“A big tree does not make a forrest”, Lodwar Dec. 29th 2010

I only have a piece of bred this Tuesday morning as on travel days I avoid big meals and drinks to avoid big and small tiger needs………………..busses, trucks and land cruisers usually do not stop for “nature” breaks and when you demand a stop they do so in the middle of nowhere. I suppose some of you know how it is when you feel a whole bus in your back watching you doing business….. Anyway, I avoid big meals and drinks on travel days, smile.

The Italian is quiet frustrated about his trip in south Ethiopia so far, the Belgian scientist makes the best of what is offered and their guide and driver don’t care. I am happy as I do get a ride and leave Turmi after 3 days. Along the road we see a broken down land cruiser which belongs to the 2 Dutch ladies who denied a ride to me. What goes around comes around. I have to concentrate hard not too laugh when passing by.

Now Omorate is the end of the world. A village, a small town, no idea what to call it. An immigration building, an army post, 3 run down hotels next to each other and hundreds of small brown huts in which the locals drink beer. A bridge looks like under construction since and for the next 20 years. So the highlight is the Omo river and 2 small boats crossing it as taxis. On the other side are some more tribe villages occasionally a Kenyan truck – my only option of transport.

With Christoph, from Munich, who cycled here from Turmi, I take a swim in the river to cool down. It is very hot here. The attempt to cross the river with one of the boats fails as they want to overcharge me and I am not going for that. The attempt to eat lunch at the restaurant also fails as they run out of meat and bread. I start to wonder if this really is the place I want to hang around until I get a ride to Kenia. So I go again to the river, deny again to pay 3$ for a 1 minute ride but meet a young man who can read my mind. We start negotiating but without an exit stamp for Ethiopia its all useless. Steve told me that for the stamp they take their time, he waited 2 days. So I walk to the immigration office as relaxed as I can, look as chilled as possible and the “yeeeaar, no worries, take your time, I watch your friends play this board game, its all good” also helps. 20 minutes later I got my stamp. Yes.

The negotiation with the boy from earlier becomes a public happening and we are surrounded by little boys and young man. The strategy of taking him aside works as he feels important and the offering of my T-shirt closes the deal. For 25€ I am supposed to leave soon with the soap truck on the other side to Kenia.

Soon becomes 3 hours but I use the time to buy some water and bananas and pack my stuff correctly, the ride will be long. As it turns dark I remember the strong advise of lonely planet not to travel at night, especially in this region, but choice do I have. At sunset I finally cross the river together with drunk tribe people and Godfried, the driver, who looks honest and friendly, making me feel much better. He also secures my luggage well and gives me a good seat in the cabin. I even get a sensible answer on why we go at night. It is supposed to rain and that would mean we have to stay here for at least one week. Its Africa, it’s the adventure I asked for.

Just as darkness sets in THE RIDE begins. There is no streets, not even a path, only sand, bushes and sometimes a track of our truck coming here 2 days ago. Godfried gets lost, makes a great manoeuvre to avoid a huge sand hole and finds his way always back with the help of others, some in the cabin, others on the back of the truck. Every once in a while we pass through, or stop in, tribe villages and the more remote we get the less tourists those tribes have seen. When spotting me of course the attention is given. No, I don’t want to give them my watch and no I have no money. The following picture is to show how dark it was and how alone we where.

Suddenly we hear bullets and shooting. Of course all tribes here have the Russian Kalaschnikow AK 47 but what does that mean? Looking at Godfried to find confirmation of being safe does not work. He looks scared, concentrates even more on moving fast and not getting stuck. Ok, that is more adventure than I asked for, please stop the show now and turned it off. Funny enough it does stop quickly, maybe it was not more than 2 or 3 shots and Godfried explains that the tribes have nothing to loose shooting us. Nobody will arrest them or so. Yesterday one tribe killed 3 men of another tribe for cattle steeling, so the current situation is tense. But he believes its most of the time drunk people shooting in the air. I buy that as it sounds better.

Soon later it happens, we get stuck. They tried to take a short cut through a river bed but it did still have some mud the wheels can not handle. Its only 50 meters but it takes us about 1 hour to get out of it. Great short cut. Then we reach the Ethiopian and Kenyan border posts. One of the man in the cabin with me, he is from the border police, gets out. I liked him. He replaces another border police man who takes his seat in the cabin. I don’t like him. Could be because of him smelling of alcohol and his attempt to get money from me. “You have no entry stamp for Kenia and need to pay a fee to get in.” I tell him I have no money and will get my stamp the official way in Lokichoggio soon. (this story, told in an naïve almost dumb way I will repeat a view more times.) I guess he realized that he can only make money on me in the days to come and becomes my “friend”, defending me against his own colleagues who do not believe that I have no money.  So we go on only to stop at the next police check point and the game starts over again. This time Godfried helps out, makes them believe that he himself tried to get money from me and that I gave my last Ethiopian money to his boss, the truck owner. Then we stop around midnight at a missionary (I believe) and the guys make noise until somebody comes and sells us soda (coke, sprite etc.) I am starting to relax when we continue the journey but not for long. The following sentence makes me first feel like in a set up (hey, lets give Frank the ultimate experience) and then it makes me shit my paints: “……you know that you are illegal in Kenia. Get out of the car……..” Now that seems serious and it is. Young drunk soldiers who don’t buy my story and want to go a long way to find out what I can do for them. Godfried then talkes convincingly to their boss and finally they let us go. Around 2pm we stop in some village and sleep outside, next to the truck. Later I will find out that Godfried stopped the police man from getting to my luggage. The next day starts at sunrise, the village awakes and the truck of course is an attraction for varies reasons. Me, the fact that something happens and most important because people hope for a lift to Lodwar. That is additional cash for Godfried and so we wait around until finally at 2pm we have enough passengers. I like the waiting, getting to know the village, learning about Kenyan culture (I witness a religious ceremony) and problems, eating goat and ugali (the local all day every day food) and becoming good friends with Godfried.

He is very curious about me, my life and Germany. His questions and comments are right on the point:

-  “a big tree can not make a forest. Frank, you are 35, who will carry on your name if you die.”

- “In Europe you talk about children, in Kenya we make them.”

- “Without corruption Kenya could be so far.”

- “So, if it so cold and snowy in Germany, how do you heat your rooms? With wood?” Telling him that I just turn a button deciding if I go on 3 or 5 he doesn’t believe me,

The road, well the path, is really bad and it takes forever to make progress. Another Spanish mission impresses me. Finally, at 9pm we reach Lodwar and I go into Godfrieds room of his uncles hotel. The police men actually does try to get money again but telling me to better check into a saver hotel he knows but I do not even consider it. Fried fish, ugali and chips finish the day. I am happy to be back in civilisation but most of all I am tired, I want to sleep after a 28hour ride with more action than I asked for. They shot at us……aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh.

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