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........
Marsabit to Isiolo.
Travellers say this section is even worse than the previous, Moyale to Marsabit. We were keen to find out. Well, we had no choice really.
It started off OK, as it did when leaving Moyale.
With little villages and tea houses again.
But getting hotter as we enter the Kaisut Desert. A lot hotter than in the Dida Galgalu Desert between Moyale and Marsabit.
And things get worse hereon......
The railway chippings were less deep than on the previous days, taking less control of the front wheel and its direction of travel. It was this 'riding on marbles' experience that persuaded Caroline to take a seat in Bodo's truck a couple of times before Marsabit, but she rode the whole two days to Isiolo with no more get-offs.
But the corrugations return.
They're at their worst when the rear wheel fits precisely in one corrugation and the front precisely in the next - for hundreds of yards at a time.
There's a big debate about what speed to ride at over these deep ripples. Some say fast, so the suspension smooths them out, others say that will shake a loaded bike to pieces, best to go slowly when there's a couple of hundred miles of them.
What happens in fact is that the depth of the corrugations seems to have little effect, and you find yourself accelerating up to a resectable speed over quite deep ones with little shaking or bouncing from the bike. This unfortunately removes the motivation to look around the road to find a track that is flat, if there is one.
Then suddenly, in an instant, the bike feels as though both brakes have been applied very hard, you're thrown way forward towards the handlebars, the bike shakes and vibrates viciously and your eyes wobble so much you can't see the road's surface anymore. What's happened is that the spacing of the corrugations has changed so that both wheels fit precisely in the dips at precisely the same time. And if they are at an angle to your direction of travel, they take control of the steering as well and send you in their direction, not yours.
The important thing to do here, as with any sudden and difficult change of road surface, is not to grip the handlebars or controls in a sudden panic, or brake, or anything, except relax the grip for an instant before doing anything else. Luckily, the sudden and violent shaking of the bike and its handlebars, and the accompanying deafening noise, bring on a moment of deep paralysis and you can't do anything anyway.
The braking effect is quite fierce so that takes care of slowing down a bit, and when your brain has stopped banging about in your head you realise a lower gear is needed, but more importantly the urge to search out a smoother path suddenly returns. So a pretty quick gearchange, and rapidly taking control of the steering again, usually brings back a little peace and serenity and allows breathing to continue once again.
And don't forget to be on the constant lookout for a smoother track, maintaining the speed necessary to steer across the ridges to reach it.
More little villages. Bodo's truck competing for attention.
And more tribal costumes. Quite common, and very elaborate and colourful in this part of northern Kenya.
The corrugations over these two days were certainly more severe, relentless and difficult to avoid (if at all) than on the previous days.
To keep it interesting over these distances, occasional networks of deep random drainage ditches cut by recent rains appeared in our path.
Boring it ain't.
With occasional groups of baboons along the way.
A stop for a breather. And then........
A diversion, of all things!
WHERE does this lead to??
Well, it just led to more bumpy dirt, stoney ridges, muddy drainage ditches, dried-up riverbeds, corrugated ruts, rocks and boulders of all shapes and sizes, running in the same direction not far from the existing road.
Over there we could see the occasional worker and mechanical contraption engaged in some mysterious ritual, continuing on for about the next twenty miles.
And closer to Isiolo, another diversion sign, which led us on to THIS:
Don't know what they're cheering for - all the fun has come to a screeching halt!
Tarmac all the way to Cape Town now.
(Unless you take the occasional side road, which we have).
This was a little way before Archer's Post.
Next were the crossroads outside Isiolo, and the sign for Garba Tula Road and our campsite.
Which tells its own story.
So, a little review of this most notorious of East African 'green lanes'.
If you took the most difficult stretches of this road, cut them up into four or five three-mile lengths, planted them in the Surrey Hills or Brecon Beacons and rode them one Sunday morning for a day of green-laning, by the time you reached the lunchtime pub you'd be disappointed, and searching desperately for something far more challenging for the afternoon.
The challenging and daunting thing about this road is its sheer length.
Roughly, riding your bike from Whyteleafe to Newcastle, all on dirt, through two deserts.
But that's growing shorter every day with the advance of the tarmac. So we wonder what will happen to the little villages along the way.
We took five days to cover it, keeping together as a group of five vehicles and seven travellers. Some have covered it in one. Two days is not unusual, three being more the average. Usually by people on their own or just a team of two. Probably we could have covered it more quickly in groups of ones or twos, but would then almost certainly have joined that large band of travellers needing frames, chassis and suspension welding up in Isiolo.
Street scenes in Isiolo.
And yes, in town, the tarmac is replaced with - mud, boulders, stones and massive drainage ditches. So the fun hasn't entirely gone!
Isiolo is on the northern foothills of Mt Kenya, second highest in Africa. Snow-covered at this time of year, just visible in the distance.
We headed south-west from Isiolo into the Rift Valley and its many lakes.
There's plenty to see and do, not the least zig-zagging across the equator about five times in ten days.
Our first sight-seeing stop was Nyahururu and Thomson Falls, a scenic Rift Valley water fall. A few days later we arrived at Lake Boringo, to the north, and Robert's Camp located on its shores. Both had been recommended to us quite a few times.
The camp, like most we had stayed at, is within a fenced compound, and we had become grateful to find such fenced areas now and again on this journey.
It's all very well, and entertaining, stopping on the road somewhere for a break, or for the shops, or outside a hotel, and being surrounded by curious children and welcoming adults, wanting to know 'Where from?' 'What country?' 'Where to?' 'How long in Ethiopia/Kenya?' 'How much the motorcycle?' 'Give me the motorcycle.' 'Manchester United!' 'Jambo!'
But a spot of relaxation is needed now and again. So a hotel inside a walled compound is welcomed, or even, in southern Ethiopia, roadside restaurants within fenced courtyards that we could ride straight into.
So we were happy to ride through the gates of Robert's Camp and to be able to park and unload with no one around.
Within a few minutes of selecting a likely-looking spot for my tent, these two locals ambled up.
You've heard of swimming with dolphins, well, Robert's Camp is famous for Sleeping with Hippopotamii.
Johnny Morris would have a very appropriate voice-over dialogue for this, I'm sure.
Or maybe something like this:
"Ohhh Ron, look where that fellow has parked his bike, right on our favourite clump of grass! Do go over and say something."
"Say what, Eth?"
"Ask him to move it straightaway. Say we have to be back in the water in a few minutes, we can only stay out for half an hour in this sun."
"But supposing he won't move, Eth? Look! He's wearing a funny-looking hat."
"Oh Ron! Just yawn at him, like you always do when my mother comes to visit!"
"Right you are, Eth."
(Readers who are not British, and not 'of a certain age', may like to look up 'Ron and Eth' on the internet, or even 'Johnny Morris Animal Magic').
There was no yawning that time, but plenty of noises through the nights.
Late one afternoon another pair turned up further along the shore.
And yes! A small yawn.
But as a rule, they only leave the water in the hours of darkness. And as they have the reputation of killing more humans than any other animal in Africa, this little venture is not without its excitement.
Especially as it's pitch black by seven pm (no moon) and the bar and restaurant are a hundred yards back from the water's edge through tall grass and many trees.
Consequently, after nightfall, a network of night guards patrol the site. They maintain an awareness of where the grazing hippos are and escort wandering visitors between bar and tents. They are described as 'benign' (the hippos, that is) and only dangerous if startled or annoyed by sudden movements. So the advice is to listen out carefully, move your torch around slowly and make some sort of gentle noise to signify your presence.
Oh, and, "do not leave your tent before sunrise unless absolutely necessary."
So the nights were somewhat disturbed, as they have quite loud and varied grunts which they use to politely converse with each other right through mealtime.
The usual conversation went:
A loud couple of rumbling grunts from the direction of the water's edge,
Followed by a higher pitched double grunt from nearby to the right,
A snort and a grunt from the direction of the bar,
An arpeggio of grunts pretty close by, somewhere between grunts two and three.
And so on. A hippo version of, "Who's been eating my grass?"
"Could you pass the ketchup please."
"OK, I'll fetch another one from this tent right here."
During one night things got particularly loud and expressive, a veritable '1812 Overture for Hippo and Bass Tuba'. There were loud snorts, grunts and rumbles everywhere in a sort of call-and-response concerto, some quite close by. I thought at first that a lot of hippos must be very pleased about something, or very annoyed. Then I remembered how football-crazy Africa is, particularly when it comes to the English premier league. Obviously they were watching Chelsea v. Arsenal on the TV and lots of goals were being scored.
I nearly looked out of the tent to see who was winning, but then one hippo clearly bellowed out, "If you don't want to know the score, look away now!"
We were unexpectedly delayed at this hippodrome for a couple of extra days (see boring bit below), and I was lucky enough the night before departure to have a couple of wayward animals grazing just a foot or so from my right shoulder.
With jaws about a foot wide (so, they must have been two feet from my right shoulder) their chomping is pretty loud. One woke me at about 3:00 am with a very rhythmic munch-munch-munch, moving slowly along right next to the side of my tent, and another, almost in unison, probably just the other side of the first.
The nearest one went something like:
..... munch-munch-munch-munch - hesitation - gentle grunt - (skip of heartbeat inside tent) - muffled shuffle - munch-munch-munch-munch .......
