Thursday, October 20

Lake Turkana/Omo Valley Route from Kenya to Ethiopia

Brett: The main route from Kenya to Ethiopia is via Marsabit, but we didn’t want to head that way because it covers 320km of badly corrugated and stony road through boring scenery. The authorities don’t enforce travelling in convoys along this route anymore, but there are still some issues with bandits (some French overlanders were shot at and one person shot in the face on this road in May – fortunately they are all fine). The road is pretty busy and most people do it because it is quick, less admin (more fuel available, and an actual border post complete with Immigration & Customs), or as a rite of passage being able to say “I did the Marsabit route”.

We decided on the longer and much more remote Lake Turkana / Omo Valley route, which is becoming much more popular with overlanders, and ended up going in convoy with Casper (Dutch guy in a big Man truck) and the 3 British guys (Richard, Richard and Mo) from JJ’s. The scenery is unbelievable, really beautiful, and it passes through very remote areas dotted with interesting and colourful tribes.

Day 1 (230km, 4h30m): Mary: We stocked up massively in Nairobi on fuel, water and food – Nakumatt sells convenient 10l bottles of mineral water for very cheap (about $2.50) so we ended up carrying about 80l. We also bought a new Sat phone – the Inmarsat iSatPhone Pro – from SatNet. We could write a whole post about what we have learned about the different Sat phones available and the advantages/disadvantages of each for different trips (Brett will add this sometime as a special post). We treated ourselves to a huge takeaway pizza (our last good pizza for a long time) and left Nairobi at about 2:30 heading North on the tar road to Timau (just North of Mt Kenya NP). The tar is good except for the stretch leading out of Nairobi, which is currently being “upgraded” in a  hilariously disastrous way. We met up with the Richards (we started calling them Richard I and Richard II based on the order in which we met them, to avoid confusion) near the equator marker and stopped at Timau River Lodge ($5pppn). The campsite is very nice, with hot shower, great views of My Kenya and is part of a small working farm (the only disadvantage of this was being woken at 6am by two loud turkeys roaming round the campsite. Casper had given Mo a lift and didn’t make it quite as far, so stayed at some dodgy hotel a little way away (Mo without possessions, which were in Richard’s truck). We also saw about 50 beige camouflaged Landys full of gringo soldiers (who might have been American or British troops), about 10 big green Kenyan army trucks and 2 enormous tanks on the road – we didn’t think much of it at the time but they could have been heading for Somalia!

Day 2 (251km, 7h40m): Brett: We headed up the main road towards Marsabit, through the crappy town of Isiolo, where we drew the last cash we needed, filled up with fuel, and got hassled by dodgy locals. From there we headed past Archers Post and Samburu NP. We turned left (Eastwards) onto the R79 in the direction of Wamba, which is the end of the tar. The dirt road is fairly good until the junction near Kisima where we joined the C77 heading North. The mountainous scenery was fantastic and we passed several tribespeople in colourful dress who were very friendly, so we spent a lot of time stopping for photos. We camped in the grassy gardens of Yara Camel Club ($3pppn), which has cold showers and plenty of good water. At this point it still felt like we had quite a lot of civilisation around us, with plenty people passing on the roads, but it was far enough outside of the big towns that everyone was really friendly and there was no hassle at all.

