The Ugandan Express Pardon

July 17, 2017

Yesterday we departed Nairobi at 1209 and rolled out to Eldoret. We had spent the morning touring Kibera, the slum famous for being the largest in Africa and for being, well a slum. For many it is a place of convenience as they come into town to work, Kibera offering a place of cheap accommodation. It’s a complex matrix of people living on top of people and is as sophisticated a community as anywhere on the planet.

We depart Eldoret oddly enough at 0910. We have an uncommon series of ‘10’ minutes starts and finishes, without any planning. The road out of Eldoret is busy but eventually clears and the road, compared with the road out of Nairobi, is quite reasonable. We track our way via the map to Malaba which comes up on us more quickly than we expect. I ring the person David has put us in touch with (Keith) and not a moment too soon as we are swarmed by fixers offering to take us across the border. Read more

Prelude to Machu Picchu

June 29, 2016

summit (3)For reasons that elude me now I failed to post my Kilimanjaro diary when we ascended that mound in 2014. As my thoughts now turn to the Salkantay Track and our walk up that path to Machu Picchu I dug out my diary/log from our previous expedition. My final entry is an interesting prelude to our next major adventure. 

23rd December 2014

On QF566 and an hour out from Sydney. And so it ends. I have done the last head count and with it the cares of the trip drop away. It has mostly gone as planned though the unexpected cost of tipping porters is a disappointment as were the additional costs here and there which I had attempted to cover in the planning. Everyone seems to have accepted these surprises with good grace but I am keenly feeling them as planning failures. I console myself with the fact that I have taken 15 trekkers to the top of one of the worlds deadliest mountains (more ‘climbers’ die here than anywhere else) and back without mishap. Read more

Mind How You Step

October 31, 2013

mkt290She has a round dark face that is more chipmunk cheeks than anything else, cheeks that prop up eyes that glitter with mischief. The narrow, high set benches means we squeeze in to sit down and she laughs at two tall guys struggling to fit in without knocking any else’s tea on the floor. She remembers us from last week and is clearly pleased we are there.  The floor is timber, old cement, broken tiles and earth so I have to watch where I step. There are no mozzies since the place is full of the sweet pine smoke that drifts in from the kitchen, semi detached out the back via a narrow laneway that clearly provides access to a larger street somewhere, as folk walk in this back door as often as they walk in the front door. She watches us sit and then giggles to her friend… Read more

Hell’s Gate

October 13, 2013

HG290The day is clear and warm. On the lee of the escarpment and under the canopy of tall trees the humidity is a light flush on the forehead but no more. A perfect day no less. By the time we reach Naivasha, an hour out of town we have left the cosy climate of Nairobi and find ourselves in a different world, one that hints of drought and laced with flies and dust, small hot twisters and litter scampering ahead of squalling winds. The tress are now tall, flat topped acacias, their light coloured yellowish trunks lithe and pleasing lines against the arid backdrop. The country is gearing up for its second and minor wet season but the clouds that have piled up this morning have quickly burned away.  I dodge pedestrians, crawling matatus, oncoming overladen trucks and goods slowly wheeling to or from a market on a bicycle. Sometimes I can see the rider.  Read more

They Walk Among Us

October 6, 2013

nightclub290There is a creeping awareness this week that we Australians, for all our fretting about porous borders ( a lot of nonsense) have it just way too good. I have always known that of course. On one occasion my return to Australian soil after a precarious adventure was so emotional I wanted to do ‘a Pope’ – kiss the tarmac I was walking on when I finally arrived home.  But this is a bit different. Being resident here, even for a short period of time, makes me aware of a different sensibility. It’s the fact that your enemy might truly be walking the road with you. That the crawling vehicle might truly be doing a recce. If Australians have an enemy (and we don’t really have a sense of one) they are out there over the water somewhere, ill defined and with no malicious agenda.  Kenyans know they have an enemy, provoked by their intervention and ongoing military action in Somalia. And its an enemy that can simply walk here if they are resolved enough to do so. It seems some are.  Which makes these people wonder who in the checkout queue really is a friendly. Read more

Nairobi Brunch

September 29, 2013

cafe290It’s a quiet Sunday and after a slow start I decide to walk to the nearest shopping centre. A walk can only be a good thing after last nights festivities. The rest of the house is not stirring. The day is clear and burning hot, something I had not really noticed under the shade of our garden forest. Unlike my jogging foray I am the only traveller on the roadside goat track, the exception being the neighbour’s guards who are reclined on the verge, feet crossed and having lunch much in the fashion of a impressionist’s picnic. Except these lads are wearing overalls and gumboots. I say hello and wonder how they do it. Read more

Birds of A Feather

January 11, 2013

r1-290Rooster and Cockerel lived in a bachelor pad on the heights above Algiers. Though very much the same they were in fact two very different beasts living in the same town. At six o’clock every morning Rooster would drag his tattered tail out onto the balcony. He had no idea where Mecca might be located but he would hold his breath and then when the imams down the road called for prayer he would let rip with gusto. His calls were echoed up and down the escarpment, for Algiers is a Moslem city after all. Every other apartment echoed his call and the as the peach first smeared the dark blue of the morning sky they went out of their way to call awake and stir the faithful. Cockerel had long since ceased hearing these early morning calls. But if they ever penetrated his sleep it was a light touch and he would roll over in his bachelor nest, ruffle the feathers of his latest hen and drop back off to sleep. Rooster didn’t mind and was not the least bit offended. He could live and let live. Read more

Welcome to Algeria

January 8, 2013

algiers290Ha, now I know I’m alive – this place is more edgy than sleepy old Verdun. Taxi at the airport? No such thing. Just Boris the Bullet Dodger and all his dodgy mates in their little, dusty Chevrolets. Yes, Chevrolets. More Cevy compacts than tiny French cars.

How much to the city?


Nah mate. Some bad Española if that helps.

I have some English (Anglash).


He punches 3000 into his phone.

It feels about right given the distance into the city and I’m in no mood to haggle. So we walk out past an empty taxi rank and into an ever darkening car park , over piles of rubble and rubbish. We arrive at his dusty little car and he goes around the back and opens the boot. I wait at the front. We get in the car after an argument about my backpack. There is no way that is going in the boot. I am on edge already and being as careful as I can be. No way is that bag leaving my hands. I am now hyper alert. Read more

Who Really Needs a Sparkplug?

April 7, 2011

sparkplug290.jpgLast night the prowling African cats kept me awake for a long time. There is nothing to strike fear into your heart quite like the sound of    a mangy cat with a chicken bone stuck in its throat.  Cat in Shrek came to mind with his cough. Kack, kack, kack… I would have thrown a boot at it except the boots were keeping the mozzie net pinned to the floor.  The sound of his hacking cough fades as he drifts away around a tukel but he clearly runs into one of his mates and round of shrieking and yowling ensues. What a zoo.

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Meet the Future of Sudan

April 5, 2011

girl-290.jpgWe suggested (an important word) that our boat crew be on the bank at 5.30 for the return trip. To our surprise they chugged to a stop at 5.35. Not so surprising was the fact that we had some extra passengers. You grab whatever lift you can around here.  A girl about 18 and a boy about 15. And second girl, also about 18 with her two children, a young baby about 3-4 months and a daughter about 3. The wind has dropped, almost completely and the evening is yellow and warm and calm. We head off against the current with the bow down and a three year olds face peering at me from the safety of her mother’s side. I pull faces and wink but nothing happens in that little brown face. At least to start.

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