We packed up on our last day at Lake Naivasha with a little trepidation as Nairobi is notorious for its terrible traffic. We travelled the scenic route which takes you along the escarpment that drops to the Rift Valley plains that eventually takes you to the Masai Mara. It is a beautiful view.
The road is busy with lots of trucks, taxis (Matatus) and other vehicles, and not in great condition. We were pleasantly surprised to be directed by the GPS to a highway followed by a bypass which meant that we never had to go into Nairobi center, instead we went through the suburbs on a very quiet Friday to get to our destination – Jungle Junction. Jungle Junction is well known in overland circles because Chris and Diana who run it understand what travelers need after weeks on the road and try to provide it. Chris is a mechanic so all the car niggles can be sorted out, they have washing machines for clothes that have only been bucket hand washed for months and great food at a reasonable price should you need it. Their house is open to all the guests so you also have a lounge to sit in, tables to eat at and fellow travelers to chat with. Nairobi is often the meeting place with people going North and South, so great travel tips can be gleaned whilst here. They also provide vehicle storage facilities for people who wish to leave break their journey in order to continue at a later time. There are vehicles here from all over Africa (including Cape Town, Gauteng and Port Shepstone!) and Europe that are being stored for anything from a couple of weeks to over a year.
We opted to camp in the garden (sounds familiar) because of the Sani door which Chris only had a chance to look at the next day. Well …. The bad road to Nairobi had unjammed the door!!!! Much to our relief and as it turned out a bolt from somewhere (??) was the cause of the jamming and there was nothing wrong with the lock. We had had visions of knocking out the windows to get in etc….. That gave us a good laugh, a bit hysterical with relief. The mechanics gave the Sani a thorough appraisal and she only needed some routine maintenance, a service and some bolt tightening. Front brake pads and front brake disks were the only exception. The pads were down to 2mm after 8500 km and one of the disks was cracked – a function of red hot brakes being taken through river crossings, something that happened quite often in Tanzania! – They took all the wheels off and put her up on blocks and we were transport less until Thursday.
We took a shuttle from J-J on Saturday to the local mall, Galleria, to pick up a few things and found a mall that could have been in SA. On another occasion we caught a bus to the same mall and a matatu (taxi) back. It helps that English is widely spoken. Catching the bus took me back to my childhood as my mother never learnt how to drive so catching buses to town and to school was how we got around. The currency here is shillings and the bus fare was 30 bob (about 30 US cents). It’s really strange to talk about bob.
The beauty of this place is you meet people from all over all doing overland trips like the one we’re on. Only we’re light weights compared to most as most seem to be travelling a year +++ It really is another universe out here. We got friendly with a young Dutch/Finnish couple Bart and Jasmin who have been travelling since October last year, travelled down the West coast of Africa spent a month in Cape Town and are now on their way home. They were stuck here waiting for visas for Ethiopia and Sudan. They were great company and you can follow their blog www.bobotie.weebly.com for a different perspective on travelling in Africa. There’ve been other South Africans, one family with two children, the Van Heerdens who are also taking the year to travel and another on a motor bike just back from Ethiopia. Along with the usual mix of Germans, Italians, Dutch and French. What is amazing about these ‘foreigners’ is that they seem to know more about Africa and her countries that we know about South Africa! For so many of them, there is a strange passion about Africa that either keeps them here or brings them back year after year for months at a time. Many of them have not traveled as extensively in Europe but spend all their spare time and money here. Such is the mystery of this vast continent of ours – it is wild, largely very third-world, uncivilized in many ways; it is really hard and tiring work getting around, (some of the main roads can put our 4×4 trails and play-grounds to shame), officialdom can be difficult and corrupt, governments are dodgy and less able to hide their crooked ways than those in the 1st world – and yet there is an untamed beauty and variety in the ecosystem, wildlife and people that is alluring. It makes us fiercely and proudly claim that we are Africans – for those foreigners that have traveled widely in the rest of the world they state without exception that Africa is unlike anything they have experienced elsewhere – and generally they love it!
J-J’s is in the suburb of Karen so named after Karen Blixon from “Out of Africa” fame. This area used to be her farm and has beautiful large properties in which expats lurk. There’s a giraffe sanctuary just down the road where the Rothchild giraffe was saved from extinction. We went for a walk around the sanctuary, saw the giraffes and then got a little lost and ended up on a forest walk through the sanctuary, fortunately no one minded.
We have a Samburu night guard because Karen is very dangerous at night with gangs operating in the area (home from home!) who apparently are afraid of the Samburu tribesmen, who are a fearsome warlike tribe. This we discovered on our first evening here. During the day it’s the picture of tranquility! J-J is the kind of place that you relax, before you know it the day is gone and you have done nothing but talk, read and eat as there’s not a great deal to see on Nairobi.
Al and I realized that we are only 3 borders away from Cairo and were tempted to go all the way…. But sanity prevailed!
The weather here has been cold and miserable, and J-J s have had a fire in the lounge most days. Seems so strange to come to Kenya only to be freezing. Finally the car was done BUT then I started with diarrhea …..
Eventually we left on Sunday (after 9 nights) to head north to two national parks, Aberdare and Samburu. The GPS took us through the center of Nairobi and we decided that if you have to go through NAIROBI, 10 am on a Sunday is the way to do it as there was very little traffic.
We only got to Aberdare when the car started making horrible noises. We spent a lovely day in Aberdare which has such diverse landscapes, thick bush and wildlife that you only see when they walk on the road with lots of birds.
It also has a thick belt of bamboo forest, something that we never expected or associated with Africa. We stayed in a hotel in a town called Nyeri as it was still raining, which had a bath bliss!!!!! The things you appreciate when you’re on the road. Then it was back to J-Js.
The car noises were caused by 4 nuts bolting the water pump pulley to the water pump which had not been properly tightened. The car being once again sorted, we will leave (again) tomorrow – this time heading south west to the Maasai Mara.