We have arrived in Isiolo, northern Kenya, after five entertaining days on The Great North Highway.
And a lot has happened since sitting in an email café in Awasa, Ethiopia.
Beau learned that his elderly grandmother had sadly died, launching him and Caroline into two feverish days checking the feasibility of riding all the way back to Addis Ababa and finding flights to Vancouver. It looked possible, but with a huge number of 'ifs' of the African variety, as well as doubts about flight connections and seats onwards to Vancouver. After much deliberation Beau decided it all looked only barely achievable and we continued south.
However, second thoughts arose the next night in Yabello, and a huge number of phone calls from a hotel next to the campsite revealed it was still possible. But still all the pieces didn't line up reliably, least of all the long ride back to Addis and organising storage for the bikes and luggage.
So the next day found us further south in Moyale on the Kenyan border.
The ride south from Awasa took us out of the Lincolnshire Wolds and into the Dales of Yorkshire, followed by the Southern Highlands of Scotland, all with the addition of the hot tropical climate. But all very green and verdant.
And with far fewer people around, and much more livestock. All over the place.
After a night under canvas in Moyale we crossed into Kenya, on the last day of our customs permits for the bikes.
A few hours later we headed north again back into Ethiopia.
There was no petrol to be found on the Kenyan side of the border for the long ride to Marsabit. Some was available on the black market but at a pretty high price.
Locals told us it was a straightforward job to just ride back into Ethiopia and buy some there. That looked to be the case as there was very little formality on either side of the border with hardly anyone checking people wandering between the two countries. But we had already tried to buy petrol over there on the previous day, unsuccessfully.
"Go back to the NOK station or Total, everybody here buys their petrol over there, they always have some."
So off we went, towards the tiny bridge where the road crosses between Kenya and Ethiopia. A wave and a nod seemed to be sufficient formalities for passport control and visa check, and we tried the three petrol stations, unsuccessfully. Visions of a three-day wait loomed, but at the third station we were told to go back to the second and ask again, 'properly'.
But the answer was the same, "Only diesel!"
We asked again, if there was petrol hidden in the dozens of oil drums stacked up against the office.
Then someone else came out the office, looked us up and down, and said "possibly;" - special supply, special price.
Which led to a second slight problem, we had no Ethiopian money. The price in US dollars was one per litre, half the black market price on the Kenyan side, so we filled up quickly. The petrol, by the way, wasn't in cans or oil drums, but in the pump on the forecourt where all the petrol was sold from. That's Africa for you.
We hurried back into Kenya, met up with two German overlanding couples who had very kindly offered to carry some of our luggage, and entered onto the worst road in East Africa, otherwise known as The Trans East-African Highway, The Great North Highway, or The Five Hundred and Twenty-six Kilometre Moyale to Isiolo Bone-breaker.
Our first sight of traditional Kenyan tribal costumes, on the way out of Moyale.
It's difficult to describe this road objectively. It's hard dirt, dirt and stones, dirt, stones and rocks, mud plus all of the above, pot holes, and long long ruts full of railway chippings with high ridges of deep railway chippings between. And the piece de resistance: two hundred miles or more of corrugations constructed from all of the afore-mentioned materials. These corrugations fill the ruts, are on the tops of the ridges, in the hard sand, under the soft sand, in the stones and rocks, on the hard mud, everywhere.
The early part of the road - pretty simple so far.
The two trucks of our German travelling companions, Jonathon and Kathy, and Bodo and Sabine, arrive as we take a break.
The corrugations here in the hard mud are, errr, 'bearable'.
Beau searches for a smoother run on the far edge.
First night on 'the road' near Sololo. Bodo and Sabine's truck behind.
Kathy and Jonathon's truck.
Things get trickier the next day.
We encounter tiny roadside villages.
And the railway chippings start.
Like riding the rail-bed of the Kings Cross to York line - slowly.
And still we have to wave........
Dirt replaces the stone chippings and a herd of camels blocks the line.
Camels gone, chippings return, and it looks like a race is on.
Chips with everything.
We are generally faster than the heavy trucks. Kathy and Jonathon catch up with us as we take a break.
Another herd of camels gathers and we hit the road again.
And a bike hits the road. Something to do with going faster than the trucks maybe.
But it's soon righted - rubber side down again.
A closer look at this road we're riding on.......
Caroline needs a break from the incessant bone-shaking corrugations and Bodo is tempted to have a go.
He has a moto-cross Husqvarna back home and has been secretly itching to tackle this road since we started. So his wife Sabine takes over the truck driving and Caroline takes the passenger seat.
But it doesn't work out. The luggage still strapped to Caroline's bike makes it about three times heavier than Bodo's bike back home and too difficult to handle. He's amazed that we've been able to ride this road at all with all this weight still on board. With no messing about he orders all three of us to strip down to the bare essentials and put all our stuff in his truck.
Then he zooms straight off into the distance on the Serow.
Back in convoy again.
Bodo leads as Beau practises his footing.
With tons of stone chippings everywhere we expect the Flying Scotsman to come round the bend at any moment. But, no, we have to beware of the Isiolo Express Bus, going even faster.
The track ahead is clear and Beau gets his feet on the footrests.
Sunset at our camp that night.
Breaking camp the next morning. Next stop should be Marsabit.
Scenes from the road on our third day.
The corrugations grow worse and worse and worse.......
But it's still a thumbs up from Beau.
......... and worse and worse.......
Bodo rode Caroline's bike again for part of that day to give her a rest from these teeth-loosening corrugations. He really got into it, leading most of the way, but the extra power of McCrankpin's TTR won through over the last ten miles or so before Marsabit.
Witnessing all this excitment from his truck, Jonathon decided to get into the act:
Jonathon tries out Caroline's Serow when we reach the campsite in Marsabit.
To be continued - Part 2 - Marsabit to Isiolo - when internet next available........
Posted by Ken Thomas at March 31, 2010 11:57 AM GMT
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