23/8/89

DAY THREE We got up at about 6:30 and had brekkie etc then headed off to Mara Serena which is 50 KM away. Being early morning the game was pretty active and as usual there were thousands of gnu [wildebeest] on the move. Above the plain, 7 balloons hung in the cool morning air, their occupants having paid £105 each to be up there having a champagne breakfast!

Images from out African overland adventure in 1989.

Wildebeest, Masai Mara.

We took several detours off the road to take closer looks at game, and one detour took us quite near to a group of elephants who didn’t take too kindly to our presence!

We got to the hippo pools in the Mara River about mid-morning. We spent ½ an hour there photographing the semi-submerged beasts. The area is one of the main crossing points for the herds of animals migrating into the Mara from the Serengeti and just downstream from the pools was an eddy where the corpses of the many animals who are drowned wash up. The place was swarming with vultures and marabou [storks] feasting on the carcasses.

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Marabou storks, Mara River.

We got to Mara Serena at about 12:00 and had lunch. We took turns guarding the truck and went up to the lodge for Cokes. The lodge is perched on the top of a hill commanding an absolutely spectacular view out over the park rolling away in all directions. The lodge itself is a pretty posh affair full of monied tourists “safariing” in style.

We left there and drove back to camp taking a few detours on the way to watch the ever-present gnus. Had a bath in the river when we got back.

22/8/89

DAY TWO We got up at about 7:15 and got the fire going. A couple of Masai herd boys came along while we were having breakfast and we gave them tea, toast and bread in exchange for them letting us take their photos. We packed up the truck and were on the road by 8:50. I sat up in the cab with Mike and we yarned away while the stereo played “Diesel and Dust.”¹

We stopped for ½ an hour in a run-down town called Narok and were pestered by kids wanting pens and women selling jewellery.

Moving on, we left the tar seal at about 11:30 and drove into Masai Mara game reserve.

The Mara is on the Tanzanian border and backs onto the Serengeti. Our camp is right on the border.

We had lunch, pitched our tents in the heat of the day and had a wash in the creek.

About 4:00 we went on a game drive. There were thousands of wildebeest about along with the usual zebra and impala. There were a lot of Thompson’s gazelle and Topi around too. We came across a herd of elephants but they didn’t hang around and it was getting too dark for photos so we went back to camp.

¹The classic Midnight Oil album.

Safari dinner prep in the Masai Mara. L-R Fran, Brian, Linda.

21/8/89

DAY ONE  We had a wake up call at 7:30 & got up, packed the rest of our stuff then checked out of the hotel and walked up to the 680.

Being true to form, Kumuka kept us waiting there until Mike came in about 10:30 and told us where the truck was. We walked up Kenyatta Av to where “The Silver Fox”¹ was parked and stowed our stuff aboard. We then had another 2 hour wait during which time I put a new stereo into the truck. Finally at about 1:00 we were away. We called in to The Grosvenor Hotel to pick up Brian and an Israeli couple called Uri and Yaid.

 We bumped our way out of Nairobi along shocking roads and past appallingly squalid slums made of mud and corrugated iron amid a sea of mud. There was an endless stream of people walking along the road with bundles of sticks & and bits of old iron and donkeys pulling ramshackle carts.

It took us about an hour to clear Nairobi and then we were out into the country.

The whole of the Nairobi area is on a high, rolling plateau and as such is quite cool and lush. A lot of the land has been cleared of bush and been turned into productive horticultural land.

We had a minor break-down mid-afternoon which we fixed with wire and insulation tape, and about 6:00 we pulled off the road and made camp. A couple of Masai herdsmen stood and watched us with amusement as we pitched our tents and made tea which was grilled steaks and veges. After we had eaten and washed up, Linda, Mike, Fran and me did some rearranging in the truck. Went to bed about 10:00.

¹The Silver Fox was a converted, ex-German army, 4WD M.A.N. truck. It took its name from its driver, John “Scotty” Rattagen who was a grey-haired Scotsman who had spent many years driving overland tours in Asia and Africa.

Out in Africa. Preparing dinner on our first night on the road.

20/8/89

LINDA’S BIRTHDAY. This morning I got up early and went down to the reception desk and asked the Kenyan guy there to translate “Happy Birthday” into Swahili for me. He obliged with a big grin and wrote “KUSHALIWA KWEMA.” I gave Linda a card with that written in it and the Batik then we lay in bed and talked till 10:30.

