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Kenya 2

Travel Journal

02.11.2006, Arusha, Tanzania – Nairobi, Kenya, 285 km

After having made the decision to drive back to Nairobi, we were happy to leave expensive Tanzania and turn North again towards Nairobi … our 2nd home so to speak. We were looking forward to seeing Pippa and Bumba again and to having a big breakfast at Java Coffee House.
During the drive the weather cleared up and we re-entered Kenya in blazing sunshine. On the border in Namanga we already knew where to go and so could escape the hustlers and money changers. Unfortunately we shared the border with about 50 white safari vans packed to the rim with retired Americans on their way from Kenya to Tanzania (the main TZ attractions like Mt. Kilimanjaro, Ngorogoro Crater and Serengeti National Park are all close to the border and easy to reach). However most of the tourists didn’t really seem to know 1st where they were and 2nd where they were going:

Customs Officer Tanzania to tourist applying for country entry: „Where will you be staying?“
American Tourist: „Uh, … Leopard Tours?“
Customs Officer Tanzania: „No, where are you staying? Which place?”
American Tourist (doubtful): “Hm, the Ngogo?”
Raised eyebrows from Customs Officer
American lady from the back: “Ngorogoro!”
American Tourist (happy): “Right, the Crater …”

When entering Kenya we were positively surprised that we didn’t need a new visa. Our passport got stamped and we were back on the road within minutes – ok, we had to queue again with approx. 200 tourists that were leaving Kenya, but that was more entertaining than time consuming :-)
When we reached the outskirts of Nairobi and the road got bad and congested we felt like coming home. We drove directly to the Nakumatt Junction to stock up our food supplies (Kenya is so much cheaper than Tanzania) and to have some food and free W-Lan at the Java Coffee House. At Jungle Junction we were greeted like old friends. The dogs were very happy that Jens was back. The French couple with their daughter were also there (we first saw them in Arusha), so were 3 Austrians (Daniel, Fanni and Michi) with their 30 year old MAN truck, called Emma and a Swiss-German couple (Sylvia & Charly) with their LandCruiser.
We got invited for dinner (Knödel and Gulasch) by the Austrian team from Graz. They are also musicians and carry an entire music studio with them – including 1 drum set. They left Europe one month after us and drove almost exactly the same route, so we had a great time exchanging stories.

03.11.-10.11.2006, Nairobi, Kenya, 110 km

We came to Nairobi for 3 main errands: 1st 15.000km check-up for Tembo, 2nd update the webpage, 3rd Mozambique visa. So we spent the following days doing just that.

#1 Tembo check-up:
we took Tembo to Paul at LandMarque so they could check the steering again and to see what they could do about the oil leakage. They kept him for a day and also checked our brakes – luckily they are still in mint condition. However after Tembo was still shaking (the steering) on very rough roads, we took him to get the wheels newly balanced.
We also drove by F.I.T.S. (the place where we had Tembo the first time we were in Nairobi) twice because the injection pump was still wet. They changed some washers (free of charge) and Tembo was doing perfect again.
Daniel also left Emma for a check-up at F.I.T.S. (unfortunately not very successfully) and so we drove around with 3 Austrians in the back of Tembo for a day.

#2 Update Webpage:
At Java Coffee House (located at Nakumatt Junction) there is free wireless lan access and so we spent many hours there updating the webpage. For some reason the picture upload took for ever and repeated attempts needed to be launched. Well, let’s say we had many coffees and many – luckily very yummo- lunches and dinners at Java Coffee House. Online in Africa is still a challenge not to be under estimated.

#3 Mozambique Visa
Mozambique is the last country on our itinerary that does not issue a visa at the border. From reports from other overlanders we gathered that it takes up to 5 days to get a Mozambique visa in Malawi. In Nairobi it was supposed to take only 2 days.
The Mozambique High Commission is in downtown Nairobi – only a 15 minute bus ride with the “Citi Hoppa” bus from Jungle Junction. At the embassy we filled out the application form and each wrote a “letter of application”, saying “herewith I apply for a 1 month tourist visa …”. The next day we could already come to pick it up. It cost 30 USD per person. The process is really simple and I can highly recommend applying for your visa in Nairobi.

