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Old 06-14-2012, 02:17 AM   #1321
Jammin OP
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Hey guys, been a bit quiet lately as I flew into India to visit my family. Parents said this was closest I was going to get to India before actually entering with the bike, so they sent over a plane ticket Was good to see them, had been 3 years since I've seen my parents and 5 years since I've been to my home in Chennai. Ate lots of mom's food and stocked up on fresh mom-made spices for the road ahead

Back in Nairobi now and got a few more weeks before trip departure. Have to submit my thesis, get visas for Southern Africa, finish prepping sanDRina and get caught up on the photo stories!

By the way, does anyone know someone in Zambia who could help me out with my visa. Need some help with stamps from the immigration office there.
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Old 06-14-2012, 06:46 AM   #1322
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Hey guys, been a bit quiet lately as I flew into India to visit my family.
Glad that you're doing well and had a little break from the road. I'm sure mom looked after you.
Looking forward to the next leg.
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Old 06-16-2012, 09:47 AM   #1323
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Ethiopia, Part 8: Addis Ababa, Lucy and Shashamane
July 17 - 25, 2011

After spending four weeks in northern Ethiopia, I arrived in the capital, Addis Ababa. I had a few things to take care of such as renewing my Ethiopian visa and getting my visa for Kenya. sanDRina was also long overdue for some maintenance, such as a new chain and oil change, which I did at the overland junction of Wim's Holland House.

Besides the above tasks, I also took some time to just relax and do nothing as a very long off-road leg of the journey was coming up south of here. In the evenings, I met up with new and recent friends and enjoyed the night life of the city. The one touristy and very interesting thing I did during my stay was to pay a visit to Lucy, a very famous and important hominin skeleton that was discovered in Ethiopia in the 1970s and dates back to 3.2 million years ago.

Heading south of Addis, I visited the Melka Kunture archeological site where more human remains and tools were on display and then spent a few days in the Rastafari headquarters of Shashamane, where I was lucky to be there for a reggae concert, that too in celebration of their central figure, Haile Selassie.



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Sights of Addis Ababa: looking up Churchill Avenue, the main thoroughfare of the city, which is located at 2,350 m (7,700 ft).


I gave sanDRina a break and walked around and took public transport and in doing so got a look into regular street life. Passing by a busy shoe shine area and noting the huge construction crane as the city booms along.


At the north end of Churchill Avenue, which was a part of my daily route as I lived at the southern end. Nice leather jacket.


A vegetable market, hidden slightly from the busy street by the row of trees. I bought 12 small bananas for 2 Birr ($0.12).


Having an interesting dish for lunch that consisted of scrambled eggs with a red sauce, chives and onions.


Passing by a street seller of wood for construction (scaffolding) and bags of charcoal.


An interesting game of foosball on a side street in Addis.


It was the end of the school year and people were checking their exam results.


Riding a minibus to the Kenyan Embassy where I got my tourist visa issued within a day.


Yekatit 12 Square, also known as, Sidist Kilo, is a monument to the thousands of people that were killed during the brief Italian occupation. In 1936, Italian Vice-Roy Marshal Grazziani ordered a massacre of civilians in response to an assassination attempt on him. The metal bas relieves depict the massacre and funerals that followed and there's a Lion of Juddah above that, a symbol that Ethiopians have embraced from their biblical descent.


Enjoying a nice meal of injera with shiro. The injera was different from the kinds I found in smaller towns, being lighter and a bit crispier. The usual way to eat injera is to dump the sauce on top of it but due to my Indian traditions where we dip our bread (dosa) into the sauce, I have to catch the waiter before they dump the sauce and then can enjoy my dipping. Must look strange to them but that’s how I enjoy it.


A street scene of Addis and note the two men holding hands and walking down the street, considered perfectly normal here and it doesn't indicate that their gay. It's just a non-sexual way to show affection between males. This is also common throughout India where generally it's frowned upon if girls and guys are seen holding hands but it's perfectly okay if friends of the same sex are holding hands and being close.


Ethiopia's currency, the Birr, which has been around since 1855. USD 1 = 17 Birr. Most travelers concur that the birr is one of the dirtiest notes to handle, in general. The above note is a cleaner version of the same 1 Birr note below it. We figured that it's because most Ethiopians eat with their hands and we noted that there isn't soap usually at the hand wash stations of local restaurants and all that spicy berbere gets rubbed off on the birrs.


The century-old La Gare train station. It's the southern terminus of the only railway line currently in Ethiopia that was built to link the capital to the sea port in Djibouti, 800 kms (497 mi) away. There's no passenger service from here and the poor building is under threat of demolition to make way for a new road. In 2010, a Chinese construction company was given the go ahead to start work on a new rail network for Ethiopia, linking Addis with Kenya and Sudan.


To the left of La Gare is a small street that leads to Wim's Holland House, the overland junction in Addis. I stayed here as I needed to connect with other travelers to plan our convoy for the Lake Turkana route into Kenya. The white Toyota Hilux camper belonged to a South African couple who were heading north and told me I had a place to stay when I got to their home town of Port Elizabeth. The brown Iveco motorhome was being driven by a very elderly British couple, Austin and Oona, who've been on the road for the past 12 years and the blue and white VW Syncro was Ferdie and Katie's, who I met earlier at Tim and Kim’s in Gorgora and again in Lalibela. I would be primarily traveling with them on the Turkana route.


A photo with Wim, who set up his Holland House many years ago as a refuge of food and beer for all the Dutch that were living in Addis involved in the flower farming business. He's been in Africa for about 40 years and was running a successful overland trucking company into Sudan, to re-supply all the international organizations there but with the change in leadership, it got harder to do business there. I guess slowly, overland travelers started staying with him and he expanded his compound to invite them to camp and rest for a few days after the rough stretch from Kenya. He had heard about my curry from Tim and Kim and requested that I prepare it for his restaurant.


In the kitchen at Wim's Holland House with their two cooks who helped me prepare my chicken curry.


My chicken curry coming to life at Wim's Holland House, where I fed about 13 people that night. Wim was very impressed and asked if I could stay and manage the kitchen and his Holland House for a month. He was heading back to Holland for his annual medical check up and needed someone to run the place. It was a tempting offer, but I had to get to Nairobi.


Enjoying a beer on the house after another successful Jammin Chicken Curry evening.


