Ethiopia: From Nairobi to the Bale Mountains





Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 55
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    UK
    Age
    62
    Posts
    1,537
    Thanked: 1028

    Default Ethiopia: From Nairobi to the Bale Mountains

    Ethiopia: A trip from Nairobi to the Bale Mountains

    In our own Kenyan registered Land Rover Defender, we drove from Nairobi to the Bale Mountains in Ethiopia. We had intended on spending longer in Ethiopia, but had to curtail our planned trip and only visited the Bale Mountains and the Harenna Forest in southern Ethiopia. It did, however, take us 4½ days to drive from Nairobi.

    Day 1:
    Nairobi to Sabache Community Camp, Mt Ololokwe
    Time taken: 7 hours
    Distance: 357 kms

    Being early on a Sunday, we whizzed through central Nairobi and were in Nanyuki in 2¾ hours. How easy was that? As always, we stopped at Barney’s café at the Nanyuki airstrip for some sustenance, and did some other minor chores in Nanyuki. From Nanyuki it was an easy three-hour drive to the turn off to Sabache camp. We had never been to Sabache camp, but had heard good reports. http://sabachecamp.com/ Its position is perfect for those heading north or south on the Great North Road, and it is about 3 kms off the road tucked up a valley on the edge of the iconic northern mountain of Ololokwe. With prior warning, the staff would have provided water (collected, presumably, from a spring up the valley), but it did not matter for us – we are equipped with everything we need. The campsite had clean long-drop loos, and a large mess shelter. The eco-lodge and campsite is more rustic than it appears on their website, but the position is great and the staff very welcoming. Of course, we were the only people in either the campsite or the lodge. Firewood was supplied and the cost for camping was KShs 1,500 per person.

    Day 2:
    Sabache Community Camp to Marsabit
    Time taken: 3 hours
    Distance: 201 kms

    One of the last great adventures on the Cape to Cairo route - the notoriously bad section from Isiolo to Moyale - is now history: the new road is now complete thanks to the African Development Bank, and Chinese and Italian roadbuilders. But we were very grateful to them and we whizzed up to Marsabit in three hours.

    Marsabit is almost unrecognisable from 30 years ago: gone are the camels wandering through the dusty outpost; gone are the scantily clad tribesmen in their traditional regalia; gone are the Somali dukas selling a few tins of bully beef if you were lucky; gone is the edgy Northern Frontier feeling; gone is the euphoria of making it across the Chalbi Desert or from Isiolo without a serious breakdown or a shifta attack. It is all replaced by tarmac, a dual-carriageway, high-rise buildings and the inevitable boda-bodas. Yes, it is good progress for the people in this once forgotten part of the country, but I am glad I saw it before. Above the rapidly expanding town, in the administrative area on the hill, large forest trees still line the dirt roads and old colonial bungalows are still inhabited by administration personnel, and the boundaries of Marsabit National Park wrap around the town to the south-east.

    We set up camp at Camp Henry (also known as Henry’s Place) which is a few kilometres outside town, and well known to north-south overlanders. We were the only people there. A strong wind was blowing off Mt Marsabit and the desert, and we took shelter from the wind, but did cook on an open fire. It has a hot shower available and the camp is good value at only Ksh 500 per person per night.

    Day 3:
    Marsabit-Moyale-Yabelo
    Time taken (including border crossing): 8 hours
    Distance: 461 kms

    North of Marsabit is shifta (bandit) country – now mostly confined to history with the new fast road. However, knowing that a border crossing into Ethiopia can be fraught with difficulties – and the Ethiopian border officials close up shop for lunch from 12 noon to 2 pm – we left Henry’s Place just after first light at 7 am. At the police checkpoint, just on the outskirts of Marsabit, we were assured “hakuna shifta, hakuna mwizi (thieves), hakuna matata”, so off we zoomed down the immaculate and empty road. Dust devils, and some camels and goats were the only hazards.

    Moyale is a real border town, but the Kenyan side was more sophisticated than I had imagined. We topped up with fuel in the town before arriving at the brand-new Kenyan immigration and customs buildings. Immigration took only a few minutes, but customs took slightly longer: this was because we needed to lodge the original vehicle logbook with the Kenyan customs and this required some paperwork. However, this was efficiently dealt with and less than 40 minutes later we crossed into the mayhem of the Ethiopian town of Moyale. 4x4 clearance is essential for crossing over the border and the chaotic roadworks. The Ethiopians are building new immigration and customs buildings (mirror images of the Kenyan ones), but work is very slow and it may well take years for them to be finished. This border upgrade is part of a bigger plan for the Mombasa-Nairobi-Ethiopia trade route and is, presumably, being funded by an organisation such as the World Bank. Kenya, presumably, hopes that Ethiopia will start relying on the port of Mombasa instead of (or in addition to) Djibouti.

