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#TravelTuesday – Adventure in Tsavo West [Part 1] | Mutua Matheka

#TravelTuesday – Adventure in Tsavo West [Part 1]

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Hello guys. Welcome to another Travel Tuesday filled with adventure.

So Mrs. M (wifey) & I really needed to get away (I always need to get away but this time she joined me) so we asked the Squad of Steve, Steph & Whit to join us. They did. The plan was to go to Tsavo West and camp at Lake Jipe for 2 nights. Lake Jipe is on the border of Kenya and Tanzania. Even the network there is Vodacom from Tz. It really is the end of Kenya. We left Nairobi at around 6am very excited abut taking Luanda (my LandRover Discovery 1) to the far reaches of the country. I used to work for https://comfortsystems.net/ so I had just repaired the air conditioning on Luanda (this is a big deal for a 21 year old car, stop snickering) so that was something exciting about the trip too, but I digress.

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Some of you may understand my love of all things fog. We found a lot of it as we approached Salama. It was so bad that you couldn’t even dare overtake. The farthest you could see was the nose of the trailer in from of you. That’s it.

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The Squad (I too don’t understand Steve’s expression of pain)

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The planned route was to branch off at Emali and head toward Oloitoktok and enter Tsavo through the Chyulu entrance as opposed to the Mtito Andei one. So we got to the turn off and it said 60km to the actual Chyulu entrance. 60km of murram (this became exciting now. I love murram roads). We finally got to the entrance and found out that we needed the KWS Safari card to be able to use that entrance, which we didn’t have. Luckily, we were given a filled form of our intention and asked to drive through the park to Mtito Andei and make the payment there then head on to Lake Jipe. The Mtito Andei entrance is about 40-50km from the Chyulu hills entrance but we drove there and made the payments and got our receipts. We also enjoyed a short game drive on the way there, only that we didn’t see any game. Bummer.

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The Chyulu area was just fascinating. Of course we stopped to photograph the beautiful trees and have Luanda enjoy their shade.

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Part of the scarce wildlife on the way to Mtito Andei. (there were lots of dikdik though)

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This done, we made way to Lake Jipe, finally. We were starting to feel like Jipe was far away, little did we know just how right we were. Since the directions are clearly labeled on the beacons KWS puts in the parks, we weren’t worried about getting lost in Tsavo. I mean, come on!! The last beacon we saw said Lake Jipe was 109km. That was also the last sign of civilisation we saw in a while. Suddenly the road was rough and really narrow. I thought to myself that they really needed to maintain the roads in Tsavo better. Not to mention it just went up and then down, and then up, and then down, sometimes down into a river bed and then up again.

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I mean, seriously. This road seemed to go on forever.

We really started to feel like we were lost but we’d been on that road more than an hour and didn’t seem to be anywhere near civilization. The road got worse, the river bed crossings increased in number. We drove up this particularly steep hill and gave the accelerator everything only to get to the top and find that it dips almost immediately, into rocks. That was a really rough bump and shake we got there but I knew Luanda could take it. About two hills later I realised that the brakes were giving way. I had to pump twice to get a response. A few indicators on the dashboard got crazy too. And that’s when, deep down, I began to panic. We were 2.5hrs away from the last marker we saw and there was no network. We decided to drive on till we stumbled on some network and then call KWS to ask for help and directions. Luanda wasn’t in good shape so I decided to take a risk and alight the car while in the park and really really hope that there weren’t any lions nearby. I checked the engine for overheating but everything was ok there. I decided to call my mechanic and thankfully, it went through. He asked me to check for leaks of brake fluid and as I went around checking Luandas wheels, confirmed the worst, brake fluid was leaking from the rear right wheel side. We must have hit the brake lines on that really rough patch back there.

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Taking breaks from our woes to enjoy the scenes here. So grand.

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Shetani Lava flow was really interesting though. Looks like tarmac and is spread over a really wide area.

Back in the car, Steve couldn’t get through any of the KWS numbers. That hard knot in the throat came back. Having 3 ladies in the car though meant we had to maintain and play it cool while thinking of a solution. We decided to just keep driving and use gear 1 while going down the river crossings and hope that the brakes somehow miraculously work. Somehow, they did. God was with us. I had to really pump the brakes but they held their own while going down the steep slopes. Finally at around 6pm we saw something that was a signal of hope. When we got to it though, it was the border fence to the park.  This wasn’t a simple fence that stops deer and rodents, this fence was on a whole other level! We were at the end of the park. The freaking end.

We see someone and he tells us there are tents up ahead. We pray Jipe is close but we are not hopeful. We find workers at the tents and they confirm the worst, we are lost beyond belief. He tells us to drive to Maktao, about 50km away where there was a gate and we would be helped there by the KWS guys. We start the drive there. This time we’re driving along the fence just watching the posts go by and by and by and by endlessly. We meet other workers about an hour later who stop us and say we shouldn’t be in the park. We explain our story of how we are lost and all that and they keep us there while they call the “mdos”. They receive instructions that we should go to the Maktao gate and be held there until he (the mdos, the top man) arrives. Maktao is about 20 km away so we go there. You can imagine how tired and hopeless we are by now of ever getting to lake Jipe. Why did we even seek this adventure? I wonder.

