In the “promised” Land
On October 31, 2020, we can finally leave Ethiopia and enter Kenya. The clearance at the immigration office in a new and well-kept building is professional and friendly. The customs officers are very helpful in clearing the vehicle. We are able to pay the amount for the road tax to an employee who is willing to forward it to customs for us via his mobile phone. Everything is above board and we also receive a correct receipt.
In the meantime it has become evening and the sun will set soon. A few hundred meters from the customs, the Anglican Church has a guest house. Here we are allowed to stand in the front yard for the night. Of course it is not free and we have to negotiate the price. A beautiful Saturday evening.
Visibly relieved we breathe a sigh of relief – we feel free again. Kenya is for us like the promised land, where you want to go – and now we are there.
(Whether it stays that way, of course, remains to be seen).
Today is Sunday and the stores are mostly closed. In addition, rain is setting in and the sky is overcast. Since we still have enough diesel, we decide to continue to Marsabit right away. On the way to Marsabit we pass many military controls, but are not bothered. “Where from” and “Where to” is usually enough. Neither at customs, nor here on the way our truck is searched. Thus, despite a defective spring and careful driving, we easily cover the 250 km to Marsabit.
In Marsabit we drive to the “Camp Henry”. Henry is (also already) an older man. He came to Marsabit with a relief organization decades ago, fell in love with a Kenyan woman there, got married and stayed. Henry’s dialect immediately gives him away – he is from Basel. Together with his wife Rosanna, he has built up a small construction business and runs a small camp on the side, which is well known among overlanders passing through. We experience another beautiful, sunny evening and enjoy a cool beer with dinner for the first time in a long time.
In Marsabit weht ein heftiger Wind. Das wäre auszuhalten, aber Nebel und Regen machen uns zu schaffen. Und da Marsabit offenbar “Sperrzone” ist, können wir hier auch keine SIM-Karte kaufen. Wir entschliessen uns deshalb, früher als geplant, aufzubrechen und die 500 Km nach Nairobi unter die Räder zu nehmen. Je weiter wir uns von Marsabit entfernen, je schöner wird das Wetter. Wir tauchen ein, in grandiose Landschaften, die wir leider zu wenig fotografiert haben.
Für die Strecke von Marsabit bis Nairobi benötigen wir knapp zwei Tage. Waren das Verkehrsaufkommen und die Ortsdurchfahrten bis Isiolo moderat und angenehm, nimmt der Verkehr bis Nairobi ständig zu und unzählige riskante Überholmanöver von Kenianern erfordern unsere stärkste Konzentration.
Ein solcher Landsmann versucht bewusst, uns seitlich anzurempeln. Da wir mit einigen leichten Kratzern davon kommen und realisieren, dass er wahrscheinlich sein schon tüchtig verbeultes Fahrzeug zu unseren Ungunsten sanieren will, fahren wir einfach weiter, denn nicht wir haben ihn gestreift – wir fuhren korrekt hinter einem langsamen LKW her – sondern er hat uns gestreift.
Jungle Junction Nairobi
The “Jungle Junction” of Nairobi is a well known place for overlanders. Vehicles can also be parked here for longer periods of time. The owner “Chris” is German and also came to Kenya through an aid agency and has “stuck” here. He advised us in advance about the itinerary and now we first get to know each other personally.
At the jungle junction of Nairobi there is not much going on at the moment because of Corona. Where there is usually busy travel life, it is quiet now. Moreover, the rainy season is still not over.
We get reinforced springs…….
Already in Addis Ababa we had to realize that one of our leaf springs on the rear axle has broken away. We show Chris the damage and soon it becomes clear that not only the broken spring leaf has to be replaced, but that our leaf springs on the rear axle have to be reinforced.
The next day the two spring sets of the rear axle are removed and in the evening they are delivered to the local (Indian) company Chui – Springs in Nairobi. A top modern company with good facilities, specialized in leaf springs.
After only one and a half days, we receive the newly straightened, repaired and supplemented springs back. We have decided to replace the spring pack with two additional spring leaves in the hope that these will then carry us through to South Africa and beyond, because the original MAN spring pack, which was supposed to carry 8 to 10 tons per side, has proved to be definitely insufficient with a constant weight of about 8 tons on the rear axle.
The installation takes a good two days, as the various bolts still have to be carefully tightened with a torque wrench.
The vehicle is now about 5 to 6 cm higher at the rear, which is why the load-dependent brake force regulator on the rear axle also had to be readjusted.