Day 3 (116km, 7h30m): Mary: We got more fuel in Maralal, which is the last decent fuel station - we didn’t fill up completely, as we were nearing the end of our Kenyan Shillings, but we probably should have! The scenery changes so much in a short distance and after Maralal we passed through some fantastic Swiss-looking forests coming down from the plateau. The roads were quite rocky – nothing too technical, but overall very slow. We caught up with Mo and the Richards at Baragoi and managed to buy great pancakes from a local shop. Richard tried to get diesel in Baragoi as there was a pump, but they didn’t have any fuel at all. While we were waiting for the Richards, a really funny local guy called Rashid wandered over to chat to us, keeping us laughing until Casper caught up. He may have been stoned or just crazy, but he was highly amused by Brett’s name, chatting more or less incoherently and then suddenly shouting out “Bright!”, “Brayt!”, “Bre-e-e-i-g-h-t!” and roaring with laughter. It was getting a little late, so we started looking for a place to free camp, which is tricky with a convoy – we wanted to find somewhere out of sight but none of the spots we found were really suitable for Casper’s truck, and Richard I needed somewhere flat to make it easier to get around on his crutches. In the end, we gave up and found a flat spot right next to the road on the open plains where we could see people coming for about 5km – I was a bit nervous as we were about as visible to every passing troublemaker as it is possible to be, but we saw very few people all afternoon and there is definitely safety in numbers, free camping with 5 blokes! Just after dark while we were having dinner, a Kenyan army truck rolled up with about 20 guys with rifles on the back. About 5 of these jumped off and came up to us (while cocking their rifles). Once they realised we were tourists, they were really friendly and said we were fine to camp there, and headed off. A few other cars drove past, stopping to look and then driving off – 2 at dusk and one in the night. The wind really picked up in the evening so we pointed the car into it and tied down the tent flysheet, but it was still flapping really loudly for most of the night. If we were on our own, we would have pushed on to South Horr, which is a tiny nice looking town with a reasonable-looking campsite and friendly locals. (There were also several much better free camping options north of South Horr that we passed the next day). 

Day 4 (240km, 6h50m): Brett: We left our roadside free camp early – Casper had a 30 minute head start because his truck is slower over the rough roads. We reached South Horr, which is really relaxed – the scenery starting here was some of my favourite, dry and dusty. We stopped for coffee in a wide, flat river bed north of town (which would make a great free camping spot if it isn’t raining) and suddenly Andre, Tracey and Anneke of http://www.scenicroutehome.com fame appeared from the north, along with another car they were travelling with. They had recognised our moonspaghetti stickers as we had posted on their blog a while back asking about their transit through Syria. They are really awesome and have loads of interesting info on their blog about doing the trip with a baby. We shared stories about the roads. The fantastic scenery continued – we passed another campsite (quite a way off the road) and we were tempted to spend another night in the area, but it is tricky to stop on a whim in a convoy. We had lunch where the volcanic landscape of black and maroon coloured boulder fields starts, and soon after, we were treated to amazing views of Lake Turkana, coming down the rocky hill sides. With the sun shining on it, the huge lake is absolutely amazing,  bright turquoise in amongst the barren landscape. Driving over the sharp stones is not technical (and the steep bits are concrete), but they made quite a lot of chips and gouges in all our tyres. Around the lake the villages have cool iglu-shaped houses (made of anything they can find, but the nicest are made from bent sheets of corrugated iron). We followed the lake to Loyangolani and stayed at Palm Springs Camp Site ($5pppn), which has water, electricity, showers, grass, shade (!) and very nice staff. Apparently The Constant Gardner was partly filmed here. We reached Loyangolani fairly early, so I walked around to explore the town while Mary caught up on relaxing. It was incredibly windy again in the night so not a great night’s sleep.

Day 5 (173km, 7h30m): Mary: In the morning we got some lovely mini bread rolls for lunch and headed off each at our own pace. We met up at the junction (N3 29.908 E36 31.349) where the track goes either through Sibiloi NP or around (40km of the track is not on T4A, but easy enough to follow). We were thinking of going around the park as we had heard there is not much to see, but the others were keen to go in so we went along. A little way from the entrance gate, Richard II had the idea of hiding Mo and me in the back of their landrover to save money (it is all set up with pop-up tent, kitchenette etc). We should have known better, but feeling poor we decided to do it and Mo and I spent an uncomfortable 20 mins sweating it out in the extreme heat in the back of the landrover (it gets to high 30s in there with no windows open) while Brett, Casper and Richard II got us booked in. The official fees are $20pp entry, $15pppn camping, $3 car or $20 in the case of big trucks like Casper’s. This was quite a bit more than we had thought, even with 2 of us hiding out, and Casper wasn’t happy with the price either, so we were about to go round when the guards offered to “make a plan” for us. Once again, we should have known better, but overall ended up paying $87 for all of us (ie the 4 people they could actually see), for which we got partial receipts and the rest was doubtless pocketed. They told us we should leave the campsite by 8am but didn’t mention why, and somehow with our brains dazzled by the heat we let that one pass too. A km or so inside the gate Mo and I emerged from the sweatbox and we set off through exactly the same landscape as outside the park towards Camp Turkana campsite on the shore of lake Turkana. We saw a few zebra grazing at the lake shore and a couple of crocs in the lake, but it was as low on wildlife as we had been told. The campsite itself is beautiful, especially as we arrived around sunset, and it was great to be able to go and dip our toes in the lake. There are no facilities (well, latrines, but no water at all) and it was extremely windy in the night, but we made a nice bonfire and had chicken on the braai and had a pleasant evening…

