The good and the bad

Sometimes it easy to forget exactly where you are. Safety always has to be in the front of your mind especially when traveling in developing countries.

We managed to cross into Ethiopia in the early afternoon. Our plan was to stop close to the border at a hotel that allowed camping in their courtyard. But after we took a look through the gate at the mountain of rubbish, we opted to continue an extra two hours to the larger town of Gondar.

After an hour on the road, we came to an army road-block. They signalled for us to pull over before asking us a host of questions; where are you from, where are you going, what are you doing here and what football team we supported. After answering their questions, they told us; “you have to turn around, you cannot go any further. This road is too dangerous and controlled by bandits during the night.”

This was our first experience of having to turnaround due to a road block and it put us in a bit of a conundrum. The original place we planned to stay close to the border was now an hour away. We had passed another hotel 30 minutes back which I had taken a mental note of as a possible plan B. As the sun was now setting and not wanting to drive in the dark on the bandit controlled road we decided to return to plan B.

Now, these things shouldn’t worry you or put you off making a trip, it’s all part of the adventure. You just have to use your common sense, forward thinking and always try to have a backup plan. The Governments travel advice website is a great place to go for information before setting off on a trip to unfamiliar places. Its kept up-to-date and the information is always detailed when it comes to areas to avoid.

Our next stop was the Simien Mountains. The tarmac roads disappeared and the views became absolutely incredible. We made our way up to 3500m before crossing the peaks. The high altitude reduced our engine power considerably, but with good use of the low box, the Defender had no problem hauling 1000kg of trailer up and down the mountain trails. After crossing the mountains we travelled East reaching the height of -127m below sea level in the Danakil Depression.

From Danakil we made our way South, first to see the churches of Lalibela and then on to Addis Ababa to find a new gas regulator after we had a little accident and the old one became a cropper.

From Addis we continued to the Moyale border crossing to Kenya. After a relatively quick border crossing (3 Hours) we were finally getting to what we had been looking forward to the most, SAFARI…

Our first 2 nights we camped at an abandoned safari lodge in Marasbit National Park. The lodge was very spooky, as if it had been left from one day to another. Rooms still made up and glasses still on the bar, but everything completely covered in dust and cobwebs. It was a peaceful few days and a well needed chance to relax.

We had been contacted by The Safari Series a few days before entering Kenya. They had a cancelation of guests last minute and invited us to fill the slot. So after leaving Marsabit NP we headed to the Lolldaiga Hills to meet with Ed, the owner of The Safari Series. Ed has a great setup, with nearly exclusive safari rights on a huge cattle ranch in the North of Kenya, he has a fleet of 12 Series Land Rovers that have been setup as safari vehicles. A gold mine for the Land Rover enthusiast.

Ed met us at the entrance gate and took us to an amazing wild camp spot in the centre of the ranch. We quickly set up camp before being taken on a walking safari amongst elephants and giraffe. It was absolutely fantastic to be so close to the wild animals in their natural environment.

After a good night sleep listening to the lions we were up early for our ranch orientation drive. Which was more like a morning of offroading, with Ed leading us around in the Series 1 trying his hardest to find a trail to get us stuck. Our Defender took everything in its stride without a single moment where we thought we might have to get the recovery gear out. Once we had our bearings and knew how to find our way back to our camp, we were given a brief on dangerous animals and how to avoid getting into trouble. Ed gave us a few tips on where the animals would be in the park and then sent us on our way.

We had the whole 49,000 acre ranch to ourselves, free to roam and explore as we pleased. It was a very special experience and something very different to your idea of a traditional safari.

We spent a total of 14 days in Kenya, visiting several national parks, seeing the big 5 as well as plenty of other absolutely incredible animals.

After our visit to the Masai Mara NP, we entered Uganda, for the next leg of our adventure…….

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