Saturday, 11 June 2011
That’s that. The end.
The 175 miles from Arusha to Nairobi took over 7 hours. Why? Partly because we had to cross a border but that actually only took an hour and a half. My last border. (Sorry, this blog is going to be very introspective.) This one was a typical African border. As soon as I arrived two or three guys came over to “help” me. One, straight away, offered to sell me motor insurance for Kenya (we were still in Tanzania). Another wanted to change money and the third wanted to help me through the process of leaving one country and entering another. This is where life for the traveller gets tricky. Should I trust the guy selling insurance? What's a good exchange rate? Is it worth being helped through the process – I'd have to give him a few dollars but it could save a lot of time?
I decided, after a chat with the insurance guy, that I'd trust him and he went off with my details to get me one months motor insurance for $37. I told the guy who wanted to help me that I didn't need any help and went into the building to get stamped out of Tanzania. I didn't change any money (his rate was 80 shillings to a dollar).
Back on the bike I moved a few hundred metres into Kenya. Same process. I didn't need insurance as I already had it (it looked official, I just had to hope that if I got stopped by Kenyan police it worked). I was offered 81 shillings to a dollar but when I pointed out that there was a bank in the customs building offering 83 we settled for 83.5 and I changed $200. He tried to swindle me out of about $5 but I was wise to it.
I had to pay $25 for a Kenyan visa and $20 road tax (or something similar) for the bike. My carnet was stamped and that was that. All quite easy really. That was the 18th border crossing I'd done. None of them have been fun but Africa is certainly a lot easier that Central America with the crossing from Nicaragua into Costa Rica being the worst.
I stopped to take this picture on the Kilimanjaro foothills. This section of road was good (and quiet). It wouldn’t last.
It took so long to get from Arusha to Nairobi mainly because the road in Kenya was so bad. Like most of Africa the worst roads are to found where they are constructing good roads. Ironic and somewhat amusing, unless your trying to ride on them. Huge stretches of the road north to Nairobi were being worked on and we were diverted off onto poorly maintained, dusty and occasionally muddy by-passes (if that's not too grand a word for what is in fact just a rough track by the side of the road.) So much of my last days riding involved dealing with corrugated earth roads, dusty trucks and crazy matutus (mini busses). I thought of all those fantastic roads I'd been on – Dalton Highway in Alaska, Cassier-Stewart highway in Canada, Route 101 coast road in America, parts of Baja California, Sani pass South Africa, Namibia's gravel roads, to mention but a few. This wasn't how I wanted it all to end. (But then again I could imagine many other ways this trip could have ended.) I was never going to ride my bike all the way to the UK but as I approached Nairobi I could only imagine how fantastic that would have been. To ride up though the UK to my house. Park the bike and walk in. Having the bike crated and delivered is going to be great but certainly somewhat anticlimactic.
Anyway back to the road. It was about 100 miles from the border to Nairobi and Jungle Junction. Well known to overland travellers JJ is THE place to stay in Nairobi. It had camping and rooms but more importantly has a garage where people can work on their bikes/landrovers/trucks. Anyone who's been overland through East Africa will have stayed there.
Jungle Junction, Nairobi
Lots of people have been to JJ in a variety of vehicles. Can you spot Ted Simon (if you know him)
It's always been in the back of my mind that JJ, Nairobi is my final destination and as I got closer I have to admit that I was getting a little emotional. I tried not to, it's silly really, but all the way into Nairobi images of things I'd done/seen over the last year flashed into my mind. Not a good idea really as the road was terrible and the traffic little better.
As we entered Nairobi, Daryll's GPS took over (I have to admit, they are useful at times) and with the traffic bumper to bumper, we slowly made our way to JJ's. At about 4 p.m. on Saturday 4th June we turned a corner and entered Jungle Junction. I rode the bike over the gravel pathway towards the office. I stopped, reversed a little to get a better parking spot, tried to pull forward and stalled. And that was that. I'd finished.
It all comes to a stumbling halt in Nairobi.
Distance: 31,000 miles (50,000 km)
Anti-climax? Well sort of. Finishing in a strange place is never going to be the same as riding home, but at least I'd made it. However instead of cheering crowds, a delighted wife and a huge chocolate cake I was faced with the task of getting both myself and the bike back to the UK.
I'd done the groundwork via email before getting here and Chris, at Jungle Junction has been excellent at helping me get the bike sorted. He's been doing this for nearly 10 years and knows what needs to be done. I've arranged to fly the bike with SEAWAYS LTD and went to their offices, only 2 miles from JJs, to do the paperwork. It was incredibly easy. He just photocopied my carnet and passport and that was that. Chris is arranging to crate the bike (cost £120) and all I have to do is change my flight. I've got a return from Nairobi to Birmingham with Emirates and changed it quite easily at a travel agents across the road from Seaways office. It was all too easy.
I flew home on Wednesday 8th June, 321 days since I left for Anchorage.
Oh nearly forgot. When Daryll, Angela and I arrived at JJs Tom, Pat and Chris were there. We'd last seen then in Malawi but by following their blog and getting intermittent emails from Tom I knew that they would be around. It was great to catch up with them. They left on Tuesday morning, heading for Ethiopia. Tom had had his V-Strom worked on all monday as it was leaking oil from the front forks, needed new tyres and various other things done. In order to lighten his load he ditched his panniers, leaving them with me to freight home with my bike and then post on to him in Germany.
I took advantage of the $20 an hour labour charges at JJ’s to get a few things tuned up on the bike. It would have been rude not too!
So now I'm just sitting around waiting to leave. I'm certainly looking forward to going home but have got so used to “being on the road” I'm sure that I'll take the bike somewhere over the summer. Once it's imported into the UK (no idea how long that will take – or the cost) I'm thinking Scandinavia looks good.... First of all though I'm going to the HorizonsUnlimited travellers meeting in Ripley in late June where I will bore lots of people with a couple of presentations on my trip. (Much like I did in Nakusp, Canada when this who thing started in August!) Then I have to hope I can get a teaching job for September…
Chris had about 50 bikes and trucks that people have left at JJs, presumably they will return to continue their trip sometime.
I'm not sure I can come up with any wise words or insights into what the last year has meant for me. Obviously it has been a fantastic experience. 300 plus days riding a motorbike through 18 countries with 8 weeks volunteering on three interesting projects must have had an effect on me. I just hope it was a good one and it lasts.
I've also really enjoyed writing my blog and thanks to the (three) people who have said they will miss it. However, whenever Heidi and I get it on and head off into the sunset, I'll be here to record it all. I hope you are too :)
Wednesday 8th I parked the bike up for Chris to crate. Hopefully I’ll see it again in a week or two outside my house in the UK.
So, as Tony Blair said at his last PM questions, “That’s that. The end.” Or is it? I'll blog again in a week or two when (if?) my bike arrives, and perhaps after I’ve been to the Horizons meeting. And whenever I go on a trip with the bike so perhaps this is just the end of the beginning…after all Charlie and Euen did a sequel.
Back in my garden in the UK, with my Maasai blanket. Oh, the memories….