A mountain of paperwork

Mount Kilimanjaro, seen from Kenya.
Mount Kilimanjaro, seen from Kenya.

Later in the day, and after I got into Kenya, I was finally able to see the Kilimanjaro, after the clouds unveiled it. Getting out of Tanzania and into Kenya was easy.

Small villages pepper the south slope of the mountain.
Small villages pepper the south slope of the mountain.

I was first convinced I got lucky when officials asked me for US$25 for my visa, when I projected to spend US$50.

Driving the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Driving the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.

But few minutes later, I found myself paying an extra US$40 for the road tax. I was alone at the border post, but everything is going slowly. I got out of the office around 1 p.m., and saw that the clouds have moved a little, partially uncovering the mountain. I drove away and easily found an ATM at Oloitokitok (Good luck for remembering this name), the first town after the border.

Going down toward Kenya.
Going down toward Kenya.

My plan was to go spend at least a night in the Tsavo National Park. Unfortunately, the road being in state of repair, there was no sign and I could not find my way. As a result, I changed my plans, and decided to get to the famous Amboseli national Park. After a bit of time searching, I found a track going there, but when I arrived at the gate, I found out it would cost me US$100 a day to be in the park!

Clouds are unveiling part of the mountain.
Clouds are unveiling part of the mountain. As some of you noticed, I changed my NY plates to get more generic ones. Discretion in some of the upcoming countries will be important.

Ridiculous. The cost is similar than in Tanzania. As much as I want to take advantage of my time in Africa, I can’t afford such an expense. Why would it be so much more expensive than in South Africa, or Mozambique? I am pissed at the overpriced fee, and decided to leave at once. At this point, it is already time to find a place to spend the night, and there is not much in the area.

The mountain, seen from Amboseli, where I stayed just few minutes.
The mountain, seen from Amboseli, where I stayed just few minutes.

With that in mind, I stop in a small village, and ask if it would be OK to spend the night there. Unfortunately, the men are at a ceremony somewhere else, and women can’t give me the authorization. I continued north. After a while, I spot a sign advertising a nearby camping. I leave the road and discover a place with no water and electricity but few local guys thinking they will become rich soon.

Amboseli’s tracks.
Amboseli’s tracks.

To this effect, they ask me US$40 to spend the night there. Now I am really pissed and tired. Will it be the same everywhere? I leave without a word. I am so upset that I decide to drive all the way to Nairobi, where I know it ill be easier to find a place to rest.

The infamous experience of driving at night in Africa.
The infamous experience of driving at night in Africa.

I drive for hours in the night, which is hell with all the slow trucks and crazy drivers always ready to pass with no visibility whatsoever. This is definitely not my lucky day. Fortunately, in Nairobi, I find the excellent Upper Hill Camping (US$6 a night).
I still want to see some wildlife, and project to get out of town again as soon as I can. It is now Sunday morning, and I decide to stay again for the night, and be at the Ethiopian embassy when it opens on Monday. I hear it takes 48 hours to get a visa, which I would spend with giraffes.
I expect this visa quest to be just a formality, but of course, after so long on the road, I should have known better.
The Ethiopian visa is the first one on my whole trip I can’t get directly at the border. It is the first of a long series. I do know that I will have to do some advance work for countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan or India, for example. Some of these visas will be long or tricky to obtain. But who would have imagined that the Ethiopian visa would be trouble? After all, many overlanders use the east road to go through Africa, and the visa is often obtained in Kenya…
But not in the past few weeks. After I get rejected on this Monday morning, I go on the internet, and find out that few other people recently got into the same trouble. As me, they were refused the visa on the ground that they were not Kenyan residents.
I look at other alternatives. There are only two. I can drive northeast to Sudan and cross the whole country. Difficulties would be huge, including bandits on the way, terrible tracks to progress on, and a lot of work to find places to stay and food.
The other option, which I chose to give a try, is to send my new passport via DHL to my parents, so they can apply for me at the Paris embassy. Few hours later, it cost me US$50 to send the passport, application and an I.D. picture to Europe.

Shortly after exiting Nairobi, I enter the Rift Valley.
Shortly after exiting Nairobi, I enter the Rift Valley.

I then spend the afternoon visiting Nairobi, a resolutely modern city. After another night at the Upper Hill camping, I leave in the morning. I figure the paperwork issue will take at least a week to get solved, so I better visit Kenya.
I selected to explore the Rift Valley, which stretches 6,000 km (3,750 mi) from the Middle East to Mozambique. In Kenya, old volcanic peaks line the valley.
Before I leave, I catch a movie and get enough groceries for the next few days. Then, I drive 100 km (63 mi) to Lake Naivasha

The old crater is now a lake home to flamingoes and water buffaloes.
The old crater is now a lake home to flamingoes and water buffaloes.

