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Our time in Africa was short now; in a few months we would be back in Europe, back in the UK, back home. Read more..

Addis to Nairobi

July 6th, 2010

 After a lovely week in Addis we headed South, onto the rough roads of the South and traversed around the beautiful and remote Lake Turkana en route to Nairobi.

Sunday 20th June

 As it was our intended final day in Addis, in the evening we went for a meal with all our habesha friends Chewy, Ashagere, Friew and of course Saufe who was travelling with us through to the South. It was great to see all together for the first time since arriving in Ethiopia but also a shame not to have missing friends Kassahun and Yared with us. We slowly started packing to leave Monday. After a week and a half off, a lot has become unpacked so this was a large operation!


Made plans for the route south. In order to avoid the horrendous Kenyan road south of Moyale, we elected to take the offroad route along the East coast of Lake Turkana.

Unfortunately, our intended departure date was delayed due to the rain. When it came down, it came hard. Preventing us from finishing the final few bits of maintenance on the car, we decided to postpone leaving until Tuesday. With Carl feeling ill and darkness closing in, this was the best option. Early nights all round.



All feeling better we got up nice and early and made tracks, only to get 50 metres down the road before problems struck, with no horn or headlights. We were all excited about getting on the move again after being stationary for a week and a half, so we were disappointed at having to stop so soon!

We checked the various changes we had made during our work on the car. After an hour an a half of checking fuses, connections and head scratching, it became apparent that the wiring on our replacement indicator stalk did not match the colours on the Haynes wiring diagram.

Thus rather than connecting a supplementary new earth, we had in fact wired the power line directly to earth, creating a truly perfect short circuit. With the wiring sorted we pressed on, enjoying properly working headlights again, and surround sound in the cab. After grabbing breakfast, money and diesel we were on the road out of the city.

At the traffic lights, we found ourselves level with another car containing a farenji. We promptly light heatedly harangued him, demanding that he ‘give me one pen’ as is the local culture. Much to our surprise, he smiled and promptly did so. Thus, we are now the proud owners of our very own Hilton hotel pen.

After queuing amongst the blue-smoking minibuses and old Lada taxis, we got moving to Debre Zeit and ended up driving 30km past it, as the town is locally referred to as Bishoftu, whereas the maps refer to it as Debra Zeit!

We caught up with friends George and Becca, fellow Link Ethiopia teachers whom we had met in Gondar, in Debra Z. We all enjoyed a nice dinner of Lamb chunks cooked on charcoal and Carl and Becca had a chilli eating competition, which impartial judges deemed a draw. Becca, however, claimed victory.

 Thanks to Friew, the Link Ethiopia worker in DZ, we were invited to stay in a local compound free of charge, which was fantastic having overspent somewhat in Addis. Whilst the resident family were incredibly kind and hospitable, the same could not be said for the dog which repeatedly tried extremely hard to bite Carl ,only subdued in its attacks by forceful kicks in the nose! Best not tell Carl’s girlfriend who works for the RSPCA about this bit….



Up super early to check the rear diff, which wasn’t leaking after fitting the new seal – woohoo!

Leaving DZ early, we pressed on South in the hope of reaching Arba Minch by 4 so we could find a place to stay and see the England game at 5. We had lunch in the hugely disappointing Shashamane which was more of a dirty crossroads town full of hassle, rather than the magical home of Rastafarianism as many will have you believe.

                Leaving Shashamane the road turned to gravel and our average speed dropped to a miserly 25mph and with it our hopes of being in Arba Minch for the football floundered. This was the first time since Cairo that we had left the main tarmac road, apart from our voluntary excursions into the Sudanese desert and offroad to Gorgora.

Passing through the last big town before AB, Sodo, we decided to stop there for the night to chill and watch footy as otherwise we risked driving at night. After trying a couple of hotels around town, Saufe eventually managed to arrange camping for 15 Birr for all of us.

That worked out at 25p each, and it should be noted at this point that Tom still hasn’t paid. To put this into perspective, we had previously paid 90 per day in Addis, 50 In Gorgora and 100 in Gondar. Saufe mentioned that the hotel ‘receptionist/gate man/cleaner’ had not come across the idea of foreigners arriving and sleeping on top of their car, so was a little confused and thought he was onto a right good deal.

