KENYA (WEST & NORTH) - MANEATERS, MALINDI AND THE ROAD NORTH

The old is new again.  We are back in Nairobi and back into the throes of trying to secure Sudanese visas.  The bad news is that we still don't have them.  The good news is that we have had possibly the two best-connected people in the city working on our behalf - Bruce and Julie Scott.

Somehow, through one of their many connections we have been put in contact with a local lawyer Swalei Kanyeki, who amongst other things, does a lot of work with the Sudanese Embassy.  Hearing our case, he decided to give us a hand with the Embassy - all he needed is our passports for a week or so.  Good news number one.

Good news number two is that after a month long absence, Shannon has rejoined the tour.  We are all happy to have her back (Matt especially) as it means two things

1. she is back 
2. that her father has recovered sufficiently for her to leave his side.

So, after picking Shannon up at the airport, we all headed to Swalei's office with passports in hand.

Passportless, we decided to spend the next week touring Kenya and so the next morning we headed out for the wilds of Africa.  We decided that it was best to get Shannon back into the swing of things as quickly as possible so we headed out for some more bush camping.  The destination this time was Tsavo National Park, where in the 1890's two maneless male lions, "the Maneaters of Tsavo" ate 140 people.   This was such a rare occurance that it was captured by Hollywood in the movie "The Ghost & The Darkness" starring the likes of Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer.

While we regret to say that we didn't see any maneaters during our game drives (or much else for that matter), we are happy to report that we were able to watch the movie while in the park, thanks to the DVD player we brought with us.  Great movie to watch on location in the bush.

The following morning we headed our on terrible Kenyan roads to the coast town of Malindi, just north of Mombasa.  Originally planned as a luxury stop, we decided instead to camp, having just spent a bundle of our budget staying in the requisite hotels in Rwanda.  Unfortunately the KWS campsite left much to be desired and even in the night the heat was unbearable in the tents.  So, giving in to the lure of luxury beach resorts, the next morning we headed to Kilili Baharini.

The Baharini is a beautiful, up-market lodge catering primarily to the many Italian tourists that flock to the area each year.  In fact, our group was one of the few, non-italian guests at the hotel on the day.  The day was spent relaxing on the beach with some beer and decent resort food.  Mike and Cathy also took this time to head into town for Mike to receive his next dose of rabies vaccination which went off without a hitch.

When in Malindi, one is supposed to go snorkeling or diving.  So the next day we enlisted the help of a local to organize a snorkeling expedition for us.  We could have organized a trip through the Kalili Baharini resort but as expected it was significantly more expensive that way.  As it turned out the snorkeling was an average affair (lots of fish but nothing overly remarkable) so we were glad we didn't spend any more money than we did.

Before we left for the trip we realized we had a slow leak in one of our tires - the first problem of any significance we had with the vehicle so far.  Turns out that somewhere between Tsavo and Malindi we ran over a nail and got a puncture.  Using the same local guide as we did to source the snorkeling trip, we headed to the local tire repair shop where they made short work of the puncture.

That night the Kalili Baharini was booked solid so we moved next door to the more reasonable Blu Key Hotel.  The Blu Key was also quite nice but a little less upmarket in services and price.  Unfortunately, after lunch that day the rain arrived and would stay until we left the next day, so we spent most of the evening relaxing, reading and watching DVDs.

The next day we headed back to Nairobi via Tsavo.  Rather than enduring the rough road we took from Tsavo to Malindi, we decided to stay on the main road that traveled through the port city of Mombasa.  Naturally, we assumed that the main road would be better than the untarred secondary roads.  Once again, Kenyan roads proved us wrong.  While the road from Malindi to Mombasa was rather good, the 50km+ strech outside of Mombasa was attrocious, with huge potholes and tire ruts caused by overloaded transport trucks - many of which we saw broken down on the side of the road.

Our return visit to Tsavo proved to be only marginally more interesting than our first trip.  Tsavo West is more densely populated with animals however the vegetation is much thicker - so while there are more animals to see, it is harder to see them.  We did head to a natural spring and deep hippo pool where there is an underwater observation deck with some enthusiasm.  Unfortunately, allthough we did see plenty of hippos and crocs on the surface, none came close enough to the observation deck to be seen from under the water.

So, disappointed with Tsavo we headed back to Nairobi, ready for a milkshake at the village market and the return of our passports (complete with Sudanese visa).

This return trip to Nairobi was (once again) a trip full of running errands and chasing visas, but after much hassle and headaches we are proud to report that the Sudanese powers-that-be are willing to welcome us into the Country.  Mike was able to get another rabies booster, we were all able to get some first-rate Nairobi milkshakes, and we even had the chance to catch a movie.

Once again, Bruce and Julie were gracious hosts.  They treated us to a nice dinner at the Carnivore Restaurant and Bruce took us to the African Night event at his work.  The night was a fund-raiser for a local community that the company sponsors and involved fantastic traditional food and entertainment.  Here Cathy won a contest where she guessed the weight of a giant cake (18kgs) and was rewarded with a carrot cake to bring back to the Scott's for dinner.  The four of us also participated in a Swahili Wedding, which is a contrived contest where a group of women are covered from head to toe in sarongs and wraps and the men are called on to try to pick their wife from the mass of annonymous women.  We are happy to say that both Mike and Matt were able to identify their wives without much difficulty.

Saying goodbye to Bruce and Julie for the last time (on this trip) and also saying goodbye to the Land Cruiser, we headed out to meet up with the African Routes - African Secrets Tour (See African Routes section).  We will be traveling with them for the next 20 days to Khartoum.

After a night of meeting-and-greeting we headed out in the African Routes truck (now as passengers) Northwards towards the Ethiopian border.  Here we crossed the equator for the third and last time and also were introduced to a new line of latitude - the EQUOTOR.  Turns out the Equotor is a line of latitude that occurs about 20 metres north of the Equator (either that or it is simply another example of an African spelling mistake gone unchecked and posted for all to see).

That night we camped on the grounds of the Sportsman's Arms hotel in the town of Nanyuki.  The hotel is a nice place complete with swimming pool, sauna and gym.  However, Wimpie (our African Routes guide) has assured us that it is probably the nicest place we will stay for the remainer of the trip to Khartoum which is rather ominous to say the least.  The hotel is situated close to Mount Kenya so the following morning we were rewarded with nice views of its snow-capped peak.

It was the only reward that we had that day, for shortly afterwards the roads began to deterioriate significantly.  The rest of the long day was spent on very rough and bumpy roads through very poor and dirty towns.  Within only a few hours we had to stop to fix a flat tire which took about 30 minutes.  Luckily, as 'clients' Mike and Matt were not called on to do the repairs.  Instead they passed the time throwing the rugby ball with their fellow overlanders and a few local kids (some armed with big machetes).

The road to Marsabit is not only rough but also dangerous.  Depending on the current political situation, vehicles are often required to take a military/police escort.  Luckily, things are calm now so we were able to proceed unescorted and outside of a few camels (the first of our trip), really didn't see much signs of life until we arrived in Marsabit (several uncomfortable hours later).

If the Sportsman's Arms Hotel campsite was a little on the luxurious side, we made up for it by staying two nights in Marsabit.  Although situated between two strectches of dry desert, it seemed to rain most of our stay in the small town.  The campsite wasn't much to look at either as it doesn't see very many tourists and as such hasn't had to invest much in the facilities.   We did take some time to go into the village to look around and buy some beer for the next few days but outside of that stayed in the campsite to catch up on some rest and get to know our fellow travelers better.  We were all happy to leave Marsabit and head for the Ethiopian border, even despite the newsreports of riots and unrest that had only recently cooled off.