I sleep at the not-so-charming Fishermen Camp (US$ 6), on the south shore. Around noon the next day, I get to the next place on my list. A small park, set around a volcano crater which would be my home for few days.

Baboons along the road.
Baboons along the road.

The place is a pearl. I projected originally to spend only one night, but stay there for four days. There, I am able to see a lot of wildlife, and walk around the rim, which is not permitted in National Parks.

Spending evenings in the Rift Valley.
Spending evenings in the Rift Valley.

I can’t recommend enough this place. Entrance is US$10, and every night at the camp cost US$6. I am the only camper there, and every night, someone comes to build a fire.

Driving to the Crater Lake Camp.
Driving to the Crater Lake Camp.

During the day, I walk around the crater, and get lost in the nature. At the end of the afternoon, it invariably rains for few hours, which I spend in the tent reading. Then I cook.

Flamingoes on the shore of the lake.
Flamingoes on the shore of the lake.

On Thursday, I get a quick access to the internet, so I can read an email my mother sent me. She thinks she will be able to send me back the passport with the visa on Friday. This means I could get it on Monday. Let’s hope…

You can get very close to the wildlife, by foot.
You can get very close to the wildlife, by foot.

On Saturday I leave the camp, and advance further north. In the highlands, I get to Nyahururu, an ugly town close to a cascade I want to see, the Thomson’s Falls.

Passing the Equator line. Last time was in Ecuador.
Passing the Equator line. Last time was in Ecuador.

I spend the night there, and do a short trek to the bottom of the falls. It is very nice, but there are too much people everywhere trying to sell you things, wash you car, and take picture of you with some tribe members. This drives me crazy, and after my little walk, I am back in the truck, taking the direction of Nairobi. I plan to change the oil of the truck on Monday, and if I get my papers, leave the city immediately after. The next week will be devoted to what I believe will be the hardest road so far.

The Thomson’s Falls.
The Thomson’s Falls.

From Isiolo, Kenya to the Ethiopian border, lies the worst dirt road you can imagine. At least 48 hours of inferno. The road used to be dangerous as well because of thieves, and vehicles form a convoy before leaving Isiolo, but I get conflicting reports and I am not sure if it is or not required anymore.

NOTE: I am looking for residents of Saudi Arabia and Iran who could help me to sponsor upcoming visas. Please send me an email!

26 Replies to “A mountain of paperwork”

  1. Great pictures from Kenya! I look forward to your new entries in your blog. Best of luck on the next leg of your trip…

  2. Good luck with the visa! I hope you make it through Ethiopia safely too. Can you please tell us what happened to your front license plate?

  3. This is getting a little tricky for sure. Hope all this works in your favor with visa’s and rough road and all. Not every dad people see someone like ya travelng through you’r a big story for dinner time. will be praying for your future stops.

  4. Nick, I’m wondering if during these frustrating times if you aren’t more lonely than when things are going well. Is there any chance of having someone join you again like Nadia did? I love reading your blog!

  5. Nicolas,

    I’m sorry to hear that you are having such a hard time in Africa. I drove through Uganda in November last year and I definitely have seen the roads and the crazy drivers you talked about. There was one road that had speed bumps for miles. I hope you didn’t have to encounter that. I’m sure it would put a lot of unneeded wear on your vehicle. Unfortunately, I can’t assume that it would get any better through the rest of Africa.

    BTW…where do you plan on shipping your car from Africa to Saudi from? Djibouti has a very large shipping port.

    Have fun in Ethiopia. I hear that the people there are very pleasant.


  6. Hey Nick! I’ve been following your adventure for a while. You’ve been sounding a bit harried these last few posts. Hopefully some of time off in Kenya will get your spirts back up! The photos look lovely 🙂 Keep it up!!

  7. Nicolas,

    You amaze me more and more. I’ve been with you since before you left NYC and I’m on pins and needles every post you make. I admire your courage. I don’t know how you do it. I couldn’t even begin to imagine doing what you’re doing.

    Keep going. I’m with you every step of the way. You’re making history here… next year you’ll be sitting with David Letterman discussing your journey and promoting your new organization to help world travelers.

    Be safe.

    John Patten

  8. Dear Nick:

    How good it is to know that you will soon be on your way Out of Africa and on to Saudi Arabia. You are now more than half way to completion of your expedition journey and can no doubt see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can just imagine the sense of joy you experience knowing that so many followers care about you having a successful journey and returning to Brooklyn as you left, but having experienced the world in a way that most of us will never…your world view has already changed, I am sure. You are tapping into resources you didn’t even know was within. Thankfully this medium (i.e, blogging, twittering, Ipoding, etc, ) of sharing came along at the right time. I love your new photos. Keep going and remain prayerful.
    -dr.JoyMaria (grandma Joy)

  9. Thank you for sharing your adventure with us. Good luck with the travels in Saudi Arabia and Iran.

    Keep sending pics and updates. I look forward to reading about your travels every week.

    All the best,
    Alabama, USA

  10. Nick,

    The pictures and information you are providing are awesome. Regarding the people wanting to exchange mail address – are they email or post addresses? I wonder if any people would want to try writing to some of the people in Africa, maybe some school classes for a project.? My daughter’s Sunday school was writing to Kenya but she only got one letter. She would be interested to try a pen pal again.

    I am glad you have the generic license plates. I was worried about you driving across Iran with New York plates. Enjoy the beautiful world and stay safe. I am praying that you have a safe trip and the truck keeps running well.

    Thanks again for sharing.


  11. What an amazing adventure! I have been following you since before you left New York. I am so jealous of your trip. The crater park sounds like a good place to enjoy some down time. My only trip outside of the US was to the Bahamas, spent the whole time getting hasseled to buy something from the locals(all made in china). It ruined the magic of the trip. Good luck!!

  12. While you might find the national parks incredibly expensive, when I was there I found out that most of the parks are completely self supporting and receive no money from the government. At least your money is being used locally for wildlife protection and conservation.

  13. Nick,

    Thank you for posting your wonderful adventure for all of us “stuck” at home. I’ve truly enjoyed reading about the wonderful places you visited. Thank you for sharing the pictures and cultural uniquenesses (if that’s a word).

    Just know you’re not a lone on this journey…

    Best of luck!


  14. Nicolas,
    Too bad they want so much money for the campsites, but glad to hear you were able to find other sites that are more affordable. As always, you take great pictures and have a lot of stories to tell. Driving at night while you are tired looks quite dangerous from looking at the photo! I know I could not do it!
    Good luck! Stay safe and I hope you find sponsors that can help you with your visas.


  15. I just found your site on msn homepage yesterday, i read your whole journey. This is something I would love to do. I am an avid camper but not a lot of funds. Did you try any weird foods yet? Like Andrew Zimmern on Bizarre Foods. He eats Bats and Fried tarantulas and all kinds of stuff! Well I will keep following you, good luck!

  16. I know a few people that have contacts in Iran. I will talk and see if I can come up with something.


  17. Hello Nic, I just got through reading your whole blog. I have been planning an overland trip to South America for years now but it has always been a pipe dream. But reading your blog gave me the drive to really get the ball rolling and make it a reality. Good luck in the coming months, and keep the updates coming. I’ll be reading..

  18. Hi: As you know I’ve been with you since the beginning, even reading “Who Needs a Road?”.
    Will make another donation to help with that unexpected addition recently or whatever.
    Your pix are FANTASTIC! Hasn’t anyone given you a publisher who could make an advancement on what will be a wonderful travel book? I can’t wait to buy it, pix and all!
    I’m going to India in February (see the Taj & the Himalayas on the same trip) & at the rate you’re going we might be there at the same time!!
    It’s wondrous to read about your trip. Stay safe and be careful. My prayers are with you. Tiffany

  19. Nicolas,
    J’habite Cergy, suis une amie des Hubsch et je “participe” à votre voyage depuis le départ.
    Je trouve votre périple fantastique et vous souhaite encore beaucoup de courage et de patience pour tout ce qui est paperasserie. Vos photos sont magnifiques.
    A bientôt.

  20. Heya Nick,

    Those plates look just like Argentinean plates… Are they? Have fun crossing over.. We are about to hit the Brazilian roads again…

    Adventurous greetings,

  21. Hi from Nova Scotia, Canada. I have been following your trip with great interest. What a fascinating journey ( and brave).

    Wishing you a safe trip!

  22. Hy when you visit india if time permits, visit my city (AHMEDABAD) 550 kms north west of bombay.


  23. I just found your site on msn homepage yesterday, i read your whole journey. This is something I would love to do. I am an avid camper but not a lot of funds. Did you try any weird foods yet? Like Andrew Zimmern on Bizarre Foods. He eats Bats and Fried tarantulas and all kinds of stuff! Well I will keep following you, good luck!

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