Mombasa To Nairobi By Night

The Nairobi-Mombasa highway is the gateway to east Africa from the coastal town of Mombasa in Kenya to the hinterland past the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, onto neighboring Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi which are all land locked countries.

Today, the highway between Mombasa and Nairobi is probably the most interesting and exciting stretch of the expansive road where a traveler will witness many things including wildlife and unscrupulous traders out to make a quick buck
From the port of Mombasa right through the town to the outskirts of the city, the road is wide and smooth with plenty of palm and coconut trees on the roadside one will also realize that the sweltering heat is almost unbearable.

After the weigh bridge at Mariakani, you are now entering wild country filled with wild animals like Zebras and giraffes which are often seen grazing on the road side oblivious of the passing vehicles and heavy duty trucks that transport transit goods from the port to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi and further beyond.

The road is generally good having been recently rehabilitated and motorists usually speed due to the plains which enhance visibility and allow drivers to see several kilometers ahead
On approaching Voi, and having covered about 150 kilometers, more wildlife is evident and the variety increases as you are now near one of the many game reserves that are off the expansive highway.

Unfortunately its at this stretch where highway gangsters are active at night and are notorious for planting nails on the road to puncture tires of unsuspecting motorists who when stop are robbed off personal effects by the machete wielding thugs.

Those who attempt resisting are slashed and sometimes killed by the gangsters who are known to attack in large groups of more than ten. Security has however been beefed up by police establishing regular highway patrols but the menace is yet to be wiped out completely.

Having gone past Voi, the next big town you come to next is Mtito Andei which is very popular among travelers since the town never goes to sleep and has eateries operating 24 hours a day making it convenient for those traveling at night to stop over vriefly for a bite
Mtito, as its popularly known, also has a racy night life which attracts trackers who prefer to sleep over and continue with their journey the following day. It also borders several luxury lodges within the famed Amboseli national park nearby.

The elephant population here is quite big and those traveling at night might notice the beasts moving slowly along the road side while others could be seen grazing on the undulating plains of the game reserve.

Next stop is Kibwezi, about fifty kilometers from Mtito and the vegetation and wildlife is similar but again this is another dangerous stretch where trackers are randomly attacked by highway thugs as their big vehicles slow down along various climbing lanes that dot the stretch
From then on, you notice you are now climbing and several meters above sea level and you quickly realize that humidity levels have dropped dramatically as you approach Emali, a small town engulfed by red fertile soils and plush corn fields
The road appears to get better as you move on and another 20 kilometers ahead is Sultan Hamud where travelers are greeted by a large mosque which is on the road side along with a Sikh temple nearby that offers free meals for those who are in need for it
One will also realize that the weather gets cooler as you move on ahead and by the time you reach Salama, about 150 kilometers before the capital, Nairobi, a cool breeze is evident and probably a chill which will prompt you to go for a jacket if it is at night
By the time you get to Makutano, you have the feeling that you are nearing “civilization” as you notice plenty of lights beside the roads and modern houses dotting the plains ahead of you
Mlolongo is the last stop before the capital and also has a “fast” night life which is also convenient for long distance track drivers as they have to spend a lot of time here to have their tracks inspected and weighed at the weigh bridge prior to proceeding with their journey
From hear it takes about twenty minutes by car to reach Nairobi and one will find it hard to believe that you have covered about 500 kilometers in one of the best roads in the country.

For many, especially long distance drivers, the journey does not end hear as they have to move on to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi or even the democratic republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire which is over a thousand kilometers away.

The Hill In East Africa Where Water Flows Upwards

This could probably be the ninth wonder of the world but very few people are aware of it yet this location is probably one of the very few places on earth where the laws of gravity do not apply. Or rather they work in a strange way.

It is situated in East Africa about 150 km south of the Kenyan capital Nairobi in Machakos district along the Machakos-Mitaboni road on a 200 yards climbing lane where one is amazed at the absence of gravitational force as water flows upwards once poured on the road.

That is not all. Driving a car along the climbing stretch, you will realize that the vehicle will negotiate the climb effortlessly and even on neutral, the vehicle will manage to get to the top on its own.

This strange phenomenon has become a popular attraction with the local community from Machakos town with many of them taking the weekend off to tour the site with their families and marvel at this inexplicable and strange happening.

For one to really appreciate this strange phenomenon, you need to start at the top of the road and attempt to run downhill. You will quickly realize that you need to make a lot of effort to descend and even motorists have to accelerate hard while going downhill or the car will end up stalling in the middle of the descend if the neutral gear is engaged.

