Kenya: From the Indian Ocean to the highlands!



Fri, 15 Sep 2017 - 11:03 GMT


Fri, 15 Sep 2017 - 11:03 GMT

One of the ways colonists became rich was the famous tea plantations of Kenya. Courtesy:

One of the ways colonists became rich was the famous tea plantations of Kenya. Courtesy:

CAIRO- 15 September 2017: When I was entering Kenya from the dirt roads around Mt Elgon National Park, a big and diverse country was unfolding in front of my eyes. I made my way south to Lake Victoria, where I was hosted by Dennis in a lakeshore village.

After meeting the local fishermen, I rode through the picturesque tea plantations of Kericho area.

By the end of the day I had reached Lake Naivasha. Andrew, a local biker, made my stay there very enjoyable… First, we went for a dirt ride and he guided me through the geothermal power plants which dot the area. Since decades ago, they make huge amounts of electricity by using the steam which comes out of the earth. In the evening, we got a boat with some friends and we enjoyed a wonderful sunset in the lake. We stopped in a remote part of the lakeshore and then it was time to enjoy the night as white Kenyans do… We lit a campfire, grilled some juicy meat and exchanged stories under an African sky full of stars!

That’s where Andrew took me for a dirt ride around Lake Naivasha. That was quite a rough descend on my bike! Courtesy:

It was time to enter chaotic Nairobi, also known as Nairobbery due to its reputation for crime… There I had the chance to experience the luxurious life of Kenyans who live in the suburbs, in beautiful villas surrounded by lush gardens, tended by maids and of course, with inviting swimming pools. I also had the chance to experience the other side of Nairobi, the side that most Kenyans experience. I was hosted in the Orthodox College of Nairobi, which is located in a township full of slums. People are friendly and everything is fine during the day. But when the night falls, the dangerous face of Nairobbery appears. Nobody wants to be on the streets at that time.

That’s just one of the golf clubs in Nairobi for the well-heeled Kenyans. Courtesy:

Having seen the disappointing scams of the Orthodox missions in neighbouring countries, I was really surprised to see how different the Orthodox mission of Kenya is!

About 400 schools are operated around the whole country by this mission, even in the remote area of Lake Turkana. They also build wells to offer clean potable water to the remote communities of Kenya. I was there during some seminars, so I met tens of African priests coming from all around East Africa. I was surprised to see how dedicated some people were. A few of them could even speak Greek, since they studied in Greece.

One of the 400 schools that are operated by the impressive Orthodox mission of Kenya for the ones in need. Courtesy:

It was time to explore the highlands and the coast of Kenya and I had a wonderful company for that. Roos is a Dutch who volunteers in Rwanda the last three years. She had hosted me there and then she joined me for three weeks to travel around Kenya!

We started with the otherworldly Lake Baringo, which is full of crocodiles and hippos.

Despite that, the locals organize annual swimming races! They say crocodiles know them, anyway!

It was time to ascend to Nyahururu, at 2,350 m. (7,710 ft.). We enjoyed a lot the cool weather there and the impressive Thomson’s Falls. We left the highlands back and we slowly made our way to Mombasa. It was gradually getting hotter and hotter as we were approaching the coast. We immediately fell in love with the relaxed atmosphere there, the friendly Muslims and the interesting Swahili culture! Our favorite spot in Mombasa was some benches near the Portuguese Fort Jesus, built in 1593. We were drinking our tea or spiced coffee, sitting high above the ocean and enjoying the sunset while chatting with friendly locals who gather there every evening to meet each other and socialize.

You don’t even need to dive to see beautiful corals and colorful fish on the Kenyan coast… Snorkeling is enough. Courtesy:

If you want to see beautiful corals in that area, you don’t even need to dive. Snorkeling is enough! Mombasa Marine Park is a very nice spot for that, as is the area around Wasini Island. That’s a tiny little island without cars, motorcycles, electricity or running water. It only got some Swahili ruins, houses made out of corals and a few Muslims living there.

We were glad to meet the guys from Motor Safaris, an interesting company which organizes amazing motorbike tours around East Africa! Courtesy:

South of Mombasa we incidentally met the guys from Motor Safaris, an interesting company which organizes amazing motorbike tours around East Africa! We were glad to be their guests for a couple of days in their cozy Sawa Sawa Beach House. We visited the famous and touristy Diani Beach but the neighbouring Tiwi Beach became our favorite one. There we found one of the most beautiful seaside spots where I have ever camped!

While exploring the dirt roads on the north coast, we found Vuma Cliffs, an isolated and impressive part of the coastline! Courtesy:

he north coast was also very interesting to explore. We reached some isolated areas through dirt roads, where the scenery was astonishing! We made our way to the picturesque Takaungu village, where the river empties to the endless Indian Ocean. The beach of Watamu was scenic and the coastal town of Malindi was interesting. However, the biggest draw on the north coast for us was Lamu Island.