Loosely translating that into English it comes out as:
..... munch-munch-munch-munch - "what's this? Ah, a tent peg! Oh Ron!"
"Move over a bit will you so I can get round the corner of this tent."
"OK Eth." - munch-munch-munch-munch ......
Or something like that.
The pair continued steadily, keeping a constant noisy rhythm, in what sounded like a straight line beyond the front of my tent, which would have sent them in the direction of the toilet block. Well, after eating about half a ton of grass, you would, wouldn't you?
View of our tents and lake without hippos in the way.
There was quite a bit of other wildlife on view, mainly birds with very musical songs.
Local dragonfly with chequer-board wings.
Lazy local crocodile in the afternoon sun.
After three days we broke camp, loaded up and headed to the exit gate.
But no Beau.
His bike wouldn't start. Dead as a Dodo.
So it was the usual routine:
Petrol in tank? Yes.
Flowing into carb? OK.
We have transparent fuel filters fitted, and on the Moyale-Isiolo road Caroline's engine died for no apparent reason.
The filter looked pretty black inside and a quick check revealed nothing flowing through. A new one fixed that. There must have been a blob of mud or something in the petrol she last bought. Not surprising, considering.
So, we had a close look at the filter on Beau's bike and found it didn't look as though petrol was flowing through normally. It's usually easy to see the flow through the transparent casing, especially after the float bowl is emptied and then re-filled.
But releasing the drain screw on the carb showed a healthy flow of petrol all round.
We removed the spark plug next, all OK, but fitted a new one after checking for sparks in the normal way.
Bit still no life in the engine, and we're running out of simple routine things to check.
One worrying thing on Beau's bike is that noise from the starter mechanism has increased recently, and these TTRs are known to have weaknesses in this area. But the engine still turns over OK when the starter button is pressed.
So we make more attempts at starting and the pretty nasty clunks coming from the engine while the starter motor is running are accompanied by a couple of loud misfires. Suddenly, the clunks sound like they might be from a camchain slipping over a worn sprocket. Highly unlikely but relatively easy to check, and all was OK there.
Remove spark plug again to check compression.
Yes, it was impossible to hold a finger in the spark plug hole without air squealing past.
But with a strange lack of petrol appearing on the finger.
Try again with full choke and the throttle pumped a couple of times.
Still no petrol at the spark plug hole.
Recheck the flow through to float chamber drain screw. All OK.
Oh dear. Removing the TTR carburretor is not easy. For a start, all the luggage has to come off. But it has to be done, maybe the jets are blocked by chunks of the Moyale to Marsabit road.
Just a reminder, we're in Kenya in the middle of the rainy season, so you'd expect it to pour, not rain. And so it does. Like stair rods.
All these attempts at starting Beau's bike had drained his battery somewhat, so I wheeled my bike up alongside to clip on the jump leads. Then the noon-day sun paraded across the sky a bit and we had to move the bikes further to stay in the shade. 'Mad dogs and Englishmen' and all that. But there's plenty of shade, under plenty of thorn trees. On reaching the shade and reconnecting the jump leads I spied a large twig firmly attached to my front tyre. It sported a full complement of long, sharp, sun-dried spikes, one of which had surely pierced the (well-worn by now) off-road tyre and 4mm thick inner tube beneath. Let's see, pull the thing out.
And so it pours!
I leave Beau to remove his carb. He's done it before, in Turkey, and it even rained a little if I remember right. Doing it again will keep him in practice.
Me, I suddenly have a puncture to repair.
Later, on Beau's bike, we still draw a blank. Everything is fine inside the carb, so it goes back on. Not much easier than taking it off.
And now it's dark, the hippos will be here soon for their night-long lunchbreak.
Next morning the grass is shorter if not greener and we wonder what to do now.
Caroline makes a brilliant suggestion to avoid more punctures, in my bike at least.
Instead of using the jump leads, let's try bump starting it. It'll be good practice.
Neither Caroline nor Beau are very familiar with this art, and Beau's bike has no luggage on at the moment. So it's a good opportunity to learn. But when you try to explain it, it sounds hellishly complicated!
Sit on bike.
(We start with the beginner's lesson, rider sitting on the bike).
Select 2nd gear.
Pull back against compression ("what's that?")
Pull back a few inches more.
After four paces, rider bounces on seat, lets go of clutch, opens throttle a little, simultaneously.
Engine bursts into life.
Well, no, it didn't.
It fell at the last hurdle.
Mysteriously, the rear wheel would not turn on dropping the clutch despite a good bounce on the seat.
We tried again - pull back against compression - yes, the engine turns fine.
Push, drop clutch, again the rear wheel merely skids along the ground.
Then at last, the final clue.
When pulling back against compression, of course, we hear the sound of the starter motor rotating.
But fortuitously Beau had the clutch out when we pushed forward to get in position. And there was the sound of the starter motor turning!
The starter motor clutch wasn't releasing.
(Anyone still reading this?
'How many clutches does this bike have anyway?')
Suddenly all that awful clanking and clunking that could be heard a mile away whenever Beau started his bike (getting worse recently), and the complete lack of starting, were explained.
With the starter button pushed, the engine started immediately. That is, fired. But the starter clutch never released. So the firing of the engine just sent a violent shock wave through the three pinions of the starter mechanism and was completely resisted by the starter motor. The noise of that, the loud metallic clunk, smothered the silenced 'bang' of the first firing.
The starter motor continued to rotate the engine to the next firing stroke, completely reversing the back-lash through the pinions with another nasty metallic clunk, and the whole thing was repeated, a few times per second.
Up until a few days ago this nasty sequence would continue as long as Beau had his finger on the starter button, and after maybe five or ten seconds the engine would fire violently enough to at last release the starter clutch and allow the engine to run.
But not now. The starter clutch was not releasing at all.
Visions of a ride in a pick-up truck all the way to Nairobi appeared.
So we decided on a final attempt at electric starting with jump leads. There was the same clattering as before, but at the last minute the engine ran, with starter clutch released. A sigh of relief.
But what to do now?
Contemplating the sequence of events up to now, with the engine at last running, and thinking of the hall-mark 'clunk' that all TTRs make when the engine is switched off, (and many other electric-start single cylinder bikes, like my Dominator and XBR back home), convinced me that we should never again switch Beau's engine off.
The 'clunk' that occurs at engine switch-off is the crankshaft bouncing backwards against the compression stroke after the ignition is cut. This engages the starter clutch and sends a shock wave back through the pinions until it's resisted by the starter motor. The more pinions, the louder the clunk.
The Dominator incorporates a one-way device in its camshaft in an attempt to prevent this 'bouncing backwards' of the crankshaft against the starter clutch on switch-off, so the manufacturers recognise this is a problem on big single-cylinder bikes. But even then the device on the Dominator isn't very successful, making the bike hard to start on occasions.
So back to Beau's TTR, now ticking over nicely.
If we switch it off at the key, the backward 'clunk' will engage the starter clutch again, and almost certainly it won't release. It's clearly worn too much.
So we write a new rule. Beau's engine can only be stopped by engaging a gear, holding the front brake, and dropping the clutch.
Which he tries.
And yes, the starter clutch has released, we can push the bike forward, in gear, without the starter motor rotating.
So we try a bump start, beginner's version again, and it starts immediately.
That was enough back-street mechanic-ing (to borrow Fred Dibnah's descriptive term) for one day, and it'll now take Beau till sunset to refit all the luggage.
And it was nice to know I could sleep easy that night, ready to depart the next morning without the need of a pick-up truck, lulled by the steady chomp-chomp-chomp just the other side of the canvas.
But we needed a plan.
It's all very well stopping Beau's engine only with the clutch, and then bump-starting each time. But that isn't always possible, in the middle of an African muddy field for instance.
Consequently we didn't travel very far the next day, because Caroline and Beau spent most of the time on the phone and on the internet.
I had always intended to prepare my bike as much as possible before departure on this trip and that included changing the starter clutch, even though, in the end, the existing one wasn't particularly worn. And I'd left that in my garage back home.
So emails, phone calls and text messages flew back and forth, to guide my son Richard on where on earth in my garage he might find it (I didn't really know, could only guess), to arrange postage for it via courier or Post office (both have advantages and disadvantages), to contact our campsite in Nairobi for full postal address and to let them know to expect it, and to take their advice on minimising import duties, to arrange a copy of Beau's carnet to go in the parcel, and to arrange for someone back home (Caroline's mum) to actually take it to a Post Office or courier office. All on African internet and African phone lines. Quite a task.
And now Beau and Caroline hopefully await its arrival.
So, with all that done we headed first to Kigio Wildlife Conservancy. We'd heard that the lodge there was horrendously expensive, but that camping was available, and that wildlife was abundant.
The entrance gate is 1km down a dirt track off of the main road to Naivasha. There, the guard wasn't sure about camping, he radioed the office. They said to ride to the lodge, 5km further on along a hard mud track. In that distance we saw a couple of herds of zebra alongside the track, various water buck or gazelles running about, a group of giraffe crossing the track in front of us, and various other animals going about their business. No wonder this place is recommended in the guide books.