    Inching our way through roadworks, and hordes of people and livestock, we were stopped by an un-uniformed man asking to see our passports. He did, however, have ID and was an immigration official. He checked our visas (issued in our home country) and pointed vaguely in the direction of the immigration building. We did have an unfortunate encounter with, we hope, a madman brandishing a piece of wood aiming at our vehicle and then pretending it was a gun and “shooting” through the open window. Less robust people may have turned round and gone back to Kenya!

    Immigration was eventually found down a dirt alley and we parked outside on a pile of rubbish. However, once inside the immigration “building”, we were relatively quickly dealt with, our fingerprints taken, and passports stamped. Next port of call was customs. This was back on the “main” road through the roadworks once again. We parked outside a building with a corrugated iron fence around it and, sure enough, it was Ethiopian customs. It was now 1130 and time was ticking on. We were the only people in customs, but were dealt with by a trainee and his mentor.

    “Carnet?”
    “No, we would like a Temporary Import Permit.”
    “Where is your Carnet?”
    “Here is the paperwork from the Kenyan customs for you to keep.”
    “Sigh, OK”.

    Time ticking away…

    “We need a photocopy of your passport and the stamped visa.”
    “Where is there a photocopier?”
    “The lady who has the photocopier, she not here.”
    “Where can we get a photocopy?”
    “Up-town, but I am going for lunch at 12 and will not be back until 2 pm.”

    It is now 1150…

    Then I had a brainwave… “Why don’t you take photos with your smartphone and print them out when you come back from lunch?”. By this time, we had struck up a relationship with the customs official and discovered he was a Manchester United supporter (surprisingly not Arsenal) – oh, the joys of the English Premier League! Honours even, photos taken, paperwork issued, official off to lunch at 1200, and at 1201 we were out of there.

    So, we changed some cash US dollars with a money tout and headed out of Moyale. Phew!

    Stay tuned...
    Last edited by Wazungu Wawili; 2017/02/10 at 05:43 AM.

  2. The Following 5 Users Say Thank You to Wazungu Wawili For This Useful Post:


  3. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    East London
    Age
    67
    Posts
    4,719
    Thanked: 3862

    Default Re: Ethiopia: From Nairobi to the Bale Mountains

    Fully tuned, thanks.

    To me it is so exciting to witness these reports from East and the Horn of Africa, they add so much to the repository of information on this forum.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

  4. The Following User Says Thank You to Stan Weakley For This Useful Post:


  5. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Location
    Somerset West
    Age
    77
    Posts
    461
    Thanked: 372

    Default Re: Ethiopia: From Nairobi to the Bale Mountains

    Thanks WW, I can see that this one will be worth following!

  6. The Following User Says Thank You to RodS For This Useful Post:


  7. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Ljubljana, Slovenia
    Age
    56
    Posts
    897
    Thanked: 802

    Default Re: Ethiopia: From Nairobi to the Bale Mountains

    Thanks, WW. I'm hooked to this thread now...
    24 hours in a day.... 24 beer in a case.... Coincidence?
    -------------------------------------------------------------
    My blog: Our African Ramblings (https://safaribug.wordpress.com/)

  8. The Following User Says Thank You to ortelius For This Useful Post:


  9. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    UK
    Age
    62
    Posts
    1,537
    Thanked: 1028

    Default Re: Ethiopia: From Nairobi to the Bale Mountains

    Day 3 (continued)
    Moyale to Yabelo
    Time taken: 3 hours
    Distance: 230 kms

    Once out of the town of Moyale, we were on a good tar road heading north to Yabelo. We remembered to drive on the right! The road dropped down from the higher ground at Moyale to plains with the most extraordinary huge termite mounds. In one area, the soil was grey and we dubbed this area “the sculpture park” due to the huge number of monster grey termite mounds. Henry Moore would have been in his element. We pulled off the road and parked under an acacia to have some lunch and a welcome cold drink. It was very hot. Further on through the town of Mega – past the remains of a Mussolini-era fort – and about 90kms later, we arrived in the town of Yabelo.

    We had decided to spend the night in Yabelo and had been recommended the Yabelo Motel as a reasonable place to stay. Have no illusions that this is anything but an Ethiopian hotel, but it ticked all the boxes: secure parking for the Land Rover, a cool shaded garden/courtyard, a bar, a restaurant, and functional if very hot rooms with a loo and a shower. Being about the only place to stay in Yabelo, it has cornered the market for tourists and, consequently, is unreasonably expensive (USD60). But we settled in for the evening and night. Come dark, there was no electricity in the bedrooms, but we got out our head torches and solar lamp, sprayed the hot sweaty room with Doom, locked the prison-like door, and tucked ourselves into the mosquito net.