Reunited in Kenya
On December 15 – one day before the new lockdown in Germany – we fly together from Zurich to Nairobi. At the end of November, I had decided without further ado to pick up my beloved in Switzerland, so that we could start again together in Kenya. In the meantime, she was medically discharged early because the healing process of her shoulder was progressing so quickly and the physiotherapist recorded exercises for her by means of video, which she can continue on the journey.
We had the required Covid test in the bag, also the eVisa for Kenya – and of course excess baggage again.
The health check and customs clearance in Kenya was perfectly organized. Our Covid tests were accepted at the first attempt and after about 45 minutes we were standing in the parking lot in front of the airport where our cab was waiting. When we think of the chaos before our departure in Frankfurt, which caused a whole hour delay, we can only praise the Kenyans. They did their jobs.
We meet our MAN at the camping site of Jungle Junction in best condition. In the meantime, the rainy season has become weaker and Chris has had our Carnet de Passage, whose validity would have expired on January 1, 2021, stamped out and in at the Kenyan Automobile Club. Now we just have to take out the COMESA liability insurance, which expires on January 13, 2021, load our luggage, get the vehicle ready for the onward journey, go shopping and plan our itinerary, because we would like to spend Christmas together with giraffes and elephants.
On Monday, December 21, we head north. Our first destination is the SAMBURU National Reserve. First we drive by MAN Nairobi to have an oil change done. But far from it, they are already on their Christmas vacations. This circumstance might explain why it takes us several hours to get out of the city. We spend the night at Havila Resort, which is located on the Mathioya River and whose camping site directly on the whitewater is also accessible for larger vehicles.
At Nanyuki we cross the equator. The A2 leads here on the western flank of Mounta Kenya up to 2500m and then drops within about 50 km by about 1700m. With that also the temperatures change and at a good 30° we reach the Samburu Reserve, where we are allowed to stand for free on the parking lot for this night.
Samburu National Reserve
The Samburu National Reserve is located in a dry area, on the land of the Samburu tribe and is about 165 Km2 in size, but is connected to the Buffalo Springs Reserve of about the same size on the other side of the Ewaso Ngiro River, which has water all year round.
The park rangers at the gate are very friendly, even cordial, and let us negotiate the price. We get a discount, but the entrance fee is still overpriced. We book three days and nights at the park’s public campground, right on the river. In the picture below: the nice, 25-year-old park ranger named Eunice.
Christmas among Elephants …
Already on the first day we “get” in the middle of a herd of elephants. Around us elephants, which peacefully and without any aggression take food. Between 100 and 300 kg of plant mass of grasses, bushes and trees elephants need daily. Therefore, they spend up to 17 hours a day feeding. No wonder that they leave us on the left and hardly take notice of us. The elephants radiate a great calm – we also become calm and can just enjoy the time with the herd.
… and Net Giraffes
In the Samburu Reserve lives a stately population of reticulated giraffes. The pattern of their fur looks like a net – hence the name. Giraffes are basically shy – these ones here in the Samburu Reserve seem to be even shyer. As soon as we approach, they change direction – away from us. They are a subspecies of the “Northern Giraffe” and belong to the family of the “Giraffes” – who is surprised! They grow up to 560 cm high with a weight of about 900 kg. With their long legs they strut leisurely through the savannah – and thanks to their long legs they move quite fast. Watching them is a lot of fun. If you spot one, suddenly more and more giraffes appear, previously invisible behind a tree, harvesting the branches with their up to 40cm long tongue.
We are standing at our campsite on the bank of the river. A crackling and rustling sound! Indeed, a bull elephant has taken down a branch full of precious greenery by force directly behind us and is twisting and turning it to get to the precious greenery – only a few meters away from our MAN. A powerful experience.
Besides river crossing elephants, spikeboks, impala gazelles, round-eared zebras, colonies of silky guinea fowl and an African spotted eagle, we also discover the funny giraffe gazelle. Yes, and that’s it, because lions, cheetahs or leopards we could unfortunately not discover – perhaps because every day more local visitors flocked to the national reserve to spend Christmas here.
About 220 km north lies the last outpost – the big village “Marsabit” with about 60’000 inhabitants. That’s where we go on December 27th, to Camp Henry, a small campsite, of the Basler “Henry”, who has lived here for decades and is married to a Kenyan woman.
Immediately we undertake necessary work on the vehicle – for example, our low and high beams no longer burn. Therefore, all sources of error are systematically investigated ….
I wonder if it’s a good idea for an office dweeb like me to get to work on the electrics. In any case, I dare to take the instrument panel apart to check whether the light switch is possibly defective.