Day 6 (135km, 6h10m)– “There has been a mischief!”: Brett: In the morning, everyone was feeling lazy and wanted to make the most of the beautiful campsite. Richard II went down to the lake to try fishing (didn’t get so much as a bite though) and we tidied up the car and got organised. I started to get a funny feeling so we set off at about 8:30 with Casper not far behind us, but Mo & the Richards were dawdling and looked like they would take another hour or so to get ready. A few kms from the campsite we were flagged down by some rangers and the funny feeling turned into the really bad feeling we should have had all along. They were friendly and pleasant but told us there had been a mistake with our entrance fees and insisted we head back to the gate to clear it all up. Mary was stressing a lot because obviously there were 2 extra people in our group than they knew about, so we kept telling them that we were running late already and had to leave to get to the border on time (true). By this point Casper had turned up as well and the rangers started to ask us how many people we were, and how much we had all paid. They were radioing the gate and soon realised that the total number of people had gone up from 4 to 5, a slip on somebody’s part but they hadn’t figured out that there were actually 6 of us. At this point we were really worried the Richards and Mo would turn up as well, and the goose would be well and truly cooked, so we followed them back to the main gate where the same guards from the day before were. It turns out that the receipts from the previous day get checked at 8am (which is why they wanted us long gone by 8) and the boss had realised their “innocent mistake” of undercharging us. We reminded them that we were going to go round the park because it was too expensive until they offered us a “special deal” , and they countered with the fairly obvious argument that there was now an additional person (Mary) who hadn’t been counted in any case. It was clear that after all the heat they had received from their boss that we would have to pay the full whack and that no further special deals would be offered, so we paid up and got the proper tickets we had not been issued the day before. It was becoming clear that if we hung around any longer they would find out about the extra extra person, Mo, as well, so after paying our dues we  set off North through the park, leaving on good terms with handshakes all round and apologies for the mistakes on both sides. A short while later, the British guys caught up with us and told us their adventure story. They had been caught up with pretty much just outside the campsite and had tried to make a break for it but abandoned that idea after it was clear they could not outrun rangers with rifles. After turning up at the gate it was pretty clear that there had in fact been 2 extra people, which apparently made the surprised guards exclaim, “there has been a mischief!” – which has now become something of a catchphrase for our group. They also paid their dues and got the proper tickets, but thankfully no fines, and after some good-humoured handshaking they too were sent on their way. Lesson learned, don’t try cheat the KWS – you’ll either be caught or even if not, it is not the right thing to do. Likewise, do not accept any “special deals” offered to you by the guards – I don’t know how they thought they would get away with it as the receipts at the office are checked for discrepancies – the guards will get in trouble, you will get in trouble, or both. In any case, we can’t recommend going through the park as it really is no different in terms of scenery and wildlife to the surrounding areas.