  10. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    UK
    Age
    62
    Posts
    1,537
    Thanked: 1028

    Default Re: Ethiopia: From Nairobi to the Bale Mountains

    Day 4:
    Yabelo to wild camp near Bidire
    Time taken: 10 hours 50 minutes
    Distance: 344 kms

    After a reasonable night and breakfast of omelettes and coffee, we backtracked a few kilometres. Here we turned off the tarmac and on to a good dirt road towards Arero. Many of these places are not marked on our Reise Know How map and neither are the roads we took properly marked on the map – and, bar one road, they are not on Tracks4Africa. We were heading into “white space” on our GPS.

    Ethiopia is an extraordinary and diverse country; this part of southern Ethiopia is the “Ethiopian Somali Region” and the people are not as feral as in the more populated areas in the Highlands. They are mostly Muslim, many are pastoralists and life is tough in this arid land. The road wound up steep hills and down into valleys, past small villages, camels on the move and cattle and goats. At Arero, we wound our way down to the village of Wachile (about the only village marked on our map). From Wachile we turned north-east, and some hours later we reached the Liben Plains. We searched this wheat growing area for the endemic and very endangered Liben Lark, but to no avail. Eventually, we reached the large town of Negele Borena where we stopped for a bite to eat in a hotel mentioned in the Bradt guide. With no language in common, we opted for more Ethiopian tibs. Then it was on to a new tarmac road for about 20 kms to the village of Bitata where we turned north again on to a dirt road. The next 62 kms took us 3 hours although we did stop a number of times: at the bridge over the Dawa River to birdwatch, and at the lovely Genale River – a recommended spot to look for the endemic and rare Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco. We had no luck with our birdwatching. For much of this time, we were looking for a good place to wild camp. Unfortunately, the whole area was farmed, fairly densely populated or it was impossible to get the Land Rover over the deep drainage and/or erosion ditches. Getting a little desperate, we stopped near a small watercourse where we thought we could get the Land Rover down to a fig tree. As we stopped to recce the place, some locals stopped on their bicycles. Although this area very rarely sees “ferenjis”, when they do they are mostly avid birdwatchers. With little or no English they did know the word “birdy”; Hugh went down to the fig tree with, by now, 6 people and tried to make them understand that we wanted to ask permission to wild camp there. However, that was either not possible or not understood, but there in the fig tree were two fabulous Prince Ruspoli’s Turacos. I rushed down to look at them and tried again about asking to camp. There was then the inevitable wrangle about money for taking us to the Turacos. We gave up, shelled out some money, and headed off.

    Fortunately, a short while later, in a high wooded area with few farms and tukuls, we spotted a track off into a sand quarry. It was perfect: on the top of a hill, out of sight of the road with a large pile of sand behind which we set up our tent. For the past few hours, we had heard a suspicious clanking sound from a back wheel. In our quarry hideaway, we spotted the culprit – the only remaining rear disk brake shield was loose. We have had this before, but it does mean removing the wheel (and sometimes the shock absorber) to get at the offending item. So, we jacked up the Land Rover with our bottle jack, removed the wheel, and wrestled the brake shield off. With this done, we settled down for our well-earned sundowners, cooked up dinner on the gas, and admired the incredible stars. It had been a great day through some remote and beautiful countryside.

  11. The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to Wazungu Wawili For This Useful Post:


  12. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Cape Town
    Age
    63
    Posts
    10,227
    Thanked: 2967

    Default Re: Ethiopia: From Nairobi to the Bale Mountains

    Great report so far - brings back many memories from doing the Isiolo - Moyale hell run 23 years ago, in a military convoy with three convoys before us ambushed. Somewhere or other I have a trip report I wrote on this, must find it. Ironically we also stayed in the Yabelo Motel but we arranged to 'bush camp' in their compound parking lot, after paying for a room which looked to have a lot of bed bugs. I seem to remember a very nice little coffee and pastry shop, as in most Ethiopian towns.
    Looking forward to the rest - I hope you took your fly rods along for the Bale Mountains trout....
    Last edited by Tony Weaver; 2017/02/10 at 06:21 PM.
    Tony Weaver

    1991 Land Rover 110 Hi-Line S/W 3.5l V8 carburettor
    Cooper Discoverer STT tyres, four sleeper Echo rooftop tent
    2012 Mitsubishi Outlander.

