Addis Ababa and heading north

Ethiopia is a beautiful country. We really enjoy being here and will spent longer time than anticipated in the country. The people are friendly and helpful. We were never stopped by Police. Some children beg and get angry if you drive past…sometimes trying to hit the bakkie with their whips but that only happened twice. When you beg back, they start laughing. The people of Ethiopia are mostly farmers and work very very very hard. The  sad thing is that the Ethiopians are not schooling there children . The saying goes that if all the children in Ethiopia will attend school, the country’s work force will come to a grinding halt. We arrived in Addis Ababa at Wim’s Holland House where it immediately was clear that we could not pitch our tent in the small overcrowded area being squashed in between Fanie’s Lodge and to our joy, our Austrian friends from JJ’s huge trucks.. The small area available were either under mud or dog pooh! We heard from Renate that there is one room next to the restaurant, so of we went in search of the room. We ended up renting the room for 200Birr per night (it has an ensuite bathroom but…..yes!), brought our bakkie to the restaurant area and had the nicest pizza since Mossel Bay with a bottle of not too expensive Gouder red wine, produced in Ethiopia.Open-mouthed smile We had a huge get together dinner with the Austrians, eating Wim’s delicious, not too expensive food, drinking Ethiopian red wine and telling and hearing travel stories!! It was a feast. We took our bed to our newly acquired room after I used our broom on the floor. Riaan, the guy who are circumnavigating Africa on his BMW bike, stayed in the room before us and it was not cleaned at all after he left. (Sadly we missed him by 1 day. He left for Marsabit the day we were on our way to Langano. We hoped to meet him on route because we were in contact since when he was still planning his trip and ours still very vaguely outlined. He is on his way home now via the eastern route after going north via the western route and  Europe. It started raining and raining and raining! We could only get the tent really dry (it was still wet after Lake Langano), after the 3rd day when the sun came out for about 1 hour before it started raining again. Wim’s Holland House is in the centre of the city, so it was very convenient to walk to find whatever we were looking for except a good supermarket. Wim had to go to the electricity department and because he cannot drive his vehicle because of bad eyesight, asked Arno to drive him there and then he will navigate us to a supermarket afterwards So off we went in Wim’s very old Nissan Patrol with him blindly navigating Arno where to drive, Arno driving with a left hand drive car in pouring rain on the right side of the road in chaotic traffic while Wim’s neighbour (never got his name)were countering Wim’s navigation and I sat with the GPS on my lap, quietly telling Arno from the backseat where and when to turn, how many metres before turning etc! It was all huge fun. Arno is a star for driving with so much self assurance under these very difficult circumstances. In the meantime our travel companion Fanie decided that because the constant rain is driving him crazy and making him depressed,  is moving on towards Lalibela while we still had to do our shopping. We hope he enjoys the rest of his lonely trip through Africa. We decided to rather move directly towards the Sudan border and do the rest of the historic route on route back. The next morning we left for Arba Minch. It was amazing to get our first glimpse of the Blue Nile (red) which is in flood. We stopped at the new bridge over the Nile to take photo’s happy to reach this goal! The road down the Nile valley, built by the Japanese, is unbelievably bad and dangerous. The Japanese did some research on what happened to the road and the outcome is that it is a water problem and not a seismic problem as initially though. It is really difficult to describe but I will try.  The road is sagging all over the place making huge bumps, little valleys, holes, corrugation and furrows. We were warned about this treacherous part of our route and are very thankful that we are not going back that way!!  We stayed at the Tilik Hotel (220Birr) in a wonderful modern room with a REAL ensuite bathroom, eating an Ethiopian dish called Injera  with Kai ( a sort of rubbery pancake with spicy meat stew) witch you eat with your hand. We were also invited by the Manager to join the traditional coffee ceremony. It was a huge experience and privilege to be so heartily made welcome and to be part of the ceremony. The coffee is absolutely divine. We also bought a bottle of Tej (Honey wine) witch is still in the fridge. It is not really wine but fermented honey and is a very popular beverage in Ethiopia. Again it rained, rained, rained.

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We had to step over these bunch to get out of our roomSmile

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Camping in a restaurant

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This man lives on the pavement in central Addis (under the blue plastic) We saw him everyday sleeping thereSurprised smile

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Is that a MIG?

