Dar es Salaam

Posted in Uncategorized on August 9, 2011 by nornironafrica

We left the foothills of Kilimanjaro and headed south to Bagamoyo. Bagamoyo is a long stretch of white sandy beach 2 hours north of Dar es Salaam. We found a resort campsite right on the beach and pulled on the dodgy Hawaiian shorts and went swimming. The water wasn’t as warm as the title “Indian Ocean” would have you imagine.  We set our stove up and made brews of tea and hot chocolate and chilled out under the coconut trees. This was the first day in a while were we could relax as we didn’t have to make up any distance or sort out anything. We were free to relax on the beach. That evening we even weaned ourselves of the ration pack diet and went to a restaurant. The next morning we slept in and went beach combing. When the tide went out it left a number of rock pool’s with an abundance of life in them. Jack and Johnny went off capturing hermit crabs collecting shells. They managed to scavenge a number of shell fish for dinner. We then set off for Dar es Salaam to meet a relative of Chris who lives out there. After exploring the streets of ‘Dar’ we met Roach at his work (Don’t worry Chantelle, he fed us well). He took us up to his friend Sid’s house where he kindly let us set up our tent in his backyard. Jack and Johnny went on a recce to find somewhere to cook our shellfish for us while Red and Chris did some website updating. We weren’t successful in finding a local place to cook our shellfish so we boiled them ourselves. We met Sid’s security guard Leganasa, who was a Masai. He explained that the Masai move their cattle once a year. Leganasa was working in Dar to earn enough money to buy more cows for his herd. He was engaged to a Masai girl in Arusha and needed another 20 cows as a gift to the girl’s father. We sat up chatting to Sid about the usual topics of women, sport and politics while sampling some of the local sugar cane spirit Konyagi. Sid was an awesome host and it was a pleasure to have met him and his father. The next morning we decided to investigate a noise that had occurred in the back right wheel. On closer inspection, Johnny in his encyclopaedic knowledge of mechanics insisted buying new brake pads was the way forward. Roach kindly organised a local mechanic to deliver some new pads down to us. Twenty minutes later Doris was all set for the road again. We bid our farewells and set off on our new direction of south west. We were now leaving the Indian Ocean behind and are making our way across Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia to the Atlantic.

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Mombasa

Posted in Uncategorized on August 1, 2011 by nornironafrica

We had been warned about the road from Nairobi to Mombasa and sadly the warnings proved true. As Mombasa is the biggest port in the area the main road in and out of it has a lot of freight on it. The main road isn’t a Dual carriageway either, it’s a simple potholed two laner. To get anywhere on this road you’ll need to get very good at overtaking very quickly. The sides of the road are littered with over overturned 50ft trucks, blown out tyres and glass from windscreens. We arrived at an accident minutes after it happened. Sadly there was one fatality and one serious injury. We drove more conservatively after that. We eventually arrived into Mombasa and went down to the Camara Hub on the edge of Mombasa town. We met Shakeel and the local volunteers who work in the Hub. They showed us around the workshop where they prepare computers that arrive in from Ireland. The Hub has a number of classrooms for educating teachers in on how to use and set up the computers. This is what the Hub is doing most at the minute. They run two four hour sessions a day for teachers all over the city and surrounding countryside. The volunteers hold a number of classes in different areas to make it easy for the teachers to attend. It was superb to see the work that was being done in Kenya, the professionalism and enthusiasm of the volunteers really struck us. We met up with some of the Irish volunteers that night and had a few beers. Top of the agenda the next morning was the beach. Straight down the road and onto the white sand that covers Bamburi beach its not wonder it makes such a popular destination. After a `quick dip we packed up our gear and headed out to the Tanzanian border. The road from Voi to Talveta was actually a dirt track just slightly better than the Moyale Highway. After more corrugation skimming we got down to the Kenyan border. As the sun was setting it threw dappled sunlight on Kilimanjaro. It was absolutely fantastic to see the sun setting behind the massive mountain. A highlight of the trip.

