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The Bandit Run

Moyale, Kenya

When you know the town you are heading to has had its problems with bandits the last thing you want to hear upon arrival is that they have struck in the past few hours. Worse still that angry residents have taken to the streets in protests leading to full scale riots culminating in the local marketplace being set on fire.

Unfortunately for me that is exactly what greeted me upon arrival in Isiolo, leaving me questioning the next stage of my journey north. My anxiety and obvious concern was not helped when the news came on to reveal the full extent of the massacre - six dead including two police officers. Worse still was the headline adorning the front page of the paper the following morning - 'Residents Flee as Bandits Kill Six in Isiolo'.

I was left with two options; return to Nairobi and take a flight to Addis Ababa (clearly the most sensible option), or take a private truck, along with fifteen other people, and hope for the best. Now I have never been the most sensible person, but I must admit this situation did see my degree of sensibility increase, although not enough to break the rules of my trip.

And thus, along with my Spanish travel companion Roberto, we took the decision to head north to Ethiopia by land and risk a bandit attack in our quest to reach the border - a mere 600km away. I should probably add that the safest time to travel is instantly after an incident like this, as security is dramatically increased, but be that as it may there was still a chance we could fall victim of an attack.

Knowing disaster could strike doesn't allow for the most peaceful night's sleep, in fact it rendered sleep almost impossible due to worry, and so the following morning I was more than grateful of several strong coffees before we prepared for the off. The presence of solders on the streets eased my concerns somewhat, but also served as a reminder that this was not exactly the area you would want to remain in for long.

As we rolled onto the dusty track that would eventually take us to Ethiopia my heart was racing, my only thoughts seemed to centre around being ambushed by bandits and left for dead in the middle of the desert. An hour in and Latif brought the vehicle to a halt, and, with a wry grin on his face, informed us that no matter what for the next hour there would be no stopping. We were now in bandit territory.

My nerves, already on edge, were eating away at my insides, and once again I was convinced that this would only end in disaster. Every time we slowed down even slightly I was paranoid bandits had stepped into the road and were forcing us to stop, where as it was usually to just avoid a nasty pothole. The minutes seemed to be going by at an alarmingly slow rate, and then it happened.

Looking down the dry river bed as we crossed it, four bandits, all armed with AK47s, were casually strolling along. In my head I played out what would happen next; the bandits had seen us, taken aim and killed our driver, taking the rest of us hostage, or worse yet just killing us all before fleeing with the truck and our bags. As this thought passed I suddenly realised we were past the river and still racing along the bumpy road, nobody was dead, least of all myself, and the danger had passed.

Once through the bandit zone we pulled over, and immediately Latif jumped out and approached me with a big grin on his face, asking if I had seen the bandits. I let him know I had, but didn't let on to how worried I had been that we were all doomed. From there the remainder of the journey was as pleasurable as 500km of dirt track in the sweltering African heat can be.

Finally in Moyale, the less than charming town that straddles the Kenya-Ethiopia border, my body was greatly relieved to be out of the truck and the constant rattle of driving. More than that my mind could rest easy, other than the prospect of sharing my room with an army of cockroaches and another 600km on the road in the morning. Still I had survived the notorious bandit run and was ready to take on Ethiopia.

permalink written by  MarcusInAfrica on December 1, 2009 from Moyale, Kenya
from the travel blog: Cape to Cardiff
Send a Compliment

Hey Marcus! my friend, you don't know how special feeling I have reading my name in such awesome blog.
I hope you will have a reason in the future to do it again after your time in Spain.
See you!!

permalink written by  roberto fernandez garcia on December 3, 2009

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