines.
95 - 12/13 June09: Moremi National Park (“Tse Tse Vlei Buch camp”). It was a sandy and muddy road throughout the Southern part of Chobe National Park and towards Moremi NP. It had rained very heavily on the region over the past two or three days and the muddy patches were particularly bad. A tour guide we met in the park recommended an alternative route to reach Moremi from the Chobe southern gate; it made it possible for us to get there before dark. We hadn’t prebooked our entrance ticket for Moremi and therefore opted to stay outside the park: we bush-camped in a beautiful Mopane forest along the main road.
94 - 11/12 June09: Chobe National Park (“The watherhole Bush camp”). Good tarred road between Mambova and Kasane, with a well-organized ferry to cross the Zambezi at the border. Sandy road in the Chobe National Park. The sand can be thick and deep at times. It’s 4x4 driving, but the tracks are relatively easy to follow. We bush-camped near a waterhole a few km south of Kachikau: along the section of the road that is outside the park.
93 - 08/11 June09: Mambova (Mambova Fishing Lodge). Good tarred road to the Mambova turn off, then good dirt road to the Fishing Lodge.
92 - 07/08 June09: Livingstone (Green Tree Lodge campsite). Good tarred road to Livingstone.
91 - 06/07 June09: Sinazongwe (Houseboat Company’s campsite, on Lake Kariba). Good tarred road to Sinzongwe.
90 - 05/06 June09: Kafue Gorge (Otter Bay camp). Good tarred road to Kafue and beyond to the Zimbabwean border despite a few bad potholes here and there. The road remains good until the last turn off to Otter Bay; it then becomes a 4x4 track.
89 - 04/05 June09: Petauke (Zulu’s kraal campsite). From the Park it is best to go back to Chipata and the main road. The National road is a very good tarred road.
88 - 01/04 June09: South Luangwa National Park (Flatdogs camp). Fairly good dirt road from Chipata to the Park (we could drive at about 60km/h).
87 - 31May / 01June09: Chipata (Dean’s Hill View campsite). Good dirt road from Ntchisi Forest Reserve to Ntchisi, then excellent tarred road via Mponela, Madisi, and Chikoti to Mchinji’s border post. There are a few more potholes on the Zambian side, but the road seems to be looked after section after section.
86 - 30/31 May09: Ntchisi Forest Reserve (Bush camp). Excellent tarred road along the lake passed Chia Lagoon, then dirt road, sometimes bumpy, to Ntchisi Forest Reserve via Mwansambo.
85 - 29/30 May09: Ngala Beach Lodge campsite, North of Dwangwa. Excellent tarred road along the lake from Kande Beach turn off to Ngala Beach.
84 - 28/29 May09: Kande Beach restcamp, South of Chinteche. Excellent tarred road along the lake from Nkhata Bay to Kande Beach turn off, then good dirt road.
83 - 27/28 May09: Nkhata Bay (Njaya Lodge campsite). Good tarred road from the Matema turn off to Nkhata Bay, and bumpy dirt road to the lodge.
82 - 24/27 May09: Matema (Lakeshore resort campsite, on Lake Nyasa). From our bush camp to the border town of Tunduma the road was still dirt and corrugated, but became a good tarred road in Tunduma. The tarred road is very good to Mbeya and Kyela, where we turned off on a slightly rocky and - at times - muddy dirt road to Matema.
81 - 23/24 May09: Bush camp between Sumbawanga and Tunduma in Southern Tanzania. From Kativi to our bush camp, the sand slowly gives way to a harder dirt road, which becomes quite corrugated, as more trucks use the road south of Sumbawanga.
80 - 22/23 May09: Katavi National Park (Bush Camp near the lake). From Kasulu to Mpanda it’s still a fairly good dirt road (although a bit slower than before Kasulu). It becomes quite sandy (and - we can imagine – difficult in the rainy season), especially through the Kativi National Park, where speed is limited anyways.
79 - 21/22 May09: Kasulu (Kasulu Motel). The dirt road improves around Biharamulo to Kibondo and finally Kasulu, but it’s still a long day’s drive for just about 300km.
78 - 20/21 May09: Bush camp between Bukoba and Biharamulo on South West Lake Victoria. Good tarred road from Masaka (U) to Bukoba (T). South of Bukoba the road is still tarred for a while and offers stunning vies onto Lake Victoria. It becomes quite suddenly dirt around Kemondo Bay or Muleba though: obvious plans to continue the tarred road seem to have been abandoned long ago, and the dirt road is quite bumpy. We can imagine that it gets very muddy and slippery when it rains.
77 - 19/20 May09: Lake Nabugabo (Holiday Resort campsite, near Masaka). Pot-holed tarred road from Kabale to Masaka, then small dirt road to the resort.
76 - 17/19 May09: Lake Bunyoni (Overlanders campsite). We took the windy mountainous and rural dirt road from Ishasha, passed the Bwindi reserve (famous for its gorillas), to Lake Bunyoni. It was long but very scenic, and – we think – very worth it.
75 - 16/17 May09: Ishasha (Queen Elisabeth National Park’s campsite). Good tarred road from Kasese to the turn off to Ishasha, then good dirt road to Ishasha.
74 - 09/16 May09: Kasese (Nick’s home, then KCCL’s guest houseNick, Rob, Anthea: Thanks a million for your hospitality, it has been a most welcome resting spot!). We took the dirt going from the Murchinson Falls NP to Kyanjojo, just before Fort Portal. It took us the whole day to do 200km because a storm hit us and the road became very muddy and slow going. We have no regrets though, because the road took us through beautiful landscapes and peaceful villages. We have heard that there is now a tarred road leading to Fort Portal more easily, but we are not sure where it is.

