Travel Through Kenya on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter & Kay Forwood

Kenya on a Harley (23/3/06 - 2/4/06)
Distance 804 km (454632 km to 455436 km)

This is part of the twelfth section of our around the world trip.
Complete Trip Overview & Map

Coming from Ethiopia or read our previous visit to Kenya  

23/3/06 Kenya also seems to have cleaned up some border corruption. A calendar in the customs office has pictures of arrested officers off to jail as its theme with little captions stating over 10 arrests a month of corrupt officials. Different photo and caption for each month, not quite the pin up calendar I have seen elsewhere. We changed money on the street as the local bank has a $US 7.30 fee for cash exchange and a poorer rate. There is a lot of cross border trade or smuggling and merchants seem to need US dollars to get goods. Shops on either side of the border, particularly Ethiopia, have an amazing array of goods especially for such a small town. Back to driving on the left side, English is understood by most people and first impressions are a friendly bunch. We stayed at the same hotel we were in six years ago and nothing, I mean nothing, has changed. Water is still only available in a bucket for showers and the toilets don't flow properly.

24/3/06 In the grip of a severe droughtSheep and goats move along the drought area in poor condition people are just waiting for rain, expected now. A week ago storms had passed and last night as we watched from the hotel dust clouds rose ahead of dark threatening clouds coming from Ethiopia but there was little rain this side of the border. The current leaders are blamed for the drought as it only started with their leadership and they must be out of favour with God. This we were told in all seriousness. This morning the road south to Marsabit was patchy wet where thunderstorms had made it across the border. Whilst the road had been improved since our last visit, like so many roads and things in Africa, it has not been maintained and so the top layer of dirt has gone leaving only the stony bedrock. The road is now straight and faster but corrugations and rock take its toll on the bike and the front engine mount totally collapsed just short, and we limped into, Marsabit. This mount is only 12,000 km old, but a hard life, and not happy to use our spare one we fashioned a more rigid mount from the old one, replacing the rubber sections with pieces of tyre sidewall. There is no water reticulation in town. All water is drawn from one tap which only operates a few hours a day and consequently draws long lines of people waiting. The stock, sheep, cattle, goats and camels were moving along the roadChanging another belt, roadside, in the mud. all day heading north where more storms had already fallen and there was some ground water. But to get there they needed to cross 100 km of stony desert, with no water. Trucks were carrying limited supplies for the people and their animals. Camped roadside in the heat with no shade, their belongings and dozens of yellow, 20 litre water drums waiting to be filled. Cattle, the first to die, carcasses dotted along the road. A calf, still wet from being born lay in the middle of the road, too weak to follow its mother, too heavy to carry. The herd moved on. The sheep and goats also in poor condition, moved slowly. Baby goats born, too young to walk, carried by their owners. Camels seemed healthier, though without any food humps and donkeys, as always, seem to be the best doers in hard times.

25/3/06 Another sunrise departure, threatening clouds had us moving quickly as this road is notoriously slippery after any rain. Less than 50 km's into the morning and a storm passed ahead of us dumping heavy rain. The tyres filled with mud and a stone wedged into the rear sprocket snapping the drive belt. It was over three hours before we could fit the new belt, with moreMeeting the Samburu women on the Marsabit road storms threatening and occasional drizzle, but the road had dried, the mud jammed up under the front guard almost preventing the wheel from turning as we headed onto a dusty road within five kilometres, such are the vagaries of the rain. Another 100 km's of deep corrugation had the right hand pannier brackets broken. Hanging only at the rear now, an hour was spent tying, using cord and tie downs to secure it enough to travel. With just twenty km's to go of the 260 for the day, the front engine bolts broke, more stress placed on them from the engine mount than usual. Another hour to fit two new ones we carry as spares and exhausted yet again, we arrived in Isiolo, on dusk, the dirt roads behind us, at least for now. Our first food for the day had been at 1 pm, the ubiquitous spaghetti or rice at a roadside stop, now replacing local traditional dishes. Served with a stew of potatoes and some meat. It was the same meal for dinner, needing sustenance fast, in bed before 8 pm. Like when the drought was in this region on our visit 6 years ago the Samburu people, one of Africa's few remaining traditionally dressed groups, have congregated near towns for water and food. The men out with the herds during the day, the women approached us hoping for a hand out or selling trinkets of their culture.They like the motorcycle's mirrors

26/3/06 Nairobi, just 280 km to the south, past Mt. Kenya with its snow cap. Past green fields of large white owned farms and small local owned subsistence blocks. Locals grazed animals roadside, even tilling the land with crops along this thin strip. It is great to be in a country that uses English extensively, particularly as the Kenyans are such a happy peoples and with a great sense of humour, we can converse easily and joke with them. We crossed the equator and heavy thunderstorms threatened, wetting a bit but missing most. It is almost impossible to avoid running into the wet season crossing the equator. It will be either wet to the north or the south. Heading further south now it should be coming out of their wet.