On my initial visit to the area, I could not believe the story of my guide and I had to see and feel it for myself to believe but when we left the site at the end of the day, I was more puzzled than ever and could not comprehend what had happened. I had no logical explanation for it.

My visit to various geologists and other experts on this field yielded nothing and to this day I am yet to explain why the laws of gravity do not apply on this desolate stretch of tarmac in some remote town in East Africa.

The locals have also taken advantage of this strange happening and will mill around any vehicle which stops near the location and even offer water from a nearby river for visitors to pour on the road and marvel at what transpires next.

Apparently, the locals have various versions in their attempt of trying to explain this strange phenomenon among them is the belief that there once lived a prominent leader of supernatural powers who had two wives with each living on both sides of the road in question.

Legend has is that the wives were jealous of each other and took every opportunity to outdo each other as they both strived for more attention from their husband who got tired by this and cast a spell on the road so that the women could not cross it and meet each other, as a result, the spell later affected the laws of gravity, or so the locals wuld have us believe.

Another common belief among the locals is that the road probably lies at the center of the earth where the gravitational rule does not apply while others believe that the area has a large magnet underground which gives the laws of gravity the opposite effect. But if this is true, where did the magnet come from?

Among others, it is believed that there are vast amounts of mineral deposits of unknown nature and are affecting the rules of gravity hence the strange phenomenon that has puzzled thousands of residents from the nearby tranquil town of Machakos where hardly anything else seems to happen.

About a decade ago, geologists from the Kenyan government’s ministry of environment and natural resources visited the area and carried out extensive research including taking rock samples but nothing was ever heard of their findings – if any – and the matter was never discussed officially again.

It seems that the government also does not have a logical explanation for this and decided to sweep the matter under the carpet instead of seeking foreign experts to assist in finding an explanation for this most strange phenomenon that could easily be the ninth wonder of the world after the recently named eighth wonder which is the annual wilder beast migration from the world renowned Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya to the Serengeti national park in Tanzania where thousands of animals make the perilous journey across the crocodile infested Mara river.

Apparently, not even local investors have bothered to move into the area and provide amenities for the various visitors who tour the area every year and maybe because not many people know of its existence and those who hear of it are just like me, they have to see it first to believe.

Riding the Ghan in Australia

By Simon Woodhouse

If you want to get somewhere quickly, you fly. Flying, however, can be a very impersonal form of travel. You get on the plane, it takes off, you’re up in the air for a while and then you land again. You might glance out the window every now and then, but the most you’ll get is a very high flying birds eye view of patchy bits of scenery. And more often than not all you’ll see is clouds. If travel is about experiencing the sights and sounds of going from point A to point B, them doing so by plane doesn’t fit the bill.

If you want to take in the world you’re travelling through, going by train has got to be a good bet. And if the route you’re going to take passes through some really spectacular landscapes, the experience will be unforgettable.

The Ghan is a stretch of railway that runs from Adelaide on Australia’s south coast, all the way through the interior of the country, right up to Darwin in the north. It takes its name from the Afghan cameleers who used to travel through the Australian desert, and opened up much of the country’s interior. The route covers a distance of 2980 km, and takes around two days to complete by train. Historically, the Ghan had been planned for a long time, but it only started taking passengers all the way from Adelaide to Darwin in early 2004.

For a rail journey as long as this, the trains offer more than just the standard seat by the window. At the top end of the scale is the Golden Kangaroo service (terrible name, but this is Australia). If you choose this option you’ll have access to a cabin that doubles as a day lounge and single or double sleeping area. These cabins have attendant service as well as ensuite facilities. There’s also a bar lounge. Red Kangaroo class is slightly less elegant, but cabins are available or at the very least there’s day/night recliner seats.

Tickets on the Ghan have a sensible sixty day usage policy. This means that once you start your journey you have up to sixty days before the ticket expires. Why is this a good idea? Well, the Ghan goes past some of central Australia’s most well known landmarks, many of which are worth a few days away from the train to explore. The train passes through Alice Springs, the town located at the very centre of Australia. This fact alone might not seem like a reason to stop there, but the town also acts as a gateway to Uluru (Ayers Rock), surely one of Australia’s most well known landmarks. Many tour operators offer the chance to travel from Alice Springs to Uluru, and watch the sunrise on the rock. If you don’t want to go as far as the rock, the MacDonnell Ranges are closer to town and offer plenty of rugged, evocative scenery.

