Monday, July 28, 2014

Notorious Roads: Marsabit to Moyale

East Africa: There is one road that is as notorious as the Nigeria to Cameroon route.
Photo: Mikes Global Adventure - Marsabit to Moyale 
Certainly this road strikes more fear and uncertainty due to the infrequent threat of bandits, the wet season and the dusty dry season. Plus, if heading North, the anxious feeling of another border crossing.

Welcome to the Marsabit to Moyale road in Northern Kenya.
An overlander’s rite of passage: Marsabit to Moyale - Morgan Safari (Nov 2013)
We had heard the horror stories, we had seen photos, but nothing could have prepared us for the treacherous journey into Kenya along one of the most famous roads in Africa - Bristol to Cape Town 
 The ride was very challenging and interesting as it took us through a series of ups and downs, frustrations and amazements. This stretch of 260 km gravel presented to us – rocks (many!), sandy patches, desolate desert scenes, even green valleys with trees, camels, donkeys, a jackal, bushbaby, mud and even some rain -  Crossing Africa 

History update: WWII 

Mobilising troops from Nairobi required the troops to be transported North to 'British Moyale'.
Through the scorching heat which threw up mirages over the Chalbi, or struggling axle-deep in mud after rain, somehow the supply convoys kept even the most advanced outposts supplied. This was only accomplished by overloading, and in a short while half the vehicles were immobilized, as new springs were not available in Kenya and repairs had to be done by men within the units, working without suitable tools. - East African Campaigns (Photos)
Two and a half miles in eight days --in the Chalbi Desert after rain.

The narrow track across the forbidding Dida Galgalla Desert between Marsabit and Moyale.

The Route

The Dry Season

Dry, hot dusty conditions add for a tiring journey, more so if you opt to ride your adventure motorcycle:
Everybody was getting tired. The heat and the tediousness of going so slow (an average speed of about 20-mph was wearing on everyone. Standing up on the bike was better for control, but was more tiring. We were getting close, but so incredibly slow! - Mike's Global Adventure
Photo: Crossing Africa

The Wet Season

Actually, Northern Kenya is arid and only receives a short wet season around November.  When it does rain, the road becomes quite tricky to drive:
Ben Coombs
You can read all about Ben Coombs Northen Kenya experience in his book 'Survival of the Quickest'
Photo: Bristol to Cape Town
unUrban write:
The drive took us about eight hours, and the last 80 kilometers took more time the first 110. We definitely see that heavy rains can change this road into a challenging mud trail, but at least for us it wasn’t as bad as many has told us.

In November 2013, Richard & Sophie Morgan headed North from Nairobi towards the Ethiopian border... the route: Marsabit to Moyale.
We continued slowly, but were soon at a standstill once more as we came to another huge pool of water which had claimed its first victim of the day. A Landcruiser troop carrier had become bogged in the middle, blocking the road. There was no way round and the car, filled with road workers had decided to abandon the car in the middle leaving the main route blocked.
I will leave you to read the rest of the blog post but in summary, Richard & Sophie sum up the experience:
"An overlander’s rite of passage: Marsabit to Moyale"
Richard & Sophie Morgan

The Alternative Route

There is an alternative route... and a very scenic one at that.

Jammin thru the Global South writes:
Starting from the remote Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia, the route involves a 900 km (560 mi) stretch between petrol stations, meaning that water and food were also in scarcity.
Photo: Jammin thru the Global South

First of all, forget any worries you may have about his route - there is NOTHING difficult about the drive & there are no roads that should damage your vehicle, assuming you are driving a 4x4 in the dry season. There were only a handful of occasions where we engaged low ratio - & they were mainly to be kind to the car rather than through absolute necessity.  The main thing you need to consider is the isolation & whether you would be comfortable with this.
Overland in the Sun headed South from Ethiopia on a very similiar route.
Photo: Overland in the Sun
Video from Jammin thru the Global South:

Whilst in Nairobi, be sure to spend time at Jungle Junction to gather information on the road conditions before departing.  I would encourage you to consider the alternative route, via Lake Turkana, a route which will impress you with culture, landscape and bring an element of adventure.

Additional Reading:
Nigeria to Cameroon
Western Sahara Convoy

Updated: July 2014

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