Sunday, October 31, 2010

North Eastern Travels

I recently got the chance to travel beyond Garissa on a job field trip, and got to see a different side of the world. We drove all the way down to Garsen, along the Somali border towns (border like 20 km away for security reasons) and up all the way to Wajir and Garba Tulla for a week, G4S security escort with armed APs ;-) in tow.

Some interesting tit bits about this side of Kenya:
- We arrived just before 6 p.m. only to find a curfew in place due to clan fighting. Not exactly the welcome we were waiting to hear, and we had to search for a hotel room at record pace.
- Garissa is a larger version of Eastleigh, main mode of transport is Toyota DX, Fielder, Probox and Caldina. Useful models for transporting all sorts of things...
- Popular dish of rice, spaghetti and nyama in the down to earth local joints. Was spectacular watching one of the wariahs tackle it kwa mkono, mad skills kama mluhya na ugali!!!!
- Tarmac exists significantly around the main town centre, but there is where it ends. However, there are some road construction projects by NYS (remember the donated Chinese equipment) along the Bura - Garsen road and by the army towards Hulugho.
- Wajir is much smaller but seems to have major strategic importance for some superpower. I recall approaching the airport and it has a fully solid gate (can't see inside) and soldiers with gun detecting equipment (remember some trial in Nairobi) pointing their gadgets at us. Wonder why they can't get one of those for JKIA...
- Still wonder how Garba Tulla was ever ranked as a National School!!! I saw the town and it is so run down. Guess moving the district headquarters to Isiolo town was the death knell for this place.
- Got my first desert experience. So this is how Courage the cowardly dog feels in the middle of nowhere!!!

- Network coverage is scanty for YU and non-existent for Orange beyond Garissa town.
- Despite all this, aspects of rural development can be seen especially from CDF. Revival of TARDA irrigation schemes at Hola and Garsen is quite impressive, as well as rural electrification projects. And some army built suspension bridges are a spectacular sight. Water tanks for the settlements seem to be the most important aspect, as sorry sights of women and children with jerricans begging road users for water were quite frequent.
- Got to see the refugee camps in Hargaderra, Ifo and Dagahaley. NGOs have set up strong bases in these areas, and it was interesting to see local nissan mathrees with Somali number plates.
- Any talk of sending chiefs home should be silenced until counties can set up grassroot administration systems. Clearly rural Kenya is far from accessing basic government services without the provincial administration. And insecurity in that volatile area is more emphasized by that. As for Somalia, only peace will help sort out the refugee situation that has overwhelmed Kenya.

All in all, was a very eye opening trip. Basic needs like water and electricity should never be taken for granted. Guess governors for this side of Kenya will have a great opportunity to lift standards of living in the short term.

PS: On a lighter note, got to check out the famous place along the Machakos - Kangundo road (Lat 1.4263 deg South, Long 37.2401 deg East) that defies gravity. While I'm sure some technical explanation like spartial dispersion might explain it, was the most surreal feeling putting the Patrol on free at the bottom of a hill and it went up hill for like 15 feet!!!

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At 10/31/2010 10:05 pm , Blogger Steve Finnell said...

you are invited to follow my blog

At 11/01/2010 2:23 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some FYI on anti gravity hills in other places

Interesting to watch though.

At 11/01/2010 9:21 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

well detailed...

At 11/09/2010 6:19 pm , Blogger mwasjd said...

Thanks for the invite.

Thanks for the link. Clearly spatial dispersion is a real explanation. But the feeling can't be explained...

I try :-)

At 12/09/2010 10:05 am , Blogger Shee said...

I cant get enough of this post.. Reading on...

At 3/03/2011 1:14 pm , Blogger mwasjd said...



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