That done we were ready to hit the road for Mombassa and some relaxing beach life. The Austrians had left Nairobi 3 days ahead of us and we were planning to meet them in Tiwi Beach.

In between taking care of tasks #1-3 we had some time to study the African work approach, impersonated by Edward, the gardener at Jungle Junction. Edward looks a bit like the soccer player Ze Roberto but definitely lacks his ambition. His tasks are to keep the lawn clean from Jacaranda Tree flowers, mow the lawn, open & close the gate and cut the hedges. If you look at him working you feel like you are watching a movie in slow motion – just much, much slower. This is how he “tackles” the Jacaranda flowers:

#1 get a rake and estimate the work ahead while leaning on the rake handle (no need to use your strength and stand up by yourself)
#2 send a text message on the mobile
#3 get distracted by having to open the gate and than start doing something different
#4 stop for lunch
#5 search for the rake that got misplaced while opening the gate
#6 start raking 1m² of flowers
#7 stop to lean on rake while observing guests arriving and setting up their tents
#8 rake some more 2m² of flowers
#9 make a phone call
#10 stop to lean on rake some more while observing guests arriving and setting up their tents
#11 get changed for the evening
#12 go home
#13 more flowers drop from the tree

Quite frankly, Edward might be a bit of an extreme, but we have met many, many Edwards on our trip and that just explains a bit why Africa is the way Africa is :-)

Before leaving Nairobi a second time a few words to Nairobi and our “home” Jungle Junction:

Nairobi is also teasingly called “Nairobbery” and it certainly is one of the African cities with a very high crime rate. One could read about shoot outs, Matatu (mini van taxis) car-jackings and murders in the news papers every day. However all the time we spent in Nairobi we did not feel unsafe once. Of course one does not necessarily drive at night, but the shops are open late (after dark) and we went out to have dinner a couple of times. You just have to watch out and be sensible about your surroundings. Just like anywhere in the world where the gap between rich and poor is that big. We loved Nairobi for its coffee shops and large super markets, for its supply of good Land Rover garages and its good restaurants and for Jungle Junction.

The Jungle Junction is perfect place to stay in Nairobi. It is not mentioned in any guide books and no large overland trucks are welcomed. The owner is Chris, a German who spent many years travelling through Africa and now welcomes fellow travellers at his home together with Diana and their daughter Talia. Chris and Diana a very helpful and know everything about Nairobi, Kenya and beyond. Camping is in the garden under Jacaranda trees and one can use the kitchen, the fridge and the living room. There is a fridge stocked with sodas and cold beer and on Saturdays there is an occasional barbeque. The travellers that stop over at Jungle Junction usually stay longer than planned and are a very pleasant crowd – so all in all: highly recommended. Contact: Chris Handschuh, +254.722.752865, c_handschuh_68@yahoo.com.

11.11.2006, Nairobi, Kenya – Makindu, Kenya, 178 km

However pleasant and almost European it is to stay in Nairobi, we were happy to start for new adventures. The last night in Nairobi was seeing us off with heavy rains (and a frog in Jens’s shoe that did not have the chance to see the end of that day ….) and we were hoping to leave Nairobi and the rain behind us when heading the 600km to the coast of southern Kenya. And sure enough just outside Nairobi the rain stopped, the road got worse and than MUCH better (thanks to the good old EU) and we enjoyed the view onto the Athi Plains. We reached our goal for today – the Hunter’s Lodge close to Makindu – around noon. The lodge had most definitely seen better days, but it is situated right on the small river “Kiboko” (hippo in Swahili - “This is the Kiboko, but without Kiboko!”) and hence the setting is very peaceful – although hundreds of birds were actually making quite a racket. We were the only guests and so enjoyed the empty place and again were fascinated by how African run lodges almost always manage to miss the point in any category (rooms, food, service). It is hard to explain, one has to experience it oneself. It is usually very charming and different though. The toasted sandwich and fries directly on the river on wooden(!) chairs (and not white plastic) were excellent! We managed to dry our tent from the Nairobi rain and spent the afternoon reading and lazing.
At night an army of strange jumping beetles that played “dead” as soon as one approached them, surrounded our small room and we could hear the popping noises of them jumping around the entire night.