We drove through the millions of Moses, Dawid, Aaron, Maria, Josef and all the other known Bible characters towards Bahir Dar and Lake Tana. Sadly because of the immensely heavy rains, the 30km normally very bad road to the Nile Falls were inaccessible so we decided that we will give that a skip.  The Monastery on the island on Lake Tana were also on our list but because of the flooding and lots of rain, we decided against that as well. We stayed at the Ethio Star Hotel 25USD with Wi-Fi included  that did not work and on top of that a fool for a manager that believed his idiot of an electrical maintenance man who told him that we are using up the Hotel’s electrical supply, calling at our door every now and then to talk about this overuse!! Arno patiently explained about the use of electricity and then finally flipped! Excuses came from the management but we still left the next morning for Gonder.

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The coffee ceremony

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All the rivers are in flood and running into the Blue Nile

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NOT good to be a donkey (or child) in Ethiopia

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Thousands of farmers busy working on their lands

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The drunken road into and out the Nile valley

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Bridge across the Nile

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This scary road sign before going into the Nile Valley and the drunken road.

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A tank out of World War II left where it stopped.

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Mat weavers next to the road

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We drove to Gonder where we stayed 1 night in a bug infested room because of the rain that follows us through Ethiopia. I never though that 1 person can have so many different type of bite marks on his or her body. Luckily it did not itch but I started coughing from time to time and took Celestemine because I know I am allergic to insect bites. We took a few photo’s of the old city wall and castle and headed towards Matema and the Sudan border knowing that when we come back to Ethiopia in a few weeks we will stay at a better place and explore the antique city.

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The afternoon before the bed bugs started biting!

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Huge landmark!

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Flooded

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Ethiopia’s Culture and environment

Ethiopia is totally different from any other of the counties we travelled through. It felt as if we’ve landed in the Bible anywhere in the Old Testament and we became part of it. The people, the way they dress, the loaded donkey carts, EVERYTHING is as one reads in the Bible. We travelled so far through the Rift lake area and were now travelling through the Ethiopian high lands. High it is for sure!!! Up and down. A very testing drive for the brave and his beauty although both comes out tops Laughing out loud The topography ranges from the vast central plateau (the highlands) with elevations between 1800m and 4543m, to one of the earth’s lowest points, the infamous Danakil Depression sinking 120m below sea level.  The highlands is where the Blue Nile has it’s origin. The highlands have been dominated by a distinctive form of Christianity since the 4th century. They are very devout and you can hear tales dating back to Aksum and the Ark of the Covenant. Ethiopia has long been a source of legend and mystery. The Danakil desert was said to have once been made of gold and not salt like today. Medieval Europe considered Ethiopia the home of Prester John, a legendary Christian King who livid in a palace of crystal and the Rastafarians of today believe that Haile Selassie was a living god. The one name that resonated through time and multiple cultures is of course the Queen of Sheba. She appears in the writings of all three monotheistic religions but it is in Ethiopia where she is known as Makeda, where the story of her life has become the cornerstone of culture, history and lifestyle. According to the Kebra Negast (Ethiopia’s national epic), the Queen of Sheba’s first public appearance was when she paid a visit to the court of King Solomon in Jerusalem in the 10th century BC. Solomon became enraptured with her beauty and devised a plan to have his wicked way with her. (As if he did not have enough wivesAngry smile) He agreed to let her stay in his palace on the condition that she touched nothing of his. shocked that he would consider her capable of such a thing, she agreed. The scheming Solomon laid on a feast of spicy and salty foods. After retiring to separate beds in his sleeping quarters, Sheba awoke thirsty form the food and reached across for a tumbler of water. The moment she put it to her lips Solomon awoke and triumphantly claimed that she had broken her vow.”But it is only water” poor Sheba cried, to which solomon replied, “And nothing on earth is more precious than water’”. Ethiopian tradition holds that the child resulted from the deceitful night of passion that followed was to become Menelik I from whom the entire royal line of Ethiopia claims direct descend (in truth the line if it ever existed, were broken a number of times)  The story goes further…..it is also the story of the arrival of the Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia.  It’s said the the centre piece of Solomon’s famous temple was the Ark of the Covenant and that as long as the Jews had the Ark, nothing bad could come of them. However, when Menelik came of age , he journeyed to Jerusalem to meet his farther. When he returned home his luggage was a little heavier than before – secreted away among his dirty laundry was the Ark of the Covenant. which the Ethiopians to this day believe is hidden inside a small chapel in Aksum. When coming back from Sudan, we are going to do that part of the historic route, visiting the Simien mountains, Aksum, the Rock-hewn churches of Tigray and Labilela. This is the some of the highlights of our Ethiopian trip that we are looking forward to.

