Ethiopia & Kenya (including Turkana Route)

ETHIOPIA

Visa

– we got ours from the UK before we left, valid for 3 months from date of issue which worked for us

– visas can easily be extended at the immigration office in Addis, the process takes a couple of days
Border crossing
– we crossed the border at Metama, the whole process was very straight forwards compared to the previous 2 countries!
– we’d heard that if taking a vehicle into Ethiopia you need a letter from your embassy, however we checked at the Ethiopian embassy in Khartoum who said it wasn’t required and at the border nothing was mentioned

Gonder
– we stayed at Belegez pension which was not to bad for 175Bir there was a good little courtyard for the car although there wasn’t any hot water as promised and the toilet didn’t always want to work
– it seemed the most popular choice as we coincidently met lots of travellers we’d met earlier on route

Simien Mountains
– it’s really easy to arrange everything at the Park Headquarters in
Debark
– we opted not to take a guide and despite our mandatory scout speaking no English and not playing the sign language game we had no problems in navigating as he took us exactly where we needed to go (trying to figure out how long we had to walk proved a little trickier)
– we’re not the biggest of trekkers so opted to drive the car into the park and use it to camp the first night at Sankabar
– we then spent a day hiking to Gich where there’s a really nice little community lodge on the hillside (ignore the tourist info in Gonder if they tell you it’s only possible to camp) which means you don’t have to carry a tent
– the lodge can do meals for you and you can also buy some supplies such as eggs and bread
– we hiked the next day up to the lookout point of Imet Gogo which was stunning before making our way back to Sankabar
– we understood from other travellers it’s also possible to drive further up to Chenek
– we stayed one night in Debark and Simien Park Hotel which was not bad after our trekking and did have hot water

Axum
– we really enjoyed Axum, not really for the Stelae fields but it just had a nice relaxed feel and we could chill out for a few days
– we stayed at the Kaleb Hotel which was a good little spot, we had the bigger modern room, I got the impression other people in the older rooms were maybe less impressed

Hawzien
– we stopped for one night at the Tourist Hotel in the centre of town and after a bit of negotiation persuaded them to let us camp for not too sillier price (120 Bir)
– we climbed up to Abuna Yemata Guh Church and despite the hassle factor in dealing with car scouts, guides and priest tips it was an amazing experience
– we got the impression they might see a couple of visitors a week

Lalibella
– we camped at the Bete Abraham Hotel which is at the bottom of town near the Roha Hotel
– they initially wanted 200 Bir for camping and were going to put us in this strange compound next to the hotel with the use of the staff toilets, when we said we’d go somewhere else the Manager (also a priest) said could pay 100Bir, park nearer reception and use the toilet and shower in the conference room on the third floor
– the Manager and Staff were very friendly and despite it being a bit strange us camping out the front we are glad we stayed there

Lake Hayk
– this spot had been recommended to us and we followed the main road down to a lodge where you can camp (GPS – N11 19.540 E39 41.292)
– Lake Hayk was indeed beautiful but the whole place was a bit strange with music blaring out of massive speakers in the lake and a lot of people wandering around who had clearly been chewing too much chat
– when we asked about food the guys at the lodge were taking the p*&% with the faranji prices and did not want to negotiate, we therefore walked up to the neighbouring lodge and had a lovely fish goulash for normal prices
– if you are staying at Lake Hayk I’d recommend you stay at Lodge Erkum, you need to take the left fork in the road as you approach the Lake which is also signed for the Monastery

Addis Ababa
– we obviously stayed at Wims Holland House which is a great place to spend a few days, indulge in some Western food, drinks and meet other travellers
– you can also get lots of info from Wim regarding vehicle repairs, gas refilling, food supplies, visas etc
– to get to Wims once you get to La Gare you need to fight your way behind all the buses to run almost alongside the old station and somebody will appear to open the height barrier if required
– stock up on food in Addis as there’s not a lot, other than local markets further south
– you can buy Comesa yellow card insurance for most African countries from Ethiopian Insurance Corporation on the Ras Mekenon Rd (Wim can point you in the right direction)

