• 31 March 2016

Traversing North Kenya like a wind

Traversing North Kenya like a wind

Traversing North Kenya like a wind 300 169 Gürkan Genç

I gave the last Birrs (Ethiopian currency) still I had to a man who I thought needed at the Ethiopian border. The border town Moyale is split between Ethiopia and Kenya. At the border gate I was called inside the building for the border procedures as my turn came.  I looked inside where the seats were so I could place my bike outside visible to me from the inside. A passport photo of me was taken and my fingerprints. It means every border gate has its own data bank or the same procedure is obligatory also when leaving the country.


After completing the procedure I cross the Ethiopian border and come to the Moyale border gate at Kenya. There is almost 1 km between both gates. I hand the officer my passport. He opens the visa page and just stamps it. He welcomes me with a smiling face to Kenya and I enter Kenya. I didn’t have to take off and open my bags.


At Kenyan side of Moyale town the number of Muslims is high. They all carry a fez like hat the Arabs in Oman were wearing. I’m so tired to stroll around and furthermore I have to be in Nairobi within 7 days. I was riding on bike every day for the last 10 days. An overnight stay costs 10-20 USD at this border town. I stayed at the best place I could find.  Ethiopia really made me exhausted and there are still 800 km to go. I hope there aren’t any climbs waiting for me haha. If there are some I won’t be able to arrive in Nairobi on time.


I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and made up my bags. I ate muesli and went out. It was still dark. I’m in a new country to me but I trust in Peter’s experiences. It won’t be like in Ethiopia. I took a deep breath and started to ride. This road was totally in dust and dirt which was recently partly paved. Is seems that this road will totally be paved in two years. The Turkish company Gulsan is constructing 80-100 km part of this road. The engineers of the company had sent me messages “We are here. You’ll see our camp along the road” but I only saw the trucks of this company driven by Kenyans. Also I was riding at a high fixed speed that I wouldn’t like to stop and interact my riding. It is hard to restart after a long break. I would have only stopped if the camp were there when I needed a break but I didn’t come up to.


The first day I started from Moyale and ended my ride near Bubisa. The road was partly paved and partly dirt road but generally in good condition. At least it wasn’t like in Ethiopia. The next days the performance of the road infrastructure remained the same. At every city entrance soldiers were controlling passports. I was never asked for bribe on the contrary, they joked with me or tried to chat. You don’t see almost any soldiers in the south of the country compared to the north.


When I tried to take photos of the people they got angry with me after which I didn’t touch my camera anymore. The ornaments worn by women were plastic caps they had found here and there. There could have been colorful photos come out but neither the people liked to be photographed nor I had the time to convince them. Actually I could catch nice moments with my GoPro camera using chest attachment but as I said I was in a hurry to arrive in Nairobi.


This being the situation I kept covering long distances. Really, if I’m determined to arrive in somewhere I do it. After Moyale I rode at a sequence 156, 162, 159, 60, 112, 94 km per day and managed to arrive in Nairobi in six days.


From the border at the north to Isiolo, the 532 km long terrain was arid but not like a desert. The altitude changed between 600-800 m. After the up and downs in Ethiopia it was a pleasant change to ride on plain though dirt road. But after Isiolo there is a 45 km long climb from 800 m to 2600 at a 10% slope.  While climbing up the road I saw 3-4 kids and my mood immediately changed. They asked for money and I waved my hands. I passed them and turned my head to look back. I saw one of the kids was taking up a stone.


–       Hey I’ll come to you and beat the pants off you.


I was shouting at them and they just ran away. At the top I came to Kasumi Agricultural fields. Right at the top is the gift shop of Louis. I asked him whether I could camp in his garden and he said of course. Before putting my tent up I went to the store. He was selling dried fruits. I bought two bags of raisins. Just next to the shop French fries were sold the potatoes from nearby fields. Wow. That’s good. I don’t need to cook getting tired after riding all day long. I wasn’t taking salt for days and today my body gave the signal “Hey! I’m running out of salt” : ).


I put my tent up. The French fries were ready. There was a picnic table near by my tent. I seated and began to eat. Just at that time I heard the voices of BMW motorcycles. “Dude!“ I ran to the gate, there were 3 motorcyclists.  We started to chat. They were the first tourers I met on the road after 2 years. Good. At the end I came to the route of travelers.


 I invited them to stay but the day wasn’t over for them yet. I guess with the motors they were riding on they would ride for another 50-60 km till it got dark. They had started from South Africa and were heading to Egypt. They asked me where I was coming from and going to. After my answer the shut down their motors, took off their helmets and congratulated me. One of them asked me which route I have followed in Ethiopia. I described them the Bale mountain route. Alright it was a hard route for me and I suffered a lot but they would have their fun. This route just fits to such vehicles. They got surprised about the height and condition of the road and then kept asking me whether I rode on bicycle or motorbike. I gave the address of my web page and told them I was heading towards Cape Town. They want me to host in Cape Town. Let’s see what happens, will we meet there? : )


Kasumi Agricultural Area is very large. The fields and greenhouses continue up to horizon. The altitude is above 2000 m and the quality of the soil is almost the same as in Ethiopia. It can be harvested four times a year. I talked to a farmer in this region. He knew that the produces were exported but didn’t know to which countries. The agricultural field was surrounded with barb wire. The land between the wire and the road belonged to no one. People are farming those empty areas for themselves. I rode about 50 km through this agricultural land. I felt myself as if in Germany.  The last time I saw such modern agricultural machines and land with vast diversity was in Germany.