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This little girl came running to us when we stopped to take a photo of Lake Tana, just standing there. I asked if I could take a photo of her and she agreed. We gave her a orange which se looked at, smelled and it seemed she was not sure that it is meant to keep. When we were back in the car she put her little hand with fingers spread out against the window in a gesture of goodbye. I did the same and we parted that way, me with a feeling of joy and sadness about the encounter.

Our first week in Ethiopia

We decided to have a short day not driving too far after our Turkana trip. We drove from Ormorate  to Turmi and camped at Mango Campsite. This was a real haven to recoup. We thoroughly enjoyed staying there. The weather was very nice, we braaied, baked and dried another batch of rusks, relaxed and enjoyed the environment. We stayed 2 nights and enjoyed the day off from driving.

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Our campsite cost were 100Birr p.p or R70 p.p. Cold water showers….usableConfused smile

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The way they get water out of the well!

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A typical Turkana woman.

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Asking money for every and anything……sad.

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They loved it to be photographedSmile

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and went for a bath in the riverbed after their photography session.

From Turmi, we drove to Arba Minch. The route took us trough the Omo Valley and after the rains the road was in a terrible state. It is rainy season in Ethiopia and we were surprised at how much rain we have to endure every day. We admit that it is a bit of a surprise and not really expected, making driving and camping extremely difficult.We also had our first experience with the children doing all sort of funny dancing moves to get money. They scream “Abba-Abba” so we asked them when we had to stop what it means and their answer were “give me”. From then on when they screamed Abba, we called back Abba which made them laugh.The traffic on the road were a real eye opener. Lots of people with their animals on the road making it really difficult to drive. We camped at Bekele Molo Campsite 100Birr p.p. or R110 per night. Shower not working, toilet fine. Only camped one night and had to pack away a very wet tent because of early morning rain. We could get Birr from the OTM at Daschen Bank and finally fill up with petrol witch  cost 19.45Birr per liter (R10.50), the cheapest yet. We enjoyed the great view over Lake Abaya, Lake Chamo and Nechisar National Park.

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Woman and children are carrying everything! The little girl is not older than 6 years.

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Using all available land to cultivate

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Lake Abaya

Our next camp were at Karkaro Beach Camp, Lake Langano. We were still driving through the Rift Valley seeing the lakes that are strung like beads on a string. Lake Langano is the only crocodile free lake and safe for swimming but because of the heavy rains and the cold no-one even thought about swimming! The campsite is very nice but without ablution facilities. The toilet are a day’s walk from the campsite. We paid 90Birr per person and stayed only one very very wet night!  It started raining during the night and just kept on pouring. Luckily the sun came out for a short while after sunset and our tent dried off a little bit but we still had to pack a lot of damp equipment back in our bakkie.

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The donkey is protesting!

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85 Million people in Ethiopia and it seems they are all on the road with their animals!!

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Lake Langano

Lake Turkana-day 6, Sibiloi National Park to Omorato

We had an early start because we were driving through the Park and we by now know that it will be a hard long (rather slow) drive because of the baaaaaaad roads. We stopped at the Petrified forest for a while.

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Also put in petrol from the yellow cans

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Turkana life style

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Kobus Wiese style trees

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Huge termite mounts

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The Turkana were mostly naked

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The police post where they checked our Passports and receipts when going out of the Park. When driving from north to south, it is possible to drive next to the park without paying the fee.

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Paparazi (Mamaratzi) photo’s of the Turkana people….they don’t like you to take photo’s

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On arriving at Omorate the Immigration officer were very friendly and helpful. When we stopped in front of the office, I suddenly had a huge sugar attack and while the men were getting our Passports stamped, I sat on the steps before the office sweating and trembling with a heart that raced ……not feeling good at all. The Customs guy already left for home so we had to go back the next morning for our Carnet’s to be stamped and signed. The friendly Immigration officer were very concerned if I had a good nights rest AND a good meal because he was very worried about me.

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We camped at Awassa’s brand new Lodge (not yet campsite) and paid 10USD per person. Cold showers in huge corrugated showers. We were too tired to cook…I made us a fruit salad, showered and fell dead in our tents! As previously said….Lake Turkana is not for the faint hearted!!