And yes, at the lodge, we find that the consequence is that the cost of staying there is indeed extremely high, and no, there is no camping.
So at least we have the 6km ride back to the main road through the herds of zebras and giraffe again.
So we ended up at a camp on the shore of Lake Naivasha, where again hippos abound.
And monkeys, including Colobus monkeys, and baboons.
But the hippos are segregated from the tents by an electric fence, switched on and gates closed at 6:30pm. So no midnight munches outside the tent.
There are a couple more wildlife centres to visit between here and Nairobi, including Hell's Gate (highly recommended by other travellers), which we'll explore in the next few days.
After leaving Lake Naivasha we stayed in Nairobi for six days working on the bikes, in particular Beau's starter mechanism. Internet there is pretty expensive, and now we are at Tiwi Beach on the Indian Ocean coast, south of Mombasa.
Where internet is a decent price again.
Generally things seem about three times more expensive in Nairobi than in rural Kenya. That's a bigger differential than London prices back home.
So now an update:
While at Lake Naivasha we visited the Red Crater Lake Nature Reserve for a day. One of the few reserves where riding around on a motorbike is allowed.
Zebra at Red Crater Lake.
"I say, there's something very tasty strapped to this mudguard!"
And some gazelle.
And bird life.
I think this was a dragonfly but don't really remember.
And monkeys keeping the warthog company.
Then it was off to Nairobi, aiming to arrive the same day as my old starter clutch, to go inside Beau's engine.
And we were lucky. We arrived at 'Jungle Junction', the Nairobi stop-over used by just about all overland travellers passing through Kenya, the same day as the clutch.
This place is basically a sizeable house in the suburbs with a garden and driveway large enough for quite a few overland trucks, bikes and tents. There are sufficient bedrooms for those preferring them, a kitchen and lounge area, and a large fully-equipped garage with two full-time mechanics, which serves Nairobi's biker communities as well as the riders passing through.
A sort of biker's home-from-home.
All owned and managed by Chris, who also fills in as part-time mechanic when things get busy.
Beau claims a piece of workspace amongst the trucks and four-by-fours.
And commences the dismantling of the alternator.
Nearest to furthest: The old clutch from my TTR, Beau's wornout clutch still attached to the alternator, and the third starter pinion which engages with (and should release from) the clutch.
And the end of the crankshaft poking out of Beau's crankcase.
A close-up for those who like close-ups.
We were grateful for the loan of Chris's air-operated tools to remove the flywheel bolt, and of a larger bolt from his junk box to act as a flywheel puller. The alternative would have been to remove Beau's rear wheel, as its spindle doubles up as a flywheel puller of the right size.
It wasn't only Beau's bike that received attention. I fitted a new front tyre to mine (Chris keeps a stock of new tyres for serious travellers, and used ones for the not-so-serious).
I also repaired the inner-tube that was punctured at Lake Baringo.
All three of us also did oil changes.
I don't think this photo works, but when draining the oil from my bike I noticed a pretty large dent in the sump guard, which itself is pretty thick and solid. Obviously one of those big rocks on the Moyale-Isiolo road.
So, all that's complete now, with the starter mechanism on Beau's bike behaving itself so far.
The following day we departed for a few days at Tiwi Beach, a little way south of Mombasa, stopping at one or two wildlife reserves on the way.
We haven't seen much of Nairobi, except to discover that its traffic jams are far, far greater than anything London can offer, (or even Croydon!) And prices are about the same as in London, which is considerably higher than the rest of Kenya.
We are back in Nairobi after a couple of weeks on the east coast. But internet is even slower, so an update with photos will follow later.
In the meantime, this, from today's Kenyan newspaper:
"Internet Service Providers are still connected through the satellite following the disruption of a fibre optic cable.
"Satellite connection is now the main link for ISPs as efforts to repair the fibre cables continue."
"...... The whole of this week, the country reverted to snail's pace internet speeds, caused by a fault on the SEA-ME-WE 4 cables along the Mediterranean Sea.
"The two undersea fibre optic cables from Mombasa, the Seacom and The East Africa Marine System (TEAMS), utilise the SEA-ME-WE 4 to connect Kenya to London......."
"Despite being a slow connection, ISPs did not have a choice but go the satellite way....."
There, thought you'd like to know that!
Any cable jointers out there with some spare time might find some work on the sunny Mediterranean.
Will now click the 'save' button and hope this piece doesn't take half an hour to upload.......
A couple of weeks ago we left Nairobi for Tiwi Beach on the Indian Ocean coast, south of Mombasa.
The road there took us between two National Parks, not completely fenced, so wildlife sightings can be expected almost anywhere.
About halfway to Mombasa a herd of zebra seem to live permanently by the roadside - they were still there when we returned a week later.
And a little further on something large was rummaging around in amongst the trees on the right hand side of the road.
It was an elephant's ear.
With elephant attached.
It wasn't completely oblivious of us, staring in our direction a couple of times and shuffling around warily.
The regular stream of heavy lorries zooming along between us seemed to convince him or her that a sudden charge across the road would be a little unwise, for us anyway.
It's a completely different experience seeing this sort of wildlife from the open road, as opposed to inside a commercial wildlife park with their pretty high entrance fees. From what we can tell from guidebooks and other visitors, entrance fees have tripled in three or four years, yet still the numbers of animals declines, except for a few particularly successful species.
So we watched our elephant doing lunch for a while before continuing, leaving the tarmac road nearer Mombasa.
There are two routes to Tiwi, on the tarmac through Mombasa where the potholes and the estuary car ferry cause suffocating traffic jams.
.... seventy miles of not-difficult dirt, mud and stones through a few nice little villages and the Shimba Hills.
Then our campsite on the beach.
It was hot and humid, not much below 30C by sunrise, but plenty of showers, swimming and beers on site.
And rain the night before we departed back to Nairobi, and most of the following day. A little late, we had found the rainy season!
The rain followed us off and on the three days back to Nairobi, where our journeys went in opposite directions.
Before we departed last year, Caroline and Beau decided that they would have to fly home from Nairobi to continue paid employment. Then return back here early in October to collect their bikes from storage and either go north to Khartoum if tentative job offers materialise, or continue on to Cape town.
They left their bikes at Jungle Junction on Friday night,
and boarded a taxi for the airport and home.
So, congratulations to them on reaching Nairobi and Mombasa, and thanks for everything they contributed to the adventure. We hope it continues later in the year.
Now I'm planning my next steps, or turns of the wheels.
After the heat of the coast I'm drawn westwards towards Lake Victoria and Uganda. An option that comes with many recommendations from other travellers.
But I have a three-month Kenyan visa and three months road tax for the bike, which I might as well use up before leaving the country.
Particularly as I seem to find myself in the middle of a manic rush-hour.
The football World Cup starts soon, so the roads south, and the campsites, are full of overlanders heading for the big kick-off.
When we arrived at Jungle Junction at the end of last week there was hardly room for our two little tents and three little motorbikes. The place was crammed with massive overland trucks, 4X4s, cars and more motorbikes, plus a huge marquee tent housing a sizeable band of fans from Spain and Portugal. They were bedecked with colourful banners on their trucks campaigning to host the World Cup in 2018 and 2022.
And the rains continue. Which, I'm assured, become worse if you head west towards Uganda.
So I'm content at the moment to stay at the bikers' 'home from home' and let the football fans, their trucks and marquees, and the rains, go on ahead.
Then the next stop looks like the tea-growing region of western Kenya which seems to have particularly nice places to stay, followed by Lake Victoria and Uganda.
Internet is still a problem here, all the power went off at around 10am and now there's an angry thunder storm circling around. So don't know when contact with the outside world will recommence. There's a generator here, but only for the workshop (get the priorities right!) and I'm using a battery-operated device to get this update typed.
The Nairobi newspapers publish a full-page timetable each day for all the areas that will be without power between 9am and 5pm that day, and the local supermarket has TV screens showing which areas will be without water in the few days ahead.
Consequently this place has a few massive water tanks and pumps dotted around the house and yard that fill whenever there is water in the mains, so as to keep the toilets working for the sudden arrival of dozens of football fans. But in the last few days a water tanker has twice had to be brought in to keep the tanks full.
Which leads to a little story I'll venture to include for anyone interested.
A few days ago one of Chris's mechanics set up an electric water pump screwed to the top of a vertical steel pipe that he'd attached to something down inside an underground manhole, situated in a large concrete slab by one the the camping areas.
A large and very old hose pipe ran from the pump along the ground towards the office annex building nearby. Then the hose disappeared somewhere beyond out of sight.
I happened to walk by at the same time as Chris, after the pump had been powered up.
"Is that a bore hole down there?" I innocently enquired, assuming he was trying to keep the water tanks full.
"The opposite, more or less," was the reply.
He then tried to politely explain that all the compound's sewerage was channelled into a large cavern under the concrete. There, "solids and liquids separate, the solids decay naturally, the liquids flow off into the land beyond the end wall over there, where nature takes care of that as well."
"But it's been raining so much the land over there can't take anymore liquid and it's backing up. So now and again we have to pump it over to the other side of the compound where the land is less waterlogged. It's an African solution! It means we're having sufficient rain this year."
The hosepipe is a magnificent African solution in itself, having thick insulating tape wrapped around it every ten inches or so, neatly tied in a bow here and there.
