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On the Great North Road into forgotten Kenya


kenya_northernroad_resized.jpgMARSABIT, Kenya – We are in two Land Rover Defenders, headed north to Ethiopia through one of Kenya’s remotest and harshest areas.

Our route is along the Great North Road, the famed Cape Town-to-Cairo highway on what is said to be the only untarmacked stretch on the whole continent – roughly 550 kilometres from where the highway ends at Isiolo town north to Moyale on the Ethiopian border.  It has all the wildlife and stunning scenery Kenya is world-famous for, but few tourists ever see it.

This is part of the old Northern Frontier District, the arid top half of Kenya which was closed to visitors by the British colonial government because of its inaccessibility, harsh conditions and endless banditry.  Little has changed since independence in 1963.

 To call the wide track of dirt, ruts and rocks a road is an insult to other roads. It demands a four-wheel drive vehicle, and punishes any that comes with an endless succession of shuddering bumps, heat and fine dust that penetrates every corner. It has taken us two days to reach Marsabit, a mere 600 km from Nairobi. But out here, trips are measured by time, not by distance.kenya_northernroad_group_resized.jpg