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The Solo Scooterist

Documenting my travels on a Vespa

Category: Kenya

Rider from the storm

The last couple of days have been those long and only satisfying after a hot shower days , spent on the road . The weather has changed dramatically from what I have been used to while riding cross country to and through Kenya.

The border crossing was fairly uneventful with the usual chats and laughs about crossing Africa on a scooter and a chance to hang out in offices with officials getting all my documentation done . Once I had changed some schillings for some schillings I was about to cross into cross into Kenya , I stopped for a security check of all documents , only to be told that the insurance that I had bought in Tanzania to cover all the countries I travel through was not valid , that this COMESA certificates  I had been issued , expired in December 2013 , so in actual fact I was riding with a “fake” certificate that had been replaced by the new certificate months ago . So off I went to try and sort it out , when I arrived at the office of the provider , I  burst out laughing , comparing this office to the one I had purchased my cover from in Tanzania , that required me to  walk through a shop and  then down an ally to be squeezed into a tight 2 chair half a desk office , I then realised  I had definitely paid and additional non refundable  toll to travel these beautiful roads . The official poster on the wall showing the old and new certificates displayed with pride . So I bought my new , new certificate , a couple of bananas and a Kenyan flag from a young boy , sat on the sidewalk , enjoying the sun and company from my usual scooter groupies.

Then off I rode , now legal I hope off into Kenya , this crossing was a dream , 8 minutes all done. Then the ride to Eldoret started , within a few kilometres I had to put on my Tanzanian road armour , those killer busses back , the trucks with the smell of fight from their burning brakes and abused mechanics . The road conditions varied from living in purgatory to heaven on earth , and all the while those menacing clouds hunting Vic and I .

We tried to out run the storm , the 300 cc no match for mother nature and the next couple of hours we shivered , shook and got discoloured by flying mud passing through every small town . Arriving in Eldoret was the worst , the roads a wash with red angry water trying to find a way out . Through the town it was about 20 kilometres to my over night stop , Naiberi overland resort . Only two obstacle’s keeping me from my hot shower , by now I was blue with cold and soaked like a white river rafter . The mud we navigated , the washed out river crossing  stopped us in our tracks , was I to take shoes and socks off and wade to check ? I should have , but I just lifted my legs and watched as Victoria’s front wheel left my sight , gave it full throttle and we made it , just .

Hot shower , hot  meal and then off to bed only to be woken by a group of drunk over landers , that found it difficult to walk and talk , never mind other activities attempted . So the night a long one , with a short sleep , up early to ride east to then ride North.

 

Nightmare Naiberi

Nightmare Naiberi

The ride long , beautiful and once again we could not outrun mother nature and her intermittent down pours , that said nothing more spectacular than riding the great Rift Valley on a Vespa , mother nature in agreement gave me dry times and sunsine to admire her in the right light.

 

Great scenery , the price of it , the road.

Great scenery , the price of it , the road.

 

Same line different currency.

Same line different currency.

 

The unstoppable beauty of the valley.

The unstoppable beauty of the valley.

 

The map , the route .

The map , the route .

No Rift between Vic and I.

No Rift between Vic and I.

The Kenyan countryside today was very much like travelling through the Berg and riding up the escarpment  was just beautiful . My route took me through Nakuru for coffee , then Nyahururu to Nyeri my nights stop in a local hotel away from backpackers and overlanders to have a more local Kenyan offering and wonderful it has been . It was a real treat observing chic West Africa at work and play.

 

Patio to blog and have a bite.

Patio to blog and have a bite.

I unpacked the whole scooter to try and get all my stuff dry by morning , shower , tea and a fillet that was not really a fillet and then off to bed .

The next three or four days of riding through the North of Kenya will  likely be the most telling and trying on both Victoria and I , so lets hope those wheels find a home every night before the dark . I will set off for Archers Post today , try and get to Marsabit the next and push for the border town of Moyale on the third day  before crossing into Ethiopia . I expect to be offline until Ethiopia so I will see you all on the other side of hell road .

