Friday 15th - Today we were at the Sudan Embassy at 10 am. Having been told by happy Mona yesterday that the visas would only be ready at 3pm, we figured that with a little charm we could hopefully convince her that we needed to get out of Nairobi and off to Isiola as soon as possible. Well the charm worked, this was in the form of a 500 Shilling note. The documents suddenly appeared from the bottom of the pile to the top and with in 15 minutes we were out of the Embassy and on the road. Negotiating Nairobi traffic is a nightmare, our South African taxis would be intimidated with this lot. Trucks, Busses and cars traveling at breakneck speed all over the road, and bumper to bumper. At times we were riding on the pavement, or what they call a pavement. At home I would ride my Enduro bike on a track that is the same as their pavements.
Anyway after about an hour of this madness we were out and on the “open” road heading for our overnight stop at Isiola. Arriving in Isiola at 17h00 in the afternoon and being fairly tired we headed for the first hotel we could find that looked decent. We booked into the Bomen Lodge. This turned out to be a good choice as the rooms were clean and comfortable, downstairs in the parking lot we met up with a Mr Gringo, the local “smous”. He had bracelets and handmade knifes for sale and could arrange anything that you could ask for, we opted to stick with buying a few bracelets and Howard and I each bought a hand made ornamental knife.
Supper menu consisted of a choice of camel meat or goat. Goat it was for us. We had seen some camels along the road just out of town and couldn’t bring ourselves to eat something that has such beautiful wide eyes.
Saturday 16th - We met downstairs for an early breakfast and had good intentions of trying to push through to Mayole (500 km’s) away in one day. Well that idea was scrapped when we chatted to a local guy in the dining room. He asked where we were headed, and on telling him he raised his eye’s to the heavens and told us that even doing that road in two days and getting through, we will be men just to have survived the trip.
Something else that alarmed us was the local UN representative that was staying over at the hotel. He was amazed that we were not going to join the military convoy that was escorting vehicles through. More about the route just now , I just want to say right here and now, having done the trip from Isiola to Mayole, and survived we are now definitely men among men. To those who have been before us, we salute every single one of you. To those that are planning to do this route, all I say is be Mentally, Physically and Mechanically prepared for probably one of the worst desolate roads that you could ride on in Africa.
Back to the days ride, we left Isiola just after breakfast having decided to break the trip in two and head for Marsabit a mere 250 Km’s away. The first 20 km’s was a breeze, The Chinese are tarring the road and it is a beautiful highway. We were looking at each other thinking that this is not a bad way to travel and what was all the fuss about. Although there was a lot of military activity with truck loads of troops and land rovers filled with armed officers moving about, we wondered about the decision of not joining the convoy. But what the heck we are after all South Africans and there is not much that we haven’t already survived.
At the end of the 20km tar section we got onto the gravel. This road now started to deteriate rapidly, changing from gravel and sand to corrugated ruts. These corrugations were so bad that the rear shock was in a constant state of movement. This combined with the heat of the day eventually got the better of the shocks; I was about 4 km’s ahead of Howard and Jaco when I suddenly felt my bike hopping about like an uncontrolled horse. Stopping I climbed off the bike and looked with a sinking heart at my rear shock which was now completely blown and all the oil had leaked past the seal which had melted. Knowing Howard was coming up behind me with the spare shock I sat under a tree to wait for them to catch up. After about half an hour of waiting in the blazing sun and with Howard and Jaco still not catching up, and with the thoughts of the bandit activity in the area I decided to press on slowly broken shock and all to try and reach the Catholic mission station ( at Laisamius ) and wait there in safety for the other two .
On route to the mission I could not travel faster than 15 km’s per hour, if I tried to go any faster the bike would buck and jump around the road uncontrollably. A little bit down the road I saw a camel train of about 100 camels being driven along by some local boys and ladies all dressed in their beautiful traditional clothing. I stopped to take a picture of them… then all HELL broke lose. The women came running screaming at me with this wild look in their eyes, and out of the bush these kids also came running at me! They were carrying sticks and stones and looked all intent on using me as a target. I decided that I was not going to stick around to talk my way out of this, so rode off as fast as my poor broken bike would allow. I managed to get away safely but not before collecting a rock on the helmet and a few whacks across my back from the kids.
While all this was going on, Unbeknown to me Howard and Jaco were having drama of there own. Jaco’s shock had also blown and he was now also crawling along at a snails pace heading for Laisamus. Our safe emergency RV point. I must add here that both Jaco and I had BMW stock shocks on our bikes and Howard has Ohlins shocks, ( Food for thought for the BMW Tech people ) When I reached Laisamus I met Father Edward and asked if he minded if I sat there to wait for the other guys, he of course agreed. When Howard and Jaco arrived they had also had a run in with a local lady. But this time she was armed with an AK 47 Assault rifle and looked as though she knew how to use it! Jaco looked at her and immediately she brought the weapon up to her shoulder and took aim at him, well needless to say they both got away from there as quickly as possible.
We now sat with the problem of two broken shocks and one spare, Jaco being Jaco said that as I was the eldest I should fit the shock to my bike and we will then order a new one to be sent up from SA for collection in Khartoum, still 5 days ride away.
While Howard and I got busy fitting the shock Jaco went on ahead slowly heading for Marsabit, our over night stop. Once we had finished the fitting we said our good byes to Father Edward and headed off after Jaco. We now decided to ride for twenty km then stop for half an hour rest in an effort to save the wear on the shocks, A very long four hours later we finally arrived at Marsabit to meet up with Jaco who had got there without further incident and had spent the time looking for an over night sleeping place, which he had found. This was a local fellow who had a very comfortable hut where we could sleep for the night.