    Previously Land Rover 1968 SII, 1969 SIIA, 1973 SIII, 1983 Toyota HiLux 2litre, 2006 Land Rover Freelander TD4 HSE.

  13. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    UK
    Age
    62
    Posts
    1,537
    Thanked: 1028

    Default Re: Ethiopia: From Nairobi to the Bale Mountains

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Weaver View Post
    Great report so far - brings back many memories from doing the Isiolo - Moyale hell run 23 years ago, in a military convoy with three convoys before us ambushed. Somewhere or other I have a trip report I wrote on this, must find it. Ironically we also stayed in the Yabelo Motel but we arranged to 'bush camp' in their compound parking lot, after paying for a room which looked to have a lot of bed bugs. I seem to remember a very nice little coffee and pastry shop, as in most Ethiopian towns.
    Looking forward to the rest - I hope you took your fly rods along for the Bale Mountains trout....
    Thank you for following our adventures. Yes, the NFD was a special place - despite, or because of, it's remoteness and challenges. We are lucky to have been there in those days.

    The trout fishing is in the northern rivers of the Bale Mountains, i think. It was a friend of mine here in Kenya's father who stocked the rivers in the Bale Mountains with trout. He trucked the fingerlings up from Kenya on the infamous road.

  14. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Cape Town
    Age
    63
    Posts
    10,227
    Thanked: 2967

    Default Re: Ethiopia: From Nairobi to the Bale Mountains

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    Thank you for following our adventures. Yes, the NFD was a special place - despite, or because of, it's remoteness and challenges. We are lucky to have been there in those days.

    The trout fishing is in the northern rivers of the Bale Mountains, i think. It was a friend of mine here in Kenya's father who stocked the rivers in the Bale Mountains with trout. He trucked the fingerlings up from Kenya on the infamous road.
    The NFD was/is indeed special, one of my very special places.
    Re Bale: One of the biggest trout I have ever seen, a 12 pound monster, was kept for a while in the Karen fridge of friends of my friends Stu Cunningham and Dick Barnley who lived in a house on the edge of the Ngong Forest - it was caught in the lower Web River by a missionary who was ledgering for barbel using ox heart as bait. We were a bit more delicate and used dry flies on the upper Web and caught some very fine two pounder rainbows.
    The best fishing we had was in the Web/Weib and Shebelle/Shabelle Rivers as they came down off the mountain onto the plains - the upper pools on the mountain were exciting to fish, but the fish were a lot smaller than lower down. We ate trout every night for two weeks....
    Last edited by Tony Weaver; 2017/02/10 at 11:24 PM.
    Tony Weaver

    1991 Land Rover 110 Hi-Line S/W 3.5l V8 carburettor
    Cooper Discoverer STT tyres, four sleeper Echo rooftop tent
    2012 Mitsubishi Outlander.

    Previously Land Rover 1968 SII, 1969 SIIA, 1973 SIII, 1983 Toyota HiLux 2litre, 2006 Land Rover Freelander TD4 HSE.

  15. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    UK
    Age
    62
    Posts
    1,537
    Thanked: 1028

    Default Re: Ethiopia: From Nairobi to the Bale Mountains

    Day 5: Wild camp in quarry to Bale Mountain Lodge, Harenna Forest
    Time taken: 5 hours
    Distance: 131 kms

    After an excellent night in the quarry, (and spotting another Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco) we wound our way down the hills, up again, and down again. At last the Bale Mountains were visible in the distance. On the approach to the small dusty town of Dolo Mena, we noticed the fields and scrub seemed to be littered with large, white boulders. We stopped to investigate and discovered they were an extraordinary plant commonly known as “Monkey’s Chair” – Pyrenacantha malvifolia. Apparently, the swollen caudex can have a diameter up to 1.5m and we certainly saw some huge specimens.

    At Dolo Mena, we turned north and, shortly after the town, we entered the Harenna Forest. This forest on the south side of the Bale Mountains covers 4,000 km² and boasts very high levels of biodiversity and endemism. It is typical Afro-montane cloudforest and is a birdwatcher’s paradise. This road through the Harenna Forest, up on to the Sanetti Plateau and across the Bale Mountains to Goba was built by Mengistu. Like most roads in Ethiopia, its surface merely consists of large sharp stones and rocks – it is hard on the tyres and slow going. An hour or so from Dolo Mena, climbing up all the time, we eventually arrived at the haven of Bale Mountain Lodge which is at an altitude of 2316 metres.

