29-Nov-2009 -- As a crew member of Swiss International Airlines, I sometimes get to stay in Nairobi for 24 or 48 hours. The swimming pool at the hotel is tempting, but this stay I decided to do something a bit more adventurous than getting a suntan.
After a failed attempt of 7S 39E in Tanzania due to lack of comprehension by the taxi driver, I made sure this time to find a driver with a lot of patience.
But let me start with a few advices for this region:
- make sure you don't go into terrain shortly after some rain fell (shortly meaning: many days)
- take a motorcycle with you (no, not your girlfriend's Vespa, but a motocross version)
- transport the motocross bike in a 4WD car (go ahead, laugh at me because I started out with a 2WD with automatic gear shift!)
Now you can already imagine some difficulties of my trip. We arrived shortly after noon in the area with the last well-drivable gravel road, where we passed this little girl of about 5 years age with its distinctive yellow-violet dress, walking all alone on the side of the street.
Entering more rough terrain, our Toyota soon came to its limit due to the mud and general quality of the 'road'. Now even a 4WD would have been too wide for the path, so the taxi driver and I drove back to the next settlement. En route we passed again this little girl with the yellow-violet dress, still walking.
The local shop owner had a brand new motorbike made in China that squeaked 'Welcome to use our motorcycle!' when you turned on the ignition; every time. After negotiating the price, his son drove me back to the area of interest, again passing this little girl with the yellow-violet dress, still walking.
After a short while on the path we got stuck in the mud. Since it was no motocross bike (see advices above), soon the mud also got stuck between the front wheel and its guard. So we had to dismantle and remove it. Eventually we ran out of drivable path and I had to walk the last 2 km (as the crow flies. Unfortunately at that moment, I was no crow). The satellite picture available of this region was only of low resolution and thus hard to interpret. I had no idea what kind of vegetation I had to expect. It showed to be almost impenetrable bush land with an occasional patch of cultured soil and its associated farmer's hut, interconnected by some narrow paths and divided by makeshift fences out of dry branches.
Approaching the Confluence, two boys followed me silently, of course wondering what I was doing in the bushes. There I found an animal track (for creatures with a shoulder height of about one meter - to which I do not belong to...), leading me to within 37 m of the Confluence (with a PDOP of 1.6) - mission accomplished! I guess the boys had never seen a camera before, but the picture he took from me was more than useable.
In the mean time, my bike driver found out about another road back: much longer, but less muddier. Finally back on the car road, we passed again that lonely little girl with the yellow-violet dress, 5 hours after our first encounter: she was still walking! Which made me feel bad when I complained about my poor bottom after 80 km of rough paths (please don't tell my mom that I didn't wear a helmet, ok?)
On the way back to civilization we passed over a ridge and were awestruck by the sight of distant Kilimanjaro in the light of the setting sun. Thank you, Africa!