Lake Langano
– we had quite a hassle trying to find somewhere nice to camp here as they either don’t want campers or it’s very expensive and each time you go to a different hotel it’s quite a drive up and down dirt roads off the main road
– we finally stayed at Bekele Mola which at 100Bir per person with only the use of a toilet seemed expensive
– the Lake was pleasant enough although very muddy and not really worth any special effort to see

Bale Mountains
– we arrived at the Park Headquarters near Dinsho and everything was easy to arrange
– we paid for a guide for our visit, it was good to have him on the walk around the Sanetti Plateau although we’ve since learnt you don’t have to take a guide
– we drove into the park and camped up on the Plateau for the first night – you definitely need warm gear as it got to -3. From here it’s very easy to see Ethiopian wolf
– we drove on and stayed one night at Katcha camp – the mountain and Harena forest around here is beautiful
– we had one night back at the camp headquarters in Dinsho where it was almost like bushcamping with lovely views over the surrounding area and warthogs wandering past our tent

Arba Minch
– we camped on the cliff top at the Beke Mola Hotel which was a little expensive at 100Bir per person but we did have better views than those staying in rooms and also had the use of a cold shower
– we bought some fresh supplies for our trip down South at the market in Arba Minch

LAKE TURKANA ROUTE TO KENYA
We used the info from Two Turkeys and a rope which gives a lot of detail

Passport & Customs
– there is a border post in Omorate, they can now stamp your carnet as well as your passport out of the country
– there is no immigration post in Kenya so you will need to go to a couple of places in Nairobi to get stamped in
1) Dept of Immigations – Nyaya House S1 17.245, E36 49.098, go to the left hand side of the building – Aliens Immigration, Room 14
2) Customs – Times Tower – S1 17.456 E36.49.444, when on this road make sure you take the first left turn into the lay-by parking area as there are no other turns!
– remember that Immigration and Customs are closed Saturdays and Sundays (as we’d missed this fact)

Fuel
– we fuelled up at Arba Minch and then brimmed the tank again at Konso, there won’t be another fuel station until Isiolio which is 1000km
– we also took a 20 litre jerry bag on top of our 150 litre tank as a safety measure, by using this we got all the way to Nairobi

Water
– we filled our tanks in Arba Minch and topped up again in Loligolani
– Mango Campsite in Turmi also seemed to have water but I’m not sure how clean it was!

Money
– we changed Ethiopian Bir to Kenyan Shillings in Omorate, the Customs post will point you in the direction of who to speak to, the money changer could also change dollars although the rates weren’t great
– it was also possible to change money in Liongolani but the rate being offered was again pretty poor

Letter of Authority
– we’d read that to travel in South Omo you need a permission letter from the local tourist office, however other travellers we’d talked to had not said we needed one and Wim at Holland House also said it wasn’t required
– there was one checkpoint after Omorate where we were asked for the letter but after explaining we were driving to Kenya and them making a call to the Customs post we were allowed on our way with no other issues

Travel buddies
– we’d always been told that this route is isolated but from the Kenyan border down to 10km north of Liongolani we didn’t see one other car so we’d definitely recommend buddying up with some other travellers as it helps to have some morale support and camaraderie when the going gets tough

South Omo
– we left Arba Minch and planned to stay in the police compound in Weita, however it was really hot and it didn’t look overly appealing so we decided to continue to the next town of Arbore
– before arriving in Arbore we decided that maybe a bushcamp wasn’t out of the question so we pulled off the road and tucked ourselves down a track, some local tribes did come to say hello but were no trouble, they were more interested in us and all that we had with us more than anything else
– we did later see in Arbore a campsite which looked more appealing than the police compounds
– the Mango Campsite in Turmi was a really nice spot and we popped up the river bed for dinner at Buska Lodge (where you can camp but we thought from a camping point of view Mango was nicer)

