It was well after 2pm when we left Makeni. We initially travelled over tarmac road again but on the edge of the town we turned off, across the new railway and onto a wide dirt road. And now came the real test. Not only was the road rough , in places boggy, in others rocky and bumpy, but it was interminably longer than you thought. Every time I looked at the map and though we were making progress I would be sorely disappointed.
The slow progress did mean I noticed a lot of detail. As we progressed northwards the vegetation got thicker and more scrubby, and we had risen up onto a low plateau. The road passed through the middle of a string of villages – most of them similar in construction. Their centres had quite substantial houses made of concrete or at least locally made bricks. Although they were often dilapidated and covered in mould, moss and lichens from years of long wet seasons, you could see they were comparatively of high status. Surrounding these were more modest local brick houses. One thing I noticed here which I could not remember from trip in East or Southern Africa were washing poles. Whereas elsewhere people peg out the laundry on lines or lay it across bushes or on the floor, the majority of these houses had thick poles, maybe 20cm across, held in place by two more forked poles, where clothes were wrapped around. To me it seemed like a very inefficient way to dry clothes – my experience has always been the minimum amount of cloth touching anything else is best to help lower the humidity, but maybe in the dry season the heat generated out of the wood would help to toast the clothes very quickly. In the current cusp of the rainy season it seemed like they were more useful as washing poles than drying ones.