“I wandered everywhere, through cities and countries wide. And everywhere I went, the world was on my side.”
To my amazement the sun rose this Sunday morning, I managed to resist scraping off my ZA sticker and burning my Springbok jersey. The Aussies in camp were playing The House of the Rising Son and laughing at us, times are tough being a Saffer and a rugby supporter. I wish we had been deep in the bush and had remained ignorant of the Springbok capitulation to Japan at the Rugby World Cup.
Well we were warned, once you have settled in at Jungle Junction (JJs), a strange type of inertia can settle in. Others describe ending up spending up to 3 weeks here after intentions of a 3 day stay. Nairobi is a lovely city to organize all the logistics lying ahead for the relatively poorly serviced north of Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan. The weather is great because of Nairobi's relative altitude and JJs is situated in a residential area close to the Eurocentric suburb of Karen with all its shopping centers and service providers nearby. Takeaways, coffee shops, movies, Nakumat, restaurants and really first world shopping centers are nearby. Nairobi is a really large city and the traffic and parking in the city center is a problem on unfamiliar roads, following a GPS and looking for some obscure administrative office.
JJs have a shuttle for the use of guests and the driver, Wycliffe knows where all the embassies, customs and immigration, couriers, photostat shops are and the various places that many of us have to not only locate, but then also find parking that is secure. The shuttle charges vary according to the destination, but most of us would use it for going into town and visiting the various embassies for visas and then also Kenyan Immigration and Customs. We were advised that the best is to hire the shuttle for a morning or so and agree to the hourly rate. He will then drop you off at an embassy, park and wait before taking you to the next destination. Many other people have to go through the same formalities and the shuttle expenses can be shared, the hourly rate is KSh 800 (US$8). They also offer a service to convey gas bottles and have them refilled, even the South African ones, there will be a fairly stiff charge for the gas and for transportation (US$18).
Laundry services using an automatic washing machine are offered and widely used at US$4 per big bag. In addition there are set menu meals available if booked, at very reasonable rates. Not only camping but also rooms are available. The camping charge is US$7 pppn. Vehicles and luggage can also be stored here, the vehicle storage charge is about US$100 per month (Euros 80). There must be about 40 vehicles stored here just to the one side of the camping area. The German-origin owner Chris Handschuh is a motorcycle mechanic by trade but they have a well-equipped workshop and staff and are able to carry our many repairs and are able to service vehicles. Chris is a real font of information on the formalities of overland travel, Kenya and Nairobi. He will be able to direct you to the correct place if he cannot help you personally. JJs has been a very important stopover for African overland travelers for a number of years and one can see why.
Unfortunately together with the rest of Kenya JJs is also suffering from the drop in tourism. Chris estimates an 80% drop in turnover this year. Nonetheless we did meet some other independent travelers during our stay and were able to exchange plenty of current information. One of the people camping are an elderly Swiss couple who have been travelling the world in their trusty Land Cruiser since 1984 and are in the Guinness Book of Records, www.worldrecordtour.com They have no home or family and have visited every continent and subcontinent as well as all the out of the way destinations in the world worth exploring. They obviously have some amazing stories, the latest an armed robbery where shots were fired at Nkhota Nkhota in Malawi only 2 months ago.
The property is large and is situated in the leafy suburb of Langata, just adjacent to the more affluent suburb of Karin. It moved here about 2 years ago. The new address is Kongoni Road, Hardy Estate, Langata, Nairobi. It is situated half way along Kongoni Rd and be aware that there is only a small wooden sign with JJs on it. It is on T4A, but just in case S1 26,767 E36 44,438. Phone no +254(0) 722 752 865. The camping area is on a large grassed area with minimal shade and initially may appear a little barren, but one soon settles in. Cables to link up electrically are readily available and one is allowed full use of the main building with a large lounge, TV, very fast wi-fi and outside dining area. There is also a small kitchen for guests to use. There are of course hot showers (only 2 which may be a problem when busy) and 2 flush toilets. These are kept immaculately clean and Chris really understands the requirements of independent travelers, this is not some backpackers joint. There is an honesty bar with beers, sodas and water.
Well what have we been up to during the 3 days of being here? Not too much quite frankly, all the formalities with visas and the like will have to wait until tomorrow, after the weekend, when we have hired the shuttle. Amongst other things our passports will have to be couriered to the Ethiopian embassy in South Africa for a visa, thank goodness we have 2 passports. We are not sure how long this will take, hopefully less than a week. I will detail all the formalities once we have successfully completed them. Also needing to be done are our visas for North Sudan and our exit from Kenya as there are no Kenyan immigration facilities available when exiting using the Lake Turkana route to Ethiopia. Likewise there are no customs and our carnet will also have to be stamped out in Nairobi. I also want to see if the air helper springs on my rear suspension can be replaced. The one rubber bag is punctured and hopefully can be replaced if we can source them. I have been investigating various possibilities. These punctured way back in Northern Zambia and losing them is certainly not a major setback. However with the rough roads on the Lake Turkana route they will help protect the suspension of our heavily loaded vehicle.
However we did the touristy thing and visited Giraffe Manor which is just down the road from JJs and is definitely worth a visit. It is fun to feed these tame giraffes pellets from the viewing platform. The female I chose to feed must have French blood, see the photo! It is best not to visit on a weekend when apparently things can become quite crowded. We have a long list of things to do in and around Nairobi kindly provided by Wazungu. Unfortunately we may have to kill some time here whilst we await our Ethiopian visas. Amongst the alternatives is visiting the Sheldrick's Elephant Orphanage which is near Nairobi NP which we plan to do. I think it is important not to allow our explorations to come to a grinding halt. I think we have some frustrations ahead of us over the next while whilst we grapple with the convolutions of African beaurocracy. If it really seems to be dragging we will go of to Lake Naivasha and Hells Gate and if things really are dragging perhaps even look at bringing forward our planned visits to the Aberdare NP and Mt Kenya NP, before returning to Nairobi to pick up the visas etc. After an excellent flow to most of our trip we will have to exercise some patience now.
We could have obtained a 6 month Ethiopian visa before leaving but this would have placed an unwelcome time constraint on our East African travels and at this stage it would only had a month to run which would definitely not cover our plans. Especially considering that the most time spent in Ethiopia would be on the return leg after Sudan and perhaps Egypt which will probably only be in 2 months time. All the information we have been getting indicates that the Lake Turkana route has improved considerably in more recent times. We are dead set on using this route as opposed to the largely tarred route via Marsabit to Moyale. We have not yet avoided the road less travelled and the Turkana Route seems very interesting. However the area is very isolated through the drylands of Northern Kenya and if there is vehicle trouble help is far away in this harsh environment. The trouble with ethnic wars seemed to have settled this year. Some of those at JJs who have just done Lake Turkana, went over our chosen route with me and were very impressed with the detailed advice and directions from Wazungu, thanks again, in anticipation. It seems as if Wayne J is keen to join us for this leg and if so it will be great. Two vehicles are advised but we have covered many of the bases for travel in isolated places, with 2 spare tyres, puncture repair kit, 265l of fuel, about 80l of water and a satellite phone. We feel we are set up to comfortably sit out 2 week in an isolated area should we break down. I also obtained some fantastic out of the way routes in western Ethiopia from Aussie biker Mike E. We shall see if I have the stamina left to tackle these.
Main. The camp at JJs.
1. Another shot of the camp at JJs. Empty compared to its choc-a-bloc state of previous times.
2. The vehicle storage area right next to the camping area.
3 and 4. The main building.
5. The workshop, mainly bikers.
6. Anne and the giraffe.
7. A French femme fatal giraffe?