And hardly leaks at all.
Weather forecaster's footnote:
The other day Chris said the rains might be coming to an end. There'd been a couple of sunny days (but still with some rain), and his tortoise had come out of hibernation.
"Not a reliable sign - it's not a Kenyan tortoise, and as there's no winter here, the local ones don't hibernate anyway. But we can always hope!"
Now I notice that the staff have rolled up the large carpet in the lounge and stacked it away in the corner. Not a sign that they expect dry weather to break out soon.
When we first arrived in Nairobi a few weeks ago, Bodo and Sabine, and Kathy and Jonathan were also here in their trucks, so we had a session of comparing and swapping photographs.
Mainly photos of the Trans East-African Highway, the Moyale to Isiolo 'most-discussed road in all Africa'.
So here's a selection of their photos:
Huila and Eva service their bicycles in the campsite in Addis Ababa before the long trek to the Kenyan border, and THAT road.
Kathy and Jonathan's Volvo truck gets going on the dirt and stones.
The first of very many rest stops.
L-R: Beau, Caroline, Jonathan, Sabine, Kathy, Ken. Bodo behind the camera.
Three motorbikes head off into the distance, the route blocked by a dense cloud of dust behind a speeding bus.
"What do you think of it so far??"
Stopping for our second overnight wild camp.
Tiny roadside village the next day.
The first camel traffic-jam.
Kathy tries Caroline's Serow for size at another rest break.
Beau comes steaming around the bend .....
...... hurrying to another rest stop.
And gets away third behind Bodo on Caroline's bike in first place followed by Ken.
And quickly makes up the distance.
"How many overlanders does it take to change a fuel filter?"
Caroline's needs changing at another rest stop.
Bodo and Jonathan let them get on with it.
Second camel traffic-jam.
Another roadside village.
Taking photos of local tribal peoples isn't really a welcomed activity. But from inside a large truck it can be done discreetly.
Here, three motorbikes have just passed by - another trio of crazy Europeans.
There they go......
Smallholding near the village of Laisamis where .......
....... we spent our fourth night on the road.
Our fifth day. Next stop - Isiolo.
Local police move the tyre-shredder out of the way at another village.
Unfortunately, the different tribes in Northern Kenya don't always get on very well.
It doesn't affect us tourists though. We are always welcomed.
The road narrows and changes its character slightly as we are diverted off of the main track a few miles before reaching the start of the tarmac and the approach to Isiolo.
Colobus monkeys are quite common in Northern Kenya, especially near tents where food is likely to be found.
This one's counting the motorbikes in and out.
It's the middle of the day here at Jungle Junction and I've just made some tea in the kitchen with the help of a torch.
This is now the serious rainy season.
A noisy thunder storm is circling overhead blocking out all the daylight, the power has gone off, and there is no mains water.
But never mind, I'm no longer camped in the grounds - they flooded out a few days ago. So I'm in a proper bed in a proper room.
And the wisdom of rolling up the lounge carpet is there for all to see. The night before last, the rainwater was two inches from entering through the back door, which is about ten inches above the garden path outside. Making eight inches of flood water, at its height, across the camping area.
So the occupants of the three tents, crazy enough to be camping in this season, including me, found space in the lounge for that night.
The difficulty was wading through the floodwater to reach your tent to retrieve whatever you needed for the night. Like mosquito repellant, which was badly needed in the lounge that night. There was no way to be sure of walking on the zig-zag pathway, hidden by the water, rather than in the squelchy muddy flower beds either side.
But, all three tents stayed dry inside during the night, which they wouldn't have with people inside them.
Last night wasn't quite so bad. Still not possible to see the pathway under the water, but the tents were on grass once again instead of on water.
And again, the inside of my tent stayed dry, but was invaded by hundreds of tiny ant-like creatures that seemed to be multiplying ferociously in this wet weather. A similar thing had happened a few days before, and they had invaded my tent through two small holes in the floor. I repaired those, but it was a mystery how the holes got there. They were definitely not caused by thorns or spikes or anything similar.
This morning there were five new holes, allowing hundreds of the insects inside, and still a mystery as to how the holes get there. It was lucky the rain stopped during the night before the floodwater reached the tent floor.
It looks to me very much as though the creepy-crawlies are chewing the holes themselves, which is pretty bad news if the floor of the tent isn't proof against such activity. So I took some photos which I'll email to the makers in Derbyshire and ask what they think. Whatever that is, the tent is pretty useless for now in wet weather, or anywhere these insects exist - which could be everywhere in southern Africa for all I know - and is now packed away.
Just as well maybe. In the time to write this, the water has risen about four inches on the grass outside. Time for more tea......
............... and now the light has returned, the rain has ceased, and the waters are receding. That was three inches of rain in twenty minutes the locals tell us.
But it's easy to become blase about being in Africa, especially if you're English and it's the rainy season. I've run out of breakfast stuff and need to visit the supermarket a few miles away to stock up, with only an hour and a half of daylight left. So I study the clouds, their movements, and calculate that I should be able to dodge any more cloudbursts if I'm quick, just like going to Waitrose in Caterham on a rainy day back home.
But this is Kenya, and I find that the tarmac at the bottom of Kingara Road has disappeared, buried under the mud washed down the hill by the day's rains. So this isn't like going to Caterham after all - I must remember that!
The knobbly tyres get me across the mud OK, then it's back into Caterham mode when I enter the supermarket. Weetabix and McVities Digestive fill the shelves and there's even Guinness, albeit a 'Foreign Extra' version, brewed here in Nairobi, not on the River Liffey.
Then back into Kenya mode once again in the car park outside as everyone calls "Jambo! Karibu!" when they realise from my numberplate and luggage that I'm a foreigner.
And I reach Jungle Junction just before the big black cloud that was following me.
The supermarket, by the way, is in the suburb called 'Junction', hence the quaint name of this overlanders' bolthole, although it is actually in Lavington.
If power returns, and the internet is connected, maybe I'll post this update. But Scott, a Canadian on an F650 BMW riding around the world has just returned from the Eritrean embassy. Eritrean visas are like gold-dust just now so Scott invented a story about a Canadian-Eritrean twinning association of which he's the president, printed a letterhead at an internet cafe, and set off earlier today on his umpteenth visit to the embassy in his quest for a visa. He's just announced that this afternoon he had a personal audience with His Excellency The Ambassador so I'm sure there's going to be an entertaining and lengthy story to listen to.
Personally I'm hoping that someone will arrive soon who's going north and has travelled up Lake Tanganyika on the ferry. I've had a few recommendations to travel down the west side of Lake Victoria, into Rwanda and Tanzania and thence south to Lake Malawi via the Lake Tanganyika ferry. But I've met no one who can confirm that motorbikes are carried on the ferry, and the road alongside the lake has more horror stories attached to it than the Trans East-African Highway. Which might just mean that it's a brilliant road to ride.
............... the next morning, and it's sunny and dry, the power is on so there's a possibility of internet.
Scott was promised a visa by the Eritrean Ambassador yesterday afternoon and he's just returned from the Embassy waving his passport with visa inside. So in celebratory mood he leaves shortly to Moyale and the Ethiopian border. I'll leave when the time feels right, and when the odds of riding into three inches of rain in twenty minutes have lengthened a little.
In the meantime I have a brilliant large-scale road atlas of the whole of Africa to study for my journey south, very kindly given to me by Gareth, a South African living in Australia riding from Cape Town to Germany on a KTM Adventurer. This map even has detailed Lat and Long grids so is dead handy for entering data on my ancient GPS box.
So thanks are due to Gareth for that. Not only from me, but from a New Zealand/Japanese couple going north to whom I gave all the maps north of Nairobi from Gareth's atlas. I kept the maps south of Nairobi, so the whole atlas will get good use.
Gareth's story of visa difficulties is similar to Scott's. He was planning quite sensibly to obtain his Ethiopian visa here in Nairobi. As were about four other north-bound groups who have been stranded here for around a month. Three weeks ago, the Ethiopian embassy here stopped issuing visas to non-Kenyans. No ifs or buts - no more visas for foreigners - no reason - end of story.
And there's no way of entering Ethiopia without that visa obtained in advance.
A British couple tried, departing about two weeks ago for Moyale, along the length of the Trans East-African Highway (yes, THAT road!) They thought they'd at least attempt to obtain visas at the border. But no, they were refused and had to drive all the way back here along the same road. They then did what all the other stranded groups have done, sent their passports and applications to the Ethiopian embassy in their home country.
That's what Gareth did. But the Ethiopian embassy in South Africa wanted to know how he was entering the country. We'd not heard of anyone being asked that before. Consequently they wanted to see his carnet and other bike papers, which told them that his bike was registered and purchased in Australia. Oh dear - no visa for Gareth - he could only enter Ethiopia on a vehicle registered in his home country.
So he too has been here for quite a few weeks, and recently received his passport back from South Africa with no visa. Last week he visited the South African Embassy in Nairobi to check if they could help. Well, as luck would have it, the South African Consul knows his Ethiopian counterpart quite well, made a phone call, and wrote a letter for Gareth to hand in at the Ethiopian embassy carrying a special request for a visa to be issued. And it was. So Gareth departed north about four days ago.
