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Kenya

The prelude to Otto’s long journey

date of entry 19/12/1988
mileage 7,115

capital Nairobi

area 580.367 km²

population 38.610.097

GDP 41.117 M. US-Dollar

official language Swahili/English

The East African country was the starting point for Otto’s great journey: Gunther Holtorf sent the new vehicle he had just purchased, as yet unmodified, by aeroplane to Mombasa at the end of 1988. The Lufthansa cargo plane was empty and on an assignment to collect carnations for the Christmas shopping season. Otto was allowed to join the flight for a modest contribution. In Kenya Gunther Holtorf intended to explore Africa with his third wife. After a short period, however, their relationship started to break down and they both flew back to Germany in the spring and divorced. But that had nothing to do with the Kenya to which Gunther Holtorf returned with pleasure time and again with his fourth wife Christine. The country continually offered fantastic opportunities for observing wildlife. However, as the years went by, it became more and more difficult and dangerous to travel in Kenya.
  • The Samburu are a nomadic tribe and live in the desert regions of northern Kenya. The Holtorfs visited the region several times.
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  • Red earth, blue skies and savannah grasslands are typical of Kenya. Here Otto is travelling in the direction of the border with Somalia.
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  • The infrastructure is often rudimentary and still dates back in places to the period of British colonial rule.
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  • Umbrella thorn acacias offer protection against the sun on the journey across open country.
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  • The Holtorfs experienced the wildlife of East Africa close up in Kenya. Here a thieving baboon searches through the cargo on Otto’s roof.
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  • The travellers stocked up on fresh produce at small village markets every day so that they could then cook for themselves in the evening.
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  • Water is scarce in northern Kenya and many places have to be supplied by tanker. In even more remote parts of the country the Holtorfs shared their supplies with locals. Here Christine Holtorf pours out drinking water.
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  • This "Transafrican Highway" never materialised: the plans for a continuous highway from Kenya to the Nigerian capital Lagos proved to be wishful thinking on the part of the governments of the time. "Schwarting" was, incidentally, the name of the Mercedes dealership in Oldenburg where Gunther Holtorf bought Otto.
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  • South of North Horr, Otto stands on a vast plain of mud: the surface is already dry, but it can only support the vehicle on the edge. A few hundred metres further and the vehicle would have sunk in. The only option was to return along the same trail.
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  • Gunther Holtorf searches from Otto’s roof for the track: it was so overgrown that it was impossible to make out.
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  • Millions of pink-coloured flamingos along the shallow shores of Lake Nakuru in central Kenya. The pink ribbon winds around the whole lake.
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  • The delicate birds search for food in the shallow waters. In the alkaline soda lake they find the particular blue-green algae and small crustaceans that give them their pink colour.
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  • Large animals were frequently encountered in Kenya: rhinoceroses, ...
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  • ... antelope, ...
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  • ... herds of wildebeest ...
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  • ... and, of course, lions.
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  • When it had rained the red earth often turned into a thick sludge. Gunther Holtorf gained his first experience of what freeing his Otto from the mud was like. He also had his first puncture of the tour here and had to change the wheel in an area frequented by many lions.
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  • Otto often managed to progress along the tracks of finely ground dirt left by other vehicles only at full throttle – churning up a lot of the powdery material in the process.
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  • Ball-shaped reed huts on Lake Turkana, formerly known as Lake Rudolf, in the north of the country on the border with South Sudan.
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  • The inhabitants were happy to receive the unusual visit from Otto. Whereas the younger generation wore Western clothing, ...
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  • ...the grandparents of the family were still dressed in traditional woven cloth.
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  • Massai warriors in their traditional red robes and with their long spears.
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  • The Massai people are probably the most well-known tribe of East Africa and live over an area that spans Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
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  • Video: Kenya – the start of Otto’s journey