Doris

Posted in Uncategorized on July 29, 2011 by nornironafrica

First thing you notice is the fine layer of red dust that covers everything. There is a compass and Michelin Map “Africa South” on the dash. This is joined by our GPS system and the power inverter for the laptop. The windscreen has around 2000 bug and mud stains on it that never seem to leave even in the heaviest equatorial rain storms. The floor is littered with bottled water, flip flops and the rubbish bag. The back seat has backpacks, sun glasses, sun cream, boiled sweets, various guidebooks and a jar of jam. There is a cable from the radio that leads to an Ipod, this is constantly stuck on shuffle to stop Cold Play and Snow Patrol being overplayed. The overhead console has more guide books, maps of Europe, Turkey, Arabia and Africa East. Finally we come to the centre piece, an air freshener that hangs from a sun visor. This is made up of two furry balls and covered in tiger print. We named these the Tiger’s Testicles and they swing back and forth in different directions depending on who has their window open. From the back there is a constant rattle of loose kit. Spanners, the socket set, air compressor and water jerry all rhythmically bang around in the back as Doris runs over bumps and pot holes in the road. Our personal kit is stored in four bags that squeeze into one compartment. Below this is our fridge, sadly it hasn’t worked since we left Belfast and is now a storage space for food. However, our diet is somewhat questionable. We have a number of Ration packs, these are known as silver nasties due to the silver packet they come in. The flavours include Bacon and Beans, Lamb Naverin, Treacle Sponge Pudding, Steak and Veg and the dreaded Corn Beef Hash/Rash. The titles are somewhat grander than the contents so to supplement this we have Indomie Noodles, tins of Tuna and a tin of Halal Frankfurters made of Egyptian reclaimed meat. Behind the food box is the item we hope remains untouched. The first aid kit. This leather bag holds, 4 trauma bandages, plasters, antiseptic cream, tablets for all forms of ailments, a thermometer, scissors and a mountain of rehydration sachets. Lets hope it stays where it is. From our spares we always seem to reach for the same items, insulations tape, fuses, duck tape, wires and the unsung hero of the trip, the cable tie. Outside on Doris we have our lighting rig which makes us look like a massive truck in the dark, our spare tyre held on with “Strap, Utility” and our roof rack which holds our tent, roll matts and garden chairs. Finally I must mention the BF Goodrich Mud Terrain Tyres which have carried us 9,653 miles so far without a single drama. Lets hope they carry us the rest of the way.

The Farm

Posted in Uncategorized on July 29, 2011 by nornironafrica

After we left the Moyale Highway, we continued on towards Nairobi. On the way we called into a town called Nanyuki. Here we ran into a fellow Northern Irish man Bobby. When he heard of our travels Bobby was very kind to lend us a spot to pitch our tent for the night. This was his place called Turko Farm. It was fantastic, we’d been on the road for around a week without a proper shower so we relished the chance to sort ourselves out and poke around Doris. Turaco is near to a local bar and we went down to sample the local brew, Tusker. We had always said that when we reached Kenya we would take a day, top up the brake fluid, change the oil, swap out any parts we could and give her a good spring clean. Bobby pointed us to a local expat Titch who was a Landrover and Landcruiser specialist. We bombed down to Titch’s place Magma Holdings on the edge of Nanyuki and he and his crew of mechanics had a poke around Doris. We managed to get all our maintenance done and blew away some cobwebs from under the bonnet. Here we ran into ‘H’ a mad keen cross country motor cyclist, who donated 10 ration packs to us. He loves bumming around the Kenyan countryside on his KMT. We left Turaco Farm and went on to Nairobi. Here we met up with Emily Smith, Matt’s sister who volunteers in the Kibera slum. We dropped of the few items Matt and Tim had given us in Northern Sudan that they didn’t need anymore. From here we left behind Nairobi and hit the road to Mombasa. Mombasa is Kenya’s and arguably Eastern Africa’s largest and busiest port. Hence the road is covered with freight lorries ferrying cargo. This makes driving somewhat perilous and we saw a number of collisions and overturned trucks. We are now on our way to reach Mombasa and visit the Camara Headquarters for Africa.

The Moyale Highway

Posted in Uncategorized on July 28, 2011 by nornironafrica

Ker-thunk! Ker-thunk! Crash crash! This is the sound of a jeep going over corrugations. Its not a pleasant thing to experience. A corrugation is formed when a dirt road has a lot of freight lorries travelling on it, their bumping and crashing eventually means the road forms a ripple effect of bumps. These bumps vary from several inches to almost a foot in some places. Your options for driving on corrugations are either, drive at around 20kph and suffer the painstaking boredom and rattling or drive at 90 kph and skim over the bumps. With the second option however you run a number of risks. Your handing becomes very light while speeding along on corrugations, imagine driving on ice at high speed and you’ll know what I mean. The slightest move on the steering wheel means a big difference to your direction. The chances of going into a skid and then overcorrecting will likely mean youre going to be needing a recovery vehicle to pull you out of whatever ditch you landed in. Slowing down only means the ungodly shuddering returns and the chances of you losing control is almost a guarantee. This inability to brake means if you see a massive pot hole, ditch, ostrich or oncoming truck you just have to do your best to avoid them while maintaining your speed. This of course led to more than a few obscenities being sputtered. Our luck held out all along the dirt highway from Moyale to Archers Post. This 350km stretch of road is the worst on the whole trip. This is where every over landing vehicle runs into difficulty and usually breaks down. Someone is watching over us as Doris didn’t even get a scratch. Our biggest problem was that we were travelling with a full load of diesel and water. This means we were sitting rather low the entire way and the travel on our suspension was taking quite a battering. After jettisoning some weight and redistributing a few items about we were sitting higher. Apart from just bone shattering bumps and close your eyes moments the road from Moyale offered a few unexpected surprises. The first one was some proper African wildlife, including some ostriches and gazelles. Of course we ignored the vultures that were tailing Doris down the highway. We also came across some of the fantastic landscapes that make up the Great Rift. The Rift was created by volcanic activity and we saw a number of dormant volcano craters and valleys that have been cut out of the earth. We’re now in the southern hemisphere and have already experienced some ridiculously heavy equatorial rains.    However we’ve made it over the half way mark now and conquered the hardest road on the trip without the wheels falling off. Its still along way to Cape Town but we’ll get there!

