Day 60 –
L: Rise and shine. We both slept pretty well and it was difficult to get up so early as the bed was really comfortable, though two singles, which we pushed together. Steve had used the mozzie net, but I used a lot of spray and decided to take the net off my side, one net nearly covered both beds. I find the nets weird.
I did my usual walkabout to watch the sunrise and look for birds. I found out that the Pied Kingfishers are the ones responsible for the little round holes dug into the ant-hills, seems they make their nests in there.
I found in the old foundations of a building for the hotel that was never completed, that a borehole was sunk with a motor attached and immediately decided to forgo the buckets of hot water brought to supplement the cold shower, as it was gross and green stagnant water. I am not sure where they sourced the hot water from last night, but I wasn’t taking any chances.
S: It is a border crossing day today so we did a quick breakfast of coffee and Cornflakes and avo, ha ha, anytime, and then headed out of Musoma to the new-looking fuel tanks to use the last of our Tanzanian Shillings. We filled the tank and then nearly filled two of our extra jerry-cans so that we used most of the money. The rest was a tip for the very happy petrol attendant.
L: As we left I said to Steve “no speeding as we have no money to pay the ticket”. From the service-station into a side road where 2 taxis were queueing to get through a boom, one started reversing into us so Steve swerved to avoid him, rounded the right side of the taxi and pulled in to the highway and there he was!!!!! The traffic officer pulled us over and then went on and on at Steve about him coming out on the “Bus Stand In” way. Steve was so confused and said that he didn’t understand Swahili. The officer said that it was English – Bus Stand In and Bus Stand Out. I eventually twigged what he meant and took over the negotiation. It is their way of saying Taxi Rank so I explained that the taxi (who was apparently fighting for first place so as get the first fares) had been reversing into us so we had no choice, but to go and it was all clear so we pulled into the road. He kept saying that he was transparent. I sweet talked him and said that Steve didn’t understand, but I will explain to him and shook his hand and said thank you for being so understanding……..Drive, Steve, drive, before he changes his mind. Phew, got out of that one.
A little while later we came to yet another police stop. This time there were also two female army officers in attendance. As we drove closer one of the woman slid a piece of wood across the ground to block our path, I was astounded when I noticed that it was made up of several really vicious-looking metal spikes to puncture your tyres if you try to drive away. Seriously!! And yet Steve didn’t seem too bothered about it. What is worrying is that they always seem so vague about whether you should proceed through a checkpoint or stop so that would be a really costly, and highly inconvenient mistake to make!!
Finally we were at the border post and the exit gate was busy, but we managed to get through quickly. At Immigrations for the Kenyan side, I breezed through with my new Kenyan visa that we had organised in Dar Es Salaam, while one official explained to the other saying that it is a new ruling – came into force 1 July 2014 and that it is “tit for tat” as South Africa is making it harder for Kenyans to cross into South Africa. Thanks to Paul, our friend, for informing us of this new ruling).
Steve had been told to use his Irish passport and that his visa would only be $50 (mine was TSH 120 000, roughly $70). When the immigration officer served him, he told Steve that Ethiopia would have a problem if they could not see all the exit and entry stamps in his passport so he suggested that he use the SA passport and that he would waiver the fee as he had not yet received the brief……
S: I asked what I should do with the $50 that I had put on his desk and he said that I could decide to leave it or take it??? I picked it up and Lesley took it and put it in her purse saying that she would have it since the officer and I were undecided what to do. Nice!!! L: We have never paid a bribe and I really don’t want to start now.
Then we had to do the Carnet for the car and also pay Road Tax. It is free if we are only in the country for a week, but we are not sure how long it will take to organise the Ethiopian visa in Nairobi so we opted to pay the $20 for more than 7 days. They do not accept the payment in USD so Lesley stayed with the paperwork while I walked the 500 meters into Kenya to the ATM to draw Kenyan Shillings. We disturbed her coffee break and she slowly processed the form. L: Earlier, I noticed that she had not put Steve’s surname on the form, but his second name as his surname. That would have been a nightmare if we were stopped with the wrong papers. Once again, we were not asked for any insurance payment. Our insurance covers us through Kenya and then we will buy Third Party insurance at each border.
S: The guard at this gate just gave a cursory glance at the road tax form and waved us through. Then it was in to Kenya and chaos!! You have to drive through a sea of humanity interspersed with hundreds of motorcycle taxis, mini-busses, bicycles, busses and anything else that moves – on wheels. You literally have to squeeze yourself through a single lane of road that is sometimes there and sometimes not, but eventually we managed to wend our way through and got on to a pretty good road and headed off into the mountains…….
