Saturday, January 31, 2009

Journey to Korr

I've posted this and one more below - "Elephants and Rhinos and Giraffes, Oh my!"

After delays and delays in Nairobi (Nick and Lynne, the missionaries I’ll be living with, had SO much to buy for the start of the new school year, and buying in Kenya is no easy feat), we left Nairobi late Wednesday afternoon for Nanyuki – a town right on the equator! - where Nick and Lynne rent a house for when they have to come down south. They did some more buying there, and I also go to meet Grant and Loki and their two adorable chatterbox girls, Abbey and Katie. Grant is Nick and Lynne’s son, and also a missionary in Korr. After a day and a half in Nanyuki, finally we were off to Korr!

Everything I’d heard about the road was that it’s terrible. The pavement runs out in Isiolo (about an hour from Nanyuki) and after that it’s a dirt road with deep ruts that run perpendicular to the road – think of what corrugated cardboard looks like on the inside? Well the road is kind of like that – that bounce you all over the place and pretty much shake everything loose on you, the truck, and whatever else! That, and/or you’re driving through talcum powder-like dust about a foot deep. Hot, bumpy, dusty, dirty, 8 hours to Korr in a loaded down land rover… bring it ON!

Around lunch time Nick and the men who work at the house loaded up the land rover with everything they had bought – school supplies, textbooks, groceries, hardware, suitcases, a chair, a bike, pretty much everything under the sun. Boxed up, tarped over, and strapped down tight, we were on our way. Oh, but one more thing, all three of us jammed in the front seat would also be traveling up with a puppy on our laps! Nick and Lynne’s great dane, Lily, had puppies just over two months ago, so we were going to bring one of them to Korr with us.

Before we’d even gotten to Isiolo, the puppy got sick. Luckliy, Lynn had thought to bring a mat for him to sit on on our laps, and it all landed on that. Thankfully I noticed that the mat on my lap felt a little heavy and caught it before it went anywhere. Out the window it went (sorry, environment!).

We weren’t so lucky the second time.

“Hmm… my knee feels kinda wet,” I thought. I looked down just time to see puppy puke spewing all over my lap, down my leg, between my toes, into my purse and all over the floor of the car. How one little dog had that much in him (especially after barfing once already!) I’ll never know.

We stopped the truck and I got out, rinsing most of it off with our water bottles, but realizing I was beginning that long, hot, bumpy dusty, dirty drive with puppy puke all over me. It was gross, yes, but really REALLY funny. “GMT!” said Nick – Good Missionary Training!

In Isiolo, we stopped for gas and a potty break. I bought more water for us – as ours had been all used up on the puppy incident – and thouroughly washed off my purse. There was so much I wanted to take photos of there, as it was typical of a small Kenyan town, but Lynne warned me that might not be such a good idea. The town is made up of mostly muslims, who really really don’t like their photos taken, and many wouldn’t think twice about stoning the car if they saw me taking photos. Ah. Point taken. Camera stays away.

At the far end of Isiolo is “the barrier.” Essentially it’s a police check before the official “North” begins. Lynne was telling me that they don’t let just anyone into the North, as it can be very dangerous, especially along the road. There are no police really in the North, and at times there are bandits who will ambush passing cars. If there have been reports of bandits, sometimes the police will wait until there’s a caravan passing through and make everyone go together to the end of the barrier, about _____ km farther up the road... but mostly they just wave people through.

Lynne – who has more phenomenally amazing, jaw-dropping stories than you could ever imagine – told me of one missionary who had a load of people traveling along the stretch of road known as “the barrier” when they were ambushed. They saw the bandits ahead and so turned around to speed off back the other way. The land rover, however, had a really big turning radius, so it took a while to turn around. As they were turning, the bandits were approaching, guns drawn and shooting at them. They were still far off, and the truck was moving all over the place as it was doing its 16-point turn and they missed the tires they were aiming for to try to cripple the vehicle. One passenger on the vehicle, however, panicked and jumped out of the truck, thinking he could run off into the bushes and hide, and as he jumped, he was shot. The driver actually somehow was able to grab him, but, seeing he was already dead, left him there as he sped away.

Ok, then.

Thankfully we had no such adventures!

The hours passed and we bumped along happily (with no more puppy incidents, thankfully!). As the sun was beginning to set, we pulled off the road for a quick potty break and to stretch out legs. Out among the bushes goats were grazing, birds were chirping, crickets buzzing, and the odd camel in the distance clanged its bell and … what sound do camels make? Brayed? Mooed? It kinda sounded like a cow belching. The air was sweet with whatever bushes were growing, the shadows were growing long, and the breeze was warm – it was a beautiful place to stop. I took some pictures, careful not to take any of the camels. Many people in the north believe that if you take a photo of a camel, it will not have any babies, and so it is very, very bad to take a photo of a camel. I didn’t see anyone around, but Lynne assured me that though I don’t see the herder, he sees me, and is watching everything I do. Point taken. I just hoped he didn’t see me squatting in the bushes (though I’m certain that the goats did!).