Addis!

Posted in Uncategorized on July 28, 2011 by nornironafrica

We drove through the mountain passes north of Addis Ababa and worried about making it into the capital before dark. Luckily the road opened up into the flat grasslands and we managed to make it into Addis and down to the Camara Hub for late afternoon. We then rang Gina our Camara contact for Ethiopia, she came down and greeted us. She told us that Camara had just received a container of computers and they were setting them up to send them out to schools on Monday. We met the team of volunteers and staff who run the Camara hub, they were a spectacular bunch of people. Every year companies like Google, IBM and Dell update their computer systems in their offices. These computers will cost the company thousands to recycle properly. Camara works to take these unwanted computers and set them up in schools through out Africa. We were shocked by the standard that companies had sent, they were better than the ones we own at home. Camara work to train teachers how to set up, maintain and teach using the computers. They also make sure the schools are up to an adequate standard to keep the computers in working order, as Ali told us “There needs to be an investment by the school getting the school up to standard. If we just handed out free computers the schools wouldn’t take good care of them. That just isn’t sustainable”.  The Camara team helped us find a hostel and get some much needed website updating done. They then invited us for dinner at Habesha 2000, a popular place with local music and dance. We sat down and had a beer and when we realised the rest of the Camara team didnt show up we must have made a mistake. There are two Habesha 2000 restaurants in Addis. Obviously we were at the wrong one. A quick taxi up the road and we joined the guys. We had a meal of ‘endura’ a local speciality, its basically a sweet pancake with spicy lamb, goat or chicken. It was fantastic. Gina introduced us to two volunteers who had just arrived to help out at the Hub, Oonya and Rita. They have come over for a 5 week placement out in Ethiopia with Camara. While we traded stories about travel and where we would all like to visit, then Red was dragged up on stage by one of the dancers. They had a dance off in true Ethiopian style with Red just about keeping up with the moves. When Red had finished dancing we had a chance to try the world famous Ethiopian coffee. Johnny still hasn’t slept. It’s given him quite a buzz. When it was time to head on, Gina and the Camara team paid for our meal, we protested of course but to no avail. Thank you so much for your hospitality! We are deeply touched by this gesture. Addis Ababa has been superb, we’ve really enjoyed our time here. Sadly we could only spend one night there. We had planned to head out at 5am as we had a long drive ahead of us. We then ran into some logistical problems including getting more fuel money changed, filling our water jerry cans for the next week and buying some food for cooking. Then a torrential downpour hit Addis Ababa and while we waited for it to subside so the driving wouldn’t be so treacherous Red and Jack went off to find a money changer and buy some supplies. It was 9am before we got ourselves sorted. Unfortunately this meant our drive to Moyale had us driving late into the night but we got there in the end and set up camp short of the border. Ethiopia has been magnificent, we’ve really enjoyed our time here. The people are so friendly, the landscapes are absolutely breathtaking. As Gina said “This place has a habit of getting under your skin. You’ll probably be back”. We hope so.

Ethiopian Dancers!

Posted in Uncategorized on July 23, 2011 by nornironafrica

We pulled over 60km beyond Metema to pitch a camp for the night. We were greeted by a cacophony of sounds from crickets, frogs, grass hoppers and other creatures. This was in complete contrast to the silent desert we had camped in the previous night. During the night we got some rain, we were tempted to go and jump about in it as this was the first time we had seen rain in 38 days. The next morning we set off with the sun and were immediately struck by the beauty of Ethiopia. Mountains covered in green trees, crops, small wooded thatch huts and colourfully dressed locals with big smiles. The children here shout and seem to break into a stange dance when we pass. This happened once and we just thought “He likes to dance” but soon this became a recurring theme of children on the side of the road tending goats or cattle. When they see us they start yelling and dancing. Theyre quite good. We ventured on and after some terrible roads reached Lalibela to see the rock churches. We found this to be a bit of a tourist trap and we got mobbed by begging kids. We had been warned about begging in Ethiopia and it’s a sad thing when people see a white person they assume we are going to give them something. Their appeals can get quite emotional and the second you give something away more will appear and then everyone expects something. We left Lalibela behind and headed south to Addis Ababa. Ethiopia is very overpopulated its hard to get away from people at all and every spare inch of land is used for farming. There are very few dirt tracks of the main roads and these usually lead to settlements so it’s a nightmare to find a spot for wild camping. We eventually found a spot just of the main road. Jack then prepared a delicious meal of spaghetti, noodles, tuna and frankfurters. Yes, youre right, we need to go to the supermarket and buy some food that compliments itself.

We’re sorry for the lack of pictures!