The frequent rains have changed many of our plans. And some very negative advice from 2 Norwegian cyclist we met last night has confirmed our decision to skip Hells Gate NP. Instead, we leave our lovely camp and head a few kms down the road to Elsamere – home of George & Joy Adamson as in the famous Born Free book and movie. Not sure how many of you remember the movie, but it was big in our time. It is a lovely true story of Elsa the lion being hand raised and then set free in the wild. The tour includes a guided tour of the little museum, an old video and high tea in the lovely gardens. For me the bonus is watching the cute black & white colobus monkeys playing in the trees.
It is early afternoon by the time we leave and head to Nairobi, so the rest of the day is spent driving and navigated the city streets until we find the Wildebeest Eco Resort as recommended by the Norwegians. It is a lovely resort, but not suitable for big rigs like ours. We squeeze in the driveway and stop in the driveway beside the grassy camping area. They do not want us driving on the wet grass. Breakfast is included in the price so we do not head out until mid-morning. It is Sunday, so we have decided to “do” the touristy things today while there is not too much traffic.
Our first stop is just down the road to the Karen Blixen Museum. She was the author who wrote numerous books including the famous “Out of Africa” which was made into a movie. She also ran a huge coffee plantation before she returned to Denmark. We are shown around the lovely home and learn all about her life. Then we head to our next destination – the incredibly popular (with travellers & locals alike) Giraffe House that is attached to the famous Giraffe Hotel where guests can pat giraffes as they enjoy their breakfast. It is fun feeding the giraffes, but time for our next must see. We drive right into the city centre to the National Museum. No traffic snarls and an excellent road network. But sadly, there is a terrible ticketing process. After numerous attempts to logon and pay we give up. The complaints book is full of others who gave up in disgust and there are heaps (mainly locals) who are also trying to get tickets! At least we had a great lunch at their café with guarded, secure parking.
We decide while we are in the city centre to drive around and look. Lots of fancy buildings including Parliament House & the Convention Centre. We find a guarded ATM to use and I rush back to the truck with pockets full of cash. More driving and we find the street markets chock full of stalls, people, and rows of buses. John asks if I want to visit. Hmmm Not really – this city has a terrible reputation! So, we head out of town to another camping place. This time Jungle Jungle, where we can store GR2 at the end of the trip. Later we are joined by 3 other camping vehicles, the first we have met on this trip. The Dutch couple in a Landrover with roof tent have just returned from Lake Turkana, so they share their stories. We will attempt it but the rains have made some of the roads dicey, so we will see.
Monday morning, we head to an Isuzu workshop. Just a simple brake fix job, but we are there most of the day. The plan was to return to Jungle Jungle, but we are delayed in the workshop. The job is finished, but they do not take cash or credit card, only M-Pesa, which is their phone payment system. Finally, we try bank transfer and more hiccups. Our bank (unsurprisingly!) does not do KES (Kenya Schillings) so we try in US dollars. No go. It is getting late so we simply camp in their yard overnight. In the morning I manage to do the transfer. The bonus: a free secure night! And just as well we stayed as the brakes need some fine tunning in the morning and there is a Tyre Shop nearby, we can visit to see if they can order new tyres for us.
Finally, we are off and back through the middle of the now busy city. We pass the crazy central markets where traffic is manic before getting back onto the motorway. Then we head north through lush countryside towards Mt Kenya. With the continued drizzle it is unsurprisingly shrouded in heavy clouds. We camp at the rather lovely Naro Mora River Lodge which apparently has views over the mountain and arranges treks! Not for this bunny! It rains all evening and continues drizzling all night. We continue our drive through miles of lush plantations and huge areas covered with greenhouses. A food basket area. Then onto the market town of Isiolo, but the market area is so muddy we are not even tempted to get out. We continue north to Archers Post, but discover a long string of cars. The road is closed due to some serious flash flooding. We have lunch and wait. A few trucks start to go through so it is time for us to try. Easy peasy for GR2! And now the road is very quiet as very few others are prepared to tackle the water. There is a camping place nearby, but when we turn to enter the entrance track, we discover it is very slippery and it is a few kms long. That is a no go, so we drive on. And magic driving it is too!