One of the things that travelers going in the opposite direction do when they meet: exchange currency. I relieved Austin and Oona of all their Kenyan Shillings in exchange for ATM-fresh Ethiopian Birr. Our convoy of travelers would be entering Kenya in the remote region of Lake Turkana where getting local currency isn't possible and we'd need to buy food and fuel for a few days before coming to the first sizeable town.


Being on the road is fantastic for many reasons but the one aspect that I lament is missing out on major historical events as they happen. The astronomy and space enthusiast in me was really excited to watch live the final touchdown of a Space Shuttle flight, as Atlantis made a night landing at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. NASA made a decision to retire their Space Shuttle fleet and instead allow commercial companies to provide them access to Low Earth Orbit, where the International Space Station resides. This would allow them to focus their funds on developing missions to Mars and asteroids.


Back to Earth and prepping sanDRina for my next mission of riding the fabled Lake Turkana route into Kenya. I enjoyed the company of one of Wim's pooches who was well-behaved and did not run away with any of my scattered tools.


When there's a kink in the chain, it's time to replace it. This DID V8 chain was acquired and mounted in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, 23,500 kms (14,605 mi) ago. It saw me through the Lagunas Route in Bolivia, Ruta 40 in Argentina, Carretera Austral of Chile, then all the tarmac from Ushuaia into Europe, down Egypt, Sudan and then the Highlands of Ethiopia. sanDRina got a new DID V8 chain installed and the mechanic in me is always pleased when new parts are installed before the bike is subject to harsh conditions.


I usually run a 42 tooth rear sprocket (old one on the bottom, new 42 in the middle) but for the sandy and rocky route around Lake Turkana, sanDRina got a 45 tooth rear sprocket. For the non-gearheads, that means the bike will have more power (torque) at low speeds, which is good for crawling through sand and rocky sections. At the front, I was running a 14 tooth sprocket, so that my gearing was now set at 14/45, which is a big step up from the stock gearing on the DR, 15/42. Being lowered geared means that my top speed would be reduced (less top-end horsepower) but in exchange, my torque at the wheel is greatly increased (more low-end grunt).


Comparing the old front sprocket (on top) that's being replaced by the new one (on bottom). As a sprocket wears out, the gap between the teeth increases as the chain constantly beats on the driven face of the tooth. The difference between the new sprocket and the old one is clearly visible. For the rider, newer parts mean a more direct feel when twisting the throttle and seeing the response from the rear wheel. Old, sloppy sprockets and chains deliver a very lose feeling, which isn't confidence-inspiring.


Some sprocket art. An inverted image of my used front sprocket where the hooks of the worn teeth give it the appearance of a chakra, a point of energy, which it is actually is since it translates the energy coming from the engine into the chain that then gets translated into the wheel by the rear sprocket and forward motion happens. It's beautiful how a motorcycle works.


Meeting up with Sadie and Nicola for a fancy dinner of sushi on a night out in Addis. Sadie is a friend of Shridhar's (Indian DR friend in San Francisco) who was based in Addis for three months working with a company that produces business documentaries. She had traveled quite a bit of Africa through her work, recently visiting Sierra Leone and Mozambique. Nicola is a traveler I met earlier in Lalibela, who was backpacking the Horn of Africa before going back to medical school in Halifax. This was the fanciest meal any of us had had in a long while.


Heading to the Sheraton in Addis, the swankiest hotel in town and supposedly all of Sub-Saharan Africa for an RnB show that Nicola heard of. The cheapest rooms in this five-star hotel go for a couple hundred dollars a night, equaling my total expenditure on lodging for this whole trip. But you got to walk in like you own the place.


Nicola taking a sip of the single malt scotches that Sadie and I were enjoying. For being a fancy hotel, drinks were very cheap. Sadie and I shared five pegs of whisky between us that cost just 150 Birr ($8.90).


The Celebration Club from Atlanta putting on a good show at the Sheraton. Nicola met the band when they were performing in the town of Bahir Dar.


Nicola being serenaded by a band member. A fun night and nice to enjoy some night life after a long while.


Paying a visit to the National Museum of Ethiopia, housing the most famous hominin skeleton...


...Lucy, a 3.2 million year old hominin fossil unearthed in the Afar region of Ethiopia in 1974. Lucy was a very interesting find and caused the stir that she did because she had a brain that was similar in size to an ape but her skeleton revealed that she definitely walked upright, a clear indication that modern humans evolved from a common ancestor with apes.


The human evolution exhibit at the museum was very detailed and informational. This timeline puts into place all the various hominin species that have been discovered, so far. Lucy's species is called Australopithecus afarensis and us, modern humans are homo sapiens. It's a bit confusing in that we did not evolve from Lucy just as we did not evolve from chimpanzees. It's just that we share a common ancestor with all these hominins at some point in the past.


A map showing the location of hominin fossil finds in Ethiopia, that all lie in the East African Rift. Ethiopia, down into Kenya and Tanzania have been a rich source of hominin fossils because the rifting creates an ideal environment for fossil preservation. As the Somalia Plate tears East Africa away from the African Plate, the highlands on the edge of the rift create a lot of sediment that packs in hominin skeletons for future discovery. It also helps that there are many volcanoes in this region, as ash is a great preserver of fossils.


A plaster replica of all the bones that comprise the hominin fossil known as Lucy. The original skeleton is housed at the museum but not on public display. The amazing thing about Lucy's skeleton is the amount of bones that were discovered to have come from one hominin. Most hominin fossil finds consist of just a fragment of a bone from which many details have to be deduced. The almost 40% complete skeleton revealed a ton of information on human evolution.


An upright skeleton reconstruction of Lucy. The brown parts are all the bones that were discovered and the white are the ones that have been deduced. Finding her pelvic bone and pieces of her spinal cord showed that Lucy walked upright, but her jaw bones revealed that her brain size was similar to that of an adult chimpanzee.


This is how evolutionary anthropologists envision Lucy would've looked, a hairy ape that walked upright and had a protruding jaw. Us modern humans slowly lost our body hair as we evolved the ability to sweat to keep our bodies cool, as hair primarily serves the function of protection from solar radiation, which I completely understand having shed all that natural protection on my scalp.