73 - 07/09 May09: Murchinsons Falls National Park (Red Chilli Rest camp in the park, and UCOTA Women’s group camp before the park’s gate). We enjoyed the very good tarred road from Jinja to Kampala, where we cursed the traffic for an hour. From Kampala the drive to Masindi then went smoothly. From Masindi there is a good dirt road to the park’s southern entrance.

72 - 05/07 May09: Jinja (Nile Explorers’ Adventure Camp, near the Bujagali Falls). Uganda seems to have great roads. It was a tarred road from Eldoret to Jinja, but the Kenyan side is potholed and “furrowed”.


71 - Rift valley Lakes: 01/02 May: Lake Nakuru (Kembu campsite) – 02/03 May09: Lake Bogoria (Fig Tree bush camp) – 03/04 May09: Lake Baringo (Roberts Camp) – 04/05 May09: Eldoret (Naiberi Camp). It was mostly tarred roads, fairly good. We only had a dirt road to Lake Bogoria’s South gate, and had to use 4x4 on the last (beautiful) 2km through the forest to Fig Tree camp. The road from Lake Baringo up and down the mountain to Eldoret is very scenic.
70 - 27 Apr09/to date: back to Nairobi (Jungle Junction). There are very sharp rocks (our first puncture) but the dirt road is fairly good with some muddy sections from Talek Gate to Narok; then it’s tarred to Nairobi. Fortunately for us the rains are late this year.

69 - 25/27 Apr09: to Masai Mara National Park (Olperr Elongo campsite, near the Sekonani Gate and Aruba campsite, near Talek gate). There is a fairly good tarred road from Lake Navaisha to Sekonani gate via Narok; however we chose to take a back road through the mountains from Crater Lake to Narok. This was a very bad, bumpy and dusty dirt road, which would have been impracticable had it been raining. It took us the best part of day to do less than 100km, and the stresses on the car caused damage to our second fuel tank.

68 - 24/25 Apr09: to Lake Navaisha (Fisherman’s campsite). Good tarred road.

67 - 19/24 Apr09: to Nairobi (Jungle Junction and Xan and Vanessa’s home).
Good tarred road.

66 - 18/19 Apr09: to Nyahururu (Thompson Falls Lodge campsite).
Bad rocky dirt road until Rumuruti, then good tarred road to Nyahururu. It was our first tarred road since Shashemene, 13 days ago!

65 - 17/18 Apr09: to Maralal (Yale Camel Club campsite).

64 - 16/17 Apr09: to Kurungu (Kisungu Community campsite).

63 - 15/16 Apr09: on the road between Sibiloi National Park and Loiyanganali, Southern Lake Turkana. Bush camp under a lone acacia tree.

62 - 14/15 Apr09: to Sibiloi National Park (Koobi Fora camp).

61 - 13/14 Apr09: on the road between Omorate (Ethiopia) and Sibiloi National Park (Kenya/Lake Turkana). Bush camp on the side of the road.

