July 08, 2008 GMT
The Road to Rack and Ruin

'So, where are the four lanes?'

According to our map the road, from Tarveta (border town with Tanzania) to Mombasa, was nothing short of a four lane super highway. Our map has been proven wrong in the past!

After completing all border formalities we were not greeted with a 'Welcome to Kenya' sign, just 109 kilometres of bumpy dirt road.

Repairing a sheared pannier bolt

Technically it was a great day to be traveling. Perfect weather, one sheared pannier bolt and no Kenyan cash. After arriving in Voi and cajoling the receptionist we parked Piggy in the foyer of the Voi Town Lodge where she slept soundly and safely underneath African scenery murals and bible quotations.

Piggy in Reception

Stifling hot, crowded, dusty, chaotic is really all we can comment on Mombasa, a fleeting visit. As if walking through molasses we found Fort Jesus a 15th Century Portuguese fort complete with port callas and cannons. It houses a museum as well as public spaces for locals and visitors alike to enjoy.

Fort Jesus - Mombasa

Loose Cannon!

Fort Jesus - Mombasa

Soccer Stars in the Making

Escaping the congested roads of Africas largest and busiest port we hit the main highway.

Mosque at Mackinnon Road

We had been warned that there was quite a lot of road works. Smooth tarmac turned to slippery mud. Wide open spaces turned into a muck of trucks in various stages of breakdown, slipping backwards and generally driving disorderly. It was Raffety's Rules, no one appeared to be directing traffic and frustrated drivers were doing there best to get through the mess, as were we.

'Go Right!'

'Go Left!'

'OH HELP!' - Piggy in the Middle

Our daily walk to the supermarket, in Nairobi, takes about twenty minutes each way. Thankfully the weather is sufficiently cool enough this time of the year for it not to be a burden. We leave Jungle Junctions compound and are bombarded by the high BO Index as we walk towards Kingara Road. The sausage seller, corn vendor and firewood stand emit their smells mixed with the diesel of the busses and matatus (Kenyan mini busses).

Crazy Pavement - Road into Nairobi

Kingara Road follows the line of two hills. Down the rocky track worn by the feet of thousands of people to the small valley between. An evil smelling creek runs under the road. Its stench permeates your nasal passages evoking images of human waste. Not to be looked at too closely.

Checking things over at Jungle Junction

The upward track is no better. Dodging broken clay storm water pipes, choking on the fumes of uncared for vehicles, terrified of the speeding cars and trucks attempting to gain as much velocity as possible to make their way up the other side.

Battling the crowds of fellow pedestrians you ponder the wisdom of some of the women in their high heeled shoes on what is little more than a hiking trail as you struggle in your sturdy Mexican work boots.

Finally you reach the fashionable and elegant shopping mall filled with shops and cafes only to turn around and do it all again in reverse.

'Give Me Money' - Africa's Catch Cry

Escaping the cold, damp weather and smog of Nairobi we head to Lake Magadi, the worlds largest soda lake.

Road to the Ngong Hills

The picturesque ride over the Ngong Hills down the escarpment and across the floor of the Rift Valley to Magadi, a government mining town.

Ant Hill Sentinal - Lake Magadi

Flamingos in the alkaline waters of Lake Magadi

The company owns all the buildings and accommodation is nigh on impossible unless you have made preparations for bush camping or have an invitation from management to stay at the ‘Members Only Club’.

Soda Plant - Lake Magadi

Buildings - Lake Magadi

Not being prepared for either option we changed our plans,backtracking to Lake Naivasha.

1 Steep Hill, check!; 1 Broken Down Truck, check!; 1 Heard of Cows, check!

Camp Carnelleys, 17 kilometres from Naivasha town, is situated on the lake was a peaceful respite from the busy city.

Pelicans - Lake Naivasha

Visiting Hells Gate National Park provided a wonderful day out. Hiring push bikes we rode a 20 kilometre circuit to the gorge and back exciting zebras who seemed frightened by our squeaky wheels.

Fischers Tower - Hells Gate National Park

Grant terrorising Zebra

'I think I can.... I think I can....'

'The rock wall was thiiiiis biiiiiig'

Camp Carnelleys is a fabulous place to stay on the lake, brilliant hot water showers, shady trees and grass for camping, excellent meals at the bar and hippos calling out at night.

View of the Rift Valley from 8,000 feet - if you can see it through the haze!

As our passports were full from our last three years of travel it was necessary for us to organise new ones from the Australian High Commission. The staff were friendly and helpful. Two weeks later our shiny new documents arrived as did Mike and Bonny, our good friends, whom we hoped to travel north with.