Lucy and I, showing just how small Lucy is. Lucy's brain volume is around 500 ml (17 oz) and a modern human's brain volume is around 1,250 ml (42 oz), but it's not all about brain size as it's what you do with your brain that matters.


Outside the museum, an old Lada celebrating the recent millennium in Ethiopia's calendar, which is about 8 years behind the Julian calendar due to a difference in calculating when Jesus was supposed to have been conceived.


After my few days in Addis, I headed south and enjoyed the mountainous views.


About an hour south of Addis lies the Melka Kunture Paleolithic site, where many stone tools were discovered from 1963 onwards dating across various hominin groups from as early as 1.7 million years ago.


A display at the Melka Kunture museum showing the raw material of volcanic rock and a tool that was discovered in the area. By dating the soils that the tool was found in, scientists can determine when the tool was made and since no other animals have been observed to make such precise tools, these artefacts are credited to early humans.


Being in the East African Rift, this is a volcanic area that produced rocks such as this blank from which early humans shaped...


...blades and other tools from. This allowed our ancestors to make weapons for hunting animals and subsequently to tear off the meat and eat the dense protein that lead to our large brain size, in comparison to other primates. There are many other factors for why only humans developed such ability for tool-making, but there's definitely a correlation between eating meat and growing large brains. This allowed our ancestors to evolve the intelligence that lead to our current civilization.


A beautifully-made spear head from volcanic basalt rock.


The museum also housed various other exhibits on human evolution and here's a replica of Turkana Boy, a 1.5 million year old hominid that was discovered in 1984 near Lake Turkana, where I was headed next. This is the most-complete skeleton discovered, so far, of an early human. Scientists have determined that he was a boy due to the maturity of his teeth and they can say he's a male because of his smaller pelvis, which also indicates that his body was good at long-distance running, perhaps to run-down small game. This gene of endurance running has been passed down through the ages and is evident in the marathon runners of Kenya and Ethiopia today.


The Bodo Cranium, dating to around 600,000 years ago was discovered at Bodo, east of Addis Ababa in 1976. This skull belongs to the hominin species known as Homo rhodesiensis (or heidelbergensis) and is an interesting find because it has a very large brain capacity of 1,300 ml (44 oz), which is similar in size to modern humans but the pronounced brow ridge and wide face give it more ape-like features. All these hominin fossils fill in small bits of the story on human evolution and the picture becomes more refined with every find.


I enjoyed my fill of evolutionary anthropology and continued south to Shashamane. I came around this corner and was greeted with a wide view of the Rift Valley expanding out to the horizon in front of me. I was getting excited for the upcoming leg of following the Rift Valley through southwestern Ethiopia into Kenya.


Taking a break on the side of the road and in Ethiopia, it's only a matter of seconds before a kid appears from nowhere to watch what you're doing and inevitably ask for something from you, such as money, a pen or a sweet. I have no problem being generous but the gift giving carried out by sympathetic foreigners has bred a very bad habit in the younger generation. I saw older men slapping young kids when they asked me for something, as they were clearly embarrassed but the kids were not.


But this guy was cute with his funky hairdo so I took his photo and gave him a sweet.


I rolled into Shashamane, a small town about 240 km (150 mi) from Addis Ababa that's known as the spiritual home of the Rastafari Movement that began in Jamaica in the 1930s. Rastas believe that the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I is an incarnation of the Christian God and refer to him as Jah. Before he became emperor in 1930, Selassie's given name was Tafari and coming from a noble family, his name was pre-fixed by Ras (like Duke in England) and that's where the movement got its name from.


I was fortunate to be in Shashamane for Haile Selassie's 119th birthday celebration and there was a jammin reggae concert in his honor. Artists had flown in from the islands (Caribbean) and each one said a few words about Jah and their love for Shashamane. The Rastafari Movement began without Selassie's knowledge and upon learning that there were people who were worshipping him in Jamaica, he paid a visit and duly invited whoever wanted to come to settle in the holy land of Ethiopia. Selassie gave the Rastas 500 acres of land around Shashamane and encouraged them to settle here, which they did, slowly over the years and now it's considered the spiritual home of the movement.


I hung out with these two guys for the evening that I met while getting some food. Good vibrations all around. And I was very happy to wear my reggae t-shirt that I got in Sao Luis, Brazil; another reggae paradise.


Lots of love for Haile Selassie. The Rastafari Movement has been around for a long time but it was the worldwide spread of reggae music that brought the movement greater attention, particularly the success of Bob Marley, whose songs were played with great emotion on the stage. I was especially thrilled when Jammin was played! Yah mon!


I spent a few more lazy days in Shashamane and enjoyed southern Ethiopia's version of Shiro Tagabino, which was rich and smooth and oh yeah, spicy.


The customary butcher in front of every restaurant. Most Ethiopians were there to eat meat but I enjoyed all the vegetarian dishes in Ethiopian cuisine.

I had read a lot on human evolution and how Africa is our ancestral homeland and felt satisfied by coming to Ethiopia and getting up close to our human origins. I truly believe that if more people realized how connected all humans are, we would see through most of our problems with another culture or society, which is plaguing our current progress towards a more sustainable future. It's a complex problem and raising awareness of our interconnectedness is a step towards that goal.
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Jammin screwed with this post 06-16-2012 at 10:03 AM
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Old 06-18-2012, 05:04 PM   #1324
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Hi Jay,

I noticed that the web link for the T-Shirt purchases - http://www.globaljamminshop.com - appears to have expired. It's going to a placeholder now. I wanted to bring it to your attention in case you didn't know that yet.
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Old 06-18-2012, 07:26 PM   #1325
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Fantastic!!!! That is all I can say. Jay, keep doing what you do!
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Old 06-19-2012, 08:13 AM   #1326
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I'm curious about the food aid you mentioned. Was it your observation that people in the town were experiencing significant poverty? Did they seem to connect the aid to the USA? Have you seen the aid anywhere else in your travels?
The churches are a stunning engineering accomplishment. We tend to think of long-ago people as somehow less capable than ourselves but here we see that this isn't true. Thanks so much for sharing the photos.
Hey Mr Bob, there was definitely poverty there but how you define it is the tricky bit. Some say if you can get 1 meal a day you're doing ok and of course for us, if we dont get our 3 meals, we'd consider ourselves poor. All relative. The food aid is surely needed in Ethiopia, more so to counter the poor food distribution there and the endemic corruption. I think they know the USA is giving them that particular aid and Im sure they're very grateful. I didnt see aid distributions in South America, all though Im sure it's going on and I didnt see it in Egypt or Sudan.