Until we meet again

 

 

 

 

 

Riding the rift

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A post from Archers

After a night of tossing and turning , with the next couple of days riding plaguing my mind , I was up and off on my way to Archers Post ,  the starting point of what has been dubbed ” hell road ” by the overland community , the 500 km between Isiolo and the border town of Moyale .

I had been advised to put the scooter on a truck in Nanyuki and then resume the ride from Moyale  into Ethiopia and up . The reasons being that the road conditions are so severe that the route is a destroyer of all things mechanical , is prone to tribal outbursts , very volatile , Somali bandit country  and that  riding alone was far from a god idea . So the whole previous nights tossing  and turning and now while riding towards Isiolo  my mind doubted and questioned my decision to ride the whole way. In part my decision was helped by some advise from my road mentor Riaan who did this exact route last year and loved it , the other Francis who I met in Uganda that took a tour group through and said to me that the road was possible , it might take 3 or 4 days but we could  get through  , the last reason was that  my experiences travelling through Africa thus far ,  had only ever been filled with  warmth and kindness and  meeting fantastic people , so in  my mind  my only worry was the road and would Vic and I make it .

 

Tough land between Isiolo and Archers Post

Tough land between Isiolo and Archers Post

 

Dancing dust Tornadoes fill the air , as one dies a new one born.

Dancing dust Tornadoes fill the air , as one dies a new one born.

So we took on the ride to Archers post for our first nights stop , it was not a long ride and on good roads so after stopping off in Nanyuki to stock up on water and high energy snacks we arrived just after lunch time in Isiolo where I filled up and then rode  towards Archers . While riding I was listening to my I pod set on shuffle and about 10 minutes out of Archers the Chris Rea song road to hell started playing , how inappropriate I thought .

 

Last water I was going to see for the entire journey.

Last water I was going to see for the entire journey.

I found the  Catholic mission , The Mary Immaculate Parish and a room for the night , I spent the afternoon still worring and hanging out with the locals who passed through the parish , answering many questions , shaking many hands and general chit chat with some interpreter intervention required now and again. Dino one of the young students took me around the town , we got a local sim card while I observed the effects of alcohol and the mind altering plant Khat on a community against the pride of the traditional Samburu customs and dress  , the beauty of both the men and woman astonishing that you find yourself staring a little to long . In this harsh place to find such colour and beauty . I popped into ripples for the surprise of my life . Here in the middle of know where was this fantastic little restaurant serving freshly squeezed juices , fantastic tea with a menu that rivalled some of the hotels I have stayed in .

 

Victoria at the Parish

Victoria at the Parish

I met the owner a gracious hostess Stellamaris  who opend this gem but four months ago , so to all those travelling North through Archers Post ensure you make a stop and enjoy the company , hospitality and great  delights on offer from Stellamaris. Thank you for a great late afternoon tea.

 

Ripples , fresh mango juice and rich tea.

Ripples , fresh mango juice and rich tea.

High tea for me with Dino and Stellamaris

High tea for me with Dino and Stellamaris

 

Archers Post

Archers Post

 

From here back to the parish to meet Father Peter Leseketeti for dinner , yet another fantastic meal with great company , on the night before the ride. Then off to bed to try  and sleep , for who knows what tomorrow will bring.

 

Until we meet again.

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Hell hath no fury like …..

Sleep came and went , robbed of  dreams and deep sleep , I was up by four , unable to find comfort in any position , unable to close my mind of what lay ahead , so as the first light started plucking the stars from the sky I was on the road , the knot in my stomach like that of a hangman’s noose . Vic and I rode off towards Marsabit , listening to my soloscooterist compilation , playing through my headphones , here comes the sun.

 

Here comes the sun .

Here comes the sun .