Now only one traveller is still stranded here, from England. He has his Ethiopian visa, issued by the embassy in London, in his passport. But his passport has been stuck in the customs office at East Midlands Airport for the last two weeks or more. It seems that UK customs didn't like the idea of his passport being returned, not to his accommodation address at Jungle Junction, but to a DHL office in Nairobi (where he had arranged to pick it up).
That's taken about a million phone calls to sort out and he hopes to be away north by the weekend.
So I see I have to be grateful for obtaining our Ethiopian (and Sudanese) visas so easily in Cairo.
And everyone says the same - Ethiopia is one of the big highlights on this route, as we have found, so everyone is determined to get into the country.
Now some photos - if the internet is working. A busy morning at Jungle Junction after the rains have receded. Remember, they come to you via Mombasa and the optical fibre cables along the Mediterranean..........
Here, big black afternoon clouds are gathering once more.
Scott (centre) loads up his BMW ready for the off.
Some of the camping area churned to mud.
It's still raining here, so I'm still biding my time.
And have found that it's quite a lot of work trying to organise and back-up all my photos, in addition to the ones that Caroline left with me and others received from fellow overlanders.
So here's a few of those, just to make use of them.
And some recent photos of the English weather here at Jungle Junction.
Now the flood has receded from the driveway, I can almost reach my bike.
No tents in the camping areas now.
Funnily enough, the only unflooded area in the whole compound is where customers' bikes are kept, awaiting work in the garage.
(And the area around the office annex behind).
A wet scene on the busy driveway.
And a lone rider heads out onto the Nairobi roads.
And some photos from previous journey highlights in Egypt.
At the summit of Mount Sinai. Caroline particularly wrapped up against the cold.
A Sinai coastal road.
Entrance to Ras Mohammad National Park on the southern tip of Sinai.
Setting up the kitchen at our Ras Mohammad campsite.
Another sunset, at 'Hidden Bay' on the southern tip of the park.
Strange mist effect on the way to Suez.
Pretty big ship on the canal passes pretty small bikes in the security zone (just before police moved us on).
Caroline and Beau and bikes at the Saqqara pyramids south of Giza.
Caroline and Beau and bikes at the Dashur pyramid south of Saqqara.
A break in the White Desert, part of The Western Desert.
Back here in Nairobi the rain has changed somewhat, from overwhelming short and sudden deluges (overwhelming for the camping and parking areas, that is) to the steady day-long rain that makes it feel like I'm back home.
The newspapers are carrying stories of serious flooding in various parts of the country with many fatalities. But also, an excellent tea harvest is expected.
So it looks as though the rainy season is bringing sufficient this year.
Travellers arriving here from the north have brought stories of trials and tribulations on the Moyale to Isiolo road, parts of which have been washed away, and other parts turned into big mud holes.
Motorbikes, fairly ordinary and heavy ones, still continue to arrive here though, with not too much drama.
Most of the travellers' trucks that stop here are fitted with heavy winches, and the drivers tell stories of the number of Kenyan goods lorries they've winched out of mud holes.
And of a few enterprising villagers. Who, finding a section of the road completely washed away, gatherered and transported huge quantities of branches and stones to make a long by-pass road, charging twenty dollars per car to use it, maybe twice or three times as much for goods vehicles.
Electricity and water go on and off irregularly as you'd expect and African life goes on.
So I must get ready to continue soon, particularly as almost everyone who was here when I arrived has departed. (Although not to western Uganda).
Today has been dry so far, but lots of power cuts, so maybe lots of rain not far away.
A young family in a Land Rover arrived a few days ago, also plannning to go round the west side of Lake Victoria. They are biding their time here too. It seems certain that whatever rain there is here, there's a lot more there.
....... a few days later....... the rain seems to be easing off the last couple of days. Lots of sunshine followed by rain in the evening and night. This morning looked as though my departure west may only be a day or so away - plenty of African sunshine and blue skies. But now, the power's off, the rain's started. So we'll see.
More news when internet availability coincides with something to report.
PS. It's not only necessary for the power and internet to be on to send emails and updates.
I've discovered that it's necessary for no one to be watching films online either, otherwise it would be quicker to write the email on a piece of paper, stuff it in a tin can and wait for it to squeeze down the piece of string to reach the pea can at the other end.
I'm sure, if I look hard enough around here, I'll see a cyber cafe called "Fiddler's Elbow Internet."
If not, maybe I'll open one.
That's about the third day in a row I've said that, so I left Nairobi this morning for the ride to Kericho, in the direction of the Ugandan border.
It was morning sunshine and blue skies on leaving the capital but there's a long climb up the side of the Rift Valley to almost 9000ft. Up there the clouds were black and threatening, and the bike once again was gasping a little at the lack of sufficient air to keep the fire burning inside.
It stayed dry, and the road then plunged back into the valley with magnificent sunny views of Lake Naivasha followed by Lake Elmenteita. Lake Nakuru completed the trio of scenic features along this part of the valley.
Then another long climb up the other side to Mau Summit where the ominous clouds returned.
This is tea plantation country. Tea bushes as far as you can see in any direction. And so green. A luminescent (when the sun momentarily broke through) bright green, all immaculately laid out and manicured. A topiarist's delight.
Rain is needed for all this of course, so it rained. Just a little, before I arrived at the Tea Hotel in Kericho. The camping there is pretty waterlogged, though not as bad as Jungle Junction at its worst, and the hotel rooms (built by Brooke Bond in the fifties) are fully booked. So the tent is back in service with some more repairs to the floor and we'll see what happens.
But the staff here say it's still the height of the rainy season, which goes on until July.
Oh dear. I knew it would be more rainy here than Nairobi - but lasting until July doesn't sound much fun.
So I'll see what happens, how the weather goes, and probably stick to my immediate plan for now of riding next to a recommended place outside of Eldoret, not far from here. (The last stop before the Ugandan border).
If things stay wet I can always head back east again to take the standard route south into Tanzania and onwards to Lake Malawi from there.
There seems to be some sort of folklore about Jungle Junction, that when people depart to continue their journeys they often return again for one reason or another. That happened with one or two travellers while I was there. Maybe I'll return a third time if the rains persist here.
No photos with this update. Now that Caroline and her camera are no longer here I'll try to remember to use mine now and again. Today - not much to photograph except black clouds.
At the Kericho Tea Hotel my repaired tent worked fine, and it hardly rained while I was there. But the ground everywhere is so waterlogged and muddy that camping isn't a very comfortable option so I found a very nice small hotel in town where I've been for a few days.
And Kericho is a nice laid-back sort of place. There isn't much traffic on the streets so the characteristic noise that you come to associate with the town is the clatter of dozens of treadle-operated sewing machines scattered all over the pavements of most of the streets.
Tailoring seems to be the main industry after tea growing. And I suppose the two go together in a way - it was probably a colonial tradition to take your afternoon tea properly dressed!
I've spent a couple of days exploring the town and seen only two other white faces, two Japanese who were here for a day, so there are no tourists as far as I can see except me.
Being a non-tourist type place, it's not a very comfortable option to explore the streets with camera in hand, and there aren't many things to photograph anyway. So I just tried a few street scenes:
Almost like Ethiopia - more people than cars on the street.
Small park on the right - Chai Square.
Then I came across this sign hanging on the verandah of a cosmetics shop, which I decided to investigate:
A close-up. And a tailor sitting at his treadle table, one of dozens on the pavements.
The sign led to this, and ............
...... Nelson and his two children coming out of the alleyway.
Well, you never know where these things will lead if you don't look.
Nelson introduced himself and his children with vigorous handshaking all round. He was curious why I was photographing an old sign outside his home. (He lived in the building next to the engineering emporium).
I explained my work back home.
"Let's go inside and meet the engineers," he said. And so we did.
Inside were the two owners of the business, a big lathe tooled up for some job or other, and tons of steel in disarray all over the little workshop. We exchanged the usual greetings, followed by Nelson insisting we go to his home for tea.
And so we did.
During most of the time, Nelson, his wife Patrice and their two children live in a single room in a compound of single rooms behind the machine-shop. Their room contains a large bed, filling half of it, with small bunk above for the children, a bench seat along a remaining side, and a charcoal stove on the floor opposite the bench.
We had tea with ginger from a flask and Nelson and Patrice wanted to know all about my journey. Another cup of tea later a young friend of the family came in wanting to know where I lived.
"Yes, but where in London?"
"In the south."
"No, what I mean is, near which football team?"
"Oh, they've been relegated haven't they. Arsenal is in the north isn't it?"
"That's who I follow."
And so it was English football again, about which I know very little.
Our friend realised that pretty quickly, so asked, "Crystal Palace, is that where the Queen lives?"
I explained about the Crystal Palace and about Buckingham Palace, and he definitely had an interest in London.
"Talking of glass, there's a tall round tower in the middle isn't there, with glass windows all around and the top revolves where you can see all of London. Is that right?"
I replied that I worked in there from time to time as an engineer, which was why I was photographing the sign outside. He looked a bit puzzled at that.
So we had an interesting interlude talking about London, followed by the weather, with Nelson confirming what the hotel manager had said, the rains continue until July.
"We only live here because of my work," he said.