Lamu is a small island in the Indian Ocean, full of donkeys, coral houses with elaborate carved doors and friendly Muslims walking in the labyrinth of the old town. Courtesy:

It is not easy to reach Lamu, since you need to follow long dirt roads (not a good idea during the rainy season) and you have to travel next to Somalia. There used to be some security issues there, which emptied the island from tourists and that made it much more attractive to us! Lamu is a small island in the Indian Ocean where the only transport is donkeys. There are about 3,000 of them there! The coral houses are guarded by elaborate wooden carved doors and the narrow streets of the old town form a real labyrinth. This is one of the most authentic samples of Swahili culture. On top of that, when you quietly dine with seafood next to the waves, under the soft light of a candle, it doesn’t get any more exotic.

That’s what happens if you want off-road during the rainy season. Courtesy:

I would easily stay in Kenya for much longer but the expiration date of my visa was getting closer. I returned to Nairobi, arranged the paperwork and prepared my motorbike for a rough and very interesting route that I was planning to ride since a long time ago. I wanted to reach Ethiopia through the remote region of Lake Turkana. Recent discoveries of hominid skulls in the area, millions of years old, reveal useful information about the human history. After all, that’s one of the areas where our race started its life. However, nowadays it’s a very isolated spot, really inhospitable, with only a few tribes succeeding to survive there.

The mountains around Maralal offered me one of the most scenic rides I had! Courtesy:

First I had a treat in a beautiful, little, wooden house next to a stream in Naro Moru, on the foothills of Mt Kenya (5,199 m., 17,057 ft.). The mountaintop is famous for being shy, usually hidden behind clouds. So, I didn’t have the chance to see it. After Isiolo, I left the tarmac and I knew I will not see that boring thing in Kenya anymore!

This area is populated by the Samburu tribe and women usually wear these huge, colorful, beaded necklaces. Courtesy:

The area around Maralal became my favorite part of this route and one of the most scenic ones I’ve ridden! I was on green mountain plateaus at around 2,000 m. (6,562 ft.) altitude. The views were jaw-dropping! The Samburu tribe is offering its color to the landscape with the huge, beaded necklaces that women wear. Men always walk their herds of cows, goats or camels while holding their spear and carrying a big knife on their belt. Their earlobes got huge holes and they wear some big white earrings. Some of them have a thin golden chain going from one ear to the other passing through the chin.

When you first lay eyes on Lake Turkana, after days of rough off-road riding, it’s a special feeling. Courtesy:

The route north to Barsaloi, Baragoi and South Horr is still on the mountains, so the weather is not too hot. I was wild camping in beautiful scenery every night enjoying the full moon! While I was approaching Loyangalani, the landscape changed… I descended to 400 m. (1,312 ft.) altitude and the vegetation was almost gone. The only feature around was the volcanic rocks. Some parts of the route became rough but when I was standing up on my bike and riding slowly and steady, it was OK. After all, I enjoyed a lot this remote route and my only worry was the availability of water in this dry area. A couple of times I had to use the 2-liter water canister that I carry for emergencies. I have used it only a few times during my trip.

I was usually wild camping next to dry riverbeds, since that was my only chance to find a place without rocks! Courtesy:

One morning, when I was wild camping next to a dry riverbed, I tried to start my motorcycle but I realized that the battery was flat. After a lot of tests the following days, I figured out that the alternator had failed. It is the first time that I experience this fault but it’s normal for a 20-year-old bike which has covered much more than a hundred thousand kilometers. This was the second time that I was grateful for choosing an XR with a kick-starter. I was on a sandy patch in the middle of nowhere and it would be bloody difficult to jump-start the engine there. However, with the kick-starter it was a piece of cake! The engine was still working properly, so the only issue was that the next month I was kick-starting the bike until I got another alternator shipped from Greece.

The only feature in the landscape around Lake Turkana is these volcanic rocks. Courtesy:

Seven days after leaving Nairobi, I reached Ileret, at the Ethiopian border. Actually, there is no border post there, so I had to arrange the paperwork in Nairobi. I had finally made it! I knew it would not be easy but it was lovely and it’s one of the routes that I will be remembering. That’s a very authentic and adventurous part of Africa and I’m glad I had the chance to explore it…

After an impressive sunset over the legendary Lake Turkana, my two-month journey across Kenya came to an end. For some reason, this country was one of the countries that felt like home. Maybe it was the nice friends that I made, the diverse landscapes and for sure the relaxed atmosphere too!

This article was originally published in Mad Nomad blog



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