This part of Kenya is very green, beautiful countryside with a lot of cultivation with one of the main crops being sugar cane. The population seems to be less poor than in Tanzania, but we still see industry where children are chopping up rocks into stones to sell as material for making roads.
Because the area is quite densely populated there are many villagers and a lot of people on the road so our speed was reduced. It got even worse when we were stuck behind an abnormally wide trailer with a mine-dumper truck as it’s load. At times we were crawling at less than 20km/hour. The road was so narrow that it was almost impossible to pass though many of the taxis did. We were behind this rig for more than half an hour when I saw my chance to bypass the rig on my GPS as we entered a town so it was up a side street, along a parallel road and eventually joining up on our original road, ahead of the rig. Needless to say, Lesley was most stressed during this little side event.
L: This town was called Kisii and when we were on the outskirts of the town we noticed that all the taxis get stopped with a piece of string across the road and seem to have to pay a few shillings for entering a new district.
L: Something we have not mentioned much – is that there are no toilets to use while you are driving. There are not shops as we know them and hotels are few and far between. The service stations that do have facilities usually don’t keep them clean or maintained so most times I have to crouch between the car doors and have come to prefer that rather than risk some disease…….Yeah, my girls, I know it is embarrassing, but it is something one should be prepared for!
It was getting late and we were trying to find a place to stay when we saw The Oscars signboard. Thinking that it sounded like a lodge of sorts, we turned off to enquire. It turned out, it was a club (shebeen). I did get some information about an hotel in the town about 10kms down the road called Bomet. We found the place called Brevan Hotel. It looked new and expensive, but upon enquiry we found that a double room was KSH 4 000 which equates to just under R500 with breakfast.
L: The hotel is only 4 months old, but nothing works properly and the workmanship is so shoddy. The first room we were in had no latches on the windows so they were just pushed shut with the wind blowing through the gaps. After a few attempts, a room was found with latches albeit, not very good ones. I keep reminding Steve to duck his head as the doorways are so low. Betty, the receptionist is taller than Steve and most Kenyans that we see are tall so it was a real oversight in design.
Anyway, we checked in and while I rested and blogged, Steve went in search of a Kenyan SIM card and data bundle. Luckily the supervisor of the hotel accompanied Steve as he had to give his name to activate the SIM as the shop owner had never done an registration using a passport.
By now, we were really hungry as we had only stopped for a snack along the road. We went down to the restaurant and ordered a pizza and a beef dish with hot chips. The food was a huge plateful and quite nice if a bit stewy even the pizza, like a homemade dough. We had glasses of freshly squeezed juice which was a welcome treat. The food was very reasonable with everything costing less than R200 including the tip.
Now, as I write this, there are workmen on the floor above our heads and the drilling at 9pm coupled with an hour of that noise this afternoon is wearing on us. I have just been down to reception to complain and was told that they are getting some rooms ready for some guests that are coming tomorrow……..hello, what about these paying customers????
I really hope that the bed is comfortable and the shower – hot, to compensate.
Day 61 – Happy Birthday to Uncle Arthur – 87, wow!!! And to Lesley G. ;-))))
L: Why is it, that when you can sleep, you can’t sleep…..? We had a good night’s sleep in the comfortable hotel bed with brand new sheets, duvet and pillows and woke up to the sun shining. This morning Steve left the Insta-Hot device on after his shower and it was lovely, last night’s one had been cold.
S: Breakfast was included and there was a lot to choose from, but it was all a bit dry as they had it standing in dishes for a while. There was juice and coffee, hard-boiled eggs, bacon, sausage, potato, cassava (local potato) and savory pancakes. Also toast and fresh fruit. There was no jam or syrup for the toast and pancakes. But it was filling anyway. The noise coming from the kitchen, clanging of pots, pans and dishes was very disturbing so we left as soon as possible. L: Are we getting old or is everyone in Kenya just loud? The TV has been on, full blast, for both meals too.
The drive to Nairobi was just over 200kms and being a Sunday, most of the way, fairly quite. We were stopped for the car licence to be checked and waved on. We drove at about 2 000m above sea level and back down to 1 500 and back up again. I remarked to Steve that it would be amazing to see it plotted on a graph (project for you, Elana) as we have gone up and down so much over the last week or so. We drove through the Rift Valley and there is an amazingly steep descent at one point that goes on for about 20kms with warning signs everywhere about the black hole. We really were not sure what they meant as the signs are mainly in Swahili. Finally we discovered it was a warning of flash floods during the rainy season. Now the thing with flash floods (as Cape Town has discovered now) is that there is no warning, hence the word flash.