    There are only about two competent hotels/lodges in the whole of Ethiopia. Bale Mountain Lodge – which opened in 2014 – is one of them. It is owned by a British couple and we take our hats off to them for their dedication and investment in what is a remote part of Ethiopia. Unusually for us, we had decided to treat ourselves to three nights at Bale Mountain Lodge and had been in email contact with the owner, Guy Levene, for some months beforehand – and had changed our booking a few times. It was a haven of peace, and we fell into the lap of safari luxury and relished the cool mountain climate.

    After a welcome lunch, a few cold beers, and an afternoon siesta we went for a walk in the forest with our allocated guide, Brook. We walked to the hydro that had been put in to power the lodge - enroute seeing Menelik’s bushbuck, the rare and illusive Bale monkey, a Narina Trogon and lots of other birds. Part of the walk was through the bamboo belt.

    After a hot shower, we donned our winter woollies and sauntered over to the main lodge building for drinks and dinner. There was one other guest at the lodge – a British-Chinese lady who had been driven from Addis Ababa that day, but they had left Addis rather late and she had the nerve-wracking experience of being driven over the Sanetti Plateau and down the hair-pin bends in the dark. After calming this lady down and feeding her gin and tonics, we crept off to our luxury cabin where the wood-burner fire had been lit and a hot water bottle put in the bed. Bliss!

  16. The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to Wazungu Wawili For This Useful Post:


  17. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    East London
    Age
    67
    Posts
    4,719
    Thanked: 3862

    Default Re: Ethiopia: From Nairobi to the Bale Mountains

    Thanks again WW. We befriended a motorcycling Australian couple who traveled south west from Bale on what was probably a similar route to yours and also spoke very highly of the experience. Did you get directions from the Lodge? There are indeed no such tracks on T4A.

    When and if I find myself in that area again, I would also like to approach Bale from the south. I hope you are going to submit your route to T4A, as in the past. Otherwise I wonder if a screenshot of the route on Google Earth would be possible?

    As you know we briefly visited Bale Mountain Lodge but they were full with a group of scientists. It appeared absolutely lovely. Looking forward to the rest....
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

  18. The Following User Says Thank You to Stan Weakley For This Useful Post:


  19. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    UK
    Age
    62
    Posts
    1,537
    Thanked: 1028

    Default Re: Ethiopia: From Nairobi to the Bale Mountains

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Weakley View Post
    Thanks again WW. We befriended a motorcycling Australian couple who traveled south west from Bale on what was probably a similar route to yours and also spoke very highly of the experience. Did you get directions from the Lodge? There are indeed no such tracks on T4A.When and if I find myself in that area again, I would also like to approach Bale from the south. I hope you are going to submit your route to T4A, as in the past. Otherwise I wonder if a screenshot of the route on Google Earth would be possible?As you know we briefly visited Bale Mountain Lodge but they were full with a group of scientists. It appeared absolutely lovely. Looking forward to the rest....
    Thanks, Stan. We had identified the potential route from Moyale/Yabelo on a map and got confirmation from Guy Levene of Bale Mountain Lodge who had driven it some years previously. But with Hugh, we never get lost and he has an incredible sense of direction. There is also a sort-of description of this route in the Bradt guide - they call it the Southern Birdwatching route, but it wouldn't be that easy to follow their description without a paper map (although this wasn't great and many fictional roads marked on it) and, more importantly, a good navigator.Yes, we will submit our tracks to Tracks4Africa and we also marked village names, bridges and where we wild camped. We like mapping. We have made a Google map with our actual tracks and will post it on this thread in due course. I am still working on the rest of our trip report.

  20. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to Wazungu Wawili For This Useful Post:


  21. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    UK
    Age
    62
    Posts
    1,537
    Thanked: 1028

    Default Re: Ethiopia: From Nairobi to the Bale Mountains

    Day 6 and 7:
    Bale Mountain Lodge, Harenna Forest

    Our days at Bale Mountain Lodge were indulgent, but also active. In the early mornings and late afternoons, we went on birdwatching walks in the forest nearby with Brook who is an excellent and knowledgeable guide. There are lions in the forest and one had killed a horse nearby a day or so before – knowing that does add to the excitement of walking in a forest. There are also leopards.

    On our second day, we drove up to the Sanetti Plateau. The dirt road winds its way up and up through forest, the village of Rira, the bamboo belt, giant heathers, and eventually, at an altitude of 4115 metres we reached the highest point on the road. The Sanetti Plateau is the largest tract of Afro-alpine moorland: it is extraordinarily beautiful – and cold. Giant Lobelias dot the landscape but, unlike the Afro-alpine moorlands in East Africa, there are no Giant Groundsels. It is a surreal landscape.