The roads through the park were a bit slow going for the truck, but not too bad for the cars – there was a lot of talcum dust. We were travelling with the wind and at a similar speed, so even with windows down there was no relief from the 40 degree heat that we had most days (28 degrees at night). The scenery was similar to the day before – really stark and beautiful. There were a few decent looking free camp sites before Illeret, but also a lot more people, so we opted to camp at the Illeret Police Station (free but donation recommended). Illeret is a really cool town with fantastic people and no hassle – you do get oggled by the kids but they really just want to look and wave, and they don’t bother you or ask for anything. On a whim (or maybe the remoteness plus the warm beer sold to us by the policemen makes you crazy), we decided we really wanted goat for dinner. There were no restaurants in town but there were a few goats wandering around the police station, so we asked about buying one from the villagers. About $33 later we had taken possession of one beaut of a goat and were leading it up to the fairly dirty looking sheet of metal where the villagers would slaughter it for us. The slaughter was very quick (and less gory than expected) and in a few minutes the goat was hanging from a tree being skinned. Richard II is an ex-butcher, so he cut us some thick goat steaks and some liver, kidney and heart which we braaied. The rest of the goat was cut up into pieces for another night with some of the insides, head and skin going to the villagers. The steaks were REALLY tough, but tasty and apparently the liver was really good too (we didn’t try it). Another extremely windy night so we moved the car behind Casper’s truck as a wind shield…it didn’t really work though as the wind changed direction in the night.

Day 7 (155km, 6h30m): Brett: In the morning Mo and I walked into town looking like two pied pipers with a big group of kids following us. The kids were really well behaved and just wanted to walk along holding hands and talk to us. We went in search of the teacher of the local school, as Mary & I had amassed a huge bag of pens, kokis and coloured pencils that we wanted to donate. In the end we couldn’t find the teacher so settled on handing over the pens to the local minister to pass on to the school. It was just before the church service was due to start and the minister was really nervous because the the bishop was visiting (he had been at Loyangolani the same day as us too) so we didn’t keep him long – the congregation was divided between traditionally dressed women on the left and men wearing smart casual western clothes on the right – really interesting to see. We find it better to give donations to an adult or person of standing in the community (who can make sure they are fairly distributed) rather than dishing out individual pens to the kids (which encourages the begging that all tourists complain about and normally ends up with the big kids beating up the small kids for whatever you have given).

Casper needed a rest, so we left him in Illeret and headed for the “border”. At this point the road was just a vague sandy track (easy to follow on T4A). At one village it looked like a big fence had been put around the village, blocking the road, so we did some easy bundu bashing to get around. The locals looked quite upset with us, and we figured out later that they were probably wanting us to pay some kind of toll to pass through the village. We drew our own border where T4A indicated it is and continued into Ethiopia, past massive termite mounds. There were several dry river crossings and 2 muddy ones, but they weren’t too difficult and then we joined the graded dirt roads towards Omorate (aka Kelem). We reached Omorate and took 30 minutes to get through immigration. The people at Immigration were very nice - the guy writing down our passport and visa details had broken his glasses and was extremely grateful when we helped to fix them with tape. There is no customs and most overlanders don’t bother trying to get the Carnet stamped in Addis. The graded dirt roads were good and it was strange to be doing 60km/h after several days at 25km/h. We went to Turmi and camped at Kasse River Lodge (Mango Camp) ($5 per tent), which is a great spot about 3km outside town run by the community with water pump and showers. The British guys stayed at the Tourist Hotel in town for the night, which was very noisy, but it had a great restaurant where we had lunch of injera (grey pancake) and wat (meat sauce). Ethiopian food is really yum and cheap. There are no banks in Turmi, so we were changing our dollars for birr on the black market – it is really easy to do and hassle free as almost everyone in town will change money at the same rate, although the rate is 15% worse than the banks offer. We were warned to not declare any foreign currencies at the border and we were not able to get Birr in advance in Kenya.

Finally we had a break from the wind, and slept peacefully for the first time in a good few nights!