Later it was the really long, winding and very steep pass. There is Susua mountain which is 2357m high. The pass is made so dangerous with everyone trying to pass the many over-sized trucks on the pass especially when 3 or 4 cars and busses go at once and have no worries about blind corners. We were nearly side-swiped a few times. We had been behind our abnormal load truck again this morning, but were lucky to have a second lane to overtake this time.
There were view points at the top of the pass, but we decided not to stop as we would have to pass all the trucks again and it was not very safe, traffic-wise to pull off.
After we had got through the pass, and turned onto a double lane highway which incidently has major pot holes and many bumps,amongst all the road-works, with cars, busses, taxis and huge trucks all over the place, we were singled out for the police stop. Steve was asked for his driver’s licence and we both nearly laughed in his face as the drivers are crazy the way they take chances up the pass. As he walked around the car, Steve was worried that he would ask for the insurance that they try to sell you on the border (we are still covered by Santam through Kenya, comprehensively), but I said, don’t worry and handed him our insurance papers, road tax and the Carnet De Passage. The officer acted as if he knew what it all was, saying Bellryck – which is the insurance broker – and slowly handed each piece of paper back. Then while still hanging on to Steve’s licence, he insisted on checking both of our passports for the Kenyan visas. Finally, he waved us between the pieces of road-spikes.
S: The next time we were stopped, I immediately said to the officer “we are so lost with all these road-works and need to find our campsite”. He gave us directions and we went off without any further delay. We seemed to be driving around in circles, but we had in option, but to follow the GPS.
After a rather uncomfortable drive because of all the speed bumps, and Lesley dying for the bathroom, I was under pressure to try and get to our destination as soon as possible, guys, you know what I mean ………After what seemed an eternity, we drove up to the gate of Jungle Junction. Incidentally Jungle Junction moved to a new location in August 2013. We were let in and after saying Jambo (hello), the first words out of our mouths was “where is the bathroom?”
L: The bathroom is spotless with a seat!
S: The grounds are huge with one corner taken up with overland vehicles which are being stored for the owners. There are vehicles from all over Europe and Africa, there is even a Land-rover from Cape Town. They also store motorbikes and run a vehicle and motorcycle repair facility. They offer meals in camp as well as laundry services and there are rooms to hire too, though rather expensive. The camping is KSH 700 ppn, roughly R85. They also provide a shuttle service to various locations in town including the embassies.
We got directions to the nearest mall L: A shopping mall……!!! And went off in search of meat and some provisions for the rest of the way up Africa, who knows what we will find further up.
L: Shopping on an empty stomach is never a good idea, so we found the food court and both decided on some Chinese. It was lovely food and a huge helping so we were ready to tackle a supermarket in a new country. It takes quite an effort to shop and work out the prices with a different currency. There is a lot that is so expensive, but the occasional item that works out cheaper or comparably to home. The meat, however, was really expensive, but we had to have a stock for our little freezer so we bit the bullet and chose steak, lamb sausage, mince and beef pieces to make “skewers” as they call it here.
We looked at biltong to supplement our protein when necessary, but it was way too pricey for us. The Nakumatt – Galleria Mall is spacious and clean and we found most of what we wanted though often differently packaged. Olives at R32 a small packet, were left on their shelves to collect dust.
After that, we treated ourselves to some frozen yoghurt at a shop in the mall – what a treat. Pudding is something that we have not had, no chocolates, yoghurt or cake so it was really nice to have something sweet again.
S: Going further up north, we know that we will often have to go in to a lodge or hotel as there are not many camping places. Obviously, most times we will not be able to cater for ourselves so we are very conscious of our budget and know that it may be stretched a bit. Ouch.
L: It was lovely to receive a message on our blog from Bjorn, the young chap that we had met a month ago and find him well. We advised him not to travel through the Serengeti in his vehicle as the roads mess up your car and he had said that he was not very mechanical if anything went wrong and being alone is a worry in a park with wild animals.
S: Back to the campsite, after filling up the water tanks with bottled water, I set up the ground tent with a few extra blankets as it is a bit overcast today while Lesley catches up on today’s news.
We have decided not to braai tonight as we have both felt really full today after two full meals so a drink and some crisps is plenty while we watch the sun disappear and birds go to roost and the moon…….hmmmmmm, not sure where that is tonight.
07 Jul 2014 – News
We are aware that there is talk of unrest in Nairobi today so we have decided not to go into town for a few days.
Please keep us all in your prayers.