Zero Violence254 Recce Highlights
How impossible is the Zero Violence254 Walk?
Only one way to find out.
Conduct a recce!
And it was a sobering eye opener.
Close to a month ago, John Burke Baidoo, together with three colleagues drove off from Meru in the center of Kenya to Kwale, a quiet distant coastal town in Kenya’s deep south, to map out the 1,500 km course for the Zero Violence 254 Walk.
Just how impossible would this 1,500 km adventure be?
To find out, John roped in two event managers and Victor Siyaelel, a talented video producer to take videos and shoot footage of the recce, and set sail for Kwale.
Phase 1: Kwale, The Starting Point For The Zero Violence254 Walk
Kwale lies 381 km from Nairobi and 640 km from Meru.
The purpose of the drive was to map out the recce for the upcoming Zero Violence254 Walk that will be launched on the 15 of March 2017.
When you plan for any feat of whatever magnitude, hundreds of questions flood your mind.
Will I make it?
Is this really possible?
These are the kind of questions that John was thinking as he drove from Meru to Nairobi and down to Kwale in Kilfi district.
The animated charter that characterize the beginning of the trip soon dwindled into occasional banter eventually silence as the extent of the drive became evident.
The drive from Meru to Nairobi usually takes five hours.
Nairobi to Mombasa is another 8 hour drive by road, with stopovers at Mtito Andei and Voi. From Mombasa, you head south to Kwale, another 30 km distance that would take you at least two hours thanks to the rough jagged road.
Kwale is a county in the former Coast province in Kenya.
Its capital is Kwale, although Ukunda is the largest town.
It’s mainly an inland county, but it has a coastline south of Mombasa. Diani beach is part of the Msambweni division.
John chose this as the starting point the Zero Violence 254 Walk because it happened to be one of the hardest hit areas of post-election violence a number of years ago..
The team arrived in Kwale at midnight, hungry, tired and in need of a good night of sleep.
They were not prepared for their welcome.
There was a seeming lack of good hotels in Kwale, at least not to the standard of Nairobi and Meru hotels.
There were no restaurants open either.
They hadn’t eaten all day and this was not a promising sight at all.
First Impressions Of Kwale
Their hope of finding good lodging dwindled by the minute as one by one, they were met by ‘Closed’ signs at the front entrances of some motels. As the clock inched towards 1 am, they eventually found a small lodging.
At this point, they had no option but to settle for this motel.
They walked to the reception, received their room keys and walked to their rooms, their eyes expectant at the anticipation of a good night of sleep.
Not for long.
As they opened the door and entered the rooms, they soon realized this was going to be one long night.
The bedsheets were dirty, the room infested with mosquitoes.
There was no running water. Upon lifting the bedsheets, you could visibly make out the lively bedbugs.
The restaurant was closed so there was no chance of getting food. Eventually the hotel assistants brought water in buckets, to the rooms.
It was hard, it couldn’t lather at all; so all the sweat and grime of the journey remained their overnight companion.
The only consolation was that the team was not here in search of a luxurious holiday, so they bore their luck through the night and awoke the next day ready to get business of the day done.
In the morning, it seemed that the hotel management got wind of their guests discomfort during the night, because they brought water for showering.
It must have been water straight from the sea as it didn’t look at all clean.
That made showering an exercise in futility.
They quickly checked out of the hotel.
Was it possible for this recce to begin ever so badly?
1st Day Recce In Kwale
The day’s program had been arranged in advance.
The team would meet with the Country Commissioner in the morning, visit the Police headquarters later in the day, and in between meetings, map out the distance and scheduled pit stops on the way to Mombasa.
Thankfully, John had a 4-Wheel Drive to drive him quickly from one spot to another.
The county commissioner was the bright star of the morning.
As John and his crew sat down with him, they soon realized that this was indeed the right place to begin the walk.
Kwale Seriously affected By Post-Election Violence
You see Kwale had been severely affected by post-election violence, and in many respects never quite recovered from the aftermath.
There was abject poverty, lack of adequate sanitation, loss of employment and a poor economy. Most of the workers would head northwards to Mombasa to find meaningful employment.
More importantly, you could see abandoned homesteads and shelters as you drove slowly through the region.
The County Commissioner brought all this to light, with an comprehensive overview of the current and accurate statistics on the impact of domestic violence on the community.
He promised to give John the support he needed to undertake the walk.
After that fruitful meeting, John and the team visited the Police Commanders as well as a few people in County Government.
Now it was time to mark the route.
John realized that the source of supplies and a resting place would ultimately determine the length to be covered every day.
It turned out that after every 35 km, you could buy supplies and find a good place to sleep.
If you are familiar with Kenyan roads, you know that there are long stretches of road snaking through uninhabited land.
That was certainly the case for every 40 km along the recce.
John had spent the past 2 months in serious training at home in Meru so he was well aware of the need for consistent and determined walking though these tough lonely stretches.
Phase 2: Mombasa To Mtito Andei
Mombasa weather resembles Accra weather. Accra is John’s home city and so the temperatures, although hot, were perfect for John. Not so for his event organizing team.
Two of them had accompanied John on this recce.
After one day of scouting the route and seeing the grim reality of what they would be up against, they opted to pull out.
The team hadn’t even made it out of Kwale. What would happen when they got to Mombasa?