    We drove to the other side of the plateau stopping often to birdwatch and to search for the rarest canid in the world – the Ethiopian wolf. Just before the road descended to Goba, we stopped for coffee and to admire the view northwards (through which we had driven three years previously). On the way back over the plateau, luck was with us and we saw a total of five Ethiopian wolves - most on the hunt for the Giant Mole Rat. They look more fox-like (they used to be called the Simien Fox) and are a lovely red colour (their other name was the Red Jackal). We had seen two Ethiopian wolves before in the Simien Mountains, but that had been at some distance. This time we saw them up close and I got some good photos. We stopped at the Ethiopian Wolf Research camp high on the plateau and walked to a tarn nearby and were able to tick off more Ethiopian/Bale Mountain endemics on the bird front. We had a picnic lunch sheltering in the lee of the Land Rover from the cold breeze. As the clouds started to descend, we returned down to the relative warmth of 2316 metres and Bale Mountain Lodge. What a great day.

    On our last evening at Bale Mountain Lodge more guests arrived. They had all driven or been driven from Addis Ababa, and most of them lived and worked in Addis. There was no mention of any more troubles in Ethiopia although the State of Emergency remains in place. They did, however, report a fuel shortage. It was a lovely last night in the Harenna Forest and the warmth and comfort of the lovely Bale Mountain Lodge.

  22. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Wazungu Wawili For This Useful Post:


  23. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    UK
    Age
    62
    Posts
    1,537
    Thanked: 1028

    Default Re: Ethiopia: From Nairobi to the Bale Mountains

    Day 8: Bale Mountain Lodge to Negele Borena
    Time taken: 8 hours
    Distance: 213 kms

    Tearing ourselves away from the lap of luxury in this remote neck of the woods, we set off to retrace our route back to Kenya. We thought we had just about enough fuel to get back to Moyale, but would be happier with a good reserve. This we found in Dolo Mena in a kiosk from barrels and we filled up two jerrycans.

    Although we hate backtracking and doing a route twice, there wasn’t really any other feasible option – we did not want to go through Goba, Dinsho and Shashemene as we drove that route in December 2013. But the landscape always looks slightly different when going in the opposite direction. This time, we pushed on to the town of Negele Borena and found Hotel Turaco which was mentioned in the Bradt guide. This proved a good choice although there was no bar or restaurant: the manager spoke reasonable English, was very welcoming, and sent the guard across the road for cold beers.

    He also directed us to somewhere where we could eat. So, before it got dark, we walked around the corner – through yet more roadworks – to the Nile Hotel. The Nile Hotel is one of these splendid “hotelis” that one finds all over Africa – they are not hotels, they are bars and, sometimes, a restaurant. However, this “hoteli” did have a coolish courtyard where we sat on the ubiquitous plastic chairs surrounded by corrugated iron, a television on at full volume in a corner, and the kitchen in full view. Amazingly, the kitchen did have a first aid box attached to the wall, and excellent food appeared from its grimy depths. Of course, we drank St George’s beer and ate injera and shiro: we were having a real Ethiopian experience after being indulged at Bale Mountain Lodge. Nobody batted an eyelid at two ferenjis either walking through the dusty streets or eating in this establishment. Back at Hotel Turaco - which had secure parking and a cool shaded courtyard – we sat in the courtyard and sent the guard over the road to get more cold beers. In the courtyard was a splendid relic of the Italian occupation of Abyssinia – a large steel post box with the Italian coat of arms. Of course, we were the only ferenjis in this typical Ethiopian hotel. We had a good night.

  24. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to Wazungu Wawili For This Useful Post:


  25. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    UK
    Age
    62
    Posts
    1,537
    Thanked: 1028

    Default Re: Ethiopia: From Nairobi to the Bale Mountains

    Day 9:
    Negele Borena to wild camp near El Sod
    Time taken: 9 hours 15 minutes
    Distance: 229 kms

    We were up before dawn, and set off just after first light. We attempted to find a working ATM in Negele Borena, but the system was either down or the machines had no cash in them. However, we had, we hoped, enough Birr to see us through to Moyale. We turned on to the Liben Plains again, stopped for some time in the early morning light to attempt, once again, to find the rare and endangered Liben Lark. Again, to no avail: the grass was very short and a local we met while birdwatching - who had reasonable English and knew what we were looking for - told us that the larks were elsewhere because of the short grass. Where they go is a mystery as they only inhabit, apparently, a very restricted area in these plains.