Yup, people from long ago were surely just as smart as us and Im sure if you brought a human from even a 100,000 years ago into present day life, after he got over the shock, he'd quickly understand how our society works and get on with it. I think we're just limited by the technology that we've advanced to at the moment we live. I like to think the guy who was chiseling a spear head from a volcanic rock was the smartest guy of his time and in today's world, would probably be coding for google
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Heidenau, So what took you so long?
Jay has probably sold more tires for you through his write-ups than all your corporate advertising and marketing combined.
Welcome aboard.
Hehe, thanks for the support bro
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Excellent

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Originally Posted by MrBob View Post
Glad that you're doing well and had a little break from the road. I'm sure mom looked after you.
Looking forward to the next leg.
Yeah, was nice to be fed so much tasty food and getting back in touch with family members. I guess it was also a look into what awaits me when I finally get to India with the bike...
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Hi Jay,
I noticed that the web link for the T-Shirt purchases - http://www.globaljamminshop.com - appears to have expired. It's going to a placeholder now. I wanted to bring it to your attention in case you didn't know that yet.
Thanks for mentioning that. Yeah, it's been down for a while and I've told them about it but no progress :(
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Originally Posted by Eclecticmale View Post
Fantastic!!!! That is all I can say. Jay, keep doing what you do!
Thanks!! I'm lining things up to continue doing what I'm doing
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Old 06-19-2012, 08:23 AM   #1327
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Did some bike maintenance over the weekend and installed the Shorai battery, NoToil Air Filter and replaced my rear axle with a newer part (from a 2004).

Also picked up some free goodies from SealSavers (new extra long savers) and ROK straps

Waiting on a care package that should be arriving in two weeks with my Pivot Pegz
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Old 06-22-2012, 11:36 AM   #1328
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Ethiopia, Part 9: Off-Road Convoy thru Omo Valley
July 26 - 31, 2011

My time in Ethiopia was coming to an end and I had a fantastic route planned to make the exit grand. Currently, while traveling overland through Eastern Africa, there is only one area where the riding gets rough and that's the crossing between Ethiopia and Kenya. There are two options with the first one following the main highway south of Addis Ababa to the border town of Moyale and crossing into Kenya there, after which lies a road that destroys suspensions and invites trouble from warring tribes. I was glad that I was taking the second option, which crosses Southwestern Ethiopia, through the Omo Valley and enters Kenya at Lake Turkana. This route is also rough but much more scenic and epic because of the colorful tribes in the area and the vast wilderness in this faraway corner of the globe.

The remoteness of traveling through the Omo Valley and down along Lake Turkana translates into 900 kms (560 mi) between petrol stations. Even with my huge Aqualine Safari fuel tank, I would need to carry extra reserves. I had been planning this stretch of the route ever since I entered Ethiopia and made friends with overlanding vehicles so that we could convoy together on this route with them carrying extra petrol and supplies for me. In return, I offered to cook for them.

The convoy was initially going to be just me and the VW Syncro motorhome couple of Ferdinand and Katie, from Germany, but word spreads in the overlanding circle about convoys and pretty soon our convoy grew to five traveling parties. The others in our convoy would be: Peter and Jill, a retired British couple who were moving from the UK to South Africa in their home-built Land Rover Defender-based motorhome; Guy and Louise, a younger British couple, traveling around Africa in a baby blue Defender; and Carlos, a biker from Spain on a KTM 640.

We all met and came to know of each other at Tim and Kim's overlanding junction in Gorgora and set a date and a location to meet up after our tours through northern Ethiopia. We met up in Awasa and then our route took us through Sodo, then Konso, where we filled up all our petrol and diesel reserves and then the off-road started to Turmi, deep in the Omo Valley. After checking out at the immigration outpost of Omorate, and buying some chickens for a curry, we crossed into the barren land along the eastern shores of Lake Turkana and entered Kenya where the border only existed in our GPS.

Come along for the ride and enjoy the diverse peoples and landscapes of the Omo Valley.



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A calming view over Lake Awasa, one of many lakes in the Ethiopian Rift Valley.


After meeting up with everyone in our convoy, we had breakfast together at this lodge on the lakeshore. Ferdi and I sat under this beautiful tree that happened to...


...make it easy for the resident monkeys to come harass us for some breakfast. We kept a stick on the table to ward them off.


This guy was fondling his privates while probably salivating over our breakfast.


Fishermen in reed boats on Lake Awasa.


Our route through Southwestern Ethiopia's Omo Valley, starting from Awasa, we spent the first night in Sodo, then crossed Abra Minch to spend the next night in Konso. From there, it got more remote and we spent the next and last night in Ethiopia in Turmi. We had to deviate from the route to get our passports stamped in Omorate, before turning south for Kenya. Click on it to go to the interactive version in Google Maps.


Within a few kilometers of departing from Awasa, our convoy was involved in an accident near Shashamane. The red truck is Peter and Jill's Defender-based motorhome. Peter spent many years building it and took pride in its construction. They were in front, coming down the highway when the white truck on the right rammed into their side while he was positioning the truck for a wash. The damage wasn't extensive but it deformed parts of the interior, such as the shower and kitchen area.


It soon became quite a show and local Ethiopians flooded the scene, who were all interested in seeing what would happen in this incident between farenji (foreigners) and a local driver. This is Ferdi, looked quite ruffled by the growing number of Ethiopians on the scene.


We waited for the police and the owner of the truck to arrive and in the meantime we were blocking traffic on this highway, but this donkey cart had business to attend to.


Peter (in the blue shirt) was glad to have me there in dealing with the Ethiopians as I have a way of being assertive without coming across as being rude, a skill acquired through my many miles on the road. It was obvious that the truck had hit Peter's Defender but the truck's owner (big man between Peter and I) would not admit to that and the police said that if he did not admit to that, we would need the case to be investigated by the courts before a ruling could be passed and claims could be made on the truck's insurance. This was likely to take weeks, months or even years. After two hours of negotiations, we made no headway in getting any money from the truck's owner to repair the damage to Peter's Defender. In the end, Peter settled for a signed letter from the owner saying that he would not sue Peter for any damages, because there have been cases where foreigners have been pursued even when they were not at fault.


