To say that there is nothing between Isiolo and Moyale would be a lie – there is loads of nothing and luckily a couple of really interesting things in between the nothingness. We travelled for 36 hours nonstop and covered 500km. We bargained and bargained and bargained some more. We didn’t eat much, dreamed of sleep and inhaled more dust than would be considered save. But we made it all the way to Ethiopia, in more or less one piece.
Isiolo is shithole, to put it nicely. It’s the kind of place Hunter S Thompson would be proud of. Everybody’s high as kites; children run around with glue, the elderly are lying drunk on the pavements and it seems everyone in between are chewing miraa, a plant that if chewed raw for hours apparently gives a great buzz which is not so great for those not chewing it. The result of all the miraa is a town of people with chewed up leaves stuck in their teeth that talk a lot of gibberish and tend to spit all the time.
We spent all day but long after sunset we still had no idea how we would get out of there and the villagers with hamster-cheeks stuffed with the disgusting green gunk were getting more aggressive by the minute. We had just given up after the first and last truck for the day drove off with about 20 drunk and high men on it when we found a way out in the form of a very old, beaten up bus. In daylight we saw that ahead of us was only this:
There is only one way to Moyale if you don’t have a 4wd but the drivers of the cattle trucks that take passengers are drooling from chewing all day and they don’t plan on stopping any time soon. None the less, if you want to go to Ethiopia via this part of the world you have to take your chances. It’s a risky business travelling northern Kenya, if the crappy road and high drivers don’t get to you the bandits might. Yet hidden in the desolated disaster that is this area are stunning scenes and strange humans – and in the middle is Marsabit where as one man put it, unlike Isiolo they chew miraa to survive and don’t survive to chew miraa. This was the end of the line for our lonesome bus and another 12 hours on an overloaded truck was our only escape.
The cattle trucks fill up really quickly so you best just grab a spot on top and hang on for the rest of the way. If you move, you lose your spot and there really is no complaining to the driver. We got lucky and jumped on an empty one – our only companions were a young lady breastfeeding her baby, an old man with an even older AK47 and three young guys who kept getting off at every stop and doing god knows what. Oh, and all the dried of dung from the cattle that came before us. It was onwards and onwards to Moyale a place which after hours in the desert becomes the metaphorical pot of gold at the end of a really crappy rainbow.
We passed forsaken towns, a crater, loads and loads of camels and volcanic rocks before we got impossibly tired and fed up. The nice thing about this trip is that once you reach this point and you really just can’t take it anymore you know you are just over halfway there.
When we finally reached Moyle we were as dirty a bunch of thugs and every bone in our bodies ached. We hopped off the truck gave a sigh of relief and turned around just in time to see a group of about 10 miraa chewing men flocking to us like flies to droppings. Moyale it turns out is Isiolo, just 500km of desert away.
The bike made it through with only a couple of small injuries and we made it through with only a couple of bruises. We spent the night in Moyale hiding from its own batch of crazies and crossed into Ethiopia the next morning. We could hardly believe that we made it and were quite happy to say Kwaheri Kenya!