The one concern we had as we got closer to Korr was whether or not we could make it over a large river bed. It’s usually dry this time of year, but we had heard that there were rains in the area a few days back, so there was some uncertainty about whether or not we could cross. There’s no way of knowing if the water is flowing, so all you do is drive there and hope it’s dry. If it’s not, you have to back track all the way to the main road and take a detour that adds nearly two hours to your trip. At the last town before the riverbed – still nearly an hour away – we stopped to ask some truck drivers if they had passed by there or if they knew if there was water. They all reeked of alcohol and each gave a different story, so we weren’t sure who to believe. A woman, however, approached us and, after all the greetings, told us that there was no water running in the river. We weren’t sure, but she seems a whole lot more credible than the truckers, so we decided to take the chance. Thankfully she was right – we drove right over the riverbed and all it was was dusty dry sand (getting stuck in the mud and spending the night in a truck in lion-infested area would have made a great story, but I’m kinda glad we didn’t have to go there!).

Though we didn’t see any lions, we did see some wild life. I had asked Nick and Lynne if we night see anything, but they told me it was very rare to see much more that Dik diks (a kind of mini antelope/gazelle) and African hares. We saw a lot of those – all over, really – and lots of birds. It was fun to watch the dik diks bound into the bushes and the hares dart all over the place, huge ears lit up by the truck’s headlights. But apparently Africa’s wildlife was out in full force for our drive that day. In the twilight, there was something big on the road. A goat? A cow? As we drove up closer, we saw it was a warthog. It ran off the road as we approached, but we slowed way down enough to see a whole warthog family under a tree by the side of the road! So cool! Not long after that, I was digging in the bag of sweeties for a treat when Lynne shouted, “Zebra!” I looked out my window in time to see a lone zebra grazing beside the road. Wild! Not in a zoo or a game park, just there! Apparently it’s a zebra unique to Northern Kenya and that area, and they are extremely rare, so to have seen one is quite remarkable! Just after the zebra excitement had died down, I caught sight of a giraffe having a late dinner, too! It was SO crazy! Dude! I’m really in AFRICA! Where you see zebras and warthogs and giraffes out in the wild! SOOOO cool!!!

Oh yeah, and we had to slow way down for a herd of camels that began to cross the road. We stopped for them, which I guess to them meant that they could take over to road, so they abandoned their “cross the road” plan and took up the “run down the middle of the road directly in front of the land rover” plan. They ran along in front of us in their kooky lilting trot for a while, till Nick started hooting the horn at them trying to get them off the road. Most went off, but one decided darting towards the truck would be a better plan, and we narrowly avoided a creating a new dish for the Roadkill Cafe. Oh, and even been downwind from a herd of camels? Pheeeee-ew!

We finally arrived in Korr about 9:30 and were given a delicious dinner by Jim and Laura, the third of the three missionary couples in Korr. Upon arrival at Nick and Lynne’s house, I eagerly opened the door to jump out and stretch my legs, but Lynne warned me to just wait for Nick to bring the torch/flashlight. “We have scorpions that come out at night, and not the good kind. They’re veeery dangerous. We don’t walk anywhere at night without a light.” Alrighty then. I will remember that!

After making up my room, being given a mini tour of the property, given a wash bowl and a chamber pot (!!!) in case I didn’t want to go use the outhouse at night, I was assured that the property is totally safe, and told to shout up to Lynne if I needed absolutely anything during the night. “The hyenas circle our house at night, and you might hear them, but don’t worry – there’s a fence around the property and they absolutely cannot get in.” Good to know.

Exhausted and stiff and dirty from the journey, I quickly washed my hands and face and feet and crashed into bed for my first night in Korr.


sarah cool said...


1. OMG. Bandits & dead tourists. Don't sensor your blog... BUT IF YOU EVER TELL ANOTHER STORY LIKE THAT AGAIN, WARN US SO WE CAN SKIP IT. MY heart skipped a beat, lady.

2. I am so EXCITED for you to be in Korr!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

3. MISS you. Even though you are in Canadia most times, I still know you are farther away right now. Love you, too!

Jean said...

Are you sure you're not making a movie!!??? :) Glad you made it there safely!

nachtwache said...

Sooooo exciting! Glad you finally got there and without seeing any bandits, too!

CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

What an incredible journey, Hillary! I'm eagerly looking forward to reading more of your adventures.

AfricaBleu said...

Love it. I read your blog, and I'm home again.
Thanks for that.