A rough start to our convoy, but all was good again and we were rolling to Sodo.


We covered 165 kms (102 mi) on the first day and spent the night in a small hotel in Sodo. That's Carlos on his KTM 640, traveling super light and making sanDRina look like a fat cow, but hey, I got enough tools and spares to fix his bike even. Us bikers took some beds in the hotel for 50 Birr ($3), while the motorhome couples slept in their vehicles.


We had an early start and got back on the road, heading south to Konso. We were going further and further away from civilization, but there was still cellphone reception.


Passing a waterfall, flowing with chocolatey water, laden with sediments from the rainy season up in the highlands.


Carlos took off on an alternate route and we would meet up further ahead in Turmi, where we also planned to meet the fifth party in our convoy, Guy and Lu in their Defender. So, it was us three vehicles for the next two days. Whenever we stopped for a break, it was a matter of seconds before villagers came running to see what this intrusion through their land was.


Children of Southern Ethiopia. They had unique features, such as protruding eye brows and big foreheads.


Most of them were polite and just curious but it was only a matter of time before they started asking for something, which was usually money, followed by sweets, pen or a notebook. I like this shot that Katie took from their van with the girl running to the right looking to the girl at the window and an older man looking on.


A shy boy, covering up his face with deep eyes. I wonder how the two bumps on his forehead came about...


We were passing through less-developed areas, where the people were dependent on foreign aid for their survival. This was one of numerous signs we saw in the area of aid projects underway and it symbolizes Ethiopia's dependence on foreign aid where 15% of its 80 million population depend on food aid for their survival. Ethiopia has been the poster child for poverty and many think that the government likes to play to that image to keep foreign aid flowing in, so that they can spend their own money on other projects, such as building dams, which adversely affect the very people that the aid is trying to help. Foreign aid is a messy game in Ethiopia and for many rural Ethiopians, the only foreigners they've seen are aid workers who give them stuff. It's the reason I believe that rural Ethiopian children demand for things (such as money or gifts) from any foreigner they see.


The route was mostly easy going but we came across some huge rain puddles and Katie just drove through it with no qualms.


That's a big puddle and the tricky part is not knowing how deep it is. I'm glad I'm traveling on a bike, where I can easily avoid such decisions and just go around the puddles and save the mud baths for when it's really needed.


We were still in the mountains, with elevations around 2,000 m (6,560 ft) but would be dropping to the floor of the Great Rift Valley the next day.


Coming around a corner and getting a great view of Lake Abaya, near Abra Minch. It's the largest of Ethiopia's Rift Valley lakes. I wonder what those two Ethiopians must've thought when we drove by.


Taking a lunch break on a side road and as the elevation slowly dropped, the temperatures climbed and I shed my boots and jacket to cool off.


At the turn-off to Konso, where we got back on the dirt.


Beautiful light as the day neared its end.


Enjoying standing on the pegs... on the way to Konso.


Spending the night in Konso at the last hotel for the next few days. I got a room where everyone showered in.


Enjoying our last Ethiopian dinner in Konso with Katie, Ferdi and Peter.


Mmm, I would miss Ethiopian food but after five weeks of eating it almost everyday for every meal, I was ready for a change.


Passing by a field of teff, the cereal used in making injera on our way west into Omo Valley.


From the edge of the highlands, I could see the vast valley of the Great African Rift spreading out before me. We dropped quickly in elevation and the temperatures went the other way as we headed into dry land.


At the bottom of the mountains, we passed this most unusual of roadkill sights. This poor python was trying to cross the road when it got run over by a big truck. It was quite a sight and even though it was definitely dead, I still dared not get any closer than this and also as a sign of respect for such a magnificent beast. I was surprised that such a huge snake would be existing close to human populations and wondered if I should worry about camping tonight...


A close-up of the dead python. There were already maggots in its exposed flesh, but being a meat-eater, I must say the meat looked tasty. I've never had snake but heard it tastes similar to fish.


Two humans... from different planets. As we were leaving the scene of the snake, this little boy ran and caught up with us and Katie captured this incongruity between the lives of two humans, one wearing a small piece of cotton, likely the extent of his clothing, and the other decked out in high-tech Kevlar gear.


Market day in Weyto, a small village in the Omo Valley, where neighboring tribes come to exchange their goods, as they've done for millennia.


The people of Omo Valley are renowned the world-over for their diversity in cultures whilst being in close proximity to each other. There are eight major tribes in the Omo Valley and each one has distinct cultural practices. The lady is from the Arbore Tribe, as is evident from her headwear, a calabash shell. The man is from the Tsemay Tribe as he's holding their characteristic small wooden stool that they carry around to always have a seat handy. It was interesting to see that the men were wearing short skirts while the women where wearing longer skirts.


Weyto sits at the junction between the Arbore and Tsemay people. Everyone was so busy in their market transactions that they hardly took notice of a bunch of foreigners walking around and taking photos. There are guided tours that can lead tourists deeper insider the Omo Valley but the interaction with the local people there seems to be staged and I much prefer to interact with them in a more natural setting, such as this market.


An interaction between a women from the Hamer Tribe, who come from around Turmi, and I think a Hamer man. Women from the Hamer Tribe are known for their colorful beaded jewelry and beaded hair. While they still practice their cultural traditions, influence from outside their world can't be stopped and many tribal people accept western clothing.


The livestock side of the market. Most of the people in Omo Valley are either pastoralists, who manage livestock, or farmers, growing crops on the banks of the Omo River, the lifeblood for all the people and wildlife in this area. Sadly, the future of all these people is in jeopardy as the Ethiopian government is building a huge dam, the Gibe III, upstream on the Omo River that will adversely affect the lives of these tribes. The dam will obstruct the natural flooding cycle of the river that deposits its rich sediments on the banks, which has allowed these people to practice flood retreat cultivation, a farming technique that they've mastered over the millennia that they've lived in this region. This is a harsh landscape and it seems cruel to remove the livelihood of people in the name of development. The dam is predicted to be an ecological disaster and sadly, the hydroelectricity that will be generated from it is geared for export to neighboring countries and will hardly benefit a majority of rural Ethiopians who still live without access to electricity.