On route to Marsabit Howard and I met a Spanish couple, Aitor and Laura that were riding bicycles around the world, amazing people. They had come down through Africa from Spain via India and were now traveling down to SA and will then head home up the West Coast, They had already been on the road one and a half years and only expect to reach home in two years time. We chatted to them about the road conditions, and when they replied that what we had just come through was nothing compared to the next days section from Marsabit to Mayole. Our hearts sank.
In Marsabit we were taken by a local “guide” type fellow to get something to eat in town. The first place he took us to was dodgy to say the least. I think even the most hardy cockroaches in SA would be scared of going in there. As politely as we possibly could tell him in our tired exhausted state we declined to go in there. Instead we rode around town until we found something reasonably clean looking. We ordered a plate of goat meat with bread and cokes to wash it all down, and then headed back to our hut for bed and sleep.
Sunday 17th - We were up early and ready to ride and tackle the next leg of the journey through to Mayole, a mere 200 km’s away. As we rode out of town past an old volcanic crater and looked down the mountain towards the Kaisut Desert that we had to cross over, we knew then that we were in for another long day in the saddle. The “road” was made up of volcanic rock and stone with these terrible corrugations the whole way, with a maximum speed of 20km’s per hour and once again stopping every 20km’s for half an hour cool down rest the day was very LOOOONG. At one stage we were taking water in our mouths and squirting this onto our shocks to cool them down. They were getting so hot the water would turn to steam. Poor Jaco in the mean time was bouncing through all this on his pogo stick bike.
At mid day we came to a small settlement in the middle of the desert called Torbi and decided to take a short break. We found a “tavern “and ordered coke each and a Chiapta bread each. This is a flat pancake type bread eaten normally with their goat stew. We opted for the bread on its own, getting a bit sick of goat now. There was a guy in the village that could speak a bit of English and on enquiring if our bikes would be safe parked outside the tavern he says of course. Apparently there is no crime in this village. Looking at the sword strapped to his belt and the glint in his eye I had no doubt why, plus the fact that for miles around there is nothing but a rocky desert.
After eating we said our goodbyes to the law enforcer and started our last section of the days travel. With in 15 km’s we crossed over a mountain range and left the desert behind us. The road we were now on was gravel and clay, and looking at it we all said a silent prayer of thanks that it was not raining. It had rained here about two days before and the tracks left by the trucks that had got stuck here were deeper than our bikes. The last thing we needed now after crossing the desert would have been to get through a muddy mess.
Arriving at Mayole at 18h00 (Having left Marsabit at 07h00 ) the Kenyan border official told us the border was closed. We pleaded with him to stamp us through, he thankfully did and he then made a phone call to the customs guy to come down and stamp our Carnets.
Leaving Kenya we entered Ethiopia and arrived at the Border control office to be told that they were closed and only open tomorrow at 2 PM. We looked at the guy in disbelief until he explained that Ethiopia time is deferent to our time. 2 pm to them is 8 am to us and they are still in the year 2001.
We were now informed that as we had already checked out of Kenya and now non returnable we could stay at the hotel right next to the border office. As we had no choice we moved in, I have seen compounds on farms in SA that are cleaner than this. Closing our minds as to what might be lurking in the rooms and beds we settled down for the night.
Monday 18th - At about 4 in the morning the local Mullah decided to wake us and the whole community up with his calling to the Mosque.
We were back at the border control office at exactly 8am and very quickly cleared through customs and on our way.
We headed for the town of Dilla, half way to Addis Abba . For the last 100 km’s to Dilla we traveled through village after village, the road was lined with a constant stream of people, all either waving to us, shouting at us and the occasional stone being thrown at us. We started off waving in return but after the third stone being thrown we gave up waving.
Arriving in Dilla we asked a local guy to show us to a place stay for the night, He took us to a local hotel where we booked in for the night, when we wanted take a shower on opening the tap there was no water. I don’t think this place has had any water in years. The manager brought us a bucket of cold water each to wash out of and that was our bath for the evening. When we went to sit on the veranda we then found out that we had been booked into the local brothel! We ate our dinner while watching the antics of the lady’s of the night going about what they do best. As soon as we had eaten we went off to our rooms and insuring that the doors were securely locked we had a good nights sleep.
Tuesday 19th - After getting a breakfast of bread and coke at a local tavern in the town of Dilla we headed on our way to Addis Abba. Today was uneventful and we arrived in Addis at about 15h00. Addis is the Capital of Ethiopia; don’t let this fool you into thinking that it is a fantastic city. The roads are more like broken tracks with potholes everywhere filled with water so deep that when you ride through them the water comes up to the foot pegs . We were amazed to ride over a very fancy interchange in the centre of town and thought, wow the roads are not so bad after all. This inter change was about 500 meters long. Coming off the inter change we were back onto the potholes. We wondered where the rest of the money went that was earmarked to complete the road?
I need to add here that on entering Ethiopia we now have to ride on the right side of the road, gets rather scary when traveling around a corner and find a bus coming at you, you have to think very quickly as to who has the right of way .
This evening I got a very bad case of upset stomach, I think the goat meat has finally got to me. I went off to bed at 18H00 with a high fever and stomach cramps, I took some tablets from the medical bag swallowed them and climbed into bed to sweat the fever out.
Wednesday 20th - Woke this morning feeling much better, and today being a rest day we are spending the day servicing bikes and trying to sort out Jaco’s shock, we are planning to leave here in the morning and head up to Khartoum, Three days ride away…