12.11.2006, Makindu, Kenya – Voi, Kenya, 174 km

After a surprisingly good breakfast …

Waitress: “Breakfast is not included for camping.”
Sandy: “Yes we know, but we had a room.”
Waitress: “Let me confirm this with reception.” (after 15 minutes) “We are sorry, but breakfast is not included for camping.”
Sandy: “Yes we know, but we DID sleep in a room!!”
Waitress: “Oh, let me check that.” (after 10 minutes more) “Yes, we are sorry. You will get your breakfast right away.”

… we were back on the road, heading towards the city of Voi right on the border of the Tsavo East National Park. In Voi Dennis Finch Hatton, Karen Blixen’s lover played by Robert Redford in the movie “Out of Africa”, had crashed with his small airplane and died – all very tragic.
The drive was quite uneventful though. Apart from a bee that, for whatever reason, had ended up in my pants: “something is biting me!” I had never gotten out of a pair of pants in a car faster than at that moment, let me assure you ...and we reached Voi in the afternoon. We stayed in the “Red Elephant Safari Lodge” (www.felix-safaris.de), a simple lodge just outside Tsavo East (at the Voi Gate). It offers camping (with keys to room for shower and toilet) and even sports a tiny pool and a nice outdoor shower. The lodge is right on the fence to the park and might offer a glimpse of some wildlife. However due to the heavy rains everything was green and the animals could easily hide.
We enjoyed the empty pool and had a sunset Gin & Tonic on the roof rack. For our after-dinner-beer we went to the bar to listen to a local band playing some more or less African songs for 6 guests having dinner – we were sooo glad, we were not on a 2-week-beach-vacation-with-a-3-day-safari-with-local-entertainment!

13.11.2006, Voi, Kenya, 0 km

We decided to stay one extra day at the lodge and relax. We had company from a small cat that loved to sleep on Tembo’s roof rack. Other than that nothing happened. That night’s guests were mostly male & white, all accompanied by surprisingly young and pretty African ladies … we decided to skip the beer at the bar that night!

14.11.2006, Voi, Kenya – Tiwi Beach, Kenya, 187 km

We were ready for a Robinson Crusoe life on the beach!! The Austrians had already sent us a message promising a perfect spot on the beach. Goody!
However the last 30km before Mombassa turned out to be a nightmare. A maze of road works, broken tarmac, dusty detours and huge trucks.

Just to give you an idea how Kenya works:
The Nairobi-Mombassa road is the most important road in Kenya linking Kenya’s biggest and only harbour with the hinterland of Kenya and the landlocked countries Uganda and Rwanda. The road used to be a 600km nightmare of potholes and washed away tarmac, killing trucks and people. Than, after the El Nino flooding, the road had to be almost entirely rebuild. The EU financed and rebuilt the longest stretch of road and that road is done and perfect (now the “Strabag Hotels” and “Strabag Shops” along the road tell the story). The Chinese repaired another stretch and that one is also fine. Kenya was left with the 30km outside Nairobi and Mombassa … the part outside Nairobi is potholed and bad, but at least one can drive there. The stretch outside Mombassa is still not done although they have been working on it for the past 5 years (30km!). Well, where did the aid money for that road go??? During the heavy rains this November that part was completely closed down and tons of tea could not be taken to the port for export …