60 - 08/10 Apr09: to Jinka (Omo Valley first base – Rocky Hill campsite) Tarred down to Konso, then good dirt to Jinka. - 10/11 Apr09: to Makki (Mursi tribe): Fairly good dirt road. - 11/12 Apr09: to Mago National Park Head Quarters: Rocky dirt road from Makki to the HQ’s turn off, then very muddy and slippery road to the HQ. We would have battled with only a single vehicle. We were travelling with two Swiss guys in a Mitsubishi minibus. We got stuck in turns and had to pull each other out of the mud (it had rained heavily the previous night). - 12/13 Apr09: back to Jinka (Rocky Hill campsite).

59 - 06/08 Apr09: to Arba Minch (Bekele Mola Hotel campsite). Good tarred road to Shashemene, then still tarred to Arba Minch but with patches of bad potholes and detours, as part of the road is under reconstruction.

58 - 05/06 Apr09: to Lake Langano (Bekele Mola Hotel’s campsite). Good tarred road but lots of traffic - a lot of trucks, especially along the first stretch on the road to Harer, as well as pedestrians and animals.

57 - 31 March/05 April09: back to Addis Abeba (Wim’s Holland House campsite). Good tarred road down the Blue Nile River’s valley and back up to Addis.

56 - 29/31 March09: to Bahir Dar (Ghion Hotel campsite). Good tarred road around Lake Tana.

55 - 27/29 March09: to Gonder (Belegez Pension). Fairly good dirt road from Debark to Gonder. It gets quite rocky and corrugated on the last few kilometres into Gondar, but you are almost there!

54 - 23/27 March09: to Simen Mountain National Park (hiking and camping). Fairly good dirt road from Axum to Debark, although mountainous and slow. It’s a very scenic road, up and down high passes (we went down more than 1000m, then back up 800m again, two or three times!). The last stretch, up the Wolkefit Pass, is really stunning. It winds its way up along a mountain road built by the Italians, offering truly spectacular views.

53 - 21/23 March09: to Axum (Abinet Hotel then Africa Hotel - cheaper and nicer). Good tarred road to Adwa through Tigray’s beautiful landscape, then slow dirt (tarred under construction) to Axum.

52 - 20/21 March09: to Mekele (Arbe Yohannes Hotel). We took the good and quiet dirt road directly North of Lalibela to Sekota, then turned East to Korem where we met the good tarred road (look out for pedestrians and animals) to Mekele. It seems possible to continue on the good dirt road from Sekota all the way to Axum, but we weren’t sure about it so didn’t take a chance. It was a whole day’s drive.

51 - 17/20 March09: to Lalibela (The Asheten Hotel). Good tarred road until Weldiya (but with lots of pedestrians and animals to look out for), then bad dirt-road (under construction and at times muddy and slippery in the rain) over a high pass. It took us the whole day to drive from Kemise to Lalibela. Watch out for kids throwing stones up the high pass.

50 - 16/17 March09: to Kemise/Karakore (Oasis Hotel). Bad tarred road (narrow and full of potholes) from Addis until the Mussolini Tunnel, then good tarred road but lots of pedestrians and animals through many villages. It took us the whole day from Addis.

49 - 10/16 March09: to Addis Abeba (Wim’s Holland House Campsite). Good tarred road.

48 - 09/10 March09: to Lake Ziway (The Tourist Hotel). Dirt road (tarred road under construction) from Dinsho to Shashemene, then good tarred road to Ziway.

47 - 01/09 March09: to Dinsho. Bale Mountains National Park campsites. It was 50km and a two hours drive from Adaba to the village of Dinsho, on the same dirt road as the previous day. We arrived around lunch time, and organised a guide, horses, and food, for a 6 days trek in the mountains which we were able to start the next day.

46 - 28 Feb09/01 March09: to Adaba. Assefa Hailu Hotel. Good tarred road from Yabello to Shashemene through fertile densely populated hills We stopped in Awasa for lunch and money: it was the first ATM we found in Ethiopia. We had changed some Kenyan Shillings on the black-market in Moyale. At Shashemene we took the dirt road heading East towards the Bale Mountains National Park. The 100km or so to Adaba took us the best part of the afternoon as the road is under construction and it was raining. The detours are slow going and there are many pedestrians on the road, as well as many Chinese construction trucks. Interesting highland landscapes though.

