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Pole to Pole

Day 86: Lake Awasa to Moyale

Moyale, Ethiopia 
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Northern Kenya - the long unwinding road.
Michael Palin - Pole to PoleWe pass a crowd of people on a bridge staring down into the gully below. A truck has plunged twenty feet and lies there on its back, wheels still spinning. An hour later on a deserted stretch among acacia scrub a pick-up truck which had earlier roared past us packed with standing figures lies flipped over on the road, its cab crushed, and two of the passengers dead.

By early afternoon the countryside has changed from the fertile valleys to a scrub-covered semi-desert. I've seen camels for the first time since the Sudan and the termite architecture is increasingly Gothic. One mound, at least fifteen feet high, is the most extraordinary feat of building I have seen since the Hypostyle Hall at Karnak.

The people are changing too. We are now in the land of the Borena, animists and gatherers. The women are very beautiful, exotically dressed in bright swirls of jade green, deep blue and lemon yellow. They smile broadly as we pass.

At 5.30 a rattling truck takes us through the last of the army checkpoints and into the town of Moyale. The barrier - a bar stretched across the road and weighted at one end with an old cylinder block - is raised and lowered by one of the boy soldiers holding a length of rope.

Moyale is divided into Ethiopian and Kenyan Moyale by a muddy stream and some sophisticated link fencing on the Kenyan side. Judging by the lights and the noise and the crowds in the street, Ethiopian Moyale is the hotter of the two spots. It has the rakish brashness and heightened energy of a frontier town. Arguments are louder here, drivers more impatient, demands more urgent. Music blares out from shops. Graceful pale-blue jacaranda trees add a little style to its streets, but really, the place is a mess.
Moyale, Ethiopia 
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Kenyan immigration.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 86
  • Country/sea: Ethiopia
  • Place: Moyale
  • Book page no: 192

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