– we’d hoped to see some local markets but managed to miss them due to our guidebook being out of date, from what we learnt there are markets in the following places Weita & Dimeka – Saturday, Turmi & Arbore – Monday
– we did go to a running of the bulls ceremony which we organised at the Mango Campsite in Turmi, the whole experience was interesting whilst extremely uncomfortable (1- because you feel like you’re intruding and 2 – because it turns into such a tourist show)

– the road to Omorate is gravel, in relatively good condition but pretty corrugated
– after getting stamped out in Omorate you have to drive back approx 19km the way you’ve H come to GPS – N04 44.848 E36 10.520 and then head south down a track towards the border
– there was one police checkpoint (possibly the border??) where we were asked to show our passports

Border to Siboli National Park
– we bushcamped for a couple of nights just off the road near Siboli National park with no problem as there was nobody around
– we turned off the road Tracks for Africa shows to avoid the National Park as per the 2Turkeys info at N3 48.696 E36 28.766
– after rejoining the road we turned right towards the lake, the road here is particularly bad with big boulders in the middle of the road and numerous river crossing which make for slow progress
– we over estimated the mileage we could cover, don’t expect to drive more than 100km in a day during this stretch

Lake Turkana & Liongolani
– due to some technical difficulties we didn’t make it to Liongolani to camp but bush camped near the lake (20km north of the town) which was beautiful
– the next day we stopped in Liongolani which is a lovely little town with lots of tribal people, we’d recommend spending a day here if you can
– the scenery around this area is stunning
– in Liongolani you can buy supplies such as eggs, bread, soft drinks
– we also popped into El’Mosaretu Womens Group, Approx GPS – N2 45.427 E36 43.265, senteyobaltor@yahoo.com to carry out repairs to one of the vehicles, Senteyo – the lady who runs the site couldn’t have been more welcoming and we were able to top up our water tanks, take a hot shower and carry out the repairs we needed without everybody crowding around us.
– Senteyo simply asked us to make a donation as we wished. There were 50 or so local orphans registering for some funding when were there and we genuinely felt like our donation would do some good, we’d really recommend you stay there as they were so accommodation and have camping facilities

South Horr
– next we headed towards South Horr where there are a couple of campsites (the last one being Samburu Sports Club GPS – N2 06.348 E36 55.425)
– we managed to drive past them as Tracks for Africa showed one on the edge of town, however it didn’t exist. We didn’t want to turn around due the road being pretty bad through the town and we attempted to bush camp a bit too close to town – not to be recommended as the locals started asking for silly amounts of money which we eventually managed to avoid

Archers Post
– we headed for what we thought was Samburu Womens Camp/ Umoja Campsite (as it had been recommended), the setting was quite nice next to the river and the facilities pretty basic
– from our impression the camp did not seem to be run as a Womens camp and they were asking for 800Ksh to camp and were not accommodating in dropping the price (I think they’ve made it to the Lonely Planet so have clearly ramped up the prices)
– we instead drove towards Samburu National Reserve and found a great little spot called Waso View Camp, Approx GPS – N2 45.427 E36 43.265, there will be a small white sign on the road, a beautiful place next to the river. There’s not a lot there, it’s almost like bush camping, except the local village have built a small hut for a guard to sleep and a toilet and basic shower
– the 500ksh per person appears to be going to the local community and therefore it seemed a far better option

KENYA

Visa

– there were obtained in Addis, dropped them off one day and collected them the next

Nairobi
-we stayed at two places in Nairobi and both have their pros and cons

Jungle Junction
Pros
– lots of other overlanders so a good place to meet people
– free wifi
– tips for places to get spare vehicle parts
– on site garage for some advice
Cons
– it can be quite impersonal
– the free wifi can make it a bit anti-social (I’m as guilty as the next person for this!)
– you have to book meals in advance
– the ‘honesty fridge’ with the beer in shuts at about 20:00
– the whole place can resemble a bit of a car park
– the showers are next to the squat toilets