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Nice new rooms with en suite at 100USD per nightDisappointed smile 

 

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Barkley, Awassa’s nephew and manager of the lodge, is very proud about the TV’s in the rooms

Lake Turkana–day 5, Loyangalani to Sibiloi National Park

We drove through the desert towards Sibiloi National Park. We paid the exorbitant entry fee of 20USD p.p and 15USD p.p. for camping at the gate where the guard and his assistant took about 45 minutes to count the dollars and give us our permitsConfused smile. Chris and Julie camped at Crocodile corner so we headed towards it reading the directions. Well what can one say.  The corner was there, luckily without crocodiles (the guard said they come out at night but during our nightly excursions we never met or saw one) and sort of wild camped at Crocodile corner. It was an awesome experience!! Fanie came to our rescue and we showered next to his “lodge” in upper town.

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The boys had to secure the board because the one pole was brokenWinking smile

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Windmill in the lake

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Sun going down over Lake Turkana

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Sunset at Crocodile corner

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Lake Turkana–day 4, South Horr to Loyangalani

We drove from South Horr early not knowing how the road conditions for the day will be. Just outside Samburu camp 2 young boys tried to stop us and when we drove past they got so angry that they threw stones at us. Poor Fanie who was behind us had to duck and dive but luckily no stones hit anyone of us. Lucky for us that they were not “manne with gunne”! The scenery changed from bushveld to scrub desert to volcanic rock from Mt Kulal’s shattered lava fields. The northern part of Kenya, arid, sparsely populated and  seldom visited by outsiders, is an uncompromising and time-ravaged land whose expansive horizons and austere volcanic outcrops feel several worlds away from the bustling tourist circuit of the south. Lake Turkana runs through the Rift Valley floor south of the Ethiopian border for almost 300km to form the eleventh-largest lake in the world and the only one of comparable size enclosed by a desert. The people, the Gabbra, Turkana and Samburu are nomadic pastoralists who still adhere to a strictly traditional lifestyle and dress creating the impression of travelling not only through space but also time, to gain a brief glimpse of Africa as it might have been hundreds of years ago. Driving through the Chalbi desert to suddenly get a glimpse of the jade waters hemmed in by an apocalyptic moonscape of extinct volcanoes and naked lava flows, cannot be described in words! Turkana seems positively primordial and as one descends to the lakeshore, the stark vegetation defies believe. A hot fierce wind blows relentlessly from across the water This lake is also home to the world’s largest concentration of Nile crocodile, estimated 20 000 – 25 000. Loyangalani or Turkana City is the only substantial settlement on the eastern shore around a palm-fringed freshwater spring. The Turkana woman’s attire of beaten hides and beaded jewellery, henna-dyed Mohican dreadlocks and goatee-like lower lip plug, are particularly impressive. Reminds one of the Ovahimba woman of Kaokoland in Namibia. The El Molo who is officially the smallest tribe in the world –about 300, are staying on a small island near Loyangalani. We thought to stay 2 nights there but the wind were so bad that we had to pitch our canvas tent at 12 that night because of the possibility of the palm tree above our other tent, breaking and falling on top of usDisappointed smileSurprised smile The swarms of  flies were also incredibly irritating….so we stayed only 1 night.

 

 

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Maasai next to the road

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Turkana village

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Turkana house……

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Loyangalani

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We camped at Palm Shades and paid 500KS p.p or R120 per night

Lake Turkana–Day 3, Maralal to South Horr

Because of the rain we decided to sleep the last night at Maralal  (with our own bed, mattress and bed linen), in a banda, luckily for the same price as camping. It rained hard for the better part of the night, so we were glad for dry tents but were worried about the road conditions. We had reason to be worried.  It was a a difficult slippery drive through rocky areas that became small waterfalls, mud, etc. We drove through beautiful scenery, forests, Maasai land, small villages, dry riverbeds, goats and cattle. Later it became dryer and better for the vehicle, driver and navigator. The landscape were changing from lush forest to savannah. On route we drove through the town named Baragoi where we saw lots of Police with automatic rifles everywhere. We then remember that in February this year the Turkana and the Samburu had a little war over livestock. The Turkana stole the Samburu’s cattle so the Samburu with about 50 policemen went to fetch it back. The Turkana led them into an ambush and killed all the policemen and a lot of Samburu. It was not a friendly environment. Since leaving Nanyuki we saw that the herders were carrying all types of guns. We call them the “manne with the gunne” and try to smile VERY friendly at them when passing.

