Praise the Lord that the car is finally here from Nairobi having been driven about 5000 kms. from Durban, South Africa. It took a week longer than expected which I suppose is quite good for Africa! Our patience was tested as we sometimes felt that rules were being made up on the spot – the truth is that very few people know all that is required. Let me relate what took place so that you can get some idea of what conditions are like in southern Africa.
Buying the car. Of course I had only seen the car on the internet. On arrival in Durban the owner kindly picked me up and let me drive the car to where I was staying, more than 50 kms. north of Durban (Waterfall). My patience was first tested when the money sent from the States to pay for the car delayed. It was a week after arriving that I was able to take possession of the car. During that time I had very encouraging fellowship with my hosts, the Afrikaans Pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church, and learned a lot about South Africa and the Afrikaaners, and attended the Church on Sunday.
Getting the car ready for export from South Africa. Now just drive the car to Nairobi as it is mine! How wrong I was. First we had to take the next day to go back to the seller to get an invoice and an affidavit of sale. We had applied online for an export document and were ready to travel up to Pretoria and receive it by email. That very evening we found there was another absolutely necessary document, only attainable in Durban, from a Company the Kenyan Government has authorized to check on the vehicle. So the next day we were in Durban, obtained the one document, but were told we needed another one from Customs. Friday evening we did start the drive, and stayed the night in Pietmarizburg. We spent the weekend with the Pastor of Lynwood Baptist Church in Pretoria, and I was invited to preach in the morning service. We received the necessary document on Monday morning and proceeded north to the Zimbabwe border, because we had been advised this is the best way out. There we were told that another document was absolutely necessary, one we had been told elsewhere did not apply for us. So we waited another 2 days. All these requirements are here because of large-scale car racketeering.
South Africa. Compared to Kenya the area we travelled from Durban to the northern border through Johannesburg is rich and well developed. The Government is building housing areas for the general population, although we did see some shanty towns.
The roads were very good and we hardly saw an incident of bad driving. We were amazed to see lorries pull off to the side of the road to enable us to pass! Here in Kenya lorries often overtake and force us off the road! However the allowable speed (all the way through Zambia is 120kph/75mph) and we saw many overturned vehicles. The country has a bad reputation for crime and there is so much security. I was pleasantly surprised on the night bus from J’burg to Durban that we were lead in a good prayer over the intercom and I found everyone very friendly.
(Zimbabwe.) While waiting at the border at Beit Bridge (Musina) we talked to a Clearing Agent on the Zimbabwe side. “It is impossible to drive the car through Zim. You have to get it transported on a bonded lorry through the country at the cost of $3,000!” This is because many say they are driving the car through, only to sell the car in Harare and make a huge profit (by not paying duty?). So we decided to change and exit through the Botswana border at Grobler’s Bridge (over the Limpopo River). This added a few hundred kilometres to our journey.
Botswana. After all this waiting it was a joy to arrive in Botswana with no problem. We did not see much as we arrived as it got dark and we were at the northern border at 7 a.m. having driven through the night. It is a large country with a very small population and basically one main road south to north. We really appreciated the ‘cats’ eyes’ so liberally adorning the road for night driving. There were many signs ‘Beware of elephants’ but we never saw any.
Zambia. We had to cross the Zambezi on a ferry. Don’t think this is remote for there was a long line of lorries. Zambia is a land-locked country and relies on both Durban (South Africa) or Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania) as its port of importation. The immigration and customs formalities into Zambia were chaotic. As a result there are so many people offering ‘to help’ – changing money into the Kwacha or Dollars that are needed, being an agent to take you through the process, selling you the little plastic reflectors that are a must if not to be stopped by the police. I had to pay for a visa, 3rd. party insurance, road toll, Council tax, temporary import permit, and even a carbon tax. And all this just to take the car through the country! We had the privilege of getting some hours in bed in Lusaka before leaving at 6 a.m. in order to drive the 1,000 kms. to the border with Tanzania which we knew would close at 5 p.m. Zambian time (6 p.m. Tanzanian time). We were the last car through.
Tanzania. The border post was similarly chaotic, and especially as it was raining. We had to drive very slowly through fog around Mbeya and then got 3 hours if rest in the car at Iringa parked in a petrol station. We had decided to take the direct route through central Tanzania, through the inland capital of Dodoma having been assured that there was a good tarmac road all the way from Dodoma to the Kenyan border. The Chinese are building a new road from Iringa to Dodoma but it was slow going on the dirt road. From Dodoma north the same but nothing new being constructed. So it was a gruelling day’s travel on bad roads, a good test of the car, and it was clear we would not get to the Kenyan border in time so we stopped in Arusha. We had begun to realize that we would not be able to take the car as an import into Kenya without first paying the customs duty. So we decided that I should take public transport to the border with Tanzania (Namanga), cross by foot, and hope to get on my way to Nairobi and pay the duty on Monday while Kiarie remained with the car in Tanzania.
Kenya. I got to Namanga about 10 p.m. to find there would be nothing until the early morning, so I camped at the police station and had a very interesting time talking with the officers on duty. Finally I was able to leave at 4.30 a.m. and through sleeping I do not remember the rest of the journey until arriving in Nairobi 2 hours later. It was Sunday and I had a joyful time with my brethren surprised that I was not overcome by sleep. We got the duty paid and the insurance sticker we must display on the windscreen and the car finally was driven in last Wednesday.
We are so thankful to those of you who helped us to make this purchase. It is ideally suited to the road conditions in Northern Kenya and we trust it will give reliable service in years to come. I will be going on my first safari early next week, to Pokot North.
In Christ’s service,