Day 8 (rest from driving): Mary: We had timed our visit to Turmi perfectly (as luck would have it) as it was market day (Monday). We went to the Hamer Market, which has a section for what the locals want and one with tourist stuff. We met up with Gele, our money changer and also a guide, at the Tourist Hotel – he spoke the best English of anyone we met and was relaxed and easy to chat to. Casper caught up with us just in time and we went with Gele to the Hamer Bull Jumping Ceremony (again, lucky timing as it apparently happens only once a month or so), where a man must jump over a herd of bulls in order to be able to marry. We paid $20pp for the ceremony and $12 between 6 for Gele – you really need a guide to smooth the process as you would normally need to pay a few Birr per photo, but having paid a guide you can take as many photos as you like. Also, if you turn up without a guide you will be assigned one and charged for them anyway. The ceremony started off a few hundred meters from where we parked along the riverbed. We pushed Richard I’s wheel chair through the mud to where the women were dancing, chanting and blowing trumpets. The women have their faces painted by some of the men including the groom, and the men would suddenly stop painting to whip the women with branches. The women seemed oblivious to the beating and didn’t flinch or stop smiling. They would have stripes of blood and scars on their backs - a sign of bravery – and then would go back and join the dancing. After some time, we walked through the bushes to where the bulls were kept – there was more dancing while the bulls were rounded up and a few of them gathered up into a line. The groom striped naked, took a run up and then leapt up onto the backs of the bulls and ran up and down a few times – very impressive! The whole ceremony felt quite authentic and the tourists were generally ignored, apart from a few gentle requests for bars of soap or money. There were a huge number of tourists - about 100 – so at times we felt a bit like spectators at a sports match. After the ceremony we were all traipsing back through the bush to the river and as we passed a group of girls I took one last picture – suddenly she started screaming and waving her stick at me – it seems that once the bulls have been jumped, no more pictures are allowed.

When we got back to the campsite, we sat around chatting to Gele and relaxing. There was about a ton of goat meat left, so I made a curry and a stew for everyone. It took a good few hours to cook so we only ate at about 10pm and we ended up with leftovers for at least two more meals – a whole goat is a heck of a lot of meat! It was more tender than the braai had been but still not great, with loads of chewy/fatty bits – definitely not the best curry I have ever made.

We had originally planned to go to see the famous Mursi people (famous for wearing lip plates), but the fees (for the vehicles+people in Mago National Park, additional fees to elders to enter the villages, additional fees for photos etc) were more than we were prepared to pay and we have heard it is very touristy. Since we had seen so much great unexpected stuff with the Hamer Market and Bull Jumping, we decided to move on.

Day 9 (186km, 4h10m): Brett: The river crossings near the border had been much worse for Casper a day later – they were covered in deep water and he almost got stuck. His truck also started stuttering from dirt in the fuel (from Maralal we think), so I helped him replace the filters (and struggle to bleed the air out of the fuel pipes). Our fuel consumption had been high during all the off-road driving we had been doing, so we looked in town for fuel. We eventually found some dodgy looking black market petrol at about $2.70/l, about double the price, and the shop owner was not prepared to negotiate on price, so we bought a few litres off Casper (although his truck is diesel, he uses petrol for his generator). The British guys set off early and we spent the morning getting organised. After lunch (more goat stew!) we said our goodbyes to Casper and took the road through Lake Stephanie NR to Weito and on to Konso – the first river crossing just outside our campsite was the only muddy one – there were many others, all dry, including one where you drive 200m down the river bed! The road was good (and 2 hours quicker than the route north towards Key Afer), but it would be impossible if it rains. There were storm clouds gathering and we had a few drops of rain but I think we were lucky – on our first day in Turmi it had rained and we saw the river we had crossed easily come up to at least 50cm in an hour – it went down again a few hours later and then a tour vehicle got badly stuck, but it was fine again when we crossed it the next day. The scenery on the road we took was fantastic and the storm clouds built up to an impressive sight, with dark skies and the wind kicking up the dust into an orange haze. The tar (along with road works and people+cattle in the road) starts from Weito. Although the Bradt guide suggests hassles with permission letters and toll fees in Omo, we did not have any problems and the only time we were stopped it was by a string hung up across the road which was promptly lowered without question. We stayed at Kanta Lodge in Konso ($3.50pppn no shower, $7pppn with shower), which is nice, but it has been under construction for 3 years and not ideally set up for camping. The buildings look nice and the view and restaurant is great, but it is obviously gearing up to be quite an upmarket place, and even though they are planning to have a camping area it is not really clear how the two styles will gel. It was really noisy in the morning with building works, and we got plenty of curious construction workers standing round staring at the Beast.

