On the road again
After 5 months of working in Tanzania we are finally continuing our journey up north, to Egypt.
People informed us, that we have to go to Tiwi beach because it is less crowdy and less explored. So we went to Twiga Camp, the only place in the area where you can park your car on the beach, under the palmtrees and with a beautiful view over the blue ocean. It is a basic camp, with a restaurant and friendly staff. We decided to stay here for 5 days before we leave to Nairobi.
The road from Mombasa to Nairobi, is the busiest road in Kenia and perhaps the busiest of Africa as more than 50% of all goods traded in the East African Community goes through here. Trucks fully loaded, most of the time overloaded, cars, busses, bikes and more are using this 2-lane road (1 lane to Nairobi and 1 lane to Mombasa) to get to their destination.
While cars are moving with high speed, taking over 1 truck after the other we are trying to do the same. The problem for us is that our steering wheel is on the left side, making these manoeuvres more difficult. Here good teamwork comes along, and we are well attuned to each other. While one is checking if it is possible from the front side, the other is checking if there isn’t a car or bus coming, with high speed, from the back. And once there is a window of opportunity, with short commands such as JUST LOOK, GO GO or NO, we take over, one by one.
In the beginning we didn't use short commands and one in perticular brought a lot of confusion, which is “I can’t see a thing”. While I give this command to Inge to ask her to move more to the right (we are driving on the left side of the road), she things she can go and is already fully on the other side. A truck is coming right for us and we quickly turn back to our side of the road. We look at each other and laugh, this is definitely a command we are not using anymore.
Now…., our car isn’t really the type that has the power to take over a truck with ease. It is more like a turtle taking over a snail. And with the limit window of opportunity it can sometimes be very close (read 50 meters) to crash into a truck. Of course you will find idiots on the road that think that with that kind of distance they can still take over another car or truck. Sometimes too close, where cars and trucks really have to hit the break or make way. With this kind of driving many accidents occur with fatal consequences. It is for good reason that it is called the deadliest road in the country.
There is another nuisance on this road and those are the many police stops. Well, maybe not for everybody but an overland vehicle looks as tasty as a big fat juicy hamburger with cheese and bacon. From a distance we can already see how all policemen are looking at us with drooling faces. Some are already picturing themselves with this nice juicy hamburger and are performing likewise. But we know this GAME and we are good at it. You will get the hang of it once you have been in Africa for a year 😉.
It starts with a friendly introduction from both sides and a hand shake. Be nice, be patient and go for the small talk. Talk about the weather or talk about the country, it really doesn’t matter, just show interest. In the meantime, we take out some candy and start eating and giving them out. Most of the officers would gladly take it and even thank you for it.
After small talk comes the reason why we have been stopped. Most of the time a bull shit reason, like you took over another vehicle while it wasn’t allowed. They know very well that this is not true, and you know it to, but just play along and only listen.
Now comes the threat, which is the fine and is always higher than what you should pay. And they have a point as most foreigners wouldn’t know what the actual fine would be, IF they did something wrong. Of course, you can help the brother (yes, the bad cop starts to become the good cop and is calling you his brother) out and negotiate about a fine which suit for both parties.
We have talked with expats and locals in Africa and a bribe now and then is okay. It is part of Africa as they say it. How stubborn we westerners can be, they have a point as they coop with this on a daily business. For us travellers there is another option and that is to show them you have the time, be friendly at all times and play stupid until the officer gets bored and lets you through. For us this always works!
At the moment, we are in Nairobi and right now we are waiting for a letter of invitation of the Dutch government which is needed to get the visa for Ethiopia and Sudan. In our next blog we will tell you all about this and how to get the visa.