Travelling Overland From Kenya To Sudan

102a. Girls from the Turkana tribe - Kenya

This post is an extract from my travel diary, which was written 9 years ago! The musings of a somewhat naive 20 year old backpacker, with big dreams of someday being a travel writer. This post is about my hitchhiking adventure travelling overland from Kenya to Sudan (now South Sudan). Enjoy. :-)

Imagine a small cowboy town in northern Kenya, ten hours away from any form of civilization. The atmosphere of this outback town was ecstatic; Turkana tribesmen adorned in animal skins, and hundreds of coloured beads, herding their goats through the narrow dusty streets, the naked man sitting on the street corner. Children playing with old tires and with little toy cars made of used milk cartons while the old ‘gogos’ sit around cooking maize and gossiping with their friends. This entire scene is happening to the beat of booming Congolese tunes played on repeat by the local bad boys. This is Lodwar.

lodwar-drought

Kerrie, Beth and I had been living here for nearly two months, surviving on goat and small rations of water. Everyday here was an adventure; we never knew what would be waiting for us around the next corner, when we would get our next shower or when and what would be our next meal.

Our crazy weekend away all started at a local disco on the Friday night. We hitched a lift into town on the back of a locals pick-up truck, shaky start to a shaky weekend. We arrived to the scene of 200 local boys breaking it down to Sean Paul and jamming to Bob Marley under the light of a full moon. Our arrival, three strange white girls, caused quite a stir.

Hours later after twisting and shaking to every song under the sun, chewing ‘miraa’ and tasting jungle juice we got talking to some guys dressed in camouflage. It turned out they were troops from the African army on their way to Sudan on a peace-keeping mission. We befriended them quicker then lightning with the intention of bumming a lift to Sudan. After much begging they obliged and told us to meet them at the local prison at 5am- very random!

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Our friend Teddy collected us at our little hut inside the missionary compound. To our dismay, he was still drunk so he let Kerrie take control of the taxi!! She flew the car down the bumpy desert road, right across the airstrip, narrowly avoiding a tree and zooming up the hill to the old jail. We’re lucky to still be alive! The guard on duty who had very little English must have thought we were 3 insane ‘mzungos’ when we ran inside and explained why we were there: “Hello we met the soldiers at the disco and they told us if we met them here at 5am they would bring us to Sudan”.

Our soldiers, however, were nowhere to be found. Our lack of sleep caught up on us and while waiting on a wooden bench inside the prison walls we conked only to awake an hour later to the sound of all the prisoners shouting at us and clanging their bars and all the local guards lining up with AK 47s in hand. Time to get out of here…

truck-lodwar

We walked the three kilometres back into town as the sun was rising only to be met by a huge convoy of UN and Red Cross trucks. Suddenly a huge, white, gold tooth clad Moldovan trucker shouted over to us ‘Oi, White Ladies, truck! Now! Sudan! Go!’ so in we hopped without any hesitation and off we went in what was to become our huge Moldovan mobile disco – starting the most random morning of adventure in our personal histories. Our toothless, bald driver proceeded to complain about every thing he believed wrong about Africa, while he chugged back beer chucking the bottles out the window, while driving!! “In Africa, houses SO SMALL, In Russia, houses BIG, very big!”, he repeatedly told us.

Five hours and two breakdowns later (including one outside Kakuma refugee camp) and a headache from the booming Russian dance tunes, we arrived in Lokichoggio where we felt we had dived into the movie set of ‘The Constant Gardener’. After a long trek to the boarder posts in 40°C heat and further flirting with Immigration officials our luck ran out. It turns out it isn’t that easy to just go have lunch in a country thousands of people are fleeing daily. We spent the night drinking in Loki with all the aid workers and truck drivers who gave us Irish a run for our money.

lodwar-sign

We had to hitch a lift home to Lodwar early Sunday as we had been invited for dinner with Father John and the Local Nuns. It made for a very conservative evening, in vast contrast with the weekend we had just experienced. We never did make it across the boarder but the journey trying to get there; the road to Sudan was one of the most exciting adventures I have EVER had and which I will never forget.

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Colourful Calcutta – Celebrating Holi

On my recent, and first ever, trip to India I had the amazing opportunity to celebrate Holi – Festival of Colours in Calcutta. Attending Holi Festival is something that has always been a dream of mine and was most definitely a top priority item on my never-ending bucket list!!

