Thursday, March 22, 2012

The road to Niarobi

 Things have been very busy here the last few weeks and as a result I have not been doing enough Jottings on the blog. Hopefully I will be able to catch up in the next couple of day, even if it means that there will be a few extra entries. Stick with me and I hope you enjoy it.

We are currently in Nairobi, the capital of the country of Kenya. We had to come up here on Monday for Anne to have an operation at the Aga Khan University hospital here. Unfortunately there are really not very good hospitals in Tanzania, so we needed to travel.

We left Arusha on Monday morning after a bit of running around. I had to take the truck back to the mechanic who had “repaired” it last week. Almost as soon as I had picked it up a warning light came on that after a lot of searching proved to be a water sensor in the fuel filter (supposed to have been replace). After a mechanic got an eye full of diesel, he showed me how to drain the filter and re-prime it. Dirty fuel here is a big problem and know how to do this will be a big help.

Anyway, back to the trip. Anne insisted that we stop for a coffee on the way out of town as we did not need to be in Nairobi at any specific time, so we had a leisurely cappuccino at our favourite caf√© (she wanted me to relax).  We were then ready to head off. Both of us were enjoying the drive and the sunny day when a thought stuck me. “I’ve not got the original registration papers” – the certified copies I carry would not get us over the border.  We had to turn back home and get them, adding another hour to our 5 hour trip.

I’ll explain a boarder crossing here in Africa.  Namunga is the boarder town we go through – there is no missing the crossing as trucks are lined up before it for several hundred metres. The first thing to do is fill out the paper work to leave the country. Once that is done you have to present yourself at the counter to have your finger prints taken – some times they also take your photos (this is called “Biometrics” here). Once you have your passport stamped then you have to arrange to take the car out of the country – this is where the original paper work comes in. What you are actually doing it temporarily exporting the vehicle (they keep your papers so you can’t sell it over the border). More forms have to be filled out and signed and the registration papers have to be handed over. Then you are good to go. You head out to “no mans land” (a lot more trucks lined up here).

Over on the Kenyan side you have to fill out forms to enter the country – it’s funny these forms are just about exactly the same as you filled out to leave Tanzania. Then comes the tricky bit – you have to purchase visa. Even after all the times we have been across this border we still don’t know what we need.  Some times they want you to buy a transit visa for $20, other times they refuse this and say you have to buy a single entry visa for $50, other times they say the single entry visa will allow you to enter multiple times without payment. Then again, other times you have to pay $20 for them to stamp your old single entry visa. It is all very confusing to say the least!

Anyway, we made it through our border crossing without too many problems and not loosing too much hair and we were on our way again.

Driving in East Africa is always a challenge. Even on a main highway such as we were on with a good surface. You never know what is over the brow of the ridge or around the next corner. It might be a broken down truck or a stray donkey. It might be a whole heard of cattle and goats blocking the road. It might just be a crazy driver who appears to not know what side of the road he should be on. There is one thing to be said for driving here – you don’t get drowsy, you can’t!

Because of the delay in leaving we hit Nairobi right on rush hour (thought I honestly think rush hour here is between 6 am and midnight!). “Six lanes of traffic, three lanes moving slow!” Except all 6 lanes were stopped most of the time! It took us 2 hours to get through this traffic jam. Drivers here appear to be crazy! Now, don’t get me wrong, there are traffic rules here in East Africa! It is just the rules the drivers follow are not those that the traffic police have set. These rules have something to do with only the bravest will succeeded.  If you hesitate, all is lost! It does help to have a large 4X4 what has an extra 2 inch lift in the suspension!

The main thing we were aiming for was the restful guest house and dinner that was waiting for us.  We finally made it into the drive of the Mennonite guest house at about 7.30 p.m. and dinner was still being served. We checked in and were about to go into dinner when we were told that we couldn’t get dinner – we had not pre-booked it.  Well, the hunter instinct in me came to the front. I was not going to be beaten. I was going to have a good meal, no matter what. So… I took Anne down to an Italian bistro we had passed down the road and had a wonderful dinner there.
The Mennonite Guesthouse, Nairobi


  1. Keith. You and Anne never cease to amaze me at your patient resorcefulness. You both are an inspiration to me. I also am always so amazed at how you balance stress with coffee breaks. Love you both.

  2. Mike, in a busy world a coffee can be a good thing. It seems that a lot of people think I am addicted to coffee. In actual fact the coffee mentioned in this post was only the second of the week (admittedly it was only Monday)