I knew 2017 wasn’t going to be a great year for me but I vowed to sink it with a bang – with something hard and positive. The Road trip to Addis Ababa on my bucket list came tops of what I should do. This is a solo road trip of 1,600 kilometres by public transport! It is part of my dream to travel from Cape Town to Cairo by road. I have already driven from Cape Town to Nairobi three years ago.
I took time to study the route – the available means of public transport in Kenya and Ethiopia from one town to another – the costs, places to sleep and security. I rekindled old contacts and found news ones from both sides of the border that turned out to be extremely helpful.
Day #1: Nairobi to Moyale – Friday, December 22, 2017
As most Kenyans prepared for Christmas holiday, I bought a Sh2000 bus ticket via M-Pesa to Moyale. I arrived at Eastleigh 10th Street at 7:00PM just enough time to check in and last minute shopping before departure at 8:00PM. Eastleigh is busy, chaotic, congested – fellow travellers, loaders and traders doing circles around the slow traffic, parked buses and hawkers. I found the Moyale Raha bus office and was allocated a seat. I found a shop to buy a few things – a mulika mwizi (long lasting battery) phone, power-bank and snacks for the trip. I returned to the bus, was shown to my seat but an elderly passenger was already seated. The bus attendant asked him to move to his seat – there was an argument. I offered to take his seat wherever but the attendant would not agree.
“Brother, our people must learn to take seats as allocated, otherwise we will have these silly arguments every day,” he told me. The passenger yielded. The seat is not very comfy but has enough leg room. This is OK. I am not in the mood for comfort – I just want to move.
Fellow passengers piled in and the bus left at 8:35PM – not a terrible time. Cushitic music playing through the sound system put me in the right mood that I am actually travelling to the north. The journey to Moyale is estimated at 11 Hours.
Out first stop was at Sagana and passengers disembarked for a bathroom break (males) in the nearly bush and buy groceries.
The bus was carefully driven – good speed. The next stop was at Isiolo – 274km from Nairobi. There was a call out for a 30-minute bathroom break and dinner. We took off again, driving towards Archers Post onwards to Marsabit. Now we have armed policemen on board – the stretch between Isiolo and Moyale has occasional banditry. There were two other buses behind us.
I woke up on another pit stop at 5:45AM a few kilometres from Marsabit Town. My brothers and sisters of the Islamic faith piled out with prayer rugs. I got out too and found a quiet spot and prayed – thanked the Lord for journey mercies and safety.
We drove past a sleepy Marsabit as the sun ascended from the horizon – shedding orange light to beautiful hills – many of them with sharp peaks that seemed to have been carefully planted in the desert.
We reached Sololo town at 7:00AM and the road turned east respectfully avoiding the might of the majestic mountains that create the boundary between Kenya and Ethiopia. Then we started climbing up the hills after Turbi towards Moyale. This road is glorious – wonderfully made and I kept imagining the nightmare of driving on it before it was tarmacked a few years ago.
9:00AM: Good morning Moyale – 800km done. I am ready for Ethiopia!
*John Kisimir is a Kenyan journalist and nature enthusiast. He is currently the Board Chair of Friends of Maasai Mara.