A panorama of the market at Weyto. Omo Valley has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its importance that it plays in anthropology, the study of humanity, and its diversity in wildlife. In terms of evolutionary anthropology, many hominid fossils have been discovered in the region giving rise to the notion that this area has been crossed by human cultures of all sorts from the very early days in the story of hominids, going back millions of years.
Click here to see the high resolution version.


After soaking up our brief glimpse into the culture of the people of the Omo Valley, it was time to head out. I like this shot as it shows how much attention Peter and Jill's unique motorhome attracted over the more mundane-looking VW Syncro of Ferdi and Katie.


Riding out into the dry valley of the Great African Rift.


Passing huge commercial farms that can afford to irrigate their land, compared to the small-scale agriculture practiced by local people that is dependent on getting water from the annual flooding of the Omo River. Sadly, the produce from these large-scale farms in southern Ethiopia is not intended to feed Ethiopia's population, who are dependent on food aid, but is instead geared for export. A phenomenon is taking place across Africa, where rich countries are buying huge tracts of arable land from local governments to farm food for their populations back home, ensuring their own food security at the expense of local people. The Ethiopian government is happy to sell land to foreign investors and is quick to force local people off their land.


We stopped for a lunch break and within a few minutes we had an audience.


Ferdi and Katie are traveling with their dog, Kayous, which is a boon for car safety but a headache when crossing borders and entering national parks. Kayous looked scary on the outside but was a puppy on the inside. It took many interactions for him to accept me, but over the course of this journey, he became comfortable with me. Ferdi and Katie had to make sure to walk him at every break, because the poor guy was holed up in the van most of the time.


The contrasts between a Tsemay man and a German man. The Tsemay man looks lithe and agile, standing diminutively, whilst the German man looks strong and stands confidently. The German is clearly over-dressed for the conditions.


The Tsemay man was interested in my riding boots and I had him try it on for size.


Now, that's a difference in footwear. On the one foot, we have a Tsemay sandal sown from a used tire, while on the other foot, we have a highly-technical piece of plastic and leather articulated armor. It's hot and stuffy but provides excellent insurance in case of an accident.


The benefits of traveling with an overlanding van: salad and fresh veggies for lunch.


Heading along the Great African Rift in Southern Ethiopia.


Riding through open land, wilderness in Africa. Yes.


We were a convoy but didn't really drive together all the time. I took off in the lead to stay away from the dust clouds produced by the bigger vehicles.


I was waiting for the motorhomes to catch up and this Hamer man showed up...


...wearing a mini skirt and toting a rifle. As soon as I took his photo, he demanded payment of 10 Birr.


Riding the beautiful landscapes of the Omo Valley.


Peter and Jill's Defender motoring across Africa.


I was enjoying being here at this moment, soaking in the vast landscape.


Katie captured these Hamer children as we took a break in the late afternoon.


We crossed this drying river bed just before Turmi and took it as a taste for things to come. The route along the northern shores of Lake Turkana is famous for its numerous river bed crossings, which obviously is a much more difficult task in the rainy season. We were all hoping that the river beds were dry.


Spending our last night in Ethiopia at Evangadi Camp in Turmi. We met up with the rest of our convoy, Guy and Lu in the blue Defender and Carlos, who took a room in a nearby hotel.


It had been a while since I had slept in my one-man Catoma Twist tent and quickly found comfort in my minimalist accommodation.


Our group of travelers took turns in preparing dinner and...


...Jill prepared a hearty pasta dinner for everyone. Good conversations over warm food and cold beer. We were all excited for what lay ahead in the next few days, as the crossing along Lake Turkana promised to be quite an adventure.


The next morning, we set off from Turmi, where the local villagers came out to see our strange vehicles as Carlos bought some last-minute supplies.


A sign board of an aid project underway to increase people's resilience to drought. This was a dry land and we stored up on our fresh water supplies.


Passing a giant anthill on the way to Omorate.


The four-wheel parties in our convoy, each showing that there's no one way to overland across Africa. If I had to do this on four wheels, I think I'd take the VW Syncro because it could handle anything the Land Rovers could do and it had the most space inside for comfortable living, but yeah, the Defender has the classic look for overlanding across Africa.


Arriving at the remote immigration post in the small village of Omorate, on the banks of the Omo River. This is the only place to get our passports stamped out in southern Ethiopia.


But we had bad timing as the only immigration officer on duty had just taken off for his breakfast, which lasted about an hour and a half.


Lots of milling about in the heat and waiting for the immigration officer to show up. Nice capture of the Ethiopian flag flying strong.


This little girl had quite a bit of sass and kept Guy entertained.


Finally, our man showed up and pain-stakingly went through every page of every passport before stamping us out. I like the expressions captured by the German couple frustrated with the bureaucratic inefficiency.


I had promised Ferdi and Katie that I would cook them a chicken curry in exchange for carrying petrol for me and we set about finding chickens in Omorate. We managed to buy two live birds and then found this small hotel offered to kill and clean the chickens for us. The ladies were boiling up meat for the lunch rush.


Boiled beef, Omorate style. If you're sensitive to headless chickens, skip the next few photos.


The moment one of our chickens lost its head. I was on a quest to get closer to killing an animal if I was going to be comfortable eating it and wanted to observe how a chicken went from being a live bird to the meat that we're more familiar with.


The headless chicken was quickly put under this tub for the rest of body to die down.


Once properly dead, precision cuts were made in the skin that saw all of it come off with the feathers.


This was an interesting moment for all of us and we relished the fact that we were having some chickens prepared in a remote village in southern Ethiopia for a chicken curry dinner that was going to be prepared by an Indian motorcyclist along the shores of Lake Turkana in Kenya that evening.


Overlanders are not squeamish people as is evident by Carlos eating an egg sandwich as he watched the cleaning of this recently alive chicken.


