Sunday, January 2, 2011

17624km's from point of origin, it all ends here...

A warm hello from us here in Kenya, East Africa. (actually now in India but this was all written in Kenya)

So this is it, the proverbial fat lady has sung, two days ago a very emotional Paul and Karla rode back into Nairobi and climbed off of Yele for the last time. Tears were flowing freely as they embraced each other and the beautiful Yamaha Tenere and thanked her for getting them through Africa safely and above all with so many wonderful tales to tell. South Africa to Ethiopia by motorcycle 2010, what an epic adventure it has been...

Some 17624km's ago we set off from Johannesburg South Africa with no agenda other than we had around six months to get to Ethiopia and somewhere in October, Karla had to be in Uganda to do some volunteer nursing work. Other than that, it was open season. We had no idea where we would be each day, the plan was to roll out the tent and take life as it unfolded. For six months we have done just that, the day's only objective was to be somewhere new, sometimes not even that. There is a raw beauty in freedom like that. We wake naturally, sometimes to birds singing, at other times to the call to prayer at a nearby mosque. If we decided that we liked a place, we stayed. If there were things to do, we did them. We chose to see and do pretty much all of Africa's jewels. We crossed international borders with our bike 11 times, and each time, a new country brought with it so many new things. The people took on a different colour, they spoke differently, their mannerisms were different, the landscape changed immediately, the animals changed, the food changed, and with all of those changes we changed too. Each time we had to learn the new basic words for the new land, "thankyou", "please", "camp", "room", "how much", and quite importantly, "beer"!

You know, looking back, time has gone so fast, but at the same time some of the countries we visited seemed like a really long time ago. Talking to friends in various places around the world of late, we have such a different perception of time over the last six months. Since we left, friends have married, friends have had children, friends have been promoted, friends have moved on, life has been exciting and challenging for so many people. For us, and indeed as we had hoped, we have grown ourselves individually, and together, enormously.

Africa is not like other places around the world. But in some ways it is trying to be just like everywhere else. Either way, not many places on earth exist where you come face to face with such diversity on a daily basis. Here, anything can happen and quite often it does. I have seen why people who have grown up in Africa long to return here, despite the challenges that living here pose. There is so much desperation, and there is also so much inspiration. There are advances in certain cultures that are moving at a blistering pace, but there are other cultures that, quite frankly, it is hard to see how they can possibly survive moving through the 21st century. In fact, we have seen cultures that have not much progressed since the dawn of mankind, but they live on and they are still smiling.

It is really difficult to reflect on everything we have done over the last six months, there is simply too much information to process to achieve an accurate representation of what Africa was for us. It is after all so many different things for different people. And I think that is what makes travelling such a very special and personal thing for everyone. Africa for us will be a very different experience than what it would be for you. But I guarantee you that in every way you will grow and you will have fun and at the end of the day if you don't have that in life...

Over the coming weeks we will commence looking through our experiences of Africa and we will be compiling a collage of shots that hopefully highlight the wonders of our six month voyage from South Africa to Ethiopia. Stay tuned for that!

Be well and be safe.

Love always

P and K


Attaching the panniers for the last time, Northern Kenya.

Cleaning Yele for her long boat ride home

Saying thank you and goodbye





Mission accomplished, time for a beer and a bath!!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Kenya and Ethiopia (the final two)

The Mursi tribe, famous for their lip plates


Let me say outright that we had no intention of spending much time in Kenya, the focus was always on moving through to get to Ethiopia. When last we spoke you will remember that I was en route to Kenya on my own trying to get some travel documentation for Karla to get out of Uganda. I made it as far as getting on my bike with all of the gear when the phone rang. I was going to let it ring out but for whatever reason I didn't. I answered and it was the courier company saying that our package had just landed in the country!! So we finally got them (our passports), but a month late! Let's go!!