Finally we could glimpse the lagoon where Mombasa is located. As the road got better Jens decided to stop at a shop to get Tembo’s wheels aligned after the bad road (he had the feeling that the steering was still not 100% perfect). The shop was great (“Pirelli Trucks” on Nairobi-Mombasa Highway) and now Tembo is fine again. We drove through Mombasa which is a lively and hustling city and a melting pot of African and Arab cultures. We stocked up on food at the Likoni Nakumatt and then took the Likoni Ferry southward towards the southern beaches. 20km later we turned left off the road and drove through coconut palms towards the beach. Parts of the road were still flooded (a reminder of the heavy rains) and at one point we waited for an old man to push his bicycle though the water to see whether we could cross – the man made it through bicycle and all and so we crossed without problems :-)
On the Twiga Lodge Campsite we were greeted by Daniel, Michi and Fanni and positioned ourselves next to Emma on the snow white beach underneath palm trees. Perfect. We won’t be moving from here for a while …

15.11.-28.11.2006, Tiwi Beach, Kenya, 0km

Well, what can I say. We truly didn’t move for quite a while (we couldn’t really have moved since the road to Tanzania was blocked due to two bridges being washed away by the rain). We enjoyed the sunrise every morning from our bed in the roof tent. Fishermen delivered fresh fish which we cooked over the fire at night (Michi is a trained cook and so we were spoiled … thank you!) and “Mango Man” supplied us with fresh fruit every day. We have never eaten more fruit (mango, pineapple, paw-paw and Mombasa passion fruit) and fish before in our life. During low tide the beach is perfect for a stroll and during high tide the Indian Ocean is perfect for swimming.
Tiwi Beach is still not yet affected by the mass tourism as is Diani Beach, just 6 km south of Tiwi. The beach is mainly framed by private houses and the occasional small pension. Hence, there are almost no tourists and therefore almost no “Beach Boys” trying to sell you something. The ones that do walk along the beach knew us in the end and didn’t bother us anymore – apart from the obligatory “Jaaaamboooo, how are you today? Lookie, lookie?”. Daniel’s replay to that was always: “Jambo, see you again tomorrow!
The days always began with Jens, Michi and Daniel shooing the beach gang of vervet monkeys away from the cars, followed by coffee and breakfast. The same was repeated in the afternoon when the monkeys returned. The rest of the day was just L A Z Y. In the evenings we sat around the fire with Daniel playing the guitar. What a perfect lazy life! We just loved it.
One evening the Austrians set up the drum set and Jens, Michi and Daniel jammed on the beach.
Another day the boys decided to catch a monkey – that happens when you haven’t got enough to do during the day. They actually managed to catch a monkey 3 times but luckily the monkeys had good teeth to bite through the string. That was quite fortunate for there was no follow up plan on what to do with a captured monkey :-)
One day a young woman appeared on the beach selling us her freshly made Mandazis (fat cakes or deep-fried dough) in the morning. They were really nice and a good change from bread. That mama was a very pleasant, very clever woman and one of the few who did not ask for money in the end – she just asked to be remembered and herewith she is.
We did the occasional excursions to Diani Beach and Mombassa, but mostly we just stayed on the beach watching fellow travellers come and go. On one of our return trips from Mombasa, just as we entered the infamous gangster zone between the main road and the beach, Tembo started making strange rattling noises and refused to move onwards. Shit. Not a very good area to have a break down. Jens engaged the 4WD and with that we managed very slowly to reach Tiwi Beach. After a short inspection it turned out that of the screws connecting the propeller shaft with the rear differential 3 of 4 were missing. Luckily Daniel had some fitting screws – however not the original Land Rover ones.
An institution on the campsite is a Swiss couple (Marco & Antonietta) from Lugano, who have been travelling the world in their old VW bus since 1984! They are the loveliest people and Marco always has a good story to tell – it is their 7th time in Tiwi Beach. One of my favourite stories is about a message in a bottle they found on the beach (please read this with an Italian accent):
Marco: “We walk down the beach and we find this bottle with a message in. We open the bottle and the message says that the finder should send some money to some charity organization. How unfortunate! Normally people find money, we just find messages to send money … that is bad luck, very bad luck!”