27/3/06 Kenya still gets the throngs of budget safari viewers. Mini buses head out daily to the national parks seeking animals. Our backpackers accommodation is still full despite it now being the low season as the rains tend to allow the animals to disperse. We were on the phone most of the day trying to link up transport to the Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar.Waiting around town for the rains to break The former two countries are expensive and we don't want to get caught there waiting for bike transport. The only direct passenger flights to the Seychelles from here are now with Kenya Airlines, too small a plane to take the motorcycle however a cargo plane leaves this Thursday, in three days time, there are about three a month so we are hurrying, yet again. The twice weekly passenger flight is full this Thursday so we won't fly till Sunday. Could not find out any information today about onward flights to Mauritius, but a boat, twice monthly, goes from Mauritius to Madagascar that can take us and the bike, a temporary booking was made for the 16th of April, planning a week in each, the Seychelles and Mauritius. By flying to the Seychelles and onto Mauritius it will save us a return trip to Kenya had we taken a boat as there are no boats from the Seychelles to Mauritius.

28/3/06 We were at the Tradewinds Office, the air freight people, at opening. Apparently the bike has to be flown from Kenya via Mauritius to the Seychelles and can fit on the normal Air Mauritius passenger plane, therefore making it possible to fly it back to Mauritius at a later date on the same service. They arranged to have the bike crated, $US 50.00, after we had disassembled it, 2.5 cu/metres total size, giving a volumetricOne of the many different religious organisations in Kenya weight for flying of 420 kg, simply divide the cubic centimetres by 6000, however it weighed in at 460 kg, obviously a heavy scales as previously the maximum weight for shipping has been 410 kg, but it was not possible to argue and the total cost was $US 1150 with all paperwork, including customs clearance and handling charges included. Everything was finalised by 5 pm but when we went to the Kenya Airways office to pay for our tickets the booking we had made had been cancelled. We were supposed to pay by 4 pm but had telephoned earlier in the day and had been advised we could pay by 7 pm. They couldn't resolve the matter now, other than booking the last two business class seats just in case.

29/3/06 One of those high, low days we often experience travelling. Kenya Airlines were apologetic this morning for their mistake but would not let us fly business class for the economy rate. They would attempt to get us on the flight but it seemed unlikely. We made a tentative flight booking on Air Mauritius, via Mauritius, connecting to the Seychelles, more expensive but no where near as much as Kenya Airways business class. An afternoon call to the motorcycle freight company revealed that the cargo plane the bike was due to fly on was not arriving as planned, a holiday in Mauritius the reason we were given, and the bike,Another equator crossing whilst the crate would fit, was apparently too heavy to load, maximum weight per piece of 160 kg, for the Friday passenger flight, so by mid afternoon we were grounded for ourselves and the motorcycle, almost back where we had started two days ago. An hour later Kenya Airways phoned to say they had two seats for us, and right on the close of business Tradewinds Cargo phoned to advise they had arranged extra baggage handlers to load the bike in Nairobi but couldn't finalise things till tomorrow for the transhipment via Mauritius and unloading in the Seychelles. So again two steps forward one step back and nothing finalised by night fall. We were however easily able to withdraw reasonable amounts of Kenyan shillings via our debit card at the ATM's  and convert them into US dollars at a reasonable rate to resupply, the first time in Africa, as our dollar supply had been dwindling fast.

30/3/06 It looks like it is all go. Confirmation for the bike and Kenya Airways tickets. Needing an onward flight from the Seychelles to Mauritius we discovered that only Air Mauritius now flies that route and the one way fare is $US 450.00. There is little traffic between the islands of the region, therefore no The bike in another crate competition, therefore high prices, therefore little traffic between islands. Our first day here to have a bit of relax time. Food and alcohol is reasonably priced so we are making the most of the last days before overpriced Seychelles. We are expecting problems clearing the motorcycle and being allowed to ride it in the Seychelles. Often smaller islands have no provision for temporary imports of vehicles as no one brings them. The Seychelles also has a reputation for not being easy to deal with regarding customs and authority so we have extended our stay there to 12 days to allow time for bureaucracy, we will see.

31/3/06 Nairobi has certainly improved since six years ago. The streets are clean of rubbish. Street stalls are gone, street people not obvious and beggars non existent. It has the feel of a modern African city that is functioning well. Its reputation of Nairobbery still seems to be the same however as there is much talk at the backpackers of recent personal robberies, particularly women, at night in the city. We hope to reuse the bike's crate for the next flight to Mauritius and bought a hammer and nails along with the normal disposable red, white and blue striped refugee bags for our luggage. Still collecting US dollars for our Seychelles visit, otherwise had a day resting. 

1/4/06 A slow day cleaning up and packing. Washed the tent and moved into a cabin for the last night.

2/4/06 We had been told to be at the airport early by the Kenyan Airlines official as the flight had been overbooked to get us on. So after collecting the motorcycles airway bill from the Tradewinds office along the way, we were there by 6 am for the 9 am flight and had no problems.

Move with us to the Seychelles



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Story and photos copyright Peter and Kay Forwood, 1996-
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