Day 10 (214km, 5h50m): Mary: We got some petrol in Konso for the first time since Maralal, and drew a small crowd of people coming to look at the map sticker on the bonnet. Everyone was friendly and just genuinely curious, and we didn’t get any hassle. The fuel we got was really low quality/octane (2nd time on the trip since Zambia), so Brett reset the timing and we took it slowly to avoid pinking on the steep hills. The roads from here to Addis are generally good with fewer people and cattle wandering in the road. We kept hearing about kids throwing stones and shouting/begging, but we didn’t have any issues and found everyone to be very friendly and curious. The kids pretty much all put out their hands when we passed and many shouted “you you you you you”, but it seemed to be more an enthusiastic greeting than any real hassling – they were all smiling and would erupt in squeals of delight when we waved back at them. We stopped in Arba Minch to draw money at the Daschen Bank (the only one that will let you draw money on a Visa card). We really liked the town and had lunch at a restaurant we had spotted above the bank filled with locals. We waited over an hour for the food, but it was so worth it and we were charged the very reasonable prices shown on the menu and not some inflated faranji price. We pushed on to Sodo and stayed at Bekele Molla Hotel ($9 per single room which has a bed big enough for 2 people) – it was very quiet, comfortable and had secure parking, a good restaurant and a bar with a patio overlooking the street. We walked into town and found the Misrak pastry shop, so we stopped for some awesome sponge cake and some kind of chocolate bread covered in a layer of scone (? – very nice though). We wandered back to the hotel and had drinks on the patio while checking emails for the first time in ages (because the laptop battery had run out – I suspect we might have had some very limited internet in the towns we passed otherwise). The power went out when the sun went down, so we had dinner by candle light. Lunch, pastries, drinks and dinner, all eaten at restaurants, had cost less than than self catering in Kenya – brilliant!

Day 11 (330km, 7h20m): Brett: With limited time available until we need to be in Sudan (the visa is only valid for entry within 2 months of the date of issue), we pushed on to Addis Ababa as most of the historic sites are in the north of the country. The roads were good and a lot faster than in the south – we were on secondary roads (rather than the main road from Moyale) and the people were friendly (wavers rather than stone throwers).