But at one point it was also for us time to leave. If we would have stayed longer, we would have never made it down to Capetown. The idea of driving another 10.000km did not sound very appealing. But yet, it has to be done :-)

29.11.2006, Tiwi Beach, Kenya – Shimoni (Mwazaro Beach Mangrove Lodge), 59km

We decided to take it easy on the first day back on the road. Gradually moving closer to the Tanzanian border we wanted to have a look at a lodge run by the German Hans von Loesch situated on the Shimoni peninsula.
It was sad to say good-bye to our Austrian friends. We had spent such a great time together that it was strange to think about travelling without them and Emma. We will miss meeting Michi in the morning throwing stones at monkeys and miss Daniel’s tales of last night’s rat hunting in Emma. If you want to follow their trip back home in January you can check out their website under www.ruckenwind.at (in German). With Marco and Antonietta we agreed to meet in Lugano in the summer, when they are back home.
Daniel, Michi und Fanni: tausend Dank für die nette Zeit mit Euch, wir kommen Euch ganz sicher in Graz besuchen!
The drive to the Mwazaro Beach Lodge was quick interrupted only by one police checkpoint and a short shopping stop in Ukunda. The road is flanked by coconut palm trees and small villages. Everywhere along the road were road works in progress, repairing the damage caused by the heavy rains two weeks ago. But apparently the road was open again all the way to Tanga (Tanzania).
We arrived at Mwazaro Beach (www.keniabeach.com) in the afternoon. It is truly a lovely place – though very different to Tiwi Beach – set on a fossil coral reef above a sandy beach and framed by mangroves. Everything in the lodge is built from natural materials and power is won through wind and solar energy. After the robinsonesque lifestyle at Tiwi Beach, we enjoyed a cold beer in the open restaurant/bar overlooking the sea having a chat with the owner Hans von Loesch. At night we had an excellent fish curry for dinner and retreated to our small African banda. We had decided against camping, because there was a high chance of thunderstorms at night. And sure enough there was a heavy thunderstorm that night. We were glad that we were not in our roof tent. The simple banda was not 100% waterproof either, but we did not care and slept perfectly under the mosquito nets.

30.11.2006, Shimoni (Mwazaro Beach Mangrove Lodge), 0km

After the thunderstorm the sky was still cloudy in the morning, but the humidity brought back the tropical heat. We had breakfast on our little terrace, overlooking the lagoon. We even had our personal guard dog (Coconut) sleeping in front of our banda. Hans had explained to us that the lead dog of his 9-head-pack always assigned one dog to each guest. And so Coconut was assigned to us.
The day was spent sleeping and writing for the webpage. The heavy clouds kept the atmosphere sinister and bleak and Jens and I both felt tired from and of travelling and Jens started talking about work! He wouldn’t mind returning home a bit earlier so he could start working again … oh well. I am not at that point yet, but I also felt that I still had to shake off the laziness from Tiwi Beach and get motivated again. More African roads, more sightseeing and more unknown events …
Tomorrow we will seriously start heading down to Tanzania and commence our trip down south!
But before that we had another excellent dinner with Hans. He started telling us stories about his life as Medical Officer of this area (he studied medicine, but he is not a doctor), about treatment of burns and an appendix operation on the beach. Hans also told us about the traditional healers and their plants and remedies.
We had just left the table to retreat to our banda, when Jens suddenly sat back down and complained about dizziness. He rushed outside, mumbled something about getting sick and suddenly collapsed unconscious on the floor. He regained consciousness quickly and I rushed to find Hans – thank God he was a Medical Officer! Hans asked Jens to lie down on one of the bar’s sofas and checked his pulse and blood pressure. It turned out that Jens had extremely low blood pressure – almost non-existent. Hans ordered coffee for Jens and whisky for all of us. And while Jens recovered Hans assumed that the low blood pressure was connected to the low pressure weather system and the fact that we did not have enough stress :-) well after Tiwi Beach, that was more than true … Coconut – our assigned guard dog – did not move from Jens’s side and kept licking Jens hand and his balls (the dog’s balls that is) in turn.
Hans recipe for Jens was of the sort that one would love to hear more often from a doctor: whisky, coffee and sex. We followed the doctor’s orders exactly :-)

