Hi everyone, and sorry for the long break between updates – Ethiopia is a fascinating country with incredible history and spectacular scenery, but unfortunately the worst internet in Africa so far! So here is an update from Uganda to the Ethiopian border… further updates to follow when we have a better connection…
Greetings from Ethiopia where we are back on the road heading north! Our little holiday within a holiday in Jinja in Uganda gave everyone the chance to enjoy some chill time, and prepare themselves for the road and experiences ahead.
Jinja proved itself to be a great choice of place to be holed up while we waited for the various Ethiopian embassies and consulates to issue our visas under the new regulations, and there was plenty to keep everyone occupied. White water rafting is the big drawcard for Jinja, with some very technical and exciting Grade 5 rapids to run and proved to be a great hangover cure for many of the group after an unexpectedly raucous night in the campsite bar! Kayaking through the white water and learning to eskimo roll kept Rogan and Dave busy for a couple of days, and Jeanne and Kirsten chose to go tubing (well, more correctly described as swimming) through some of the smaller (but still huge!) rapids.
Fortunately there were more sedate options to enjoy the river and the nearby Lake Victoria, like a sunset cruise!
For those not keen to get out on and into the river this time, there were community based activities available. Several of the group visited a local school which is supported through a UK-based charity, Soft Power Education, and spent the afternoon painting the school buildings (and wearing a fair amount of the paint themselves). Soft Power are also involved in a local school for children with special needs, and Lynley and Sam headed off to help out for a morning or two.
Horse riding through local villages is a great way to see them, and an interesting experience for Robin who had never been on a horse before and walked like John Wayne for days afterwards, and Lesley who decided to try combining sky-diving and horse-riding by taking a rather spectacular tumble off the horse at a canter, fortunately only with bruises to show for it afterwards!
A group meal at a local restaurant was a highlight, with local kids coming in to dance and sing for us as we ate traditional food by candlelight. A great experience, and wonderful food!
But alas, all this relaxing was not getting us any closer to Cairo, so as soon as the last of the passports returned, we hit the road.
A day of driving through the spectacular Rift Valley, and our first stop after Jinja was Lake Baringo in Kenya. This is one the rare freshwater Rift Valley Lakes, and is home to an amazing variety of birdlife as well as hippos and crocodiles. For those who wanted, there was the opportunity to head off on an early morning cruise onto the lake, particularly memorable for feeding African Fish Eagles and watching them swoop down into the water in front of us.
Continuing further into northern Kenya, it was time for the toughest roads of our journey to date. Mercifully dry, the evidence of previous rains were plain to see on the road with massive holes where vehicles had been very stuck in the wet season! We bumped and rocked along the road heading across to join up with the main road north, the hardship of the road was more than made up for by the scenery and the spectacularly dressed local Samburu tribes that we passed along the way. We found a lovely spot to bushcamp along the way, and with only the full moon and the occasional howling hyaena to keep us company, it was a great reminder of what we love about overlanding – getting off the beaten track and finding the special places.
The tar stops on the road north about 350km before the Ethiopian border, and from that point the road is best described as variable – ranging from sandy sections where you can get up to 60kph to bone-jarringly awful sections where your average speed is no more than walking pace! These are some of the most challenging couple of days of driving that we do on this expedition, but the reward is the journey itself; amazing scenery, a surprising amount of wild and other life existing in this harsh environment, and the knowledge that this road is something that few travellers have the opportunity to do.
At the end of the road – Ethiopia! After the challenges presented to us by the new visa regulations, it was a fantastic feeling to cross the border from Kenya, made even more enjoyable by the return of tar roads, although they weren’t to last long as you will see from future posts!