I guess when I dreamed up my idea of celebrating Holi, it would be on the streets of some big Indian city, surrounded my 1,000’s of strangers, who would all be throwing colour up in the air, shouting and singing and celebrating. My actual experience was quite different. As we were visiting The Hope Foundation’s projects, we were told we would be celebrating Holi in one of HOPE’s protection homes for young girls who have been rescued from the streets. This made the day SO much more special than being in the street with strangers. The girls were so sweet, and as we had spent a few hours playing and dancing with them a few days earlier, the ice had been broken and we were already the best of friends!

At first Pushba, the house-mother in charge of all the girls and their carers, warned them to treat us foreigners ‘delicately’ and not to cover us too much in the dye. We immediately protested this and said “Do what you want! Let them destroy us if they wish…This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for all of us.” When the house-mother translated this to the kids, that they would have a free rein on the dye, they all cheered loudly, their eyes sparkling with excitement.

We were all brought outside the main entrance to the home, music was turned on, trays of coloured dye were distributed, and soon the colourful madness and cries of “HAPPY HOLI” were to be heard up and down the street. All the kids were given water pistols, big buckets of water and ample supply of multi coloured dye, which they proceeded to cover us in, much to our delight and the delight of many onlookers!!

I hope these photos I took do the day justice and really convey the happiness exuded my all; the joy, the delight, the smiles, the laughter and the amazing friendships bound together by this great Hindu Festival of Colour, welcoming Spring and bidding farewell to Summer!

Colour me beautiful!

Colour me beautiful!

Paint, coming at you!!

Paint, coming at you!!

Happy, smiling faces

Happy, smiling faces

A smile that would melt your heart

A smile that would melt your heart

Happy Holi!

Happy Holi!

Volunteer Niamh enjoying Holi

Volunteer Niamh enjoying Holi

All smiles!

All smiles!

Another volunteer enjoying the Holi celebrations!

Another volunteer enjoying the Holi celebrations!

Kasba Girls enjoying Holi

Kasba Girls enjoying Holi

Me and some of the girls from Kasba enjoying Holi celebrations!

Me and some of the girls from Kasba enjoying Holi celebrations!

Nobody escaped - even the poor bus drivers turned green!!

Nobody escaped – even the poor bus drivers turned green!!

Hands in - the aftermath of the red dye!

Hands in – the aftermath of the red dye!

A beautiful smile, a beautiful day!

A beautiful smile, a beautiful day!

Action shot!

Action shot!

Group shot!

Group shot!

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Money for Mud

RUNAMUCK CHALLENEGE
I’m delighted to say that I shall be putting my travelling shoes on again in March, on a journey of a lifetime to Kolkata, India.

India will be country number 36 for me…a tiny bit closer to my goal of traveling to 50 countries before I’m 30.

However before I go, I am determined to raise €1,500 for The Hope Foundation, a charity which does amazing work in Kolkata with street and slum children, giving them a brighter future. HOPE has so far helped over 30,000 children through education alone, and I want to be part of their amazing story.

SHOCKING FACT: There are currently over 250,000 street children living in Kolkata, living on the streets with no shelter from the elements, no one to care care for them or to protect them. HOPE works tirelessly to help these children through education programmes, healthcare, skills training and their 8 protection homes for young boys and girls.

To raise money for HOPE, I have signed up for the ‘RUNAMUCK CHALLENGE 2013’ which considering by shocking levls of fitness, is sure to be quite the challenge! If you would like to donate to this very worthy cause, and like to see me get absolutley battered and bruised and covered in mud from head to toe..then PLEASE DONATE HERE!

I will post photos here of both this event and my experiences in India, so you will be able to see exactly where your money is going and all the good it is doing!

Thanks for your support!
Janet xxx aka Journalist On The Run

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Dear Diary – New Friends

Dear Diary,

We met Brother Paul today from the USA. He invited us up to Kakuma some day to visit the UN refugee camp, with over 86,000 refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia and The Sudan. These kinds of things are suddenly becoming a reality. You hear about them and see them on the News back home but never imagine you will actually step foot in them in real life. 

Paul and Bosco (2 local boys) chatted to us for over an hour in the compound. They are so full of stories about flying places with the bishop, and doing this for the bishop and that for the bishop. Not entirely sure how much of it is true, but they are entertaining none the less!

 We headed up to St Kevins, the school where we will be teaching later in the morning. They have a lot of facilities such as a science lab and computers – way more than in the school in South Africa which is strange. Classes have around 50 kids so half the size of my classes in South Africa. We will each only have 6 classes which isn’t very much..not sure what we will do for the rest of the day!