A supberb Subperb Starling

Over some great meals we planned our route and picked out sights to see. They wished to Visit the Masai Mara and we felt a few more days at Naivasha was in order.

Masai Boy

Arriving back at the lake and relaxing into the afternoon Grant noticed a leak from Piggy’s rear shock absorber.

Pelicans - Lake Naivasha

Shit a brick, re-conditioned shock had blown after only 17,000 kilometres (the original shocker lasted 120,000). The following morning we made a bee line back to Nairobi... not our favourite place.

Harsh Country - Rift Valley

The thing is, in life, there is always some one worse off than oneself. Quite a bit worse off.

Somberly we rode off the dirt track to bounce and weave over the broken tar that heads towards Nairobi. Presently we came upon a small village, people milled about on the road, more so it appeared than usual.

The road becomes more congested with the crowding mass. We slow gently brushing people and curious as to the reason.

Jules gasps, Grant glances quickly to the left.

A large tree stands by the village market stalls, people congregate about it. Only a frozen glance, it remains.

A man limply suspended, a rope twisted about a tall branch, his neck tightly wrapped.

We leave the crowds, the village quickly. Problems? We have none.

Bush Church

Watering Hole - Rift Valley

Watering Hole - Rift Valley


Menu items have been causing great amusement of late; funnily enough they all involve chicken. Here are a few of our favourites:

Crime of Chicken Soup – We only use stolen chickens

Sweat and Sour Chicken – Explains some of the smells around the place

Chicken Gordon Blue – Who is this Gordon and won’t he be pissy if we eat his chicken?

Masai Farm

In response to our three years blog on the road our cheeky French friend Jean François made the following comment, we thought we would pass it on.

"3 years, 1096 days, 26280 hours and 120000kms that is just 4.56 kms/h

It's very slow

May be you could try to use your bike with the engine ...

It will go faster than to push it !!!"

Thanks for that!

Posted by Julie Rose at 10:07 AM GMT
July 15, 2008 GMT
Chaos & Confusion in Customs


The idea of corruption is to make as much money out of the muzungus (white foreigners) as possible. However, in our case it all backfired on the KRA (Kenyan Revenue Authority). Eventually, essentially, they disorganized their way out of money. We paid a maximum of $11.00 on 'special taxes' which started out as about $150.00.

We arrived back at JJ's feeling elated after talking to James from Suzuki South Cape Town (www.suzukisouth.co.za), about the second new shock absorber arriving in the new week only to find a telephone message suggesting that, indeed, the first shock (that had gone missing) was found and awaiting collection in customs at the cargo terminal of the Nairobi Airport.

With a rapidity verging on hysteria we hired a taxi, collected our relevant documents and headed for X-press Parcel service. There we were entertained by Yvonne with the required 'release' documents and the news that their office had unsuccessfully attempted to pry the shock from the clutches of the Customs Office.

We bolted to the Cargo Terminal and after several approaches at various office blocks which invariably shoveled us to other locations we found the Cargo Import section of Kenya Airways.

Happy birthday Jules
Esther, Jules & Jurgen

Leaving the taxi we were immediately surrounded by well dressed and often fully suited hawkers tempting, in typical African fashion, these muzungus with assistance.

We needed no help. Hell! How hard could it be as we confidently entered the building.

Facing a row of empty counters in an equally empty and spacious office, we quickly came to the conclusion that this is now where we needed to be.

A cry from one of the hawkers "No over here, there is nothing there". Promptly and with as much dignity as we could muster we changed direction, meeting a scruffy security guard at the gated compound. Entering and henceforth being directed to a small typically over furnished office where a young lady with a bureaucratic halo about her informed us that we needed to discuss our case with Mr Chacha in the big green building to our right.

Apparently the Toyota factory has trained Chimpanzees for this Job
Grant and Mike work on Duf

We went to the big green building and with due African efficiency we were directed to Mr Chacha's office.

Uncomfortably we stood awaiting our turn whilst the ever persistent hawkers (yes they had increased in number) helped us immensely by pointing at Mr Chacha's closed office door.

Meanwhile his receptionist in the waiting room, for we assume she was the receptionist, possibly mistress, flicked nonchalantly through the pages of a local non-gender specific women's magazine. She seemed otherwise to have no other particular purpose.

Eventually we approached Mr Chacha's door, knocking respectfully before entering. There stood a man of wide girth, astoundingly important and decked out in pinstripes.

We braced, maintained our presence, stepping in and sitting at his enormous imposing desk.