Travelling towards the lake, we had our first prolonged experiences of African gravel roads, which shake everything to pieces and leave everything in the back covered in a layer of fine dust. Our faces too were covered, but this is what we signed up for, so we can’t complain.

Unlike any other country we have travelled through, Ethiopian children go mad at the sight of a farenji driving past, so we are constantly having kids waving, dancing, making faces, pretty much anything they can do to get noticed as we drive past.

 Unfortunately, when speeds slow enough for us to be able to hear them, 90% of the time they are asking for plastic bottles, pens or money from us. Despite this, it adds flavour to drives, sights that you just wouldn’t see anywhere back home.

Leaving the hotel swiftly, we found a football hall which cost 4 Birr each to watch the football. Great atmosphere in this dark, mud walled room, with locals really took to us when we stood up and sung the national anthem. We enjoyed the England victory and looked forward to a meeting with Germany in the next round.

Despite the brilliant price, the hotel experience was not brilliant in itself, disgusting toilets and disturbed nights sleep thanks to a rickshaw which wouldn’t start at 6am and an Isuzu aka Al- Qeada truck which started its 1hour warm up at 6.30am.

To explain, Isuzu trucks are known as Al Qeadas by most farenjis here – because they cause so many accidents! Many many mutterings of ‘f*cking Al Quedas’ can be heard in our car as one after the other goes past apparently trying their hardest to kill themselves and everyone else on the road near them.


Thursday 24th June

Leaving Sodo early we took 4 hours to cover the final 100km to Arba Minch. Luckily for us it hasn’t rained in 3days but evidence is everywhere of the destruction from the present rainy season. We were told part of this road was impassable as little as one week ago and we could see why. Despite no rain we still had to negotiate a couple of small river crossings and got water above the bonnet for the first time in our car – woohoo!

Arriving in Arba Minch we followed the guide book and went slightly out of town to the beautiful (in true African style, still under construction) Paradise Lodge. We managed to negotiate a very good rate to camp and treated ourselves to lunch on the stunning veranda, with views over Lake Abaya and Lake Chomo. The lodge itself was far out of town but was very clean, with stunning views.

We headed out for dinner, being spiced out by the chilli sauce and then went on for Habesha dancing lessons with Saufe in a local bar. On the way home Carl learned more about how to drive a Bajaj after another late night lesson from an accommodating taxi man.



We took a Bajaj to the local crocodile farm, interesting to see these animals up close but barely worth the money and definitely not worth the irritation of having local ‘friend’ come along when he wasn’t invited. All he wanted was to make some sort of commission from us. Frustrating, when you just want some time to yourself after long hours of travelling.



Packed up and left paradise and headed into Nechtar national park the main attraction in the area. Passing through the park gate and leaving the small amount of tarmac around town the track turned into the most amazing road, our first real offroad adventure in our car, and taking us back to our time at Eastnor Castle where we were kindly given tuition by Land Rover Experience. The car was simply faultless, despite being made to work very hard through deep ruts, mud, steep hills and lots of very rocky ascents/ descents. We found ourselves constantly chopping and changing between riding on the roofrack, front wing, rear ladder and passenger seat enjoying the ride, smiles rarely leaving our faces. Throughout the day we saw baboons, warthogs, zebra, eagles, hippos and finally camped at one of the viewpoints, overlooking one of the huge lakes and with a steep 500m descent just behind us. Against Saufes expectations, we then got a fire going without using firelighters or petrol, Scouting heritage that is. Saufe then encouraged us to get to bed early as he was worried about wandering Hyenas.


We drove back to the park gate in 2hours, having taken 6hours to cover the same distance before but were eaten by Tutsi flies constantly. Tough little buggers which could generally survive the first whack with a Bradt guide book… First proper off-road action for the car, unbelievable how strong and capable it is. Both of us are becoming more and more in love with the car each day. Met Joel the Canadian in his LR 110, and Rian and Stephani in their Toyota, having chatted with them at Wims in Addis. Went together to find the 40 natural springs, amazingly clear water but all rather uninspiring. Then off on boat trip to see Crocodile market. Huge crocs everywhere, up close to pelicans and hippos. Rushed back to town to find that we have had missed the first half of the England match, having got mixed up between being 3hours + GMT, but it currently being British summertime. Nevertheless we saw the rest of the match and left totally miserable, but faintly hopeful that such a beating will serve as a lesson to England’s staff and players that the movement and speed of the Germans is how they need to play.

