Cape Town to Cairo 2012

Day 35 to Day 39 - July 1st–5th

We arrived in Nairobi with two basic goals: first, to get a Sudan visa; second, to change tires on the bikes and do some mechanical maintenance.  We also wanted to visit the Starehe Boys Centre & School.  It is an exclusive school in Nairobi that has a relationship with Cleveland’s own University School.  Several of the Starehe students have visited US, and US students have visited the Nairobi school.

Obtaining the Sudan visas is turning out to be problematic.  We visited their embassy a number of times and basically got the runaround. It seems Sudan invites visitors from any country except the United States.

We checked in to the Crown Plaza Hotel – a fancy place for Nairobi.  We could not help but remember several years ago our experience at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Santiago, the night of the disastrous earthquake.  We’re hoping for better luck in Africa.

We changed our tires at a place called Jungle Junction run by Christopher, a German fellow and ex-BMW mechanic.  There is a lot to be done.  My front tire was changed in Arusha when the tubeless tire failed,


but I needed to change the rear tire, fix the skid plate, and change the oil and filter.


Jungle Junction contains an interesting collection of travelers and all sorts of interesting trucks intended for African travel.


I hated to leave without visiting the Starehe School, but the time spent with the Sudanese embassy chewed up any extra time we might have had.

We finally left Nairobi not able to wait any longer for the Sudan visas.  The six-lane freeway leading north towards Isiolo has no underpasses or overpasses allowing pedestrians to cross the freeway.  Instead they put a crosswalk over all six lanes and a bump strip on the highway – some with warning, some without.  As you approach a crosswalk, there are three warning rumble strips before it and then a colossal bump, perfectly designed to give a rider a compression spine fracture.  Nairobi is growing like a weed.  In 1965, its population was 350,000 and now it is 3.2 million and growing.  But there seems to be no need to increase the capacity of the road.  The traffic heading into town was a disaster, but we got off lightly leading out of town.

Kenya is a prosperous place and we traveled through some lush country:  rich farm land to marginal farming to forests to open big-sky expenses like Montana.


We climbed to an altitude of 8,800 ft. in the mountains and it was chilly.  We made the required stop at the Equator


and confirmed that its marked location here is much more accurate than it was during our South American ride.


The Equator site was populated with the usual gaggle of tourists and street vendors all asking for you to visit their shop.

The quality of the motels began to decline at this point.  A lot of them look good on the outside


but the best we can do for Internet is across the street.  Check out the ruts in this street in the middle of the city.


We also got a kick out of the showers.  Here is the switch if you want hot water.


Here is the shower stall.


This is the shower head - there is no ground fault interrupter on the device that heats the water.


I leaned over to adjust the water flow and got a nice shock.  I think this would be an excellent electrocution device for the Ohio Penitentiary.  With this system, you have to take a shower in a guarded fashion, always careful to manage your behavior.

The way to adjust the water temperature is to adjust the stream of water.  The less water you use, the hotter it is; the more water you use, the cooler it is, so you don’t waste much energy or water.  Maybe I should have had a system like this when my daughters were in high school.

We came across an exceptional store with all sorts of dust collectors for tourists.  It is actually a cooperative run by the town with very effective salesmen.


I bought what I was told was an antique mask – I doubt it.  A cute little fellow, isn’t he?


They will ship my purchase directly to Cleveland.

As we got further north the quality of accommodations continued to decline.


The motels all had the same hot shower/electrocution devices.  We walked into town after checking in at our motel and had dinner. There we saw our first example of truly aggressive behavior.  A man sitting at a nearby table was glaring at me and occasionally making unattractive gestures.  I wanted to throw my soup at him, but I remained completely poker-faced.

On the highway we saw herds of camels.


An ostrich joined me running down the road.  He seems to enjoy the race, but eventually he headed away from the road.


We ran in to some gravel along the way.  I caught some sand and skidded off the road.


I was lucky that the first person who came along was a Kenya legislator in an SUV accompanied by a driver and a bunch of tribesmen.  The legislator was very articulate and chatty.  We loaded up the bike, and we were on our way.

We have seen the darnedest T shirts during our travels.  Here are two  guys – one with an Obama T shirt and one with an Ohio Valley T shirt.  They did not remember how they got them.


The road became very rough and brutal for half of the second day out of Nairobi.  Helge got a nasty tire slash from a sharp rock.


Ultimately, it had to be “tubed.”

One of the best features of the trip north from Nairobi was waking up to the call to prayer, generally between 5:00-5:30am.  There is always a big variation between different Mullahs’ presentations.  Some of them are enthusiastic and evangelical, some dull and perfunctory.   I felt a sense of relaxation being back in a Muslim country, as it brought me back to the terrific experience I had living in Turkey with my parents and sisters in the early ‘50’s.  Traveling abroad, particularly in undeveloped countries, is an important experience for young people.  It provides a necessary contrast between their lives in the U.S. and the way others live.

Vince shared the old saying - “A man born blind does not know what darkness is.”  Neither of Vince’s parents graduated from high school.  He put himself through college by working night shift at a juvenile detention center.  He lived out of his car without an apartment.  Music was one of his passions.  When he graduated from college, the minister at his church talked him into going to Nicaragua for six months to play in a band that was fund raising for humanitarian projects in that country.  Seeing the difference between his life in Canada and what life was like in Nicaragua was transformational for him.  It drove him not to waste the enormous opportunity that fate had granted him.

Kenya is a more advanced country than what we have seen further south.  They have apparently reduced their fertility rate to something in the range of four children per woman compared to six children per woman in countries further south.  There is also a better education system in Kenya and more industrial activity.

Nairobi to Isiolo, Kenya
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