We met the headmaster, Father Louis, a rather abrupt, fiery guy. He was wearing just shorts and a t-shirt…not your typical school headmaster! Later we hopped into the backie and drove to Johns house, quite far out-of-town in a local village. He has a really lovely set up. We got home at 1 o Clock so had the whole day to relax.

We met a lovely Malaysian Nun in the guest house at dinner. She is living in a compound near the refugee camp in Kakuma. They have been broken into 4 times!! Men with guns and knives came and stole all the donations from the USA for local children and even all their clothes!! Who would rob from a Nun?! Madness.

I still cannot actually believe where I am living! Went into town a few times yesterday. There is such a great atmosphere. Everywhere, people selling and cooking, Turkana herding goats through the town, naked men sitting on the rubbish dump, children playing with old tyres or balls made from plastic bags. Everyone looking at us and shouting ‘Hello, How are you FINE, How are you FINE’ as if it is all one word!! All the elderly ladies sit around weaving traditional baskets while all the men, young and old, sit on upside down beer crates chewing tobacco and listening to booming congolese tunes. I feel like I’m living in a parallel Universe.

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Dear Diary- Hello Lodwar

Dear Diary,

We  eventually made it to Lodwar today. Cool date and it’s Kerrie’s 19th birthday-what a bizzare way to spend your birthday. I’m still shaking as I write…that bus journey was out of this world. I’ve also just realised  it’s after 9pm and I am seriously sweating and very sticky- this has to have been one of the weirdest days of my life thus far.

First finding the bus- my god sister Geraldine-what a woman! She cracks me up! Totally paranoid she is. You would think after 27 years living here in Kenya she would have integrated in the local community..become a local. But no! To this day she still acts like an ‘Africa Virgin’. She is still unaccustomed to shouts of ‘Muzungu’ (white person), still believing any local will rape, beat, shoot or attack her all at once after 6pm!! Her word of wisdom to us, ‘Cover your bellies or you’ll be attacked!!’

So after 2 hours of waiting, being overcharged ourselves AND made to pay for an extra seat for our baggage (corruption I tell you!!), much hassle from endless hawkers trying to sell us watches and blades and socks and belts and water and nuts, we made it onto the bus.

We also made a new friend, Kalle. One could write a book on this boy and his life so far. Right, so his mom was a drunkard and left him with his grandmother whom he lived with until he was 6 and she sadly passed away of HIV/Aids. So then he became a cowboy- herding animals in the Turkana. A young swedish missionary rescued him and he realised he no longer wished to be a street kid. His alcoholic mother found God and is no longer a drunkard. She has set up her own orphanage in Lodwar to protect and help children like her son. Kalle is sponsored to go to highschool in Lokitang and Nairobi by the Swedish.

So finally Kalle takes his seat next to his sister and the bus starts up with a bang, a burst of congolese tunes and the start of a very bumpy bus ride! Sitting next to 2 Turkana women, we shared our music, sweets and exchanged small talk in English. The first 2-3 hours was amazing! Passing by tiny villages, maize fields and lush green grass, vegetables, up and down we glided through the cherangani hills, through valleys, cliff hangers and amazing views. We even had to drive through a river..only in Kenya!

As the climate and scenery changed, the bus slowly got warmer. Away from the hills we were faced with vast, endless barrenland. Desert, camels, goats, turkana herders- wearing traditional tartan and beaded neckolaces. It was hot- high 30’s at least. Then suddenlt, out of nowhere, the tarmac road stopper. Fuck. Small bump followed by small bump bump, bumpity bump…stretching on for 200km!

Everytime the bus went into a depression, us 3 fools sitting at the back, with our backpacks in tow, went flying into the air- like being shot from a cannon. This continues for miles and miles, hour after hour. My stomach ached so bad- I was starved but couldn’t eat. My head throbbed and I was gasping for a cold drink but afraid to drink for fear I would need to pee!

We finally made it. I’m sitting safely and alive, just about, in our wooden shack within the military compound. Basic? YES! Hot? YES! But it will do perfectly. A dream house in a dream land. Sand everywhere. Living in a compound surrounded by armed guards. Scorpions and spiders are our biggest worries. Tomorrow we visit St Kevins school and only God knows what lies ahead.

Oh yeah- we have no running water, no luxuries. A Bucket for showering, toilet, washing clothes, brushing teeth…everything! This will be a harsh life like no other. Bring it on!

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