MOHAMMED

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I pick up my motorbike at the Mokowe police station on the main land and retrieve my motorcycle cases. They were safely stored in the ammunition chamber of the police station. The same officer is sitting on the same spot in the shade of an acacia tree. He reassures me that nobody touched my bike.

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Lamu – Garsen road, one of the favorite playgrounds of Somali Jihadis

Kermit (nickname of the motorbike) is covered in a thick layer of dust. I grease my chain and give a small Kenyan shilling as a thank you note to the officer in charge (is this bribing or tipping?). On the road to Garsen I pick up a tall pastoralist. It takes a few minutes before I can explain that my services are completely free of charge. Finally I can convince him and he jumps on the bike with his special cargo, a goat.

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Mohammeds goat, unaware of his final destination

In the end I’m able to retrieve some information from my passenger in a rather unconventional way. Every two kilometres we pass a military checkpoint. I use the officers in charge to ask my passenger some vital questions. As we approach Garsen I can add a new piece of information. I find out that my passengers name is Mohammed, aged 37 and his destination is the goat market of Garsen town. I feel how the goat is fighting Mohammed’s firm grip every time we hit a bump in the road. I never got to know the name of the goat, If she even had one. One thing is sure, Mohammed wasn’t bringing her to a petting zoo to have a long and happy life. I drop Mohammed at the Garsen goat market and make my way up north to Garissa.

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the “tarmac” road to Garissa

Stating that the road to Garissa is horrible would be a serious understatement. Crossing Southern and Eastern Africa by motorbike, I had my fair share of awful roads but the Garsen-Garissa one is another category. They warned me about it in Lamu, but I felt confident. It took me 6 hours to cover this 250 km road. The worst part starts when I pass a big sign, saying “Road Closed”.

My map doesn’t really indicate any alternatives so I continue. The potholes are sometimes one metre deep and they run across the whole road. The heat in my helmet gets me delirious and I become all philosophical; wondering if it’s still a tarmac road if the potholes cover more space than the tarmac parts. There is no living soul on the road, which is very rare in Africa and makes me a bit suspicious.

Afterwards it seems that there must have been an alternative dirt road a few kilometres to the north. Al-shabab, the Somali terrorist organisation that’s quite active in this region,  doesn’t even cross my mind cause it takes all my concentration to keep the bike straight.

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just before Garissa the road turn back to normal
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I’m lucky to find a petrol station, just in time…

I reach Garissa just before nightfall. It was not my intention to stay in this city. It’s close to the Somali border and it’s still seen as unsafe because of a terrorist attack on the university about a year ago. I decide to stay at a Muslim hotel, no beer available but it’s the least likely place to be targeted by any terrorist in this town.


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