My ride through Ethiopia confirmed the hype that this country is truly an adventure riding paradise. There are steep, off-road mountainous climbs in the Northern Highlands to well-made, twisting tarmac and hundreds of kilometers of off-road riding through remote land in the southwest. And I only saw half the country, there is still all the eastern side to ride.
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Old 06-23-2012, 10:31 PM   #1329
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It's exciting to see a bit of the rift valley where our species emerged. We talked enough about it while I was at University.
Sad to see signs of malnutrition in one of the children you photographed.
If it would be possible for you to post shorter photo sequences it would be easier to call out a single photo in response. In any event, I remain riveted by the trip. I especially love the photos of faces.
BTW: I hung out with Anna (from Chicago) for an evening recently and we had a pretty far-ranging discussion.
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Old 07-02-2012, 09:09 AM   #1330
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Kenya, Part 1: Riding the Sands and Rocks along Lake Turkana
July 31 - August 2, 2011

Karibu Kenya! Welcome to the land of vast savannahs, desolate deserts, verdant forests and sublime beaches. Kenya straddles the equator and is blessed with a variety of landscapes and peoples who have made this the most developed East African country. Most of that development lies in the southern portion of the country with much of the north still being untamed.

I entered Kenya at Lake Turkana and went down its eastern shore, passing through the towns of Illoret, Loyangalani, Baragoi and Maralal, where civilization (in the form of regular petrol stations) was recognizable once again. Starting from the remote Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia, the route involves a 900 km (560 mi) stretch between petrol stations, meaning that water and food were also in scarcity. I teamed up with fellow overland travelers for this route so that they could carry extra fuel, water and food for me in exchange for a chicken curry. The company was also enjoyable in the remote wildernesses.

Most of the overland route down eastern Africa is paved and relatively easy, expect for this crossing between Ethiopia and Kenya. The more popular route is to enter Kenya at Moyale and then head down the bone-jarring and suspension-breaking road to Marsabit and onto Isiolo (currently being paved). But the more adventurous route is to enter Kenya at Lake Turkana and experience a bit of Wild Africa. The terrain is tougher (mostly sand and sharp rocks), longer and more varied (ranging from hot desert to mountainous forests).

Come along for the ride as I head into some pristine African wilderness...


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Old 07-02-2012, 09:09 AM   #1331
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After getting our passports stamped out in Omorate, the last town in southern Ethiopia, our convoy of overland travelers turned south for the Kenyan border. The route started off with soft sand through acacia trees.


The Lake Turkana Route, coming down the eastern shore. Click on it to go to the interactive version in Google Maps. The first night was spent camping in wilds of Sibiloi National Park, followed by camping in the bush before Loyangalani. After a day of rest at the campsite in Loyangalani, the convoy got smaller and we bush camped just past Baragoi before getting into Maralal. From there, the asphalt starts soon and the adventure gets tamed.


sanDRina was over-loaded for tackling deep sand and I had two falls. It was nice to have Ferdi and Katie following behind in their VW Syncro as Ferdi was ready to jump out and help me up.


Not the most ideal tires for riding sand, but I managed.


There was a trail to follow on the ground and it roughly matched the trail in the Tracks4Africa GPS mapset, which is made mainly by tracks from travelers.


Crossing one of the 30 dry riverbed crossings that the Turkana Route is famous for. This route is only possible in the dry season and we were riding it just at the tail-end of the rainy season, so some riverbeds were moist and muddy, but most were just sandy and rutted.


I was taking it slow on the sandy stretches, after my two drops and just kept jammin' to my tunes and not thinking about the hundreds of kilometers ahead through more sand and expected rocks.


Where the terrain was hard enough, I could get some more speed and get up on the pegs and feel more comfortable. Offroad riding is much better when standing on the pegs, but you need enough speed and that comes with confidence.


Choosing my path before entering this dry riverbed. The entrances and the exits are the trickiest since they're steep and covered in sand. Gravity at the entrance gives me momentum, which I have to direct over my desirable path and then keep the momentum up, since the middle could be soft and bog me down. I carry this momentum through and choose my exit path and keep the throttle open until I crest back onto the mainland.


It was getting hot and I enjoyed the wind blowing through my mest suit whenever I got the chance to stand on the pegs.


Smiles all around as we enjoyed a real sense of adventure, crossing remote wilderness and looking for the border with Kenya. We passed through many small villages that smelt of fish coming from the nearby Lake Turkana. We must've looked truly alien to them.


The land flattened out and at times the trail disappeared and reappeared, but the GPS kept us on track. This is what the border between Ethiopia and Kenya looks like at Lake Turkana. That's right, there is no border, except...


...a line in the GPS maps showing that we had entered Kenya. Since this route is so remote and used only by travelers, there is no official border crossing. I love it, because it highlights how borders are such a man-made notion.


The Syncro making it across a sandy riverbed with...


...Katie at the wheel. She was thoroughly enjoying this excursion into Africa and was glad to have met Ferdi who introduced her to a life of camping and traveling.


Rolling into Illoret, the first town on the Kenyan side, about 16 kms (10 mi) from the border.


We caught up with the other travelers in our convoy who had been waiting for us since we all planned to camp together that night.


There is no immigration or customs post on the Kenyan side of the Turkana route, but this police official here in Illoret wrote us a letter addressed to immigration in Nairobi saying that we entered Kenya on this date with this vehicle. Upon reaching Nairobi, we're supposed to take this letter to immigration where they finally stamp in our passports.


While waiting for our letters, the police official shared the rest of his lunch with us, giving us our first taste of Kenyan food: ugali, cabbage fry and chicken in a sauce. It tasted good but I'm not a fan of ugali (maize meal).
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Old 07-02-2012, 09:11 AM   #1332
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Getting a glimpse of Lake Turkana on the horizon as we entered Sibiloi National Park.


Navigating a sandy riverbed. I was getting tired as the day neared its end.


The track looked like it was bush-whacked through dried acacia trees and we were glad that no one got a puncture from being so close to sharp thorns.


Climbing a steep and rocky incline. This was a tough stretch. I couldn't keep my uphill momentum due to the large size of the rocks (baseball size) as they kept throwing the handlebar around. sanDRina's clutch was also getting tired and we took a break halfway. Guy in the blue Land Rover offered to carry one of my panniers and Peter in the red Land Rover took the other. Relieving sanDRina of about 40 kgs (88 lbs) was just what we needed to make the riding fun again.


Ferdi and Katie climbing up the rocky route with the sun setting on Lake Turkana.


We setup camp just before dark and Katie gave me two liters of water to shower with, which felt great after a hard day's ride.