There is a mud slide area to tackle. A truck is stuck here, but a grader is already on the job clearing a path. Then we spy about 20 giraffes crossing the road in front of us. And the bonus is they are rare reticulated giraffes (we can tell by their funny running style – both back legs move in time together) And then of course we are passing through tribal territory and see so many locals in tribal dress. Men & women! Amazing! When we stop for coffee John asks a group of ladies for a photo. NO!! Oh well I will just have to keep sneaking photos from the truck. After a long eventful day, we reach the town of Marsabit and pull into Henry’s Camp.
A slow start in the morning as we plan to stay another night. We make use of a good supply of water and wash everything in sight including sheets & towels. Once the sheets are back on the bed, we head out to explore through the town and right up to the currently green Dida Galgalu Desert. Our first stop is at the Choba Gof/Crater – a huge crater right beside the road, then at the town of Babisa we drive through a side track to admire their “humpy” homes (perhaps admire is the wrong word!) and then in the desert stop for lunch. It must be the first time we have stopped and we see no people. There really is no point going any further as this road goes to Ethiopia, so we turn and head back to Marsabit. We will have to return in the dry season to explore Lake Turkana.
Back at Henry’s Camp we settle in and are surprised when a 4x4 and trailer arrive, and much later 5 more vehicles arrive. What a crowd. They are here for a marathon in the desert. In the morning we head off early for our long return trip. We are surprised to see no signs of the flooded road; all the water has simply gone. We stop again at Naro Mora Lodge and again we barely get a glimpse of Mt Kenya. At least it is not raining this time. We have decided not to return to Nairobi, but to take another route south that has been recommended, so we turn off the main road and head to Embu, where we turn and continue directly south. An amazingly good road with very little traffic. Finally stop for the night in a little carpark behind a bar/ restaurant /B&B. More torrential rain as we settle in. The whole area has received a huge drenching and water is overflowing everywhere. Apparently, we are now in the little wet season. Lucky us!
The next day we finish the lovely new road and join the Nairobi/Mombasa Rd. What a difference. There are no passing lanes and there are countless incredibly slow trucks going both ways! And although we are driving through the Tsavo NP there is not a lot to see except the backsides of trucks! Much later we cruise into the city of Mombasa on a great motorway network which takes us right into the city, then its good main roads to the ferry where we come to a standstill. There are huge queues of people, cars, and trucks. Again, we have the M-Pesa problem so a policeman pays for us and we give him cash. And then we wait. There are 3 ferries running, but we are too tall for the 2 car ferries so must wait for the single truck ferry. Finally, we cross and drive through the crazy market area and township. Its just getting dark as we drive down to Twiga Beach Lodge & Camping on Tiwi Beach. And what a magic spot we find right on the edge of a gorgeous white sand beach fringed with swaying palm trees. The bonus is a great little restaurant and a few friendly campers. It is so lovely we stay for 2 nights and enjoy the swimming. After out 2 nights we head south along the coast to Diani Beach which is chock full of resorts and shops. Access to the beach is via a few dirt tracks between the resorts. We carry on to the fishing port of Shimoni where there is a lovely camp spot with the bonus of a pool. But this is not to be. There are too many overhanging branches and I suggest a car could be moved so we could camp there or we could get out our chainsaw! It is a firm NO to both ideas so we head to the Kenya Wildlife Service camp area. It is not beside the water and at a very pricey $40US we decide to return to the much lovelier & much cheaper Twiga Camping for another night.
Rain in the night and drizzly skies means we pack up and return to the city of Mombasa where we head to Halimabai’s family home. She has offered to show us around the Old City. We park in their secure compound and head into the markets by tuk-tuk. We have a lovely day exploring, sampling local dishes and spending time with this lovely family. We even stay overnight in their yard and head off later the next morning. Thank you all. We have a few stops before we head north along the coast. The first is to get a no plate. We cannot get an original one here, but can get a copy. All done we head to AM Motors, the local Isuzu dealership. (The same chain as the one in Nairobi) Here John discusses work to be done when we return next year and they offer to store our truck for us. Perfect! It will be safe and undercover. Jobs finished we head north, but again there is more rain and huge sections of road are undergoing roadworks and the road is potholed and muddy. And then of course there are sections that are flooded. The wet season is here with a vengeance! We are glad to stop at the Edelweiss Camping area before more torrential rain. Hmmm the plan is to head to Lamu, but with the rains we think we will fly home a bit early as many roads are closed.
A night of solid rain has confirmed our decision. We are heading home on Sunday. Goodbye Kenya. We will return in the dry season.