Finally, Maktao. The officer there is very helpful and wanted to even let us go straight instead of waiting for the mdos but then a radio call comes in and we are asked to wait there. By this point, the ladies wanted to even sleep here and just look for Jipe in the morning. I figured the hunger must be speaking so I suggest we make some quick sandwiches, eat and then figure something out. Food is a miracle worker friends. Just some ham and bread and you will be amazed how minds change. The mdos arrives with a 4 man strong team and we have to pause our chewing as they ask us to explain, again, how we found ourselves in this predicament. We do. We have become masters at relaying this story. It’s only the 4th time we’re doing it. The KWS guys are very very good to us, they were on high alert because of the paching so a car driving in the park at night was subject to scrutiny. They are very apologetic at our getting lost and even tell us that the road we used is in that state because nobody ever uses it anymore. Just maintenance crews and patrol. They actually agree to the sad state of their signage beacons in the park (hopefully they can rectify that).

They agree to show us the way and have us go on to Jipe. We did convince the girls after finding out that it was only 48km away from Maktao. 1.5hrs and we’d finally be at our destination. We quickly tuck in the remaining sandwiches and follow the KWS truck till the turn off. They even notified the camp ahead that if we didn’t get there in time, they should send out a car to try find us in case we got lost again. The mdos even gave me his number and took mine.

1hr and 15min later, we were finally, finally at Lake Jipe. It was 10pm and still probably the earliest I have ever gotten to camp when road tripping with the OnetouchLive crew.

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That made the day worthwhile. Chilling by the fire after dinner at camp is my favorite part of camping. Favorite.

So we finally sleep at around 2am or sometime like that. We could just hear hippos grazing a few meters away. Some people we were with were really really scared. But the animals never came close to us. They just went on about their business of eating and pooping.

In the morning though is when we were hit by the beauty of Lake Jipe. There were elephants drinking water from the lake, it looked so beautiful and definitely less scary than the night before.

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First it was this guy drinking water…

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..then he left and we were like bummer……

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then we saw these guys coming and we were like yaay, all we had to do was chill and wait for them to come drink by the lake.

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That is the end of part 1 of this story, the worst part. Next week I will show you where we went to hang out after chilling with the elephants during breakfast. I do hope you enjoyed the tale of the failed breaks. Just so you know, at the point of the last image, the breaks were still not repaired yet.

Did the brakes ever get repaired? Did we die because of failed brakes? Join me next week for the answers 🙂


  • Thoughtsonly

    What an adventure, failed brakes on a steep decline in the middle of nowhere! scary stuff.

    • I’m telling you. I was so scared at first. But after a while you get used to getting scared mpaka it stopped.

  • samdave69

    Next time you keep space for others………….. (eg me….)

  • Petersize10

    Of course you didn’t die from the brakes, you wouldn’t be writing this from your grave. :-p . Looking forward to next week’s post where I’ll be green with envy….you know why. 🙁

  • Brian Wangila

    Still wondering, did you die? 😛 Getting lost and the unexpected turn of events are scary there and then but always make for great stories later.
    Reminds me of a few weeks ago, we were leaving Embu for Amboseli and decided to take the scenic route through Ukambani to Kibwezi, then Emali and finally Amboseli. Brilliant roads from Embu to Kitui then all of a sudden, murram road. We ask a few locals and they say the road even gets worse and it’s that way for 200kms all the way to Kibwezi.
    It’s 3pm. Turning back and going to Machakos then Emali would have taken way more time. So we decide to brave the murram road. 200km of seemingly endless dirt road gets boring fast. We drive for a while, check Google Maps, we have only moved 2km. Finally we hit Kibwezi then Emali towards Oloitoktok. It’s now about 10.00pm.
    Then the last 25km to the lodge was offroad. We got to the lodge just a few minutes to midnight. We were tired and all at the time but looking back, that was one adventure for the books,

    • I think I can now safely say, we didn’t die. Phewks.

      You better blog about your adventure too man. Don’t let your stories disappear or just stay with you. Any road trip where you get to camp at or near midnight, is a great road trip.

      • Brian Wangila

        The suspense was killing me 🙂
        Definitely, I’ve been toying with the idea of a travel blog for a while now…I should get started on that.

  • kgee

    What an adventure!! but will always make for a good story which will evolve with time. 5 years from now the story will have changed so much you wont know what actually happened and what did not – you will have to come back to this post for the truth 🙂

    • Hahaha. Maze. Thankfully, the blog post will still be here. The children must have such adventures too.

  • Ni Tums

    awesome…this was a perfect trip and the breakfast was even better 🙂

  • letting eliphas

    There’s that feeling of satisfaction of being in Tsavo. I have never been there but this thread made me feel as if I am there! Good work

  • Dennis Kibera

    i think you should totally videolog as you go..way better for those who don’t bother to read