We headed back to Paradise to spend the night and all struggled to sleep in the heat and with about 20mossies sharing the tent with us. Eventually at 5am Tom had enough and left to try sleeping in the cab.



Left paradise fairly early with the others and spent an hour doing various jobs around town including visiting banks and Joel trying to arrange a new pin number for his card which was locked. We then heard that there was no diesel in town and we would have to go to a government office to get a paper permitting us to get some of the remaining diesel. Once levels run low the government then regulate supply to ensure that services can continue to run as well as possible. This was a big problem for us as our planned route around Lake Turkana involved long periods without fuel stations.  With the help of Saufe’s translation skills we eventually got them to agree to give us the 110 litres that we needed and promptly filled the tank, metal jerrys and newly purchased plastic jerrys. This lot would comfortably give us a range of 1000km off-road and a fair amount more on-road.

After filling we got on the nice tarmac road to Konso, which quickly turned to bumpy gravel but arrived by 4pm and re-filled our tank to take us back up to full range once again.

After tracking down the Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge and arranging a 6 bed-dorm for a very reasonable 40birr each we headed into the town for a beer and to try Tej, traditional Ethiopian honey wine, as Rian and Stephanie had not tried this. The local Tej wasn’t that great so after a couple of polite sips each we had managed to polish off the small amount that fortunately we had ordered and drove back to the hotel. We had a quiet last evening with Saufe, sorting out some bits on the computer which he was going to look after us as back-ups for our trip photos.




Up at 7 to get sorted and back on the road again to try and get to the town of Turmi to see the market. Southern Ethiopia is filled with weird and wonderful colourful tribes so the plan was to get to Turmi on market day to try and see lots of different tribes all at once, as opposed to attending each different village separately and – if rumours are to be believed – have money demanded in each town.

We reluctantly said goodbye to Saufe, leaving him to board a minibus back to Arba Minch clutching his rucksack, sleeping bag and pillow. Take care mate, thanks very much for a lovely few weeks and all of your help – sorry the commissions weren’t up to much!

We reached Turmi mid afternoon after an incredibly dusty few hours and had a quick scout around the market. Not quite the variety we had hoped to see, but interesting nonetheless. The increased heat was noticeable as we were now only 600m above sea level, compared to the 2000m+ to which we had become accustomed in Ethiopia. The lower altitude was fantastic for the car however, as the thicker air means the car feels like it used to back in Sudan and before. Suddenly we can change gear at reasonable revs again and don’t leave behind clouds of smoke each time you breathe near the throttle.

As it was early and we suddenly realised we were only 98km from the border we decided to press on and try to stay in the border town of Omerate that night.

We reached Omerate by 4.30pm, managed to quickly get our passports stamped out, and even negotiated a reasonable exchange rate from Birr to Kenyan Shillings by 5pm. From the immigration office we headed straight into town to buy some last minute supplies for our trip around Lake Turkana and spent the last of our Birr. Then it was a few K’s away from town to bush camp, our first time sleeping in the African bush, as opposed to desert.

It’s been cool travelling with other guys in 4x4s, being able to see what kit others are using and see how they have overcome the problems that all overlanders face. Thankfully we have a bit of bling to show when others look at our car, the Allisport bits,Koni shocks and Twisted Performance hoses often drawing the most admiring glances.



Up early again with the gang to press on from our camp spot. We headed down the ‘border road’ which was a small sand track off the main Omerate gravel road. After a couple of hours of twisting and turning at 20mph and crossing deep dry riverbeds we arrived at a random concrete block which the GPS confirmed was the border. No fences, no signs, just a concrete block from which point on we are in Kenya and should now be driving on the left. As this is a recognised ‘open border’ point, we must now get our immigration stamps all sorted in Nairobi.

