Hell Road, finally

The Moyale – we had heard so much about that road, thought so much about that road and planned around that road, when we finally got there it was a bit surreal. Moyale is actually the name of a town, or rather two towns, as there is one on the Kenyan side and one on the Ethiopian. The road from Isiolo in Kenya up to this split-in-two border town is commonly called „the Moyale“, or also „Hell Road“. „Hell Road“ is over 300 kms long in total, and it is famously bad. Back in Jozi our friend Ryan had told us how he nearly „shit his pants“ on some stretches, and our other friend Jolandie broke her rear shock trying to get speedy over the heavy corrugations („Wellblech“-Abschnitte auf der Strasse). So we were warned. On the other hand, we had heard that the Chinese and the Turks started working on the Moyale in 2011, and that considerable stretches of the road had been tarred or improved. And indeed an excellent road runs now from Iziolo for more than 100kms. Some people might be disappointed about that – Hell Road has become a lot shorter and will soon vanish altogether, but we have to say we weren’t. First of all, the tar gave us the opportunity to look a lot more around us and enjoy the wildlife and the landscape – and what wildlife and landscape! This region of Kenya is sparsely populated, probably because it is pretty dry and stony. The Samburu people who live here are mostly living the traditional way – half-nomadic, they roam around with their livestock and set up their (very mongolic looking) tents en route. Besides people with cattle, we saw huge eagles, feasting on some roadkill; a zebra looking out of the bushes; lots of tiny little duikers that looked more like big squirrels than antelopes; and several ostriches. And we realized how far North we had come now when we saw our first herd of camels at the side of the road! A few kilometers after a small settlement called Archers Posts, the tar road ended, and we were looking at 120something kilometers of dirt, dust, gravel, lots of constructions sites and of course corrugations. And what can we say: It was awesome. It was often taxing, especially when we hit the deep dust-sand pits, and the corrugations were horrible, we had so much fun. Anne even laughed when she dropped Tikolosh in the sand, though only after Jan had lifted the bike from her leg. At some stage Annes bike had overheated a bit, and we took it apart to make sure nothing was wrong. But as often, everything was fine once we put it together again. Still, we both had a headache and were thoroughly exhausted when we finally got to Marsabit, and were happy to roll into Henrys Camp. Henry, Rosanna and Miriam made us feel very much at home, and when we found out that Henry had actually come to Marsabit as a development worker in the 70ies, we sat down for a beer and had a nice long chat – on development work now and then and Kenya and Hell Road specifically. The next morning we managed to leave nearly as early as planned. After filling up gas at the station, we had another stretch of tar road before us (this time thanks to the Turkish, not the Chinese), before it was once again a mixture of constructions, dirt road and original Hell Road. Again, we were stunned by the beauty of our surroundings, though this time we had even less opportunity to look at it. But we made a good pace, and reached the border in Moyale before 3pm. Enough time to haggle a little with the border fixers to exchange our Kenyan Shillings into Ethiopian Birr. We had really liked Kenya and the Kenyans, and were a bit sad to leave, but also excited to have finally reached Ethiopia.

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