Nairobi to Addis Ababa (7) Hitching north

Maralal proved pretty unremarkable and we passed time in a couple of pretty rough and ready bars drinking warm Tusker, watching on al-Jazeera Mubarak getting the boot in Cairo, and negotiating the vagaries of a bus north. That bus would end up taking us as far as the bustling metropolis of Baragoi (erm…) via the Marti plain. We were only to discover later that the Marti plain is prime shifta (bandit) country given that the long decent to Marti village gives those lads lots to of time to spot the bus/truck approaching, tool up and head on down to the road to meet it. Blissfully unaware at the time we were just content to bounce along admiring the scenery and the locals – mostly Turkana people, the men carrying stools and the women adorned in stunning multi-layered, multicoloured beaded necklaces.

We stayed the night in Baragoi and spent the day sitting by the side of the road waiting for something going north to hitch a ride with. The tedium was broken once – and quite bizarrely – by a landing aircraft, from which hopped out two European… uh, explorers. They had been making their way down from Cairo for the previous few weeks (as you do…) and stopped to refuel and grab a bite to eat in Baragoi. It was very ‘Out of Africa’-esque but it certainly succeeded in drawing the gazes away from us. Up until then we’d been quite the centre of attention for the local kids – something a bit of the exotica –  and now we looked pretty dull compared to these guys who HAD THEIR OWN PLANE(!)

We left Baragoi the following day in somewhat less dramatic fashion – in the back of a lorry filled with supplies (‘more beefy taste for finger licking…’) bound for South Hor. This was something of a coup for us as we’d seen South (and North – oh yes, there is a North) Hor on the map and weren’t expecting to actually make it there. Make it there we did, a bumpy and rainy eight hours later and it really did feel as much like the back of beyond as we imagined it to be from its location on the map. There was one bar, no restaurant and some rather attractive mountain scenery ringing the village. Unfortunately we didn’t have the opportunity to go for a ramble as we had to stake out a spot next to the road (and the bar – ‘can we start drinking now?’) to wait for through traffic. It wasn’t exactly a busy interchange and we spent one whole day – dawn till darkness – and most of the next morning waiting. On the following day the stillness was dramatically broken by a convoy of 4-wheel drives barrelling through the sleepy South Hor. These were a delegation of engineers and security people for a European wind power company heading north to Lake Turkana and the site of a future project. That was our destination and we managed to negotiate a ride. It was a bit of a change of pace from our previous travel arrangements and it was a stunning journey north to the fabled Jade Sea.


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