45 - 27/28 Feb09: to Yabello. Yabello Motel’s backyard. The Ethiopian road from Moyale to Addis Abeba is tarred and good. It meanders up and down through wonderful landscapes which reminded us a bit of the Northern Cape (in South Africa) in the evening light. We left Takaba mid-morning, completed the border formalities just after lunch, and arrived in Yabello at dusk.

44 - 25/27 Feb09: to Takaba. Action Against Hunger (Action contre la Faim)’s base.
In our opinion the road from Marsabit to Moyale (Ethiopian border) was a bit better than the section from Isiolo to Marsabit: there were more rocks, but it wasn’t as corrugated. The flat desert landscape of black rocks and yellow grass, punctuated by a passing camel caravans is fantastic in the morning light. We filled up with petrol in Moyale and headed East to Takaba on a good sandy road through small villages. After rain some sections of black cotton soil can become a bit tricky, as we experienced on the way back. We left Marsabit in the early morning and arrived in Takaba at night fall. Petrol is cheaper in Marsabit that Moyale (Kenyan Side). On the Ethiopian side of Moyale, there are numerous petrol stations selling fuel at roughly half the price as the ‘from the barrel’ outlets on the Kenyan side.

43 - 23/25 Feb09: to Marsabit. Henry’s campsite. The road between Isiolo and Marsabit must be the worst we have been on so far. It is very corrugated and dusty, with a lot of road works and unclear detours. It is very slow going, and the landscape isn’t the most interesting - dry bush mostly. We were told that the road works had started 5 years ago and we had assumed it would be tarred by now… maybe in another five years. We had to stay in Marsabit for an extra night to do some repairs on Scarlet as a result of all the jarring.

42 - 22/23 Feb09: to Isiolo. The Range Hotel campsite. Good tarred road around Mount Kenya, through high fertile lands planted with banana trees, coffee, tea, avo and mango trees. There are two roads from Nairobi to Isiolo. We chose the Eastern one which is supposed to be better and quieter than the western route. We passed second highest mountain of Africa on our left as we drove through the towns of Embu and Meru. It was hidden in the clouds.

41 - 16/22 Feb09: to Nairobi. Jungle Junction. The Mombasa-Nairobi road from Manyani Gate was an excellent tarred road for the first 200km. However, the last 100km before Nairobi were horrible! The road is under repair and the deviation is bumpy, dusty, and very busy, with an incredible number of trucks. Hopefully, the roadworks will be completed soon!

40 - 15/16 Feb09: to Tsavo National Park. It is a bumpy dirt road from Malindi to the Sala Gate, and into the park. We entered the park at midday, then slept outside the park at Voi (Red Elephant Lodge campsite). We then re-entered the park the next morning then exited at midday through the Manyani Gate.

39 - 14/15 Feb09: back to Malindi. Silversands Campsite. Here we organised our COMESA car insurance and took advantage of the fact that Malindi is a favourite Italian holiday resort to treat ourselves to pizzas and ice creams!

38 - 11/14 Feb09: to Mokowe, from where the ferries for Lamu depart. The road is tarred until the turn off at Garsen, then it’s a very corrugated dirt road. We arrived in Mokowe at sunset and decided to spend the night in the harbour’s very busy parking lot. The next morning, we took the big passenger ferry and 30minutes later we were in Lamu. We had been recommended the Stone House Hotel in the old town. It was beautiful and they offered us a fair price. We really enjoyed our stay in Lamu.

37 - 10/11 Feb09: to Watamu, A Rocha Kenya campsite. It’s a good tarred road from Diani to Watamu. However, we decided to avoid Mombasa and visit the countryside instead. So we drove through the Shimba Hills and Kaloleni, before joining the main road at Kilifi. The Shimba Hills area is beautiful and it was nice to drive through small villages again, but we didn’t have a map and got a bit lost. From Kaloleni to Kilifi the road was under repair and the deviations were very dusty and bumpy.

36 - 08/10 Feb09: to Diani /Tiwi Beach (Kenya), Twiga campsite. It is a bumpy dirt road from Peponi to the border, and then a good tarred road to Diani. The border crossing formalities were straight forward. We declined an offer for a car insurance, which we found too expensive and decided to risk being fined by the police instead. Fortunately for us, every road block at which we were stopped over the following few days, the police thought our car’s license on the windscreen was our insurance, and we got away with it… In retrospect, we should have got a COMESA insurance in Tanzania or in Mozambique, to cover us in most of the countries we are planning to visit. We arranged this later in Malindi.