After Alice Springs, the train stops in Katherine. Even on the standard journey, you pause here for four hours. Also referred to as the Crossroads of the North, Katherine itself only has a population of 11,000. But not far from the town is the Katherine Gorge. Because you’re probably taking the train to enjoy the splendid scenery of the Northern Territory, the gorge offers plenty of this, so really is worth a visit. Though it’s called Katherine Gorge, it’s actually made up of thirteen smaller gorges. There are also patches of rain forest, as well as steep escarpments and rocky cliffs.

Katherine is the last stop before Darwin. After the dry, arid desert scenery of central Australia, the tropical rain forest on the northern coast comes as a welcome change. This is the end of the line as far as the Ghan is concerned, and you’ll probably want to spend at least a couple of days in Darwin before you make the return trip to Adelaide. The city makes a great base for exploring the many national parks in the immediate locale. Chief amongst these is the Kakadu, an area that can easily swallow up two or three days. Darwin, though not a huge place (population 110,000), has everything you’d want in a holiday destination – beaches, restaurants, markets and even an open-air cinema. If you don’t want to ride the Ghan back to Adelaide, Darwin’s airport offers connections to all the major Australian cities, as well as an international service.

Long train journeys, no matter where in the world they take place, always leave an impression. There’s something about watching the scenery go by, whilst neither having to worry about driving, or being crammed into a plane, that’s both relaxing and enthralling. The Ghan is no exception to this rule, and as far as great train journeys of the world are concerned, it’s one of the best.

Frankfort: The Unknown City of Kentucky

If most people were asked to name cities in Kentucky, they would be hard-pressed to come up with anything beyond Louisville and Lexington among the sports fans. The capital of Kentucky is neither of those cities, however; it is Frankfort. As state (or commonwealth, which is the official designation of Kentucky) capitals go, Frankfort is not very large. It has only about 30,000 people spread over the 14 square miles that make up Franklin County. The town actually is sort of the opposite of a suburb. People drive in from Lexington and Louisville to work for the government but then head back home for entertainment and family life.

Frankfort does have much to offer visitors, however, and the city could do more to promote tourism. The biggest distillery in Frankfort is Buffalo Trace Distillery. For people who do not know, Kentucky is the home of bourbon. Real Kentuckians consider bourbon made anywhere else a sort of imposter. Kentucky bourbon is a source of pride and is a great boon to the economy as well. One can tour Buffalo Trace to see how the liquor is made, and taste-testing is available for people who are of age.

Once you have left Buffalo Trace and have your taste of bourbon, you should head over to the Rebecca-Ruth Candy Factory. Though it is tough to get into the candy factory now as tours are scarce, you can shop in the bourbon candy shop. Most of the candies in the shop are made with bourbon and have the sweet taste of it in them. Do not worry parents; the bourbon itself evaporates in the process. There are candies that are bourbon-free as well as the Rebecca-Ruth company has experimented with other types of candy as well, including white chocolates and sugar-free options.

Next on your stop in Frankfort should be for lunch at Jim’s Seafood or Glen Willis. Both restaurants sit on the Kentucky River, which is small as rivers go but very nice indeed. Jim’s is situated in what was a hemp factory in the nineteenth century. The people there planted marijuana, which is used to cultivate hemp, on the hill beside the factory and harvested it to make rope and other products.

You can sit at your window-side seat and look out over the river. You can see the lock for the river on the other side. A lock is used to stop water that has been diverted. It allows the water levels to rise so that boats can pass through. Though the river has little traffic today, it once was a place where ships traveled to take goods to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The lockmaster lived in a house just along the river, and that house still stands today, though it is very modest by contemporary standards.

Glen Willis is a restaurant in a beautiful home that has been restored. The Victorian-era home has rooms for guests to eat as well as a gift shop. On very nice days, you even have the option of eating on the veranda, which is only feet from the river and settled under beautiful trees.

The area across from Glen Willis and Jim’s Seafood also has interesting historic significance, and if you want to walk off some of your lunchtime fare, then you can head over. There is a building that once was a general store, a school, and other homes. They are in their original condition and are unoccupied right now, though the yard and road are well kept.

In addition to these attractions, Frankfort is home to a number of museums, including the Kentucky Military History Museum and the Capital City Museum, which traces the inhabitants of Kentucky from historic times to the present. The city cemetery also has the remains of Daniel Boone, who is a favorite son of the commonwealth. Kentuckians claim that Boone has the best view of the city, and it is true. You can look out over the entire city if you visit the grave. Boone can see the river, the capital and other government buildings, and the new commercial districts on the west side of town. So the next time you are thinking of somewhere to go, head to Frankfort to visit Boone and his people.