 

The beauty of this lost land in the morning light  gave me some comfort and it did not feel that harsh in early morning . The wind  strong with no barriers to her flight kept  knocking and buffeting  our cut out as we made our way out of Archers on this heavenly road that would take us to the one known as “Hell Road”

 

Just out there.

Just out there.

 

How can nothingness hold such beauty.

How can nothingness hold such beauty.

 

The tar lulled me into a false sense of security , my spirits lifting as we rode , the knot offering a little slack as the kilometres wound down , the GPS saying 250 km to Marsabit at Archers now 200 km and still the tar carried us , may be that just how hell courts you . Still the tar , then I saw the end , my heart missed a beat or three as the GPS said 120 odd kilometres to Marsabit  , not bad I thought it is still early how bad can it be ?.

 

The line that divides .

The line that divides .

Off the bike , tyre pressure down , fuel topped up , I took a deep breath asked Vic to forgive me for I knew not what I was about to do and off we set . From the outset the conditions appalling , I looked down at the distance covered after and hour we had done 20 kilometres , the ruts and rocks never ending , Victoria’s front shock bottoming out more times in one kilometre than I could count . The decision to ride haunting me , should I turn around ? We will never get through this , If I turn around now it is only 40 kilometres back to tar . Thoughts of breaking Victoria , unable to get above 20 km per hour , her temperature gauge rising uncharacteristically as I could not get the speed up high enough to cool her properly , what happens if we breakdown , what about the bandits so these thoughts plagued me .

 

Hell it was .

Hell it was .

 

I decided to stop the what ifs and focus on slowly , slowly getting us home , I started stopping more often , drinking more water , stretching  , taking in this unbelievable ladscape when I could take my eyes off the road , and so the kilometres to destination wound down .

 

Camels thrive out here , train after train you pass , hundreds in number.

Camels thrive out here , train after train you pass , hundreds in number.

 

Cashew and water stop.

Cashew and water stop.

 

Will this ever end .

Will this ever end .

 

Just under 9 hours later with an average speed of  just above 25 odd kilometres per hour we arrived battered , bruised and abused in Marsabit , I just don’t know how we got here , I felt totally shattered .

I checked into the Nomads hotel , took  the biggest bed , the longest of showers and felt that wave of dread return  as I thought tomorrow we have to ride again . After some scrumptious goat samosas , sweet chai , I felt some strength return .

While in the hotel I met two local entrepreneurs , so I thought I would enquire about the road , once again I was advised to put Vic on a truck to Moyale , that the next part is worse ,  so I was told , my heart sank . I spent the rest of the afternoon in the great company of Sadick and Salim  chatting about the world and more , trying to take my mind off tomorrow . Before  we said our goodbyes , Sadick and Salim gave me their cell numbers and said if I ran into any difficulty on the road just to call and they would send help and come and get me . This offer was just the boost I needed and I resolved to get this road done .

Armed with my offer of help and cell numbers I went to bed , I slept well for a couple of hours and then the prospect of what lay ahead took my sleep . I packed up in the rain and cloud that had moved into town , had breakfast , waited for that light to arrive , said goodbyes and rode off in the mist and rain , hoping that if my morning started this badly it could only get better .

 

Leaving Marsabit

Leaving Marsabit

 

As we found our way out of the rain.

As we found our way out of the rain.

 

Harshness in the soft morning light .

Harshness in the soft morning light .

This goes on for ever.

This goes on for ever.

 

The first 90 kilometres fantastic , then the road failed again and we slowed down dramatically , same old same old , 35 kilometres later all improved and the road was not nearly as bad as yesterday , I started to focus on the  surroundings and when I looked down , only 60 kilometres to Moyale and so they kept coming down.

 

My world for a day.

My world for a day.

 

Their world , their life

Their world , their life

The road got better , the distance shorter my spirits higher , we rode and rested , rode and rested , so time passed . I came across Marco all alone on his bicycle riding to Cape Town from Norway , did I feel silly for all my stress  and anxiety , keep on trucking Marco I will see you in the fairest on your arrival .

