The Road to Sudan

(Taken from my Kenyan Diary which was written 5 years ago…the musings of a somewhat naive  20 year old, with big dreams of someday being a published travel writer! 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.

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-Random!

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…

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.

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.

  • Carl D'Agostino
    January 6, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    I asked myself why would anyone submit themselves far adventure in such dangerous places. Then I thought of LA, Detroit, Cleveland, DC and my own Miami with its ever present drive-by shootings. Travel on. I’ll be reading.

  • wellsforzoe
    January 7, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    My God you are a really mad person!!
    What a frightening journey.
    I think it’s bad in Malawi.
    Travel well, take care.

    • intrepidtraveller
      January 8, 2012 at 12:48 am

      haha, not really, I think I have calmed down a bit now.
      Thanks you you take care too! x

  • Russell Smith
    January 9, 2012 at 3:51 am

    I am listening to an audiobook called Blackstar Africa Safari by Thoreau (pronounced Thor-roo). He’s in his early Sixties’ and trekking from Cairo to Capetown almost entirely without using a plane. Only from Cairo to Adis Ababba did he fly. The rest has been hitching rides, riding minibuses, etc. He takes all kinds of side trips too. Right now he’s in Malawi which sounds so depressing I could die. I have a friend who studies fish in Lake Malawi and he never said it was so bad.

    • intrepidtraveller
      January 9, 2012 at 7:33 pm

      Thoreau is a pretty amazing guy alright, a big inspiration to any aspiring travellers. Would love to read or listen to his audiobooks, although will totally give me itchy feet again.

      Everyone experiences countries in a different way. You could easily go to Kenya for a month, stay in Mombassa or along the coast in nice but cheap hotels, and have no bad experiences. Or you could try to make friends with locals, hitchhike, explore…have fun. Or you could venture north to more remote areas and get yourself into trouble. So yea, everyone is different I guess! We don’t all see through the same eyes, we don’t see things in the same ways as others. :)