    A 109 kms and some 4½ hours from Negele Borena, we came to the village of Houdet. On the way up, we had seen a sign to the Geralle National Park’s offices in Houdet. This national park is unmentioned in any guide book or map, but we had seen something written about it in a booklet at Bale Mountain Lodge. We were intrigued and thought that a visit there – although we were sure there would no longer be any game – would be interesting and we could do some more mapping. The description in the booklet did say there was camping on the Dawa River in Geralle National Park, but it was a four hour drive from the office at Houdet and one had to call in at the HQ in Houdet to pay the park fees and obtain a mandatory guard. It was all too intriguing.

    So, we pulled up at the smart building complete with Ethiopian flag flying. The gates were firmly locked… We went into the centre of the village and found some men in uniform, but they were not rangers and nobody spoke much English. Eventually, a chap on a motorbike motioned for us to follow him, but he just took us back to the locked gates. Clearly, nobody has ever visited Geralle National Park and nobody ever will since it is a complete mystery where it actually is…

    Disappointed that our explorations were thwarted, we bowled on to the village of Wachile. This time we didn’t turn towards Arero, but continued into “white space” on the dirt road towards El Sod and Mega. This was increasingly barren land, but we passed several camel caravans. Close to El Sod – which is a crater lake where salt is mined – we looked for a spot to pull off the road and wild camp. Driving about 250 metres off the road, through thick thorny bush, we found an acacia under which we set up camp. We did not, however, pitch our tent until dusk. There was no-one around, although there were some old temporary thorn stockades nearby. We had cooked our dinner on the gas, had a small fire, and were enjoying our solitude when we heard an appalling noise from nearby. With hearts racing (well, my heart racing, but Hugh’s perfectly tuned) we found a lone camel bellowing as he raced through the bush. Well, that was OK. Then a short while later, when it was completely dark, we could hear camel herders arriving nearby. Clearly, they wanted to wild camp too. This did cause some palpitations from yours truly, but they undoubtedly knew we were there, and we knew they were there. We settled down for a good night’s sleep.
    Last edited by Wazungu Wawili; 2017/02/14 at 01:39 PM.

  26. #16
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    UK
    Age
    62
    Posts
    1,537
    Thanked: 1028

    Default Re: Ethiopia: From Nairobi to the Bale Mountains

    Day 10: Wild camp near El Sod to Marsabit
    Time taken (including border crossing): 8 hours 35 minutes
    Distance: 394 kms

    After a peaceful night’s sleep, we were up before dawn and had packed up camp when our neighbours arrived to say hello. It was a group of seven camel herders who were friendly and curious. They were terribly keen to help us pack the Land Rover and intrigued by the whole process. One of the young men had passable English, but with a lot of miming, we all played out our actions from the previous night. We understood that they thought our small fire was a good thing: baddies would not light a fire, but they did think that we might have been the police. Lots of shaking hands, smiling and laughing. I made up a pack of tea, sugar and biscuits for them and, as is customary in Muslim societies, gave them water. They were going to the salt mines at El Sod to get salt to take to market some many days walk away. They waved us off as we headed back through the thick bush to the dirt road.

    A few kilometres later, we reached the main tarmac road and turned south. Apart from a short 20 km section of tar from Negele Borena to Bitata, we had been on dirt roads for the whole trip to and from the Bale Mountains.

    Just under 2 hours later and 130 kms, we reached Moyale. First port of call was Ethiopian Immigration. The office was much busier this time. There was a Dragoman overland truck with about 10 people heading from Kenya into Ethiopia: they had camped at the KWS campsite on the Kenyan side of Moyale the night before and none of them had been to Ethiopia before. Also, in the queue were three Chinese who were travelling, we think, on public transport and were heading south. We were relatively quickly dealt with by the Ethiopian Immigration officials, but the Chinese were having more of a problem. They had to do everything through Google translate on an iPhone. How complicated that must be.

    Then it was off to see our Man U-supporting Customs official. Unfortunately, at first, he was not around and we were dealt with by a young lady. She could not understand why we didn’t have a Carnet. Eventually, our Man U pal appeared, took over, found our original documentation, returned the Kenyan documentation to us and we were free to go. Luckily, Man U had won their match at the weekend.

    We battled through even more chaotic roadworks with road rollers, dumper trucks and men wielding pick-axes to the calm of the Kenyan border controls. Here, we were warmly welcomed home by the Immigration officials whilst the Chinese struggled to fill in the entry and visa forms using Google translate. I am sorry to say, we did not offer to help them. Next stop was Kenyan Customs. This took slightly longer because there were three Somalis ahead of us. However, the same Customs official as we had dealt with on our way north was quick and efficient in returning our logbook to us. The last time we had seen the logbook was in his hands as he returned from inspecting our vehicle a week previously, but it had been securely locked away and was logged in and out in a ledger. Many will find this a strange statement, but … oh, the joys of efficient Kenyan bureaucracy.

