August 12, 2005 GMT
Cattle Class.

19/7/05. Garissa.

Six days from Moyale and at long, dusty, stinking last I'm in a proper town with beer (Tusker!) and fags (Sportsman!) and a sit-down toilet and soap and towels and - heavens - a telly with BBC World and TARMAC! In theory it's possible to ride all the way from here to Cape Town on the black stuff.

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Great fags

The hotel - at $10 - is the kind of place that would cost $250 in London and 80 euros even in Spain. It's a mad journey from Wajir. 10kms out of town I fall off, for the fourth time in 24 hours, and the bike lands on my leg. Bruising only, but enough to make me think twice about doing another 250 kms of 15 km/h rut-negotiating over the next few days. I stand for 40 minutes rueing the horrific bloodshed that forced me down this interminable track, and then decide to put the bike on a truck to Garissa, where the tarmac to Nairobi starts.

The first livestock truck that arrives is empty and gets me to Habaswein for 1000 Kenya shillings (about $13). It's less than halfway but it's a start...
We only have one rope to tie the bike down, so I sit on it in the, er, cow area, for four hours to keep it upright. Hard work, but not as hard as actually riding the track.

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Habaswein is an electricity-free, bar-less crossroads in the middle of Kenya's arid north-east, where the people are mostly Somali muslims living off goat meat and the 200 metre deep aquifer. It's packed with the most welcoming, curious and helpful people I've met so far.

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Tourist traffice normally takes the Marsabit road south to Nairobi, so they're not likely to see bozos like me too often. I sit in the dust on the first afternoon, waiting for a mythical "next truck" to Garissa, surrounded by the friendly, fascinated people of the town. Mostly they speak superb English, particularly Ahmed Bashir, a paramedic/motorcyclist. His vocabulary is shaming, due in part to his insatiable consumption of the BBC World Service. I'm put up in the brand-new hospital building and fed frequently at Bashir's house at no cost.

Everyone in Kenya so far is wired to the gums on Miraa, a stimulant leaf of which you seem to have to consume a hedge-full in order to obtain any narcotic benefit. I guess it's an African version of the coca leaf. If someone could just extract the active bit...

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Three days pass in Habaswein waiting for a truck. On the second day we put the bike and luggage on the back of a huge goat-wagon late at night. I arrange with the driver to meet at the police checkpoint at 5 am. I sit there from 4.45 to 11 am. At that point two likely lads arrive carrying my luggage, with the news that the truck has buggered off without me, leaving the bike at Bashir's place.

I return to sitting, sometimes sleeping in the sand by the checkpoint. Although I'm beginning to believe that I may be here some time, I'm still not thrilled about the hundreds of kilometres of sandy, corrugated ruts ahead.

Late afternoon and a full maize truck arrives. They'll take me for another 1000 KSh. Somehow 10 of us winch the bike 10 feet up into the back of the truck and we're off. The driver has two wives, one at each end of his regular run. I don't think they're aware of each other. We drive all night at 25 km/h, with my intestines causing a number of moments of intense personal concern. I smell extraordinary after three days in Habaswein, and a bowel/trouser border skirmish at this point will not endear me to my hosts.

My sphincter holds out, and by 7.30am we're in Garissa. As I write I've been to a functioning cashpoint, shat profusely and showered in the four-star, $10 hotel, and located a shady spot (MajiClub) in which to guzzle lager. All is well. I've also been interviewed by a fella from "The Nation", Kenya's paper of record. Bizarre.
---

Big Game Update:
Three giraffes loping elegantly along the road near Habaswein at sunset. Ha! Tough cheese to Doug who's only seen one. Although he did have his camera with him.
Two warthogs.
Approx 100 dik-diks.
One gazelle.
One stick-insect.
---

If you happen to be a member of Doug's family, no, sorry, I don't know where he is. He left Addis a day before me because I couldn't be arsed getting out of bed that day. I think he may now be behind me as no-one I've met since Moyale has seen him.
---

Great music in this bar. Muzak versions of "Eternal Flame" by the Bangles and John Somebody's "Summer (The First Time)" go down well after 3 Tuskers and a lifetime of Somali music played on a bad truck stereo.
---

What part of "saying ""what part of xxxx don't you understand?"" isn't funny" don't you understand?
---


25/7/05. Nairobi.

The news from Doug is slightly grim. He took the Marsabit road. Some way down he found himself surrounded by angry men with guns and spears. The Enfield was by now knackerized beyond repair. He borrowed a 4x4 from a now-dead priest. The car was awash with the blood of nine recently-killed people.
He arrived in Nairobi and fairly promptly decided to fly home. Take it easy big fella...

Nairobi is spiffing. I haven't been violently mugged once. There are skyscrapers and shopping malls, and some grinding poverty of course, and Jungle Junction, where I reside for a week. It's run by mechanic Chris who teaches me how to do valve clearances.

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A Unimog. Handy for the shops.

At Upper Hill Campsite, a great breakfast spot, I meet Croatian Robert (Split to Cape Town on an Africa Twin) who's learnt most of his English from Blackadder and Only Fools And Horses and we decide to do the Safari thing. Three days in the Masai Mara ahoy...

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Anyone got any shampoo?
---

Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at August 12, 2005 02:37 PM GMT
 
 

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