We entered Kenya at the Tororo Border. Everything went smoothly, efficiently and quickly. We’d planned to stay in Eldoret but when arriving in the town we were horrified at the appearance of some of the guesthouses. We kept on looking, found nothing so decided to wild camp in a filling station. We came across one that looked good and there was also a reasonable looking restaurant in the yard. We met the manager of the restuarant who welcomed us to stay. A 24 hour guard looked after both the service station and the restuarant. The manager was a delight and such a help we felt obliged to eat supper there. We couldn’t accept his hospitality and then cook a meal right outside his restuarant!
We made our own breakfast early before the restuarant opened however! After breakfast we made the usual visit to an ATM to draw the local currency when entering a new country, Kenyan Shillings this time.
In Kenya the roadside stalls aren’t grouped together but the goods are displayed individually. We often buy our fruit and vegetables from them and it’s better when you can deal with the vendor on her own and are not hassled by other vendors nearby.
We continued to Nairobi and Jungle Junction, an overlander favourite, in Karen the suburb. We asked ourselves, “Is the place more run down since our previous visit or is Kenya just desparately in need of rain?” It turned out that both were correct. Tourism has taken a massive dive in Kenya and the infrastructure is suffering.There is an overall rundown look about Kenya and is probably also the dirtiest country we’d been in.
But on the positive side, the road network had improved enormously since our previous visit and is ongoing!
We moved to Camp Karen nearby, but it wasn’t any better really. Both were tacky and lacking some TLC.
Solveig made contact with Karen Khagram and we arranged to meet for lunch the next day. We met at Karen’s house. It was like being at home again. Seeing her staff and being welcomed by them was wonderful. We caught up with news before going to lunch at a restuarant that specialised in Chicken Tikka with friends of Karen’s, Alex and Cas, and Bijal. Unfortunately Vesh and Devan were in Ethopia on business.
We didn’t stay in Nairobi for long and after stocking up at a brand new centre, The Hub, we left for Amboseli game reserve. Solveig had not ever seen Kilimanjaro. It was always covered with cloud whenever visiting Arusha and Moshi before. We’d been told that if we wanted a good view of the mountain we’d have to see it from Kenya.
At this point I should mention how important it is to listen to advice from fellow travellers who have current knowledge of local conditions. This is to be able to deviate from your overall plan when necessary, and why you can’t have a fixed schedule.
I must make special mention of Stan and Anne Weakley, whom we have never met, but had made contact with before we left home. He has written an extremely detailed and entertaining blog, Slow Donkey. Whenever we’re not sure of something we always turn to his blog to see if they’d had a similar problem. Especially with GPS routes. Thank you Stan for your valuable advice regarding Amboseli!
After what had seemed ages we eventually turned south at Emali and were rid of the endless trucks on their way to Mombasa.
We enjoyed the peaceful brand new tarred road passing through the Nyiri Desert with its frequent dust devil’s, and the occasional wild animal.
We were once again “driving blind” with incorrect maps. Fortunately other travellers had told us of this route. Near the Tanzanian border at Kimana we turned right onto the gravel road towards the Amboseli.
We were excited because looming between the trees on our left was Kilimanjaro with only a scattering of clouds and it’s snow covered peak glistening in the late afternoon light.
Rooibos, not as tasty as the SA brands, but then it might be the water!
We soon found the turnoff to the Amboseli/Tsavo Rangers Community camp. It’s main purpose was a place to house and train the anti-poaching rangers that served in both reserves.
The community also “ran”a few tented chalets and camping alongside the ranger camp. Like most community rest camps we’d encountered it wasn’t about providing a service but another way of extracting tourist dollars from the visiting mzungus! The staff however were fantastic as usual and made us very welcome. James, who was in charge, has texted us since, to ask how we are enjoying our travels!
It was similar to wildcamping as there were no facilities that worked! What an amazing experience this turned out to be. So rewarding!
The next day after taking scores of photos we retraced our steps to Emali and continued on until we reached Voi. Bijal had mentioned where we should stay but foolishly I had not made a note of it and we ended up at Impala Safari Lodge. They had never had campers stay there before but went out of their way to make us comfortable and insisted we stay in their secure parking area. We even suggested what they should charge as they had no previous experience. We met a British couple, Julie and Ken there, that gave us valuable advice on the Kenyan coastal options and mentioned that we should not miss going to the Ngutoni Lodge just 15 kms from Voi where we could visit a waterhole on the border of Tsavo East Game Reserve and possibly see lots of animals for free! This was the same place Bijal had suggested!
After leaving Voi we looked out for the turnoff to Ngutoni which was about 10kms further from the highway.
Even the road to the lodge had plenty of animals. Elephants, Eland, Zebras, Giraffe and buffalo.The lodge with its waterhole was amazing. We so wished we’d stayed there the previous night. My fault entirely for not taking note of the name when Bijal told me of it.
After another long days drive, with road building and trucks slowing us down we arrived in Mombasa, luckily it was a Sunday.
The ferry to exit the south of Mombasa
The city centre is on an island, which you access via a bridge, but the exit to the south and the resort areas requires a ferry trip back to the mainland. A new experience for us. The total time for queuing and the journey probably took about 40 minutes and cost next to nothing.
It was wonderful to get back to the sea again after nearly 3 months and we planned to chill at the coast for a few days. We camped at Twiga Lodge in Tiwi right on the beach under palm trees. There we met Michael and Birte from Germany, also overlanding in a Landrover and we shared our stories.
We were visited by many locals trying to sell us their crafts or services.They were pleasant enough and not too much hassle. We bought green coconuts to drink from a local rasta. He’d even decorated Solveig’s with a few flowers. It reminded me of my coconut water treatmemt in Costa Rica for Denge fever. The beach had a reef which was exposed at low tide which reminded us of Peponi, our next destination.
Late on the first night a Landrover pulled in near the ablution block. I passed the vehicle when visiting the toilet in the morning and noticed it had a KZN number plate. Later I greeted the driver and we got chatting. He’d been in Kenya a few years working as an entertainer at hotels, lodges and functions. His name was Reggie and he turned out to be an ex-member of Ballyhoo!
I knew many musicians who had played in Ballyhoo though I’d never met him. He visited us in the afternoon and stayed for drinks and supper and we talked late into the night swapping memories of the music scene in SA during the 70’s.
We had forgotten totally of our date with Michael and Birte for a Pinacolada at the lodge. We apologised in the morning. They had seen Reggie visiting and figured we wouldn’t be able to make it and that we didn’t miss anything as the lodge made a dreadful cocktail! They were going to Zanzibar in a few days and we suggested that they stayed at Peponi on their way south.
We decided that Peponi would be a good place for us to chill too and made plans to say goodbye to Kenya…..