    So, here we were safely back in Kenya. Now, we just had to get to Marsabit which we did in three hours. We arrived in Marsabit just after lunchtime and refuelled in one of the old petrol stations. As we were feeling extremely hot, hungry and thirsty, we asked the best man in town where to go for a snack and a drink: Indian petrol station owners know everything that is happening (or not happening) in town. We were directed the “Sam’s Café” which was pointed out to us behind the petrol station. I walked round, but couldn’t at first see it – it was “Psalms”. But they had cold drinks and we poured two sodas each down our throats in the very hot room. Going to wash my hands, I discovered a cool-ish shaded garden out the back where we repaired to and ate pancakes and “Croque Monsieur á la Marsabit”.

    Fortified, we headed out of town to Henry’s Place. Here, we found it busy: a German registered Mercedes campervan, and a South African registered Toyota Land Cruiser. Henry can’t have been so busy for many years. The German couple in their early 60s were heading south; a Kiwi couple in their 40s in the South African registered Land Cruiser were heading north; and later in the afternoon a Finn arrived also heading north on a motorbike. We set up camp, and later swapped travellers’ tales over the cooking fire and a few drinks. The Germans had had severe suspension issues with their enormous campervan through Ethiopia and were relieved to be in Kenya: they, however, were under the misapprehension that the Kenyan roads were in good condition, including those in parks and reserves. We wonder how they are getting on…

    We had had a terrific adventure in Ethiopia with no mishaps, but we were happy to be back in Kenya. We slept soundly.
    Last edited by Wazungu Wawili; 2017/02/14 at 03:42 PM. Reason: German not French

  27. #17
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    UK
    Age
    62
    Posts
    1,537
    Thanked: 1028

    Default Re: Ethiopia: From Nairobi to the Bale Mountains

    Our GPS tracks

    We think this might be the appropriate time to post our tracks. They can be seen here.

  28. #18
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Location
    Nelspruit
    Posts
    411
    Thanked: 154

    Default Re: Ethiopia: From Nairobi to the Bale Mountains

    Thanks for the great reports. Well written and certain to get many people's wanderlust up!
    “If you want to go into the bush, take a Ford. If you want to get back, take a Landcruiser!”

    Series 80 'Cruiser GX Diesel 1996
    Cooper ST Maxx 265/75/16 tyres;
    ARB bullbar; 9000kg T-Max winch; Outback roofrack; Double fuel tank; Outback Extreme spare wheel carrier x 2; Air Spring boosters; Racor diesel filter; NL dual battery set-up; 2 x 100w solar panels; Big Country gullwings, Front Runner drawer system; Stofpad 4x4 drop-down fridge slide; NL 78-litre double door fridge/freezer; NL 60-litre freezer; Eeziawn rooftop tent; Eeziawn awning.

    SWAMBO: Honda CRV 2.2 Diesel

    Previously: '98 Defender 110 HT TDi, Landy SIII S/W, Hilux D/C 4x4,
    Isuzu 2,3 4x4, Isuzu 2,0 4x4, Isuzu 1600 4x4, Chev Nomad, Cheetah beach buggy!

  29. #19
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    UK
    Age
    62
    Posts
    1,537
    Thanked: 1028

    Default Re: Ethiopia: From Nairobi to the Bale Mountains

    Thank you, DarylB. It is gratifying when one types and types to find someone actually reads it and replies.

    Asante sana!

  30. #20
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    East London
    Age
    67
    Posts
    4,719
    Thanked: 3862

    Default Re: Ethiopia: From Nairobi to the Bale Mountains

    Thanks for this report and especially for the tracks of the intrepid southern route to Bale. I must comment that your decision to wild camp near El Sod was brave, probably out of necessity. I suppose this is only a few hundred km from the Somali border and not all that far from the no-go zones in north-eastern Kenya courtesy of Al Shabaab .

    Am I correct that used to be a very active area for Somali smugglers and shiftas and probably still is to some extent? With your local knowledge and contacts I presume that the situation has improved?

    You also make no comment on your impression of what effect the state of emergency in Ethiopia has had in the areas you traveled. Presumably none. Were there any comments from fellow travelers or the people at the lodge?

    Hopefully your next visit "home" to Kenya will not be as troubled and you will be able to fulfill all your plans. Any further comments on your trip would be welcomed. Your comparison of Bale to the Simien Mountains?
    Last edited by Stan Weakley; 2017/02/15 at 01:47 AM.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

  31. The Following User Says Thank You to Stan Weakley For This Useful Post:


Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •