Roadbuilding in the Aberdares

It was Andrea’s birthday last week and this weekend her and her boyfriend Steve had hired two cottages in the Aberdares, a mountain range about 3 hours north of Nairobi.

In total 18 people, a mix of journalists and NGO workers, were going and we were all looking forward to a hell of a party on Saturday night. Some people had left at lunch time on Friday, but I had to work so I joined the second group of people who were leaving on Saturday morning.

After an extended round of faffing, breakfast eating, water and chewing gum buying and cigarette smoking we set off from ABC Place in Westlands. The rain was pouring down and I was riding in the front of Rob’s Land Rover.

By the time we got to the Rift Valley the rain had stopped and the sun was coming out. ‘Great’, we though, ‘this might not be so bad’.

Wrong.

As we started the climb up to the mountain plateau the rain started falling again and as we entered the national park the road started turning into a mud bath. A few people were riding in a Rav 4, a 4×4, designed, as Rob put it, ‘so that you could drive through puddles on your way to the supermarket’. It was not doing well at all, and after a while we decided to escort it back to just before the gate. After we had escorted it back, the rain started falling and the mud, which had by now had several cars drive through it, was totally churned up.

Naturally, just as we were discussing how great a Land Rover is compared to a Rav 4 we got stuck.

Luckily the rain was clearing up slightly and after inserting rocks and branches under the wheels we eventually manage to get the Land Rover loose.

As we arrive to the cottages the rain clears up and we have a nice walk to some waterfalls in the afternoon followed by barbecuing and boozing in the evening. A particularly cool thing that happens is that a group of bush buck come out of the forest at night to lick the barbecue, presumably for salt.

The following morning Andrea’s Suzuki doesn’t start.

Steve tries and tries but to no success. Eventually we decide to jump start the car, so Nick pulls it backwards up a hill with his Pajero.

We push the car down the hill a few times, but no success. We will have to tow the car out of the park.

Through the mud.

We pack up and and attach the Suzuki to the Land Rover using a tow cable that supposedly holds up to 5 tons. Except as soon as we start pulling it snaps.

Steve has left the hand break on.

Luckily Rob has a rope that he bought three years ago and has never had to use. And Sam and Rich are sailors and can tie good knots.

Everything is going fine until we get about halfway to the gate. The mud is bad.

Very bad.

The Land Rover is really struggling in the mud and large amounts of oil spills out. Not good.

We are not going anywhere. The only way to get through is to build a road. We spend then next hour putting rocks, logs and branches in the tracks.

Eventually we get through.

Just after the park gates we meet Mike who has gone ahead to get a mechanic.

The mechanic spends a total of five minutes with the Suzuki and then it starts.

Phew! What a day!

Back in Nairobi over a cold beer everyone agrees that we now have yet another Africa story to tell.

It was worth it.

But next time we will have more tools and rope.

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