 

Cashews , melted jelly babies and water.

Cashews , melted jelly babies and water.

 

Wow

Wow

 

Then we arrived at the town limits , I just could not wipe the smile off my face , the glee , the euphoria , my heart was singing , we had done it and all that stress , worry and anxiety  took flight in the face of my excitement  , welcome to Moyale .

 

Best picture of the day.

Best picture of the day.

 

Ali who welcomes me to Moyale and the Al - Yusra hotel

Ali who welcomes me to Moyale and the Al – Yusra Hotel

 

What a two days , what an incredible ride , it took me to a place I thought I would not get through and delivered  a sense of euphoria I cant explain . Well done Vic you are unstoppable .

 

Until we meet again.

 

 

 

 

 

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Moyale Magic

Still basking in the after glow ,  recovering from post traumatic road disorder and having  found  a hotel , that not only is the biggest in the whole of Moyale , which of course makes it very easy to find , but is  clean , neat with great staff , I decided  it was time to get down to some chores .

 

My Hotel

My Hotel

 

Victoria was in  such a state after those roads , all my gear covered in the devils dust . It was time to take immediate action . I  found a car wash just up from the hotel and set to task a well deserved rejuvenation package for Vic.

 

Can you see the engine?

Can you see the engine?

 

Vic's travel grit.

Vic’s travel grit.

 

The car wash.

The car wash.

 

It was a sight to behold watching that high pressure wand was her woes away , the dust fled  from the force  , like a retreating army , revealing a very different Victoria on the otherside .

 

Doing the luggage.

Doing the luggage.

 

That chore out of the way I settled into the hotel , took my shower and went down to the restaurant for some Chai to celebrate our safe arrival in Moyale . My mood so buoyant and still on a high from the day , I had my favourite for dinner , some , yes you guessed it , goat stew with veggies and as the clock struck eight I was man out .

I had also decided to stay a day longer to do some laundry , update the blog , clean the travel off my gear  and most importantly  clean the air filter . Ali tracked down a motorcycle guy for me , also just up the road from the hotel , so much accomplished in a very short time .

 

Moyale on main

Moyale on main

 

Moyale from the hotel top balcony .

Moyale from the hotel top balcony .

 

Up early I set off to clean the filter , the streets still empty , the only movement , the dust of course and a few early risers like me starting their day . Moyale felt very peaceful in comparison to the place I had arrived in yesterday , but that would soon change as Vic and I became the central attraction and I got to meet a lot of Moyalians especially those who rode motorbikes.

 

Trucks after to many journey's on hell road.

Trucks after to many journey’s on hell road.

 

The workshop.

The workshop.

 

The bike guy . with Victoria's filter in hand.

The bike guy . with Victoria’s filter in hand.

 

Tomorrow we head for Ethiopia and see what that has install for us  , I will keep you posted .

Until we meet again.

 

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Sunday Border Sunday

It was time to bid farewell to Northern Kenya , her great hospitality and those roads , Ethiopia was not even a kilometre away , so after breakfast we packed up and headed out , the crossing out of Kenya was just great , the customs official offered me a seat and some of his samosas for breakfast , scanned and stamped me out and I was on my way . The immigration process on the Ethiopian side was fantastic , and I was stamped in , all that was left to do was get my Carne signed , stamped and   with so many hours left I was convinced our first night stop would be Dilla 400 kilometres from the border .

 

The sign a reflection of what the welcome was to be.

The sign a reflection of what the welcome was to be.

 

I took a walk across the road , to customs , found the office open ,  no staff ,  just very unhelpful police . I was told by a money changer that he would have to phone the customs officer to come and stamp me in . It being a Sunday they don’t work and if they do come in that there  is  an overtime charge . So my five hour ordeal started .

I met Mohammed a clearing agent while I was waiting and he offered to help me , he phoned the supervisor , who promised to send an official  , and so we waited , by now me fearing I might have to return to Kenya and try again in the morning .

