Turbi to Moyale in a cattle truck!

April 28, 2013

When Brian finally arrived in Turbi we were quite excited to get the car loaded and very keen to be on our way again although there was still no guarantee that we would still make Moyale as the road was still very wet and treacherous in many places still as we would soon find out.

After trying in vain for nearly one hour to reverse the cattle truck on the loose sand towards the cattle loading ditch Brian decided to think straight out of the box and went back on to the road and drove straight over the cattle loading ditch and stopped in perfect position so that we could load the African Imp in the empty section at the rear of the load bin. In fact at one stage he actually stalled the engine and his battery was too weak to fire it up again so he had to borrow a battery from a passing Landrover to get it running again.


With the Imp in and strapped down to the best of Geoff’s ability, we were ready to head off to Moyale. Now since we had to part with a sizeable part of our fortune for the privilege of have our car transported to Moyale we knew that at least we would be given the comfortable passenger seats in the cabin with the driver.Not likely; we were unceremoniously sent packing to the bars on the to of the cattle truck that we had to hold on to for dear life. In fact uncomfortable as it was, it was better because from there we were able to monitor the state of our precious little cargo at the back of the truck and let me tell you it fairly hopped and bounced around. How it never smashed against the sidewalls of the truck is a miracle in itself. The only thing saving it was a ring of plastic bags stuffed with more plastic bags that were en route to Moyale to be Brim filled with beans for import to Kenya from Ethiopia.

Brian was clearly on a mission and he pounded his truck mercilessly over the hell road as fast as he dared, and he dared fast, until every now and then he would have to slow right down to a standstill to negotiate difficult patches. All the while Geoff and I surmised if in fact we would have made it in the Imp as lots of the track was reasonably dry and we knew would have been possible. Had we wasted our money? The answer came not once not twice but numerous times during the next 18 hours or so, where the truck in the expert skilled hands of Brian barely made it through numerous deep rutted, muddy with glue like clay mud long stretches of churned up quagmire. No, the imp could not even have been DRAGGED through these except by a caterpillar track vehicle.

As night fell the oppressive heat turned to bearable wind in our faces as we sat up on the cattle truck bars and peering at the road ahead lit up only by the headlights of the powerful Mitsubishi truck and above us was a velvet black mat of billions of stars, flickering and twinkling, completely oblivious to our stressful, extremely uncomfortable and tiring journey.

At about 23h00 the truck came to a stop behind another truck and we wondered what was up! The truck in front of us had it lights switched off so we assumed it had some technical problem. We peered around the side of the truck that was now blocking our way and to our horror we found that it was one of many parked in a line; all standing dead still and the drivers all milling around chatting and chewing happy leaves. The problem? The stretch ahead of about a kilometre was far too dangerous to attempt in the dark as one wrong move by any truck would send it broadside and off the road making the road then impassable for days until help arrived in this middle of nowhere desert now turned swamp so the risks we too great. The convoy was a total of 11 Mitsubishis all laden to the absolute hilt. So one more night on the Moyale hell road and this time I chose the comfort of the bags of plastic bags as my mattress and while Geoff tossed and turned in the uncomfortable confines of the Imp passenger seat I slept like a baby all night long together with the big black bugs that Geoff was worried about. However due to Terence not showering that night….they, the bugs, ran for cover and therefore the great night rest that Terence got..


shortly after dawn it was time to walk the mud bath to assess the state of the surface. it was not a comforting examination. some very stage heads shared their knowledge and vast experience of well over an hour before the first truck of the convoy slowly got itself ready to attempt the crossing.

It was with much more than with baited breath that we waited as the first Mitsubishi truck started out into the muddy ice rink and watched as it slithered this way and that for about half the distance before almost getting its back wheels slide right over to the very edge of grip and dance perilously close to disaster but thankfully the driver tapped off the gas and brought the power slide under control enough to keep the lorry pointed in the correct direction. in a few minutes that seemed like hours, the first of the eleven truck had safely made it across,

now for the remaining ten. Of course, with every set of vastly overladen wheels that churning up the already churned up mud, it made the task for Brian, the last of the trucks even more challenging.

One by one the skilled truckers brought their vehicles through the muddy mess.

some, so over-laden put the fear of God into us when they listed hopelessly almost to the point of toppling over and solidly blocking any further crossings!

Clearly someone out there was praying for us because not only did Brian safely negotiate the hazard but within thirty minutes or so he had ripped past all ten of the convoy that were ahead of him and then he set off for Moyale at a merry pace. a point to note however was the fact that Brian still had a pap battery and it took at least thirty of us huffing and puffing and pushing and shoving his lorry in the mud to eventually get it push-started.

More rain at any time could easily have arrested our progress so we stressed right up until we finally arrived in the dirty little town of Moyale. let it be said that it was in this town of Moyale that we encountered the most wonderful customs and border control people. This only on the Kenyan side mind you the Ethiopian crowd were insolent and unwelcoming to the extreme.


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