Mucked round in our room all day and went out to The Carnivore¹ with 8 other trip members.

¹As its name might suggest, The Carnivore was a restaurant that specialised in meat!

18/8/89

We got up late, about 10,30, after having been kept awake half the night by the racket from the bar next to the hotel.

We walked up to the centre of town, stopping on the way to get a box big enough to hold our souvenirs, some brown paper and some Sellotape. We found the Central Post Office on Haile Selassie Ave and went through the rigmarole of getting our stuff sighted by customs, weighed, wrapped and stamped. In the end it only cost us K/SH123 to send it all the way to N.Z. although is surface mail & it could take anything up to 6 months! Craig and Ian were also at the PO sending their souvenirs home.

After we had finished at the Post Office, we went to the Kenyan Cultural Centre, which is the highest building in Kenya, to see if we could go up on top for a look. We were told “NO”! So we went and had an Italian lunch at the Trattoria instead.

After lunch, feeling very full, we went round to the Kumuka office. Mike, our co-driver was there along with a couple of other guys who have done Kumuka trips. Mike is a nice guy and comes from Culverden¹. We yarned there for ½ an hour then went round to the 680 for a drink. Not much was happening there, so we went back to the hotel. When we got there, Linda discovered she had lost her camera. The only place it could be, we decided, was at the 680. I went back there and, yes, indeed, it had been found in the lobby the night before. She must have left it there when we met Lynda for drinks. Anyway, it was there, but it was locked in the safe so I couldn’t get it until tomorrow. No problem, at least it isn’t lost!

Went back with the good news and we spent the rest of the evening relaxing in our room.

¹Culverden is a small farming town in North Canterbury on New Zealand’s South Island.

17/8/89

Today is the day we should have left on our trip but that wasn’t to be as I have said earlier.

The morning was cold grey and grizzly. I had a wake up call at 7 a.m. and went round to the Iqbal in the hope of getting a room but it was full up. I wandered around the wet and muddy streets for hour and a half and finally settled on a place called the Hotel Terminal. It was K/SH300 per night (£10) but that is a hell of a saving on the 680’s K/SH840 per night.  We packed our gear and checked out of the 680 and walked up to the hotel terminal on Moktar Daddah Street. It is safe and comfortable and although not as plush as the 680 it will do us.

We had lunch at the cafe on the corner, then relaxed in our room for an hour or so before we set off back to the 680 to see Lynda. She wasn’t there so we decided to go over to the Iqbal and see if Craig and Ian or Skip¹ were there.  On the street a guy came up to us with four carved animals for sale at K/SH300 for all four. After some hard bargaining we bought two of them, a giraffe and an impala for K/SH50. That’s quite a markdown. Another guy in approached us with a beautiful carved elephant he wanted K/SH180 for. Again some hard bargaining ensued and we got it for 40. Not a bad haul.

We found Craig and Ian at the Iqbal and we all want it over to the market. Those two really drive a hard bargain!! We had teas at the African Heritage Cafe then parted company and went to the 680.  Had a few drinks with Lynda then said our goodbyes to her as she is leaving on her trip tomorrow. Walked back to the Terminal and had tea at the corner café.

¹These three guys were members of our overland group. Ian and Craig were English; Skip (we never found out his real name) was Australian.

 

16/8/89

We spent most of the morning sussing out a cheap place to stay from tomorrow night as our paid up accommodation here at the 680 runs out tomorrow. We finally settled on the Iqbal¹ on Latina Road after looking at several other highly suspect looking places. You cannot book for the Iqbal so we have to be here at 8 a.m. to be sure of getting a room.

With somewhere to stay sorted out we went to the market and I bought a straw hat for K/SH 25 and a carved mask for KSH 50.  Linda bought a very nice pair of sandals from a street stall for 200. We had a drink at the Terrace Bar when we got back to the hotel and spent the afternoon relaxing in our room.  We had tea in the Simba Room.

¹The Iqbal hostel, colloquially known as the “Dog Bowl” was a famous, if somewhat squalid, hotel that was popular with backpackers travelling on a budget and none too fussy about the quality of their digs as long as they were cheap! 

My travel diary from our four month African overland in 1989.
Route map and budget for our trip. Again, this was compiled in our little attic room at The Woodman, a long way from Africa, but the place where we dreamed our African Dreams for four months as we worked hard and saved every penny we earned for our trip.