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Our Banda

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Maasai territory

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and smiling camelsLaughing out loud

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A rock house and the typical Turkana house (round hut)

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We camped at Samburu Lodge and Campsite at 700KS or R65. Really very nice campsite!

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We bought a paw-paw from this beautiful Maasai girl

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We had to dry most of our equipment that was still a bit damp after Maralal

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The beautiful mountain top from our campsite

Lake Turkana, Day 2–Nanyuki to Maralal

We had a nice early start. Our first stop was at the Equator. There are Maasai shops with Maasai material on show next to the road. They stormed us with directions to their shops. It was very irritating and we had to tell them to give us time to do our photos first. I would love to look at the cloth but they were so demanding that we left as quickly as possible after taking the pics! IMG_7957

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The Lake Turkana route is not for the faint hearted and is the ultimate Kenyan adventure. It is not easy! The road conditions are bad, very bad or how the hell did the bakkie survive!! . We were rewarded though by driving through beautiful scenery and lots of wildlife. We saw elephant, giraffes with short legs and long necks, 3 different species of Zebra, Topi, and lots of Dik-Dik, Eland, Thomson’s gazelle and our first Camels!

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After this little Eden, the fun of driving and surviving really started! We were warned via an email from our Austrian friends with the big truck, that they had rain on this part of the road and that there is a huge mud hole. So it was not a big surprise when we saw it.

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We came through fine but then it was Fanie’s turn

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and then it started raining…………

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making driving a real challenge!

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with this result!!

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The bakkies got a little bit of clean up before we could pitch our tent.

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Our camp at the Yare Camel Club, Maralal. We camped fee was R135 per night

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The shower…..with hot water and yes our children……we actually used it! Although we assisted each other and I could not close the door. To be enclosed in that was too much to handleConfused smile

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But then you make your kitchen beautiful and everything is fine

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It was cold and wet at Maralal. We call our outfit “downtown” and Fanie’s “upper town”Winking smileWe blend in perfectly with the locals since the plastic drums with the extra petrol were put on top. We filled up with petrol where the cost for petrol was 133KS at exhange rate R1 to 8.5KS

The local Maasai blacksmith that still makes his weapons in the traditional way

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See the ancient bellows (blaasbalk) he is pumping to make heat

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His house and working place

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Masai Mara Photies

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Huge crocs and the maddening crowd!

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Bridge across the Mara river

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Disappointed smile

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New born Topi calf

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Driving east, west, north and southI don't know smile

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Our Mara children, Chris & Julie

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Our campsite at Aruba Mara Lodge & campsite cost us R135 per night

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Chris busy making magic (fire) with his fire thing-a-ma-jing.

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Hilux water crossing

The Jade sea – Lake Turkana

Day 1 – Saterday 3 August – Nairobi to Nanyuki

We drove to a a shop about 10km away from our route to buy square plastic cans for the extra petrol that we need to drive from Maralal to Konso, about 1000km. We needed to carry  an extra 60L for the trip. It was huge fun for Arno and the sellers negotiating in the rain and the washing of the cans with soap water (Arno had to do that afterwards again), but he was happy about his purchase. Fanie in the meantime were already on his way. Our meeting point were Mountain Rock Lodge/Campsite, Naro Moru at the foot of Mt Kenya. We had the “fantastic” opportunity to drive through the chaotic madness of the centre of town before getting on the Great North highway. The traffic is something to experience and one even see men walking with their wares pushing a cart while the cars give them a chance to get into or out of the road. There are no traffic rules. Everyone gives another a chance of getting in or across a road by flicking their lights. no road rage, no hooting……South Africans can look an learn!  We had long conversations though about the frequent senseless bumps on the highwayI don't know smile. On arriving at our campsite Fanie was already there. Arno and Fanie had a fun hike down to the river to recover  Fanie’s six-pack beer that a huge baboon grabbed. We couldn’t see the mountain because of the cloudy weather. It was very cold with an icy wind blowing. It seems the nearer we come to the Equator, the colder it becomes!

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The beer hunters

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Obviously the baboon did not like the beer

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Working out routes

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Cooking in freezing cold! A group Dutch families camping behind us.

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Camping cost R135 for the night

We stopped for a photo of the old Italian war dam that was build by Italian prisoners in the second World War. The interesting story about the Italian War prisoners that were kept here is that 3 of the Italians decided to climb Mt Kenya. They escaped out of their camp, climbed the mountain and came back to their prison camp. The one soldier actually wrote a book after the war ended about their escape and climb. There was also a movie made about the climb.

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