"We have a nice house nearer the Lake (Victoria) which we visit about once a month, but it's too wet to live there and travel here each day for work until July. So we move out there then and stay until the end of the year. This year the rains came early, January, so I don't know when they will end."
Alternative travel plans were forming in my head.
He gave me one more piece of advice for forecasting the weather.
"If it's cold in the morning, until late morning, and then warms up by midday, there'll be lots of rain in the afternoon."
Nelson explained he was a salesman at a nearby insurance brokers and he would show me the town as we walked over there, as he's supposed to be at work. (But this is Africa......)
But first, everyone wanted photographs taken.
Nelson with some local children in the courtyard of the compound.
His own children didn't seem to want to be photographed with their Dad.
Patrice on the left with neighbours.
I had already walked around all of the town but thought it could be interesting to go with Nelson, and being with him would make it easier to photograph street scenes without people getting too curious or concerned.
More street scenes:
We left the tarmac on the way to the office ..........
...... and detoured via the market. This is a corner of the clothes market.
Nelson's office. It's a family business, and more photos were requested.
His sister, seated, is Operations Manager, his brother is Sales Assistant. Their secretary is on the right.
View from the office balcony.
On the way back there were more engineering signs to snap.
Maybe someone at Hillside Road could tell Keith he has a sister business in Kenya - Dalton Electronic.
This is where they train. And "Hotel and Butchery" signs are as common as "Engineering" signs.
A "Hotel" in Kenya is a cafe or cafeteria. So much the better if the Butcher is on site.
So, in Kericho it's easy to find an Engineer. I suppose with all the machinery needed to process the huge tea harvests, (harvesting is a continuous process, leaves being picked whenever it's not raining), and all the pavement sewing machines, you sometimes need to find one in a hurry.
As I'm not travelling much at the moment, this posting doesn't have much to do with the Cape Town journey as you've probably already guessed, so we'll continue with the engineering theme.
Internet services here generally seem to be unreliable, dependant on the weather, going off when the rain is heavy. As a consequence, mobile internet is pretty popular, particularly as mobile phone services cover most of the country using the latest technology, and is much more reliable than the ageing landlines.
So overland travellers in cars or trucks (and sometimes on motorbikes) usually carry their own laptops with a mobile internet USB stick to be able to update their websites using the country's mobile phone networks. And it was an interesting lesson back in Nairobi watching one in action.
A traveller can plug a USB stick, a shade smaller than a box of matches, into his computer, and the screen will show a data speed peaking at 2.2 Mbit/s with only two bars showing on the signal strength gauge. That's 2.2Mbit/s received off-air through an aerial inside the USB stick, encoded and decoded inside the stick and presented to whatever software the traveller is using to browse the web.
Now back in the seventies, when data rates of that sort of speed were first becoming available on telecoms networks, the government was first in the queue demanding those speeds on its own networks. And I worked on the engineering of one such installation. In fact it was the first shipment of 2Mbit/s systems from GEC (who made them at the time) to be used on a private network.
The terminal equipment on those systems comprised two racks, each about six feet tall, the size of two upright fridge-freezers. Something like these:
Closer view to give an idea of the size. There's an ordinary 3-pin socket outlet at the bottom of each rack.
These racks and the panels in them are all painted. If you scraped the paint off, it would never fit inside this:
A mobile internet USB stick.
Yet the modern-day equivalent of all the stuff in those two racks, that I worked on 35 years ago, does fit, with room to spare for the aerial and 4GB of storage card.
I can't begin to calculate how much room would be needed to house that amount of data storage in the seventies, but would guess at something around the size of the old disused Battersea Power Station in London. That springs to mind because certainly, to power such a huge collection of hard disc drives would have taken most of the output of that old electricity generating station. Now it all fits on half a postage stamp.
To put all this into context, I was actually pondering and reminiscing these huge advances in technology yesterday morning at breakfast. The conversation with Nelson's friend about working in the BT Tower had started it, and yesterday's paper carried the news that the mobile phone company Safaricom had published its annual results. It was front page news, as it's the fastest-growing company in Kenya, and one of the richest.
The overland travellers in Nairobi were using Safaricom mobile internet as the picture above shows.
Then, after breakfast, as I contemplated this massive progress in computers and telecoms during my career over the past 35 years, a bolt from the blue hit me for six, fully square-on.
I received two emails from a couple of BT friends, telling me that one of my closest working colleagues, the same age as me and who had retired shortly after I did, had died.
Les joined the 'TV Networks Engineering Division' of the Post Office in 1971, straight from graduating at University, and was teamed with me working on early cable-TV systems for a number of years. And we worked together for a good part of the following thirty years, staying in contact when our careers diverged from time to time.
When we both retired, another member of that old engineering division had set up a Reunion Club of retired Engineers that was particularly successful and well supported. It met twice a year at first but everybody enjoyed the get-togethers so much it grew to four times a year.
Les and I at one of our reunions, in Eastbourne, 18 months ago.
Don't know what was going on here - maybe I was teaching Les to ride a motorbike .......
But that still wasn't enough for Les and I and a few others, living all around the outskirts of London. We got together at various bars, cafes and restaurants almost once a month.
Also, various members of the club took advantage of the privileges and good contacts we had all gained over those thirty years, and managed to arrange, through somewhat unofficial means (it's easier to get forgiveness than permission) to hold at least three of our big reunions in the VIP suites right at the top of the Post Office Tower. (Now the BT Tower). With full VIP catering thrown in! I think Les got to all of those, as I think I did too.
(So the spontaneous conversation with Nelson's friend the day before this bad news arrived turned out to be particularly foreboding).
At the top of the BT Tower for our Christmas 2003 reunion. Les, centre, examines one of Des' collection of 'old boy' ties (I think).
A couple more photos from that reunion to show the view from the top and of the interior.
Some of the readers of this account will know these colleagues.
John Franklin and Don Whitehouse reminisce way up above the streets of London.
View of the bar area. I don't know who everyone is in this picture, but here goes ....
Tony Wright, Dennis Stephens (I think, behind John Fevin), John Fevin, Mick Barnes, Alan Witts, Des Duffy (far right).
For those interested, the strange curved line on the carpet is the join between the fixed floor and the bit that revolves.
If you want to keep your place at the bar, you need to be on the right side of this line, or the bar will disappear around the room. (Whether you're drunk or not).
So this is a very sad time, and contemplation is the thing at the moment. Of my departed colleague, and less so of the weather and travel plans which were the focus of my attention until yesterday morning's news.
A deluge has just started with thunder echoing all over the place. And I read, also in yesterday's paper, that Roberts Camp on Lake Baringo (where the hippos came out of the lake to feed on the grass around our tents) was hit by a storm and flood the day before, requiring some of the tourists there to be rescued. That's not far north of here so I'm beginning to think I'll return south and take the route to Tanzania.
Lake Victoria may have to wait another time.
So I'll offer a little anecdote that Les used to relate on social occasions when we were in polite company.
When he first arrived at our office in Finsbury Circus, fresh out of University, one of the projects underway was to test long lengths of the underground cable that we were installing for one of those cable-TV networks. This was new cable straight off the massive wooden drums, because the stuff that had already been put in the ground wasn't working very well and we suspected a manufacturing fault. A lot of space was needed for this so the work was carried out at a big Post Office vehicle depot in North London.
Les was to accompany me on this project as it was a good introduction to a lot of the division's work, but he was new to London having lived and studied in Glasgow.
However, he was happy to use the Underground to get to the site while I travelled there by motorbike. (So, there is some motorbiking in this posting after all).
I told him clearly the address of the depot, on the Holloway Road, and he had a nice new A-Z map, and one for the London Underground as well.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, much later that day I had done a lot of testing and was a tad worried. Les had not arrived. There were no mobile phones of course, and I knew neither his address nor home phone number. And no, he wasn't at the office.
Knocking-off time came round and I phoned the office once more. Ah.... Les had phoned earlier, he had got hopelessly lost and would be back in the office the next morning. Sigh of relief.
It seemed simple enough - I had given Les an address in the Holloway Road, a main London thoroughfare, which was the start of the London to Edinburgh Great North Road. But, Les was from Glasgow, maybe that was the problem??
No, it was this: he had a strong Glaswegian accent, and I, well, was born and bred in London.
So, when we left the office that morning and went our separate ways, Les expectantly looked up 'Olloway Road' in the index of his new A-Z.
It was nowhere to be seen.
He checked and double checked.
He looked at the Underground maps in Moorgate station.
Asked at the ticket office.
Asked a policeman.
All to no avail. No one understood the Glaswegian version of 'Olloway Road'.
So there we are, two Engineers separated by a common language.
He'll be missed.
He also gave us much entertainment with numerous stories of his trek to Everest Base Camp many years ago. This included graphic tales of a nasty abcess he developed on a somewhat tricky part of his anatomy during the trek. His travelling companion, Colin, from the same TV Networks division, had to attend to it now and again. Les couldn't reach it, you see.
Here's Les and Colin at our Eastbourne reunion, maybe remembering how they sharpened the scalpel before Colin got to work. Alan Gwynn on the left.
(Thanks are due to Pete Chatten for the photos of our reunions.)