35 - 07/08 Feb09. We are back at Peponi for a good night’s rest, before saying goodbye to our new friends, and carry on North.

34 - 03/07 Feb09: to Zanzibar. It took us 3h30 to go across from Pangani to Kendwa Rocks (northern part of the island), on Wahid’s motorized dhow. Although we got a bit sea-sick, we recommend Wahid’s captainship and reliability. His phone number is: +255-784-489193. He charged us 120 USD for the dhow, which we shared with Mike, Sarah, and another traveller met at Peponi, making the trip affordable. On Zanzibar, we stayed for three nights in the fascinating Stone Town, at the Bottom’s Up guest house (mid-range: 25USD/night, including breakfast on a pleasant terrace on top of the building). We also spent one night on the east coast, at Paje, in one of the Kinazi Upepo Hotel’s wooden hut. This was 50USD/night including breakfast. The coast was splendid, with turquoise-blue water and white sand, but we were disappointed by the hotel’s restaurant which we found expensive for the quality of food offered.

33 - 31 Jan09 /03 Feb09: to Peponi campsite, on the coast, between Tanga and Pangani. The road is tarred from Lushoto to Tanga, and then it’s a relatively good dirt road to Peponi. It’s a very comfortable campsite, with a nice restaurant, affordable and with good quality services. It seems popular with independent travellers and it is there that we met our first “overlanders”: Michael and Sarah. They are South Africans and are on their way to Cape Town from England. They have been on the road for the past four months, and it’s great to exchange impressions and tips. We decide to go to Zanzibar together.

32 - 29/31 Jan09: to Lushoto (Irente Farm camp). Good tarred road from Moshi to Lushoto, with a very scenic road in the mountain between Mombo and Lushoto.

31 - 17/29 Jan 09: to Moshi. It’s a very good tarred road from Karatu (close to the Ngorongoro entrance), through Arusha to Moshi. However, the Tanzanian drivers are a real danger. There are also a lot of police check points along this stretch of road. It is safer to drive slowly. We meet up with our “honeymooning” friends: Bruno and Zia. Fred and Caro generously host us at their house in TPC, the big sugarcane plantation south of Moshi. From there we have our first clear sighting of Mount Kilimanjaro (otherwise often covered by clouds)! It is to be our base for the next twelve days or so while we explore some of the stunning parks nearby: Ngorongoro (2 nights at Simba public campsite), Serengeti (1 night at Seronera Nyani public campsite), West Kili (2 nights at Ndarakwai private campsite). We extend our stay by 2 or 3 days after Bruno and Zia’s departure, as Scarlet needs a good service after the long bumpy road north.

30 - 16/17 Jan 09: to Karatu. We followed the main road to Arusha and then took small dirt road out west and the southern end of lake Manayra. It took us up a steep scenic drive through the forest, up the mountains above Lake Manyara, to Mbulu. There we got fresh water from one of the wells. The road then descended into another valley to Karatu. There was a fine red dust everywhere. At the crossroad into Karatu we bumped into Andre, a South African expat, who, recognizing our Cape Town number plate, started chatting and eventually invited us for a beer. When he found out we didn’t know where to spend the night, he offered us to stay for dinner and the night at his house. What a treat, how lucky we are! Thank you, Andre and Lyall.

29 - 15/16 Jan 09: to Kondoa. We camped in the bush (it is now called the Masai Steppe) a few kms North of Dodoma. We were still on the same corrugated dirt and gravel road, which now seems to be climbing up onto a plateau.

28 - 14/15 Jan 09: to Dodoma, Tanzania’s capital. From Iringa we drove straight North, along the “short cut” to Dodoma. It’s shorter on paper, but the dirt and gravel road is so corrugated (read “bumpy”) that we have to drive at 40km/h or less or will shake Scarlet to pieces. The landscape is different from all that we have seen before: flatter, dryer, redder and dustier, with cultivated fields in amoungst the baobab forests. We drove through small villages and enjoy the scenery. Along the road we pass cattle and Masais in their red or blue blankets. We decided to camp in the bush before we reach the city, and pulled off the road in what we thought was an isolated area. Soon we heard voices nearby. When they saw us near their 3 cows they looked as worried about our presence as we were about theirs. Eventually we all smiled, and each went about our own business of settling down for the night.