Leaving the border behind we arrived at the shores of Turkana and got a few more miles under our wheels before it was lunchtime. Heading to the beach for lunch we decided to stop there for the day so promptly pushed the goats and cows out of the way and got into the lake for a relaxing swin/wash/cool down.

Later in the afternoon, as we were all sitting under the awning debating dinner a strapping young goat called Robert walked past. A quick price check with friendly local trans later Oscar confirmed that Robert was within our budget so for the sum total of £20 between the 5 of us we purchased Robert. The local chaps then helped kill and skin him, taking home the internal organs and skin for themselves. This left us with about 8kilos of the freshest goat meat which was sliced and diced ready forpacking in the fridge. As the sun set a fire was lit and impromptu hook for a leg rigged up. After 3hours of cooking we all sampled Robert. Then into the tents and asleep on the beach, but not beforea bit of unsuccessful croc spotting.


Thursday 1st July

Left our lovely scenic campsite early and headed south, following the slow bumpy tracks which skirt round the edge of Sibiloi National Park. Spent the majority of the day at 20mph traversing rocks, sand and gravel. A nice change from the tarmac which we have lived on for most of the first part of the trip, and the first real chance we have had to see quite what our car is capable of .Now we are understanding why people say the Land Rover is the most capable offroad car. With our replacement Diff-lock lever, sourced in Cairo with the help of our friend James, and a lovely new Bearmach diff lock switch, sourced in Addis we can now flick between Difflock and high/low range with ease. With a mechanically sympathetic shifting technique, it is now a far cry from the days at home when we were apprehensive from shifting to low range for fear of damaging the gearbox.

By late afternoon we found ourselves at a park office that appeared apparently out of nowhere and the warden demanded 20US per person as we had strayed slightly into the park despite trying to stick to the border road. After a while of arguing a compromise was reached and we pressed on to find somewhere to bush camp. We got a fire going and cooked up some more of Robert, a lot of whom was still in the fridge.



We awoke to be asked by Rian if we had seen a metal rod which had been used to prop up the grill for cooking the night before. Eventually it was found about 15m from the fire and the guys concluded that a Hyena had taken it as they had repeatedly heard one just on the other side of our truck. We had heard nothing as we slept!

Kept moving South as the roads got rougher and rougher. We finish the days with headaches and filthy from dust, this must be what it was like ‘in the old days’ when travelling somewhere was a real effort, slow, hot and dirty work.

Eventually reached our first Kenyan town early evening, got a few supplies and then kept moving to try and find a place to camp by the lake whilst it was still light. After a quick dip, mud fight wash in the lake, the wind blew us dry in minutes, such was the ferocity.

Unfortunately it kept this up for the rest of the evening, making cooking a pain and lying in the tent somewhat deafening. Took us back to our Libyan days and the sandstorm we experienced there, the scorpion running around the camp added to that feel!


Saturday 3rd July

Awoke to find the tent had ripped from the gale that had blown all night. We had local visitors who thankfully were content to watch us pack away from 50m away.

Got moving and tip-toed through boulder fields for the next two hours, unable to get out of low range and exceed 15mph. Eventually bumped into a friendly German couple in a old Series Land Rover who had broken their leaf spring mountings in one of the boulder fields. Luckily he had a spare and was back on the way within a couple of hours.

Another long day in the car, our fifth since leaving the comforts of hotel paradise in Arba Minch in Ethiopia.

Diesel stocks are beginning to run low, water was luckily refilled in a passing bar, food supplies low, money low. Making do until Nairobi, these are the everyday issues of travelling.

Before the day was out we managed to find a shop selling Guinness so bought a bottle to stew the meat in and help soften it. That night we finished the last of our Libyan spices as we cooked up a feast in the bush.

After having a film swapping session and also being gifted the latest version of Tracks for Africa – an absolute gem of a program we headed to bed.



Pressed on in the hope of reaching Nairobi. Soon became clear this wouldn’t be possible as we couldn’t average more than 20mph with the incessant bumps, ruts and rocks in the road (track). Without a 4×4 and our low range gearbox there is no way we have got through. Red mud roads, some big water holes.