The police , so many , so unruly , having the run of the small border  town , their uniforms worn as badges of fear and  authority , yet dishevelled , no pride , all about big guns , cammo and ammo  , like bandits they roam . So I  waited an observer of border life with my new friend Mohammed  , as the hours ticked by.

Eventually the customs official arrives , what a nice guy , introduces himself , shakes my hand asks me a few questions and that I should follow him into the office . In passing he mentions the overtime , but he is glad to help me . Finally we can be on our way , the noon gun long sounded and I needed to get going . Thinking I was only minutes away from my departure , so began another chapter  . I was transported to a world that only existed in slow motion . His movements so slow they formed their own shadow  , his pen stuttering and stammering across the official documents , duplicate , triplicate , more questions and so time dragged . I just needed one more piece of paper , he turns to me and those words , please wait I need to phone  the examiner to come and verify the chassis and engine number . The call made and so we waited ,  so I stood , so I sat , so I paced , so he paused . Finally just after 14h00 Vic and I said our farewells to Mohammed who without him I might still be there , we went in search of petrol.

This was to be equally frustrating only one of the 4 I tried had regular but I had to wait for the power to return , tank full tyre pressure done at a price we set off . I had to change my destination for the night to  the town of Yabello , luckily only 200 kilometres from the border , a breeze . Then I saw the condition of the road , diversion signs to many  to count , road works , trucks , busses ,  we were back on mini hell road , the first 100 kilometres like a teenagers first bad acne  outbreak , it would just not clear .  I was thinking to myself , this is one of those days the sun beats us home .

 

Harsh and dry , you wonder how life exists out here.

Harsh and dry , you wonder how life exists out here.

 

The landscape started changing , white dryness replaced  by red dryness , more anthills I have never seen , the diversions covered in that fine red powder Vic hates so much , it clogs her pores terribly . So the first 100 kilometres haunted us .

 

The teenage outbreak.

The teenage outbreak.

 

You have to wonder , how do people do it ?

You have to wonder , how do people do it ?

 

One of the many that fill your vision as you ride.

One of the many that fill your vision as you ride.

 

In this place the only colour  comes from the clothes the people wear , the sand and the pale blue haze you find surrounding the mountains in the distance , in this place hard labour returns to the roadside , the wind and sun  the dominant constant .

 

Big sky country , must be amazing at night with all those stars out.

Big sky country , must be amazing at night with all those stars out.

 

I must  have inadvertently rubbed a genie lamp , before my eyes it appeared , smooth as silk , wide and dreamy , the road that  took us to Yabello Motel before the sun and  moon changed guard  .

 

Just look at that dream road.

Just look at that dream road.

 

Yabello Motel where you trade big dollar bills for no frills , where being a faranji ( foreigner )  costs you double ,  the pricelists compiled with invisible ink , rooms that have not experienced fresh in years , a shower that shocks while the dribble tries to make its way onto your skin. That been said the shower done , sitting out under the trees having my first Ethiopian coffee , heaven it could have been.

 

Trusted Vic

Trusted Vic

 

Please sir , more.

Please sir , more.

 

Yabello junction.

Yabello junction.

 

Some glow some no.

Some glow some no.

 

Light starts to fade , the heat of the day replaced by a cool evening breeze , carrying words I have never heard  until this night , mixed with German , Italian and loud claps , as the locals demand service . I sit once again the observer in a place that feels ever so café life , sipping my macchiato . I look to my left the neon motel sign flickers to life , as night arrives ,  not in its entirety but enough to beckon the weary traveller . I initiate myself with a Ethiopian red as the plump  moon , still a little coy using a cloud or two to cover her fullness rises . The customs , the ragged  road , washed away as the delicious red of the wine and hypnotic moon take my mind to beautiful Ethiopia .

 

No it's 250 ml . Need you ask?

No it’s 250 ml . Need you ask?

 

Until we meet again.

 

 

 

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