27 - 13/14 Jan 09: to Iringa. We camped at the Old Farm House in Kisolanza, some 40km south of Iringa. From Songea it is a good scenic tarred road up and down hills to Njombe, then the main Mbeya-Dar es Salam national road to Iringa.

26 - 12/13 Jan 09: to Songea (Tanzania). We crossed the border at Congresso/Matchedje on the new bridge, although it is not officially opened yet. All the paper work on the Tanzanian side has to be done at Songea, 102km further. It’s tarred between Lichinga and Unango then it’s a good dirt road all along. We spent the night at the Paraminho Abbey, a few kms outside Songea.


25 - 11/12 Jan 09: to Lichinga. We did some shopping and stayed at the Sociedad Internacional Misionaria for the night. (Keith and Bronwyn are missionaries and introduced us)

24 - 07/11 Jan 09: to Meponda (west of Lichinga, on the shore of Lago Niassa/ Lake Malawi). We camped under a huge baobab tree on Keith, Bronwyn and Zoe’s beach. From our last camp in the bush, the track remained very bad until Nungo, a few km before Marrupa. From Nungo to Marrupa it became a very good dirt road. From Marrupa to Lichinga we drove on one of the best tarred road we had seen in Mozambique so far. It winds its way through a stunning landscape of high plateaux and granite domes. It was bizarre: totally void of traffic. From Lichinga to Meponda there is a good gravel road down to the lake, through a beautiful forest.

23 - 06/07 Jan 09: Niassa area. We camped in the bush, half way between Montepues and Marrupa. The road was just a very bad track, a footpath in places. It would have been totally impracticable had it rained more over the past few days. We drove at average speed of 30km/h, and it took us a whole (long) day to do less than 300km.

22 - 05/06 Jan 09: Quirimbas National Park, inland. We camped in the bush between Meluco and Montepues. Fairly good track from Tanganyang.

21 - 04/05 Jan 09: Ibo Island (Mbili Mituri “2 trees” Guest house). It took us about 2 and a half hour to do a bit more than 80km on the coastal road (dirt) from Pemba to Tanganyanga. We were lucky. That road would have been impracticable had it rained more over the past few days.
20 - 31 Dec 2008 to 04 Jan 2009: to Pemba (Pemba Dive + Bush Camp). Our GPS (Africa T4) and our maps (Michelin 2003, and Getaway Magazine Nov 2008) disagree: the GPS shows a road from Memba to Pemba, the maps show that there is no crossing at the Lurio River. We decide to trust the GPS: if there is no bridge, the maps both show an alternative road inland from Lurio to Namapa, which is on the main road. At Lurio we find out that, not only there is no bridge over the Rio Lurio, but also that the direct road from Lurio to Namapa doesn’t exist anymore! We have to back track to Nampuecha and from there to Namapa and Pemba. We drove for 12 hours – a long day but it was an interesting experience.

19 - 30/31 Dec 08: to Memba, we camped in a small fishing village at Praia Micuta. We took the good coastal dirt road through Matibane, Nacala and Minguri, and wove our way through cashew nut trees, mango trees, baobabs, villages and their cassava fields.

18 - 28/30 Dec 08: to Ilha de Mocambique (Casuarina Campsite, by the bridge). A short and easy drive on a good road.

17 - 27/28 Dec 08: to Nampula (Camping Montes Nairucu): Again, it took us more than 9 hours to do about 500km although the tarred road was mostly good except for a few potholes sections. The road seemed to be under some form of renewal.

16 - 26/27 Dec 08: to Zalala Beach, near Quelimane. Good tarred road all the way. It must have been built in the 5 past years but already shows signs of deterioration. We cross the Zambezi on a ferry at Caia. It takes us the whole day to do 500km.

15 - 25/26 Dec 08: to Gorongosa National Park, Chitengo Campsite. Very good tarred road, with road markings all the way to the park and baobabs in the bushveld.

14 - 20/24 Dec 08: to Rio Azul Lodge - a stunning fly-fishing lodge on the Govuro River: a luxurious experience thanks to Andy, good fishing and a great rest. Good national road (EN1) from Vilanculos to Inhassoro (100km), then 30km on the beach (permit required) to the lodge a little bit further North.