Les was a great friend, and everytime I went on one of my journeys he would insist that I keep in touch with him, and send him accounts of my trip by email.
Since I set out in September last year on this one, he has often emailed me with comments about what I've written on this blog, and told me if it's been too long since my last posting.
"What have you been doing? Keep up the blog!" he'd say.
So this posting is for him.
A few friends and acquaintances have asked, What news of Caroline and Beau?
As well as the sad news about Les recently there's been much happening with my daughter and son-in-law.
Take a deep breath -
About two weeks ago Caroline had an interview by telephone with the British Council in Khartoum, for teaching and examining English.
They offered her the job straightaway - "Can you start Monday?!" crackled down the phone wires.
They realised that was a bit impractical and it became Monday week.
So, the current situation as I understand it (it sounds a bit chaotic) is that she's been frantically packing everything she needs to live in Khartoum and teach English to classes of Sudanese adults, having hardly unpacked everything needed to ride a motorbike across the Sahara and halfway down Africa. The British Council freights that lot to the Sudanese capital in the coming week.
A working visa is organised for a few day's time, for Beau as well (as her accompanying husband). They both also had to dash up to London for medicals, for the British Council medical insurance.
Caroline flies out in the coming week. To a hotel to start with while she finds a flat.
Not to be outdone, Beau has a job at the Khartoum College of Music and Drama but with a more 'African' timescale. That starts in August.
So he stays behind for a while to organise the hundreds of loose ends that will certainly pop out of the woodwork, and will try for a job at the British Council as well if he arrives there before August.
Then there are two Yamaha motorbikes in Nairobi which need to be in Khartoum.
So this blog awaits the exciting report of their return journey along the Trans East-African Highway and back into Ethiopia. Maybe there'll be a hundred miles or more of new tarmac by then - what a disappointing thought!
This is one of those bikes. On Day 1.
No photos for this entry, but I'm still sorting through earlier photos. So here are a few from the past.
This is Day 1. Caroline departing Eastbourne, for Dover and The Unknown.
Seven months later bike and rider entered Nairobi.
We stayed at Soft Beach Camp in Nuweiba in the Sinai for quite a long while, twice. So we got to know the excellent head waiter in their excellent restaurant.
This was our departure.
Classic photo of the Sphinx and Pyramid
And less usual angle.
Caroline and Beau at one of the Saqqara pyramids
Blue Nile Sailing Club, Khartoum. Where Caroline and Beau will soon be visiting again.
This is they, with one half of an English couple who were travelling south to north.
They gave us the best advice of anyone about travelling through Ethiopia and meeting the people there.
As a consequence we had a pretty good time with all the people we met, unlike many other travellers.
Even just before I left Jungle Junction to come here, a young English couple arrived from the north, saying how difficult it had been in Ethiopia.
They seemed to be quite interested in our experiences and the advice we had been given in Sudan.
More Observations in Kericho.
Here's another aspect of everyday life here. I had noticed that there are sometimes young lads busying themselves in the background behind all the tailors operating their sewing machines on the pavements. Then I noticed bags of charcoal here and there.
The other day I saw the complete picture. In a street out towards the mosque the ironing boards are on the pavement as well as the sewing machines. The tailor's assistant gets the charcoal glowing just right, sometimes with the help of a parrafin blowlamp, and tips it into the top of the iron. When the iron is at the right temperature (one dot for synthetics, two dots for cotton, three dots for linen. Is that right?) the assistant gets to work pressing the suits and dresses that have just left the sewing machine.
Coincidentally, when I looked in an ironmonger's window when out with Nelson the other day, there in the middle were two charcoal irons, a 'standard' and a 'de luxe' version, all shiny steel with brass embellishments. Now that would be a worthwhile souvenir from Kenya, something you definitely can't buy back home (I don't think so anyway).
It's like everything else - who says cordless irons are a new thing?
I have found in all 'third world' countries that ironmongers' shops proliferate in ordinary towns, and are incredibly interesting places to look in. But sometimes it's impossible to do so. Because, immediately identifiable as a western foreigner, you'll be besieged with requests to buy everything there is in the shop, (especially in Egypt) and there'll be insufficient common language to explain 'I'm only looking', or, even more difficult, to explain the thing you actually are looking for if that's the case.
Not so much a problem here as English is pretty universal. Maybe I'll go back to see how much the irons are, but I've nowhere on the bike to put one.
Nor the charcoal.
I did that once in Guatemala where the local ironmongers sold a shower heater that would definitely be impossible to buy in England, or anywhere else in Europe. It was cheap enough but I already had a carpet, a thick bedcover (to be used as a rug) and other stuff to somehow fit on the plane journey home.
Those shower heaters were used everywhere in South and Central America and were known as 'suicide showers', but only by westerners I think.
They have the same devices here in Africa, also on sale in the ironmongers. I won't buy one but here's how they work:
The device is a large-ish plastic shower head with water heater incorporated inside. It fits on the water pipe coming out of the wall and there's an electricity cable connected to it, often with completely bare wires. The holes in the head are tiny so the jets of water flowing out are also tiny. Quite important, that.
And, they are mounted quite high up, so unless you're VERY tall, you can't reach the thing to touch anything. Quite important, that.
Inside, the water flows over coils of bare wire connected to the electricity cable, via a crude switch which detects when the water is flowing.
To use these you just turn the tap on and listen for a 'zizzing' noise, which tells you the electricity is connected to the heating coils inside the head. The noise comes from the 240 volts in these bare coils which are immersed in the water that your standing under, so the electricity buzzes and zizzes as it flows into the water. And the water is heated instantly to quite a good temperature.
Most people know that water conducts electricity quite well, and that will explain why these things need to be fitted quite high, and also why the holes in the shower head are quite small. It relies on ALL the jets of water from the shower head changing into streams of water droplets BEFORE reaching your head, thus not conducting the 240 volts, which would upset your hairstyle if it reached it.
But it's an interesting experience to stand under one of these and raise you hands until you almost touch the shower head, with your fingers maybe one inch from the head itself. Check the nature of the floor your standing on first, that there are no metal fittings around the plug hole for instance. The tingling massage that travels down your fingers is quite something! Very tall people report a similar feeling on the head, especially if the shower is mounted not very high.
I know all this because in that ironmongers in Guatemala, even though I'd told the shopkeeper I'd decided not to buy the shower heater, (because I'd seen something else on his shelves), he let me take it out of the box and read all the fitting instructions (which were quite comprehensive I was pleased to find, having stood under quite a few of these), and look inside the thing as well, being partly dismantled ready for fitting.
Instead, he had a Guatemalan version of Monopoly, called Bancopoly. So we opened that up. It looked pretty fascinating, incorporating a journey around all the highlights of Guatemala, with the money being a pretty good copy of real Guatemalan money. So I bought that instead.
As I said, you find interesting things in third-world ironmongery shops.
Although not to western standards, these showers are actually reasonably safe. To be so, they rely on there being no earth cabling in the country's electricity wiring system. So you'll only ever see them in such countries, Africa, and Central and South America as far as I know. It would have been a bit dangerous to have brought one home and fitted it, but I had formulated the necessary circuitry in my head to make it safe before going into that ironmongers to check it out. But the Bancopoly won in the end. Just as well really, because on reflection, the circuitry necessary to make it safe in the UK would also, probably, have removed the tingling electrical massage down the fingertips! But there are plenty of them here in Africa to use.
Here's a photo of one.
More stuff in shops:
This is only for those of 'a certain age'.
If anyone mourns the passing of old domestic brand names, many of them are still alive here in Africa, and very popular, sold everywhere.
Eno stomach powders (Seen advertised on the TV here).
Omo washing powder.
Tide washing powder (I remember my mum being particularly annoyed when that disappeared from the shelves).
I think that's all Unilever stuff. There are many others that I don't remember right now.
It's raining here as usual, so I'm pretty certain tomorrow or Tuesday I'll return towards Nairobi (where I've heard it has remained dry) and head south for Tanzania. Maybe stop at Jungle Junction again which would be handy as I'll need to do an oil-change around about then.
After quite a few days in Kericho with its pavement tailors, I continued with my plan to stay at the Naiberi River Camp near Eldoret as it comes highly recommended. The sun was shining on departure, so here are some photos of the tea estates around the town.
Although it's not far from Kericho to Eldoret, two hours they told me at the hotel but longer on my loaded bike, there's some sort of subtle change in the landscape on the way. It becomes less open, more wooded, and the tea plantations disappear. This was all tropical rainforests until the British cleared it to grow tea.
Closer to Eldoret the farms become quite traditional English-looking, and this is the centre of Kenya's dairy industry. Which explains why tea served in any sort of hotel, restaurant or cafe in this area is usually made entirely with milk, or sometimes half and half milk and water. A little strange but easy to get used to.
If the British brought tea, milk and tailoring to Kenya, and to virtually all their other colonies, there's a forth thing they also brought. And it's hardly ever encountered without those first three being present. In fact, it has been developed and refined in some of those ex-colonies (India and Africa spring to mind), until it's now almost an art form. Answers on a postcard, I'll reveal all in a later posting.
Part of the recommendation of the Naiberi River Camp is the welcoming nature of the Indian owner, Raj. And he certainly is welcoming, and interested in all your travels and plans.