Found a BP filling station, but unfortunately with the local bank out of action didn’t have enough money to put in more than 10L of diesel! Either way with ¾ of a tank and one jerry can remaining we should be good to reach Nairobi.

This really is Land Rover country and the first scrap of evidence for those back home who insisted to us that ‘Land Rovers are everywhere in Africa’. Up until now the continent may as well have been renamed Toyotica!

Overall Kenya has a very friendly feel to it, the standard of English everywhere is very high which helps for us Brits! Additionally it’s great to see the road signs are basically British signs, same font and patterns making us feel that bit more at home.

Late in the afternoon Rian pulled over, the battery light having come on in the cab. A cursory glance suggested everything was in order so we pressed on to find somewhere to camp and investigate further. The four of us fruitlessly searched for the problem for a couple of hours, whilst Stefani cooked up a lovely meal. We confirmed that the alternator was working properly but for some reason the batteries weren’t receiving the charge. The situation was complicated by the Toyota running on a 24volt system and the wiring going into the cab behind the dash before returning back out. Our best guess was a faulty voltage regulator, but not understanding the intricacies of how these work couldn’t be sure. We did however discover a completely melted fuse so haven’t ruled out a short circuit at some point in the wiring. If anyone is familiar with 1980s Landcruisers do please get in touch as Rian and Stefani would love to hear any ideas!


Monday 5TH July

Arrived in Nairobi late after another long day in the car. For the first time in well over a week we it tarmac at noon and then pressed on with smiles planted firmly on our faces for the rest of the afternoon, now our heads, ears and bums were all given some relief. The car seemed happy back on the hard stuff as well, coasting right up to 70mph in 5th with no acceleration on one downward section. Either we have the wheel bearings set up perfectly for ultimate rolling efficiency or we are friggin heavy! Also, after the toughest week we think the car had ever had, on three wheels at one and 0wheels a couple of times, smashing into rocks for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it stills drives dead straight. Hats off Rick, cracking job on the tracking – we’re currently wondering if you had spot welded the steering arms to keep it straight?!

Once on the tarmac it was one road to Nairobi so our three car convoy dropped the maps and kept it pinned to get to Nairobi that night, having told our resident friend Georgina we thought we would be there last Thursday. We sped past Mt Kenya which was disappointingly in the clouds and in our haste we nearly overlooked another small milestone called the Equator. Here we were, standing on the centre of the bloody earth, in an old car which we had driven from England. Despite our haste, we found time to stop and take it in – our first sizeable milestone of the trip. Not satisfied with crossing it once, we then proceeded to cross it a further 3 times, going back to take photographs and then back and forth once again following a last minute decision to get some sandwiches and eat on the move. So it took us 23 years to cross it once, now we’ve down it 4 times in one day – I don’t know what the big deal is really… According to Rian and Joel it was a fairly drab ‘Equator crossing’ as other places they have crossed it have had lots of colourful signs and people. We have 3 more crossing to look forward to in Uganda in a few weeks, then in Rwanda on the way back down and finally somewhere on the West coast as we make our way home.

Arriving in Nairobi we were met with Tom’s greatest fear, or fetish i’m not really sure which, rush hour traffic. After an hour of queuing with the others we shouted through the traffic that we were going to make straight for Georginas and would see them tomorrow so peeled off to be met by more traffic. Eventually we managed to find the school despite a number of road closures doing their best to defy us.

So here we are, just arrived in Nairobi, filled with that excitement of yet another famous capital city to see of which we know very little and keen to track down other overlanding friends to see how there last few weeks have been. The car is also due it’s next major service so the overalls are coming out and we’re going to spend the majority of the next few days underneath it doing the routine bits and sorting niggling issues.

Once again we would like to say a massive thank you to all who are supporting us on this trip. Without the generosity of the companies listed at the bottom of our homepage none of this would be possible. We would also like to ask you try and spare a few pennies for the charities that this trip is raising money for having just witnessed the work of Link Ethiopia up close it makes us more passionate to try and support them. Across Africa there are many charities throwing money at problems and communities but LE don’t work like this, their approach is to focus on education, allowing Ethiopians to the chance change things themselves. Please help us spread the word about the trip by telling friends and family about the website!

Thank you.


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