01.12.2006, Shimoni (Mwazaro Beach Mangrove Lodge) – Tanga, 120 km (part 1)

Jens was back to normal the next morning and after a hearty breakfast we said our good-byes to Hans, hopped in Tembo and turned his nose southward. We saw the destroyed bridge that had lead to the closed road for 10 days, but we could pass without any problems. After one more detour we reached the Kenyan border post of Lunga Lunga. We filled up our tanks with Kenyan diesel for the last time and then crossed the border with the usual ritual: #1 customs (get Carnet de Passage stamped), #2 passport control (get exit stamp), #3 police (enter car and carnet number in “log book”). The Tanzanian border was to be reached 3 km later at the Horohoro border post.

Kwaheri Kenya. We had a great time!

Summary Kenya #2:

Country:
there is not much to add to our country summary from our first stay in Kenya. We enjoyed every minute here. Especially the time in Tiwi Beach will be unforgotten. Although we were twice in Kenya, we did not see a lot from the country’s main tourist attractions. We left out Masai Mara, Tsavo and Amboseli National Park and we did not stop at any of the Rift Valley Lakes. Well, now we have a reason to come back. We enjoyed every place we stayed at in Kenya and can only highly recommend this country to fellow travelers.

Costs: see Kenya #1

Driving: see Kenya #1



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Highlights

Back in Nairobi at Jungle Junction ... time for launry and shaving .../ Zurück in Nairobi in der Jungle Junction ... höchste Zeit für Wäsche und Rasieren ... 
well, what is it this time (at F.I.T.S.)/ Na was ist es denn diesmal (beim F.I.T.S.) 
Daniel, Emma and Jens ... still in Nairobi, but soon in Tiwi Beach/ Daniel, Emma und Jens ... noch in Nairobi, aber bald in Tiwi Beach 
Trying to update the webpage in Java Coffee House, Nairobi/ Beim Versuch des Webpage updates im Java Coffee House, Nairobi 
Leaving Nairobi and the rain/ Raus aus Nairobi und dem Regen 
G&T on the roof rack in Voi/ G&T auf unserer Dachterasse in Voi 
The "road" to Mombasa ... where did all the EU money go?/ Die "Strasse" nach Mombasa ... wo ist all das EU Geld hin? 
our camp in Tiwi Beach/ unser Camp in Tiwi Beach 
Jamming on the beach ... the other guests were a bit shocked ... well, not really/ Jamming am Strand ... die anderen Gäste waren etwas schockiert ... nun, nicht wirklich :-) 
Fanni, Jens and Michi peeling prawns/ Fanni, Jens und Michi beim Gernelen schälen 
Leaving Tiwi Beach ... on to Tanzania/ Wir verlassen Tiwi Beach, auf nach Tanzania 
our banda in Mwazaro Beach and Coconut our guard dog/ unsere banda in Mwazaro Beach und Coconut unser kleiner Aufpasser 


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Accomodation

Jungle Junction Camping, Nairobi, S01 17.325 E36 45.635
Hunter's Lodge, Makindu, S02 12.844 E37 42.866
Red Elephant Safari Lodge (camping), Voi, S03 22.279 E38 35.636
Twiga Campsite, Tiwi Beach, S04 14.494 E39 36.174
Mangrove Lodge, Mwazaro Beach,


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