Friday, 30 September 2011

"The Road from Hell", and off to Addis

Update, 6 Nov: Sarah Henderson (Peugeot 404) send a link to a story about bandits on the "Road from Hell", which happened just after we went through....  Full text in comments below.  Tx Sarah!]

[Bit of a scrappy post, this, as it's on the run, in Awassa, Ethiopia, and we're off at 05:00 in the morning to Addis, to struggle with Sudan visas.   And it's all about the road and the cars, nothing about people and places, which after all is what the trip's about.  But that road was such an experience, that it takes first place for now]...

Wowie, Zowie, what a road!
I left you at the Samburu Lodge in Kenya, just as we were to set off on what is widely-known as “The Road from Hell” and what a road it was.  400 kilometers of bone-jarring, car-crunching gravel, horrendous corrugations, rocks, stones, wash-aways, rock and massive pot holes you could hide a donkey in.  A “car killer” said Gordon, whose done 2 London to Sydney Rallies, one Peking to Paris, the Himalayan Rally, and innumerable other rallies.  He said this one was “right up there”. 

This “Road from Hell” is classified as the toughest road in Africa. 
We did the 400km in about 20 hours over two days, average 20kph, never out of first or second gear.
But we all made it.  And proved some nay-sayers wrong.  Mind, it's not the sort of road that a normal sedan  should or could go on, let alone classic vehicles.  Every other vehicle on the road -- and there were very few -- was a four-wheel high-axle car, or high-axle bus-like affair.  But only one ever hour or so.
Three cars stuck in sand/dust had to be towed out: the Kombi, a Merc and our Mustang.
All made it, that is, save for the one non-classic car, Dave Hall’s Pajero, which lost its fuel pump from a stone hitting the fuel tank, and had to be towed the last 50km  in the dark.  Not  before we already in Moyale had rather dithered in some confusion, and let the side down rather, and the "tail gunners" in the Pajero, wondering where Dave and the lads (Ian and Neil, now that Jackie had left us at Nairobi), before Gordon and Sandi left in “Modesty”, the Volvo to track them down and found them being towed by a police 4 wheel-drive.  Modesty then towed them for a bit, before it became a bit much for her, and returned to  pick up the Mustang to go to their aid.  All safely home, Dave and the lads covered in dust, to shower in the dark as Moyale was blacked out. 
Car damage report: shock absorbers and bushes, but amazingly no puncture: especially so as lots of the middle section was driving in cricket-ball sized rocks, sharp and piled high so you had to drive on the ridges or risk being hung up to dry, wheels spinning.  
Car damage update: Roger's MG Magnette basically broke apart, the rear part parted from the main body and the engine fell off into the skid pan, held there by pure luck.  The MGB had it's shock frame fall off. Our Mustang broke off three bits of our leaf springs, the "helpers".  Meantime, we hear that the Pajero is fixed and on its way back to Nairobi, having made the run today to Marsavit on the same "Road from Hell".