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The Kenyan side of the border is far less developed than the Ethiopian side – there’s not a great deal here – but the border guards are the most welcoming I’ve encountered so far. The police say there’s no need for us to take a policeman with us (it’s been standard to have either a convoy or an armed policeman for all travellers I’ve heard of going on this road). Apparently there’s been no ‘incidents’ as they call them for at least a year and a half.
Upon signing the logbook I notice that the last tourists to pass through here went three days ago on the 15th May, it’s only foreigners who have to sign this book – presumably so the authorities can keep an eye on whether people make it to Marsabit!
Our worries about the road, and the tales of woe from the Ethiopian side were quickly dismissed by everyone on the Kenyan side – it’s 6 hours to Marsabit if you go quickly, there’s no problems and the rain isn’t an issue for my ‘big strong car’.
So after being assured by everyone in the know that there’s no problems, we decide to crack on and travel over the worst road in Africa.
The mud’s no big problem – M is holding up well, just getting a little dirty
The road does gradually start to deteriorate – the mud becomes deeper (which conceal the sometimes huge potholes) and the driving becomes harder.
I’m absolutely loving it – we nearly get stuck a few times - and on a few occasions I’m thinking that we’ll need to winch our way out of it… Sadly winching isn’t necessary – a careful bit of reversing and rocking out of some knee-deep mud does the trick and we’re off again.
Karin’s quite quiet through most of the drive so far – I can tell she’s terrified something will happen to the car and we’ll be stranded – so when the battery alarm starts to beep, with all lights on the LED Display going crazy she gives me a deathly stare…
It’s no problem – worst case scenario, the main battery is now failing to charge – the secondary battery is still fully charged and receiving charge (which means the alternator is fine – saving a repeat of the nightmare dash Lucile and I had to make to Sarajevo a few months previously)
There’s a lot of mud and water entering every crevice of the car – so my assumption for the time being is there’s a short somewhere caused by the water – it’s not a critical problem as I have a backup battery so we press on through the mud and rain.
The first 100km is fairly bad – I don’t know what it’d be like in the dry, probably a lot worse due to the lack of gravel and stones – when the sun comes out and dries up all this water, all that’ll be left is huge solid gauges in the earth that’ll kill most tyres and suspension. I for one am happy we’re doing this in the rain – when the occasional corrugations occur we’re able to drive straight through them – the ground’s that soft.
It’s tiring driving, but enormous fun… Karin doesn’t seem to enjoy it as much as me – and gives me a disapproving look as I lose control once and skid to a sideward’s standstill, at the time we were doing around 15kmph, going through some really thick stuff – not in the already established tracks, but making new ones… The tyres have around 5cm of mud caked on them – similar to our shoes whenever we venture outside to check on conditions – all of this means loss of grip and direction can be very quick.
I learn my lesson and stick to the tracks – it’s harder work for the car, but it means we can travel slightly faster – with no risk of sliding off the road.
Karin keeps telling herself her fathers advice “anything like this you survive makes a great story” This one should.
M’s slightly dirty, and I think at somepoint soon she’ll need a clean… Karin begins the work immediately.
We’ve hit dry land – and found out what the corrugations are like in the dry – a bloody nightmare… As anyone who’s ever driven on similar roads in Africa will tell you, there’s two ways to drive on it – very slowly, or very fast.
Going slowly means you feel every bump the suspension feels, every one of the ruts created by the huge trucks that hurtle up and down this road feels like you’re hitting the kerb on a normal road in the UK. I’m all too aware of what knackered suspension means, so decide to start off slowly.
The second approach is to go so fast that you effectively skip across the top of the corrugations – never actually descending into the rut. After ½ hour of trying the painful ass pummelling first approach I change tactics and go for speed.
It works – at speed you really don’t feel much – but the suspension is taking a hammering. I’m checking every 20km the front and rear suspension, but it seems the new parts are holding up well – no signs of damage, I think the tyres will go before the suspension – which is good because I have two spares.