13 - 16/20 Dec 08: to Vilanculos - Campsite (Josef & Tina’s). We meet Andy and Mark. It took us 4½h to do the 210km on the N1 which is relatively good but for a very bad stretch of about 50km with big deep potholes (and oncoming traffic of dodger trucks).

12 - 15/16 Dec 08: to Tofo - Campsite (Turtle Cove – very nice). Good national roads (EN1 then EN5 to Inhambane). We do 270km in 3 or 4 hrs.

11- 14/15 Dec 08: to Xai Xai - Bush camp near Sandrine and Ronny’s cabin. Good national road (EN1) until the Limpopo River, then the road is full of potholes for a few kms. It takes quite a lot of concentration to dodge the potholes zigzagging across the road, while at the same time keeping an alert eye on the incoming traffic which is doing the same thing. The area along the road is relatively densely populated: there are many dwellings scattered every few hundreds of meters, people walking back and forth, and stalls where people sell local products. We respect the speed limits (60km/h in across the villages, and 100km/h on the open road), don’t get fined, and do the 210km in about 4 hrs.

10 - 13/14 Dec 08: our 1st border crossing (at Ponta do Ouro): to Maputo (Mozambique) - We stay at Sandrine and Ronny’s. It’s a short section of good national road (N2) to the border, then a sandy 4x4 track followed by a bumpy dirt road to Boane, and eventually the relatively good national road (EN1) to Maputo. We left at 8am and arrived at 5pm. The border crossing itself took about 2 hours: it was busy (first day of the South Africans Christmas Holiday) and the friendly border officials took some time to find out what our Carnet de Passage was all about but eventually happily let us go through. We also got a fine for not wearing seatbelts (driving 20km/h on a sandy track) – and learnt quickly that the Mozambican police are very strict in all respects (and basically survive on the fines they issue).


9 - 12/13 Dec 08: to Kosi Bay (KZN near the Mozambican border) - Campsite. Good sandy 4x4 track. The diff-lock is on, tyres are deflated. It’s all tropical coastal forest, cycads, birds, beautiful isolated beaches (Lala neck, Black Rock). A permit is required to drive on this road. The GPS really helped us find our way amongst a few confusing tracks.

8 - 11/12 Dec 08: to Mabibi beach (KZN) - Campsite. It’s our first adventure off the main roads along the R22, a good tarred road. We pass Muzi Pan (amazing bird life) and Mbazwana (last chance for an ATM) before our first real dirt and sand road along the shore of Lake Sibaya (the largest fresh water lake in Southern Africa).

7 - 10/11 Dec 08: to False Bay (St Lucia – KZN) – Very nice campsite. Good national road (N2).

6 - 08/10 Dec 08: to Durban (Kwazulu Natal) - We stay at Kristi and Jason’s. Good road (R61) and N2. Very scenic

5 - 07/08 Dec 08: to Mpande (Transkei) – Very nice campsite. Good national road then good local dirt road - about 250km in 4 or 5 hrs. Scenic drive.

4 - 06/07 Dec 08: to Chintsa (Eastern Cape) – Campsite. Good national and local roads.

3 - 05/06 Dec 08: George to Cape St Francis - Campsite. Good national road (N2).

2 - 29 Nov – 05 Dec 08: George - We stay with Pat and B at Rivendale.

1 - 29 Nov 08: we leave Cape Town (South Africa) to George. Good national road (N2) – 450 km in 4½h.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gondar and Bahir Dar

Gondar was founded by the Emporer Fasilidas in 1635 and served as the capital for 250 years. We visited the Royal Enclosure with its 17th Century castles and palaces and the Church of Debre Birhan Selassie. The church is special in that it is rectangular (not round like all of the other Ethiopian churches and built to the same dimensions as King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem) with beautiful murals on the interior walls. Really worth a visit!

African Castles

Horses in ceremonial dress

Murals in the Church of Debre Birhan Selassie.
Angels looking down from the cieling of the Church of Debre Birhan Selassie.
Angel looking at the ceiling of the Church of Debre Birhan Selassie.

From Gondar we took the main road down to Bahir Dar on the southern end of Lake Tana. That afternoon we visited the Blue Nile Falls, where the waters of Lake Tana start their long journey down to the mouth of the Nile. The next morning we took a pleasant boat trip out to a few of the island monasteries.

The Blue Nile Falls

A priest showing us a Bible, handwritten on goatskin at St Mary's Church on Lake Tana

Little Bee-Eaters