With charisma Mr Chacha moved towards his seat and sat. Yet another receptionist (or mistress) stepped in and thrust important looking documents upon his desk.

A jovial conversation ensued in Kiswahili, whilst we sat waiting patiently with angelic smiles.

Eventually Mr Chacha turned his attention to us and thereby we approached our subject presenting our 'less' important paperwork, including a craftily composed letter from James stating our parcel was a warranty claim, thereby exempt from duty.

"Warranty means nothing in Kenya " he espoused.

We insisted, stating clearly that the shock was of little commercial value, in fact we were unaware of the price ($900.00 as a matter of fact).

Mr Chacha insisted as he flicks through documents "What is this 50 written here"

"Must be 50 Rand," we reply "as the parcel is from South Africa ."

"How much is 50 Rand then?" he questioned

Quickly and politely we point to his calculator, which he pushes towards us. Fifty Rand calculated to US dollars then to Kenyan Shillings equated to about 450K/=.

He stares at the figure "This is a very small amount, however, in Kenya, you must pay duty unless you wish the process to be a long and tiresome affair, just a small amount, any amount is fine."

Suddenly all air of professionalism leaves the room and with that the KRA vision statement upon his wall comes into view with gracious words of transparency.

Poor Tent

With a flourish he waves his hand.

"Just a small amount, lets calculate the value of the shock absorber at 1000K/="

Mr Chacha makes his rapid fire calculations and informs us we should pay no more that 700K/= in duty. Ok, 11 bucks is not too bad to pay and have the shock in our hands today.

As he signs the papers, roughly scrawling the 1000K/= on the corner of the documents he details the procedure we need to follow. Back to the warehouse, then to the bank, back to the warehouse again, and that is that... no more.

Like caricatures of vultures the hawkers were waiting for us as we exited Mr Chachas office. Hounding us for their assistance. Miraculously, politely and firmly we managed to dissuade them.

Back to the cluttered bubble wrap filled package office. We were pushed from desk to desk until a disinterested middle aged woman came to our aid. It seemed rather a tiresome affair for her. And we pondered at her being in our place instead.

On the phone....... again

Reading Mr Chachas notes she dutifully calculates our required payment at 10,000K/=.

"Mr Chacha said it should not be more than 700K/=" we cried panic stricken.

"Oh, my mistake" she notes "I thought it read 100,000 not 1,000."

"Easy mistake" we placate, laughing nervously.

Recalculating, the figure came out to 550K/=, much better.

She orders a young man at a computer terminal to print out an invoice to be paid at the bank.

The young man asks to see our agent. "There is no agent" we state "The agent sent us". As happens the banks will not accept invoices without an agents stamp on them.

Great.... options to solve this problem were:

A) Go back to X-press package for agent stamp - 1/2 hour each way plus stopping time;

B) Find an agent at the warehouse who would stamp papers for fee of, possibly, 200- 1000K/=;

C) Pay 'John Doe', who appeared as if on cue, 500K/= for a stamp.

Choosing Option C) as the easiest and most convenient as the afternoon was racing away from us.

With all papers (stamped) in hand our driver takes us away from the cargo terminal to Arrivals, where the banks are. Stand in line and wait... perusing the invoice we were surprised that the amount to be paid was now 250K/=.

We looked at the invoice total, looked at each other and shrugged.

Back to the cargo office, receipt in hand and finally they hand over our shock absorber, no questions asked.

Shock in Hand

Interestingly not one person asked for proof of identification through out the whole process.

We sign out of security and our driver Mauro takes us back to JJ's within a respectable 1 hour even though it was peak hour traffic in Nairobi , we were expecting at least 2 hours. Well worth the money!

The following day, closer inspection of the reconditioned shocker proved that the non-standard heavy duty spring fitted in Cape Town, had distorted the shocker, thereby causing early failure. We decided to fit the original standard spring and shock, as was intended, on the bike.

After due work, completed by Grant, and packing we were out of Nairobi , for us a loathsome city and heading north to Isiolo and the infamous A2 - Isiolo to Moyale rough road.

We would like to thank James Bower and the team at Suzuki South, Cape Town, for their outstanding assistance and service. James organised for a shock absorber to be dismantled from a new show room bike and then when that shocker went missing, thanks to Kenyan Airlines, he fast tracked a factory shocker from Japan. Delivery took only 10 working days including the loss and recovery of the first shock absorber. Great stuff Suzuki!!

Piggy awaiting Surgery

Posted by Grant Guerin at 02:07 PM GMT

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