His reaction to mine was to tell me to coninue into Uganda and around Lake Victoria in line with my original idea.
"Of course it's wet all around Kericho, that's why they grow tea there. But you've been over a 10,000ft ridge to get here, and crossed the Equator, and it's much dryer from here on. It'll still rain occasionally, but never for more than an hour, usually less, and then everything dries quickly afterwards. As you've found further south, nothing dries out after the rain has stopped. Something to do with the old rainforests. You'll be fine in Uganda."
So what do I do now, or rather where do I go?
I had spent a while in Kericho studying the maps and found an interesting-looking route from the Tanzanian border south of Nairobi to Lake Malawi, nearly all on "un-tarred main roads", with a tarmac alternative (the road via Dar es Salaam) if needed.
Well, the Naiberi River Camp seemed a nice place, the camping and facilities were as good as people had said, so I stayed a few days to see what the weather brought.
And I continued to find it's easy to photograph the common wild birds in Africa, so here are some more pictures from Naiberi River Camp.
I had tea and an oil change. And an air filter change as well. That has to be done pretty regularly up at these altitudes to give the engine a chance of sucking in sufficient air. It still has a little difficulty breathing on some of the higher roads around here. This bike has a washable air filter so the procedure is to remove the dirty one, fit the previously cleaned one, wash the dirty one in petrol then oil it with engine oil just the right amount to trap the dirt, and wrap it up ready for the next change. A messy job but has to be done.
Then Raj accosted me.
"Here's my card, I'm a director of the clothing factory in town. Look at the name.
"When you go into town stop by and I'll show you around. A lot of our machinery is from England."
The name of the factory was Ken-Knit Ltd, so it had to be done.
It was huge. The size of many football pitches, employing 1,500 people.
And stuffed full of spinning machinery, bobbin-winding machinery, weaving machinery, knitting machinery, nap-raising machinery, embroidering machinery, and of course, sewing machines. A mechanical engineer's delight. I wished I'd taken my camera.
Each machine wasn't just a single device, a single loom for instance, but massive multi-operation things. The machine for winding bobbins wound about fifty of them at a single push of a button, and there were about a half-dozen of those. The knitting machines knitted ten sweaters simultaneously, but didn't stop when they were complete. They knitted a sort of joining hem then commenced again at the necks of the next ten sweaters, so ten continuous rolls of sweaters rolled off of the machine. These were then loaded onto one of the embroidery machines which stitched a school badge onto each sweater in the roll, ten rolls simultaneously, all at the click of a mouse button on the selected badge design.
A lot of the 1,500 staff work in the hand-finishing hall. Where, for instance, the completed sweaters arrive, having been machine-cut into individual garments, to be sewn up at the neck and hem where they were previously all joined together.
It was a pretty noisy place, particularly the weaving hall where a big batch of blankets was rolling off the broad looms. I searched my head trying to remember who invented the flying shuttle. I remember being taught at school that it was one of the most significant inventions ever, but couldn't remember the inventer's name which became part of the name of the device. 'Arkwright' rings a bell, making it 'Arkwright's Flying Shuttle'.
I wonder if he had any idea at all of how readily and easily his invention would lend itself to computer control so that a line of ten massive blanket looms could be controlled by a single chip. And not a Lancashire fried chip at that.
There was one place in the factory that was a haven of quiet serenity and calmness. And Godfrey, my escort, (Raj was out on business at the time I stopped by), seemed to have particular pleasure in steering me there. We entered as though entering a church.
It was the maintenance machine-shop. Inside was the gentle precision activity of turning spare parts on lathes and drinking tea. About six sophisticated lathes and other regal machines filled the room, and Godfrey answered the question that had puzzled me during the visit.
Out in the main factory I had been checking the makers' nameplates on the various machines, looking for the English specimens.
But Godfrey often told me, "Made in Germany."
Or, "Chinese," if it was modern with a computer attached. One such oriental machine was a little amazing.
As well as ready-made clothes, the company makes balls of wool for sale in wool shops. This machine wound the balls from large bobbins of yarn. About twenty-five at a time, the colour and weight of the balls being selected by a mouse-click, and the machine then weighing each and every ball as it was wound at supersonic speed, stopping dead when 50 grams was reached.
Then a complete contrast at the labelling machine where each ball of wool had a paper band wrapped and glued around it with brand name, colour and weight printed on it. That machine labelled one ball at a time and was controlled by three operators. "Made in Germany," said Godfrey.
So where was the English machinery that Raj had mentioned, or was he just being kind?
It was here in the maintenance machine-shop. Various lathes and milling machines from back home looked as though they may be as old as the factory, from the fifties. But still giving stirling service, said the proud Hindu shop manager.
Eldoret is also the processing centre of this milk production region, so there's a milk factory on the edge of town with a little sales hatch in the yard where you can buy all sorts of cheese, including Stilton and 'English', and butter, ice cream and milk. So I set off to find it. And had an ice cream in the yard while heavy lorries delivered and carted away large loads of traditional milk churns.
European-style cheese is more or less unknown in East Africa, but here it is for sale in this little backwater on the edge of Eldoret. And I realised why, now that I had found it.
Those heavy milk lorries that come and go all day, seven days a week, have to negotiate about a quarter mile of dirt road to reach the factory. Now dirt road, heavy lorries and rain mean one thing.
When the milk reaches the factory, it is already half turned to cheese and butter.....
The short access road truly is a rollercoaster of mudholes, ditches and ridges, all part of the journey.
I stayed a while at Naiberi until various locals, and the overland tour leaders who use the campsite, convinced me to continue around Lake Victoria. So I set off for Bungoma, about the last place to stay before the Ugandan border.
The internet's a wonderful thing, enabling me to look up 'flying shuttle', to find it was invented by one John Kay from Lancashire. Which definitely wasn't what I was taught at school.
So I looked further and found that his flying shuttle was mechanised thirty years later by Edmund Cartwright. But in the late fifties schools were teaching it as "Cartwright's Flying Shuttle." I wonder if that has something to do with the fact that John Kay was vilified and driven from England to France (where he died in poverty) because his invention robbed people of jobs in the textile mills of north-west England. That, I suppose, wouldn't have been a good thing to teach in schools - that if you're clever enough to invent something the same could happen to you .........
I'm in Bungoma, near the Ugandan border. It's another ordinary town, a bit like Kericho but a shade bigger, and not even in my guidebook. So that's good.
The sort of place I usually end up staying in for a while.
I've wandered around, and like Kericho, saw no other white faces. There's nothing for tourists here.
I suppose both towns could be considered the Kenyan version of Caterham, about the same size more or less as Caterham, Caterham on the Hill, Warlingham and Whyteleafe.
And the supermarkets are easy to find. Just look for a row of fifteen or twenty new motorcycles parked in a line at the edge of the road. There'll be a supermarket right there. They all sell bikes.
This is Khetia's supermarket in the centre of town. McVities Digestives on offer, 25% extra for free.
And right next door is ........
Shariffs supermarket. Plus, there's an ordinary motorbike shop another three doors down.
This is a two-wheel town, awash with 'boda-boda' motorbike taxis and bicycle taxis. On the way in I passed a large signboard that I thought was a street map of the town. But no, it was a local council proposal for a system of circulation for both types of taxi in the central area of town, so that they don't completely block up the streets making it impossible for mere pedestrians (like me) to get around.
With a 2-wheel taxi parking place nearby.
When walking around, negotiating the main crossroads adds about fifteen minutes to any journey even though the roads are small and compact. It's a compact town.
First there's the narrow mud pavement, with deep concrete drainage ditch alongside, only partly covered.
There are three supermarkets close to the main crossroads, so that's three separate ranks of shiny new motorbikes lining the edge of the road. Then the solid procession of two-wheel taxis going this way and that, and the bicycle taxis going every other way as well, filling every piece of tarmac road and mud pavement.
So it takes a long, long time to cross.
Bicycles, with and without pasengers, pop up all over the place continuously and completely unpredictably. Out of alley ways and shop courtyards, from behind pavement kiosks, out of 'hotels' (that is, dining rooms) and everywhere else that you don't expect.
So, it's a nice place to stay in for a while.
This is the street scene from the terrace of the little hotel I'm in.
Looking in the other direction, my hotel on the left just out of the picture.
And a short-cut back from the town centre.
This fellow, an accomplished Kenyan musician and busker, has a permanent pitch outside the Shariff covered market. Other than that, I don't know who he is.
Bicycle taxis can carry two passengers, or three if they're children, usually on their way to school.
Motorbike taxis have a slightly greater capacity.
Friday must have been livestock day at the nearby market. A motorbike taxi went past the hotel while I was on the terrace. It carried the driver, one passenger, and a dead goat being held by the hooves by the passenger, upsidedown, its back on the seat between driver and passenger. A short while later another went past, with passenger holding onto two dead goats.
Motorbike taxis have a greater capacity for freight than the bicycle variety. Which I suppose I've been discovering on this journey.
A bicycle taxi drops off a passenger just outside my hotel.
And don't forget, you saw it here first, exclusive photo-reportage --
Here in Bungoma, secret road trials are underway for a new one-wheel taxi. To keep the details under wraps, the passenger seating arrangements have been omitted on this prototype.
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