The thinks that remained in my mind from the period I was in Kenya.


–       Wow how many agricultural fields there are.

–       Wow how many farm animals there are.

–       Dude, it is so green like the Black Sea region of Anatolia. Forest everywhere.

–       Wow how many rivers there are.

–       Dude, it is not like you see in the documentaries.


I told this also to the teachers of the school where I camped and was their guest. I mentioned about my observations.


“You have very fertile soil above 1000 m altitude. As far as I was informed you can harvest 4 times a year. The number of farm animals seems enough to feed your country with a 45 million population. In rural areas almost everyone works as farmer either harvesting the fields or working in greenhouses. Shepherd their animals. You are making use of latest technology as far as I see. But there is starvation in your country and you are unable to hold your country with agriculture economics. On the road I saw that almost every school was receiving support from EU, Canada, USA, etc. Some countries have established hospitals. There are signboards at the entrances of national parks showing supports of foreign institutions. I’m sure those institutions are doing this for free to help to keep ecological balance and protect wild life. After all those aids did they say to your government: “We are supporting your country in many issues, in turn lend your land to us, we’ll make the best out of it” and you gave all your land to the foreigners? Furthermore, you are good in animal keeping, are you exporting all the animals?


One of the teachers asked me:

–       How long have you been in Kenya?

–       Just four days.


All started to laugh and said: “Mr. Gurkan there is nothing to add. This is what happened.” That is people are not aware of what a rich property they possess. This was the same in Ethiopia and the same in Kenya. I would like to say that the farmer exports his goods but this is not the situation. The foreigners own the land and under pay the people working for their farms. For example I saw a greenhouse of which products were sent to England. The company built shelters for the workers working on the land paying 80 USD per month. The produce is cheap in rural areas, cheap to natives. I’m given higher prices. The native pays 1 USD for 1.5 L bottle of water but I have to pay 2 USD for the same bottle. White Man prices (Mzungu Price) which they say.


White man was called as Faranji in Ethiopia and here in Kenya Mzungu. Through my life I never gave a nick name to a person just due to color of her/his skin. I don’t think that in the villages of Anatolia no one would say “Hey, black man come over” to an African. They call me white man but when I reply as “yes black man” they get angry with me. A really strange situation. When I say “yes black man” I’m racist but he is free to call me “white man” because I’m in their country. He sees this right in himself.


Coming close to Nairobi I once took my camera out to take a photo and was trying to photograph the bazaar a woman came next to me. She asked me: “Why are you taking photos?” I wasn’t even taking her photo. She told me if I want to take a photo of her I had to pay for it.


“Don’t worry I didn’t take your photo since you are not so beautiful worth of it!! I only took photos of the bazaar” I said. She stared at me. Then said something in her own language.


It is possible to find camping places in Kenya. They cost 5 USD per night with restaurants and showers. In one of the camps after a long time I stayed at, a very strange situation happened. While putting my tent up two birds were singing.  Those birds had really very annoying voices. As far I got they didn’t want me to put up my tent there. One of the birds landed on near my tent and I took a photo of the bird. I sent this photo to my team mate Burcin who is a bird photographer.


–       Burcin what is this bird called?

–       My dear Gurkan this bird is called hadada ibis a relative of hermit ibis found in Turkey.

–       Dude, I have never heard a worse voice than that of this bird Burcin.

–       Hahaha. You probably are in their territory and bothering them.


Anyway, when it got dark the bird stopped singing. But at 5 a.m. it came next to my tent and started to sing just at the side where my head was. I jumped up in the tent. Dude, fuck you I came out of the tent. Well, when I suddenly showed up it ran away. Normally I hear any noises made by animals near my tent but this bird moves so silent and just starts to sing when it comes very close to the tent. Most probably he got curious in the night and made a plan which he applied in the morning hahaha. Everyone I asked told the same about this bird. It was the bird with the worst voice in the country. : ) It is a marked bird in this issue.


The bicycle road started 30 km to Nairobi. The ratio of bicycles in the city is high. The appearance and comfort of the bicycle lanes in the city are not so good but usable. At least they are too narrow for cars and separated by elevated barriers. I was comfortable within this zone. Before arriving in this city I had crossed the equatorial line. Arctic Circle in Finland in 2013, equatorial line in Kenya in 2015, only the Antarctic line is remaining to be done. It seems I’ll reach there in 2017.


My legs were aching and I was exhausted when I arrived at our embassy in Nairobi. I met with Mr. Selman our trade attaché. He recommended me a nice guest house near the embassy. I took one of my bags leaving my bicycle and other stuff at the embassy and went to the guest house. The next day I flew to Muscat from Nairobi lined over Dubai. The date was October 22nd 2015. That is I made it for November 1st 2015 elections. I was able to vote in Muscat to where I changed my residence while traveling in Oman on bike.



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