The Dreaded Moyale Road

I’d actually never heard of this infamous stretch of road before I got to Wadi Halfa in Sudan.  There I was told all sorts of horror stories of how bad the road is, bandits, crazy truck drivers, etc.  I never really took them too seriously but, as I crossed into Kenya in the morning, the stories started to loom larger in my mind.

As you enter Kenya, the road turns from lovely tarmac into standard Africa gravel- annoying and slow in places, fun and fast in others.  Well, fun and fast if you aren’t trying to catch your breath every 30 seconds when a jar makes your ribs beg for mercy! 

Within an hour it pretty much just stays annoying, with the well defined ruts making getting out of the way of trucks a constant hassle.

That’s not to say their aren’t some cool sights.

In another couple of hours it becomes fairly deep gravel with deep ruts that suck your tires in and then trap them between their loose walls.  They aren’t too bad and the only real problem is it becomes even harder to get out of the way of the crazy transport trucks screaming down the road.  They will not stop or slow down for you, so if you’re stuck in rut you’d better get yourself unstuck and quick.

After another hour you come to the village of Turbi.  The scene of a horrific massacre and perhaps a fitting gateway to the real nightmare of ‘The Bandit Road’- it’s local name.  From Turbi the road turns ugly- ridiculously deep ruts, ankle deep gravel, half buried rocks, more crazy trucks, and a Martian landscape whose rocks reflect the suns rays back at you.

The ruts are so deep and filled with gravel that you simply cannot get out of them and have to watch constantly so that your panniers or side pods (remember my first crash?) don’t crunch into the sides.  This isn’t the worst though.  No, the worst is the big transport trucks who drive at insane speeds and regularly force off you off the road- if you happen to be in one of the ruts they have chosen you have to move, somehow.  More than once when I barely had time to get out of a trucks way, the buffeting wind of it’s passing almost sent me flying it was so near.  The only saving grace is that they don’t just scatter bikes, but parts of themselves.  There was more than one truck who passed only to have me chug by and hour later while the driver was deciding just how many broken leaf springs is normal…

8-9 hours after leaving Moyale you arrive in Marsabit National Reserve and the halfway point of the road.  You ride up from the 45C desert into a lush, cool (well, 30C) rain forest like area that surrounds a number of extinct volcanos.

15 minutes after that, you arrive at Marsabit town and one of the must stop places on the Cape-Cairo route- Henry The Swiss’ campsite.  It’s just a fairly basic campsite but, with it’s location in the middle of the Moyale road, it feels like a fairly generous slice of heaven.  Just watch out for the scorpions in the toilets.


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