Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 11/07/2012

Roll on down the highway


Cheetah Cub, originally uploaded by http://andrewskelton.net.

Beep, beep, beep, beep. The alarm functions on our mobile phones chime out together to inform us that it’s 4:15am, and time to get up. Five minutes later the phone rings and the operator informs us that it’s our early morning call… more like our “very early” morning call you mean. We have 45 minutes before we are to be picked up for a day’s safari, having packed our camera bags the night before we have enough time to get ready and grab some breakfast from the restaurant, albeit a limited spread.

Erastus, our contact in Mombasa, is there to meet us with the driver, Simon, and it looks like we’re the only ones on today’s tour which will allow us complete freedom when it comes to moving around the bus, and where we stop. It’s still dark, as we stop for fuel, twenty minutes into the journey near the center of Mombasa and so far we haven’t seen another vehicle on the road, the story will be very different in three hours when there will be a sea of cars, vans, minibuses, and lorries plus people everywhere.

We’ve left the familiar streets that lead through the City and have taken a new route to the interior of the country, and I stare out of the window, trying to make out features of the places were driving through but there aren’t any street lights, so its difficult to make anything out. The road here is obviously used by heavy goods vehicles, many are parked up at the side of the road and it shows in parts with the road surface having been reduced to mud.

An hour after setting off and we’ve left Mombasa behind, the rough potholed road gives way to a dual carriageway which in comparison feels like we’re driving on silk. The sun is trying to make an appearance, though cloud is hampering its chances.

We drive through another town, Mariakani, where signs of life are starting to emerge in the early morning light … children in their smart school.uniforms making their way to their place of learning. Reds, Greens, Blues, each uniform shows it’s obvious that a high importance is placed on learning, none of the children look like they’re dragging their feet to go either.

As we leave the town, there are stingers on either side of the road impeding our progress, police in hi viz jackets are patrolling each side, regulating the traffic flow into the conurbation.

Another thirty minutes into the journey and the sun has fought its way through the early morning mist, amazingly for the first time all week my phone has lost its signal which amuses me no end considering the terrains we’ve traversed. If the light levels continue like this then we should be in for a perfect day, as long as the rain, which we left in Mombasa, stays away.

Fifteen minutes later, and despite the road wending its way through scrubland my phone is now back on the network with full strength signal. Tiredness is trying to overpower me but there is too much to look at so I crack the window open a little hoping the cooling air will keep me from succumbing to sleep.

We pass Utange village which despite being a series of widely dispersed dwellings still has a school which uniform bedecked children are making their way towards.

Two hours into the journey and despite losing phone signal again (I’m not obsessed, just amused by how good coverage is in Kenya), I see my first electricity pylon which runs parallel with the road. Our progress is continually hampered by heavy vehicles driving slowly in front of us, Simon is (admirably) a relatively cautious driver and we don’t take any chances with oncoming vehicles.

Housing here relies on traditional methods of building, wood and mud are used to create wattle and daub housing, with only a door to ensure the interior is kept cool and dark in the arid heat. Every quarter of a mile or so, sacks of what looks like coal or charcoal are offered for sale though no vendors are visible. The sun has warmed up the land now and with the mist clearing it looks like it could be a glorious day.

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