October is supposed to be the small wet season and we were lucky with the weather. We heard stories that Andre & Tracey (the South Africans we met coming down the Turkana route) got caught out by the rain after we bumped into them and the trip south was incredibly muddy. I can also believe that the river crossings (many between South Horr and Weita) could be impassable in the rain and you may need to wait a few hours or possibly a day before the water levels fall again. The Marsabit route supposedly has much less interesting scenery and some of the worst corrugated roads for 320km where people tend to do either 20km/h or 90km/h (and need some repairs at the end) – in any case it was raining on the Marsabit route when we were in Turkana and we heard stories of trucks not being allowed through, 4x4s sliding everywhere and bikers putting their bikes on pickups after falling too many times. Marsabit may be the route to choose if you can’t carry enough fuel or if you are travelling in a car without good ground clearance. But otherwise I would totally recommend the Turkana route – it is absolutely beautiful, and feels like a proper adventure (because of the remoteness, not because of any issues over safety).
  • Fuel - we carry enough fuel for a range of 1,400km on good road, but our fuel consumption was 50% worse on the off-road tracks, so we would carry more next time. It is about 950km between Maralal and Konso where you will get your last and first decent fuel station, although we had some issues with quality at both. I would fill up at every opportunity starting in Nairobi. We have a policy of not going below “E”, so I suspect we would have been fine if we hadn’t bought petrol from Casper – but only just! If you are willing to pay the exorbitant prices for black market petrol/diesel you would probably find it at a number of small towns en route – possibly bad quality though.
  • Water – we are very careful with out water usage, but on our route, we used only about 30l of our 80l because we were able to fill up often and use showers in the camp sites. We were even able to shower every 2nd day! if we had free camped more, we would have needed more water, but 80l would probably still be fine.
  • Food – carry everything with you as there isn’t much once you reach the remote parts – the British guys were looking for bread in several villages with limited success. Pasta, veggies etc are not available en route.
  • Camping – you could stay in camp sites most of the way, probably with the exception of the tracks around Sibiloi NP, if you didn’t want to free camp.
  • Communication – we had cell phone reception (and you could probably get slow internet) in major towns, but nothing in-between. When we did have reception we had problems with text messages not getting through (trying to communicate within the group)
  • Vehicle – make sure you take everything you might need with you – you need good quality tyres as they take a beating on the sharp stones. You should be fine with a 2x4  with good ground clearance in the dry, but in the wet anything might get stuck.
  • Convoy – convoys mean compromise, but the great thing is that there is always some “mischief” and it usually makes for great memories. We enjoyed it, but didn’t really think it was necessary in terms of getting stuck etc if you have a properly capable vehicle (unless it’s rainy). There may be some safety in numbers with regards banditry.
  • Bandits – we have heard stories about both the Marsabit and Turkana routes – on the Turkana route, we heard it is not as safe south of Baragoi, although the only references we could find to issues around Baragoi are between cattle herders and don’t affect tourists. We had no issues at all and only saw friendly cattle herders carrying ancient rifles once we reached the Omo region. There have been some recent issues around Isiolo (which would affect both routes) – this happened 3 days after we passed through - http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/InsidePage.php?id=2000044814&cid=4&ttl=Nine%20killed%20in%20bandit%20attack. This is the story of the French tourist being shot on the Marsabit route - http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/travellers-advisories-safety-security-road/bandit-attack-road-isiolo-marsabit-57368.
  • Ethiopian Visa - Many people end up spending time at Jungle Junction in Nairobi, waiting for their Ethiopian Visas. Visas aren’t issued at the border or at any Ethiopian Embassy south of Ethiopia (except in one or two lucky cases), so most people either DHL their passports back home to apply for the visa or fly into Addis Ababa where visas are issued at the airport.
  • Kenyan Immigration - there is no official border on the Lake Turkana route, so we went to the Immigration in Nairobi to stamp our passports out (for 10 days in the future). This is done at Nyayo House* (on T4A) – you enter via the entrance on the left side of the building and go to Counter 6 (Visa Extension Desk) to get a yellow exit form. We were chased around a lot (several hours of being sent from wrong counter to wrong office) as the lady we spoke to didn’t know anything about stamping people out of Kenya in advance, but if you have the guy at counter 6 rather than the lady, you should be ok as he seems to know what to do. They may send you to office 18 where the stamp is kept (although the lady there rudely chased us away on our first attempt). Don’t go to office 14 as some people have advise unless you want to wait for 2 hours for nothing.
  • Kenyan Customs (for the Carnet) is at Times Tower – the process for exiting Kenya is to park at the point shown below or exactly on the spot listed on T4A as “Times Bldg Motor Vehicles”. Enter the tall building (drivers licence required to get visitors pass), take the lift to the 4th floor, walk along the obscure passage towards the short building. The person to speak to sits 3 desks behind the security guard. They will walk down to your car to check the VIN number and then go back to the office to stamp your carnet. It should take only 20 minutes. If you are entering from Ethiopia, I believe there is no vehicle inspection and the carnet is stamped on the 10th floor of the tall building.
  • Ethiopian Immigration - You get an entry stamp in your passport in Omorate
  • Ethiopian Customs - There is no customs in Omo Region, so most overlanders don't bother with trying to stamp the carnet - EDIT: on exiting Ethiopia into Sudan, the customs officer said we should have had our carnet stamped in at Awassa - he stamped it out anyway with a little complaining. 
Kenyan Customs Map

*Note: DON’T park alongside any yellow kerbs outside Nyayo House (or anywhere in Nairobi), even if there are no “No Parking” signs and even if the guards at the building say it is ok – you will get wheel clamped and need to pay approx $20 and wait about an hour to get unclamped!

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