It was time to keep my side of the bargain with my fellow travelers who were carrying fuel, water, food and now my panniers for me. I paid up the best way I know how: preparing one of my chicken curries! Everyone helped in cutting the veggies and Peter and Jill offered their kitchen for me to cook my curries in. I also made a potato curry.


Serving my chicken curry out the back of Peter and Jill's Land Rover. This was definitely the most remote place that I had cooked my curry and was pleased to share it with my fellow travelers under a starry sky on the shores of Lake Turkana.


Just before sunrise in Sibiloi National Park.


It was a rough night as sand kept blowing through my mesh tent and settled down on everything. The warm temperatures meant that I couldn't stay inside my sleeping bag and thus had sand stuck on my sweat. Oh and that's my pillow, one of my packing cubes.


The others took off quite quickly, while Ferdi, Katie and I enjoyed a slower pace to the morning.


I was riding much better without the weight of the two panniers and was enjoying myself, standing on the pegs through bleak landscape with Lake Turkana hidden behind the dusty haze, swept up by the strong winds.


I didn't expect wildlife in such a desolate setting but we saw zebra, kudu and other antelope in Sibiloi National Park.


Taking a mango break as the temperatures picked up through the day.


Leaving my boot mark in the sand. I took nothing but photos and left nothing except foot (boot) prints.


I was in my groove and riding to the rhythms of the land with its undulations and loose surface making us dance in the desert.


Looking east towards the Chalbi Desert with a lone leafless shrub watching over the whole land.


A distance board at a junction in the desert. Heading east across the Chalbi Desert from here would take us to Marsabit, but we were heading south to Loiyangallani, but first to Karsa Gate, the entrance to Sibiloi National Park.


The Syncro cresting the desert road.


Exiting Sibiloi National Park and getting our first taste of how things work in Kenya. The fee for being in the park was $20 per person and then the fee for a motorcycle was 300 Kenyan Shillings ($3.25). For the van, the Kenya Wildlife Service officer said it was K1000 but it was negotiable. Ok, so we got it down to K500. Nice to be in a land where everything's negotiable.
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Old 07-02-2012, 09:12 AM   #1333
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After getting past the gate, we stopped for lunch (leftover chicken curry and rice) and I relieved Ferdi and Katie from carrying my extra fuel around and put 20 L (5.3 gal) of go-juice into sanDRina.


Poor Kayous had his space reduced by my pannier but we were becoming friends by now and I think he understood. Thanks, buddy.


The Syncro and a tall acacia tree. Ferdi and Katie were on a bit of a schedule as they had friends flying into Nairobi who were going to travel around with them for a bit, so we were pushing to make it to Loyangalani by nightfall.


Riding through Africa. By now, my confidence level was high for riding on loose surfaces and I was very comfortable riding sanDRina at a fast pace through this landscape.


Coming up to a sharp left turn. Before this, I wasn't comfortable with rear braking while standing on the pegs, but I had that under control now and had no pucker moments on this ride. It was nice to have Ferdi and Katie following as they took all these wonderful photos of me. In return, I offered to film them from the front - that's why my GoPro helmet camera is pointing back at them.


The landscape changed with the changing light and I soaked up every view.


Riding corrugations as the route allowed a faster pace.


Taking a break and discussing with Ferdi whether we could make it to Loyangalani tonight or not. Check out the difference in gear between an overlanding motorcyclist and an overlanding motorhomer. Ferdi and Katie commented on how tough riding a motorcycle through this terrain must be compared to sitting in a van.


Katie capturing a close-up of my Arai XD helmet and Oakley goggles.


A wonderful ride as the afternoon grew long.


I was fatiguing but managed to keep my riding attention in check.


The landscape was covered in loose rocks and where the trail was heavily rutted or corrugated, we just rode beside the trail.


Where there were no rocks, it was fine sand, but a hard surface meant that we could keep the pace up.


We rode up to sunset and then finally gave up on making it to Loyangalani.


We bush-camped about 40 kms (25 mi) north of Loyangalani. The winds were very strong and I setup my tent behind the Syncro. I enjoyed the luxurious feeling of a bush shower from a few liters of precious water and then had a relaxing evening with a home-cooked meal amid good company.


Waking up for sunrise on the savannah.


Kayous feeling comfortable-enough to approach me and play around a bit. I'd love to travel with a dog. Maybe there's a sidecar in my future...


We were almost through the desert as the landscape slowly morphed into savannah.


I parked my tent under this wind-blown acacia and used my pannier and rocks to make sure it wouldn't get picked up by the strong winds.


After another slow morning, we got back on the road heading to Loyangalani.


But within a few kilometers, Ferdi flashed me with his lights and said he was hearing a loud screeching sound. I followed him a bit and traced it to his right front wheel. Putting the Syncro up on the high lift revealed the culprit - a stone lodged between the brake rotor and a protective plate. All was good and we were off soon.


Riding through a volcanic boulder field, studded with yellow leafless acacias. At times, the trail disappeared into the boulder field and there was some serious rock climbing going on, where sanDRina's big front wheel came in handy for easily scaling over basketball-sized boulders.


Finally getting up close to Lake Turkana, after riding alongside it for the past 250 kms (155 mi). It is the world's largest permanent desert lake and a prominent feature in the East African Rift.


Its alternative name is the Jade Sea, due to the greenness from algae at the surface. The lake is endoheric (meaning it doesn't have an outlet) and thus is slightly salty. Evaporation in the only means of exit for the water but that's not a problem in the hot and dry environment.


The Turkana people living on the shores of their giant lake that provides them with fish and potable but not palatable water. It is a rough existence but they seem to have found some balance with nature. But that balance can easily be tipped when the climate gets hard on them. The area around Lake Turkana has seen hominins pass through over the past few million years and the dry environment had yielded many hominid fossils, such as Turkana Boy that reveal a bit more of the story of human evolution.


The Lake Turkana route was just as epic as I had imagined it. The sand was deep, the rocks were sharp and the riding was tough, but my offroad riding skills improved once more and I was feeling in my element after the first day. It helped that I could offload my panniers to my fellow travelers as that made sanDRina much more responsive in the changing conditions.
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Old 07-02-2012, 11:04 AM   #1334
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What an adventure my friend. Thanks for posting very informative travel and great photo diary.
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Old 07-02-2012, 11:41 AM   #1335
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Next time you are here, please let me know a bit more in advance
We'll meet up for sure
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