Upper Hill Backpackers
Pros
– a very enthusiastic and helpful owner who is full of tips
– great homecooked food that you can order like a bar/ restaurant
– nice atmosphere with lots of people sitting around chatting
Cons
– the camping is 100Ksh cheaper than Jungle Junction but the drink costs are a fair bit more
– the wifi is via a dongle, it’s slow and costs
the whole place is geared up a bit more towards backpackers than overlanders so you don’t get all the hints you need (like where to refill your gas)
– we didn’t experience it but got the impression Upper Hill attracts big overland buses and can be quite rowdy on occasions

Vehicle repairs
– Impala has spares for all sorts of vehicles and we were really impressed when we managed to buy not only our Bilstien shock absorbers but also the internal mechanism for our window. GPS co-ordinates – S01 18.342, E36 49.975
– Whilst getting our window repaired we also came across a really helpful garage just around the corner from Impala. Joe the Manager went to uni in the UK and speaks really good English – Unitech Kenya Ltd, GPS – S01 18.296, E36 49.707 Josiah.mwanilu@gmail.com, +254 722 571 511

Tsavo
– we opted for Tsavo East which we enjoyed although didn’t see loads of animals
– we stayed outside the park in Voi for the first night – Tsavo Lodge just outside the park charge 500Ksh and we met the owner who was really friendly
– you can stay at the public campsite in Tsavo

Meru
– we stayed a couple of nights in Meru, the public campsite is really nice, good facilities for a National Park – they even have a swimming pool (which we didn’t test out)
– the landscapes in Meru are beautiful but we found it a bit tricky to spot much wildlife in December due to the rains creating a lot of vegetation

Samburu
– we stayed at Waso View Camp – please see info on Archers Post in our Lake Turkana notes
– we loved Samburu, maybe my favourite in Kenya. The number of elephants that got really close was amazing, the setting with the river and mountains in the background was also stunning

Lake Naivasha
– we stayed at Carnelleys Camp, it has a really nice bar, a good feel to the place and you can camp down by the lake, it’s also a far more peaceful option than Fishermans Camp
– we took a boat ride from Carnelleys and saw so many birds including Fish Eagles and then lots of hippos

Masai Mara
– we headed for Talek Gate as you don’t have to pay for entrance fees for the park. Aruba camp is next to the river and only 600Ksh, the staff are very friendly. The drinks and food are a little over priced (obviously where they make their money)
– the route to Talek Gate via Ngorogore, Lemek & Aitong was ‘challenging’ due to the recent rains so try and check out conditions before you go this way
– we left via Ololaimutiek Gate which was a lot better
– we couldn’t help but be wowed by the amount of wildlife in the Masai and finally got to see our big cats – lions and cheetahs. It’s easy enough to do a game drive yourself by stopping and asking the passing cars of where to see things
– we really enjoyed being in the park mid-afternoon when there weren’t many other vehicles around, the Masai circus seemed to start at about 16:00 when you literally get a traffic jam of safari vehicles

Kakemega Forest- Isecheno side
– we stopped off here and camped by the park headquarters – Forest Rest House (the Southern side is a lot cheaper than the northern end which is run by KWS)
– the camp spot is lovely, in the middle of the forest with a flush toilet and cold shower
– we chose to have a guide who took us up to the lookout point and pointed out lots of medicinal plants and gave us some info about the local wildlife

Mt Elgon National Park
– we drove in for some small day walks rather than hiking the mountain
– we noticed our guidebook said the Kapkuro Bandas were cheaper than camping so went for this option, the bandas are really nice, complete with kitchen and a nice bathroom, you can sleep 4 people and they only cost $25 (camping is $15 per person)

Apologies for the 2 Approx GPS points, I’ve done something blonde with our garmin and can’t seem to retrieve the co-orditnates of the points I saved!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s