John wouldn’t be deterred. By the end of the day, he had acquired the necessary permits and licenses to conduct the walk.
As John approached Mombasa, his thoughts quickly turned to the feasibility of actually accomplishing this walk.
They had just finished the Kwale route.
Two members of his event team opted to drop out. And they had only marked out a 32 km stretch.
There was another 1470 km to mark out.
This is a crazy adventure…
Lack of Supplies And Resting Places
John realized that the toughest part of this adventure would be dealing with a lack of supplies and decent resting places along the way.
For example, outside of Voi you are met with a long punishing long winding 80 km road stretch through open national parks.
How would he walk through a region famous for the man-eaters of Tsavo?
Setting Sail For Mombasa
The following day, John and Victor his video man, set out from Mombasa for Nairobi.
They noted that here were three unpredictable stretches along the Mombasa-Nairobi road.
First, the section from Makutano to Voi, the second section from Voi to Mtito Andei and the third section from Voi to Sultan Hamud.
Each of these sections is characterized by lonely long 110 km + sections without any human settlements in sight.
Even more solemnly, the road knifes through the Tsavo East and West National Parks.
Wild animals like elephants, lions, giraffes, antelopes and buffalo normally stroll across the road.
If John would to attempt these sections he would need adequate security and protection.
From Sultan Hamud, you gradually see an increase of local market centers that makes the walk manageable.
As John penned down the calculations and observed the weather conditions of the area, he quickly formed a plan in his mind on how to conquer these sections.
From Sultan Hamud, the walk gradually becomes easier as the country flattens out and the increase in market centers makes rest, food and recuperation resources readily available.
It’s probably when you walk along this route that you realize why and how the early settlers came to name Nairobi.
Nairobi, in the Maasai language, means ‘cool waters.’
They named it so, because of the cool temperatures, supply of adequate water and the flat land expanse.
Phase 3: Nairobi To Isiolo
Arriving in Nairobi, it was time to mark out the northern most route.
This route would take John along the main Thika superhighway out of Nairobi to Thika, then Makuyu, then Tana River before inching up to Makutano and Mwea areas. Mwea is famous for tropical green flat land and grows 45% of Kenyan’s rice produce.
From Mwea, you head northwards to Karatina, circling Mount Kenya on the west on your way to Sagana in Nyeri County.
The land sharply rises as you approach Karatina, evident with the sharp change of climate and beautiful mountain scenes.
At that point, the team would need to walk onwards to Chaka that sits westwards of Mount Kenya before arriving in Nanyuki. Nanyuki is famous for a rapidly growing expatriate population.
The capital of Laikipia County, Nanyuki is semi desert, characterized by hot temperatures in the 28-34 degree region.
Ten minutes outside of Nanyuki and you enter Meru County and a change of landscape proves that you are walking up the foot of Mount Kenya.
As you climb up Mount Kenya, the vegetation quickly changes to the most beautiful serene flower plantations in the country.
Mount Kenya is now at your right hand side, with a clear view of the sharp, jagged peaks.
You notice the rolling expanse of wheat plantations as you climb up to 2,500 meters above sea level.
On your right hand side, you can almost touch the icy peaks before you enter Timau town in Meru county.
At this point you are circling the northern-most tip of Mount Kenya and descending a sharp 1,800 meters in altitude to the Isiolo junction.
This is where John will turn northwards and begin entering desert country to Isiolo.
Phase 4: Isiolo To Moyale
Isiolo is a small bubbling commercial center currently facing drought.
The landscape is a shocking contrast to the plush yellow-green fields of Mount Kenya.
Desert country has officially begun.
20 minutes outside Isiolo on the main road and you enter the Samburu Game Reserve.
It’s another 60-minute walk by foot through the Samburu game reserve to Archer’s Post.
Ahead of Archer’s Post is the grim blistering hot road to Marsabit.
At times when you look at the road past Archer’s Post, it looks like its boiling under the severe onslaught of extreme temperatures.
Thankfully the main road from Isiolo to Marsabit and Moyale has improved.
By road, you are assured of a comfortable drive.
By foot, however, you are assured of hot temperatures, desert, lack of market centers and billowing winds.
John and Victor eventually made it to the northern border town of Moyale bordering Ethiopia to the north.
Moyale is a parody of sorts.
It’s smaller than Isiolo, with a predominantly Muslim population. Yet you hardly notice anyone.
John noticed that it was eeringly empty.
There were hardly any people in the streets.
This was unusual for 11 am in the morning. If this was due to the hot temperatures or not, you can’t tell.
The few cars that roamed the empty streets were mostly matatus. Almost all the shops at noon were closed.
All you had was a bleak flow of motorbikes to and from Moyale.
This is where the grueling 1500km Zero Violence walk will end.
Ultimately, John expects to have raised 15 million shillings by the time his foot touches Moyale country.
Over the 60 days, John will have walked through 16 counties, 5 glaringly different climate zones and through 21 towns, all in a quest to spread awareness about the Protection Against Domestic Violence Act and agitating for a Zero Violence Nation as we approach the General Election.
He will have tested his body beyond the limits of human endurance for the sake of peace.
If there is one act that will heal past wounds of domestic and electoral violence while diffusing any prevailing ethnic tensions, this is it. The Zero Violence254 walk.
It’s the impossible Kwale to Moyale recce made possible.
Support John and continue this amazing quest for Zero Violence in Kenya.