We collected the passports the following morning and a couple of hours later we were both on Yele, Kenya bound. We were both pumped to be back on the road and spent a few hours getting back into the groove of the journey again. We crossed the border into Kenya and made our way towards the town of Kisumu. We arrived into this town in the pitch dark which was a massive problem as we had no lights! We had an electrical issue (wires had come loose due to corrugation) that we had decided we would get looked at in Nairobi, a day or two later. I think I miscalculated the distance and the border crossing and thus we had some creative riding to do. We tacked onto the back of this truck and just rode in his wake and the reflection of his lights. Thankfully he was putting along but we ate a whole lot of dust as when the road ended we were faced with a 10km stretch of dirt, potholes and congestion. As soon as we entered the outer suburbs of Kisumu, he indicated that he was going to turn left. We knew that we would effectively not be able to see anything from thereon but the GPS was indicating that we didn't have too far to go until we hit the centre of town. So we decided to let him make his turn and then we would go around him. He made a bit of a berth and started into the turn, then the trailer caught some overhead power lines, sparks started flying and the entire truck flipped over!! It was like all of this happened in slow motion right in front of us. We made sure that someone got him out of there and that he was all right and then we decided to head on into town. Welcome to Kenya...

We made it into Nairobi a day or two later and promptly popped Yele onto the mechanics stand as she was due for a major service. We considered new shoes for her but decided that due to our limited time remaining, the current ones would do especially as we were about to do the infamous Moyale road, twice!!! This road is the stuff of legends, not too many people try this with two on board, and noone does it twice. People on internet forums were betting that I wouldn't do it twice. We'll see about that...

We lightened the luggage by leaving the rear bag behind along with about 25 kgs of luggage. This meant that we would be going even more ferral for the next two weeks, we really needed to be as light as possible for this last leg of the trip and as we were coming back to Nairobi it worked out perfectly. Up to the Ethiopian border would probably take us about five days, three of them would be total bike and body destroying slogs through desert terrain that all too often sucked the ambition and drive out of mortals, chewed them up and spat them out, leaving them frazzled in the desert heat... This was what we signed up for, vamonos!!

You know, looking back, this was such a pivotal moment for us, even just being en route to this road. This symbolised the last ride, the end of the trip, a dream achieved, and a new dream needed to fill its place. Was the road all that? Sure it was, but in truth we smashed it up. Yeah we were knackered and at times were swearing like sailors at the state of the road. At times I couldn't feel my arms for the sheer arm pump that I was experiencing. But we had decided that instead of doing the tough parts over two days we would take an extra one. That way, each day would be 120kms, taking about nine hours each day, there were some tough sections. But more importantly, we stopped to take in the surroundings and to experience the desert cultures. We encountered some of the most incredible people that we had yet seen. The Samburu people of Northern Kenya herded their camel caravans across the desert plains, clothed in amazing coloured robes, wearing thousands of coloured necklaces and the most amazing tribal head dresses. Some young tribal girls came over to us for some water, we gave them some of our limited supply and asked if we could take a photo of them. They grabbed a few coins and did a runner on us. They were hilarious, we snapped away as they ran towards their camels.

Enough talking for now, here are some pics of our last adventure through the plains of Africa. This was all about the people that we encountered, truly incredible. They are not with us at all in the modern era, they do some amazingly bizarre things, some highlighted below.

There will be another couple of entries to this blog shortly as we wrap up Africa and the blur that was London, and look to India in a few days time. Until then... look after each other while the earth decides to test everyones mettle. Love and best wishes to all those affected in QLD and VIC.

P and K xxx

Ethiopian woman and her family

A big blooming snake on the side of the road, luckily dead though

This is a typical Ethiopian dish, by far the best food in Africa if you ask me

Some shots of an Ethiopian village that we stopped at in the lower Omo valley, spectacular people!

Now this probably deserves a bit of an explanation. The next few are of something that we were quite fortunate to have been able to attend. An Ethiopian bull jumping ceremony happens when a young man comes of age and must prove his manliness by jumping over a line up of bulls. The controversy however is all about the whipping of the women. Trust me, it is full on as in their culture they are out to become as scarred as possible. They beg the whipping boys to whip them and actually sometimes get quite aggressive if they won't comply. No sexist comments needed please, I was just the journalist attending the ceremony. I thought it was quite mad and I can see why there is so much pressure from others to get them to stop doing this. You will see one of the woman's backs, deeply slashed. You will also see one of them begging to be whipped by the dude who comes in from a neighboring village specifically for this purpose. This entire region of earth is so involved in age old traditions it really is quite astonishing.

The Mursi tribe, amazing to see but extremely aggressive

The Samburu tribe of Northern Kenya. fascinating, they emerge from nowhere with huge caravans of camels.

With Yele after finishing the bone jarring road - twice!!! Check out the distance to Moyale, where the blasted thing ends!!

And from here, just some shots of us in life on the road. The people, the landscape, the emotions... One day we will come back to Africa, can't wait...