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Pole to Pole

Day 89: Shaba to Nairobi

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleIsiolo is a place of mixed blessings. Roads from predominantly Moslem Somalia and predominantly Christian Ethiopia converge here, on the northern edge of the prosperous colonial heartland around Mount Kenya. A fine mosque, with delicate filigree work around the windows and a cluster of beautiful domed alcoves atop the minarets, shares the main street with a branch of Barclays Bank, video stores, one-room hotels and churches of the Seventh-Day Adventists and many others of the 140 religious sects alive and well in Kenya. The roadside salesmen are hard and aggressive, but at least the going is softer, with the road metalled again after 320 miles of dirt-track.

Lying between here and Nairobi, and forcing a long detour to east or west, is the soaring bulk of the Mount Kenya massif. The highest of its ragged peaks, Batian, rises to 17,000 feet. It is the second highest point in Africa, after Kilimanjaro, and was first climbed by a Westerner, Sir Halford Mackinder, in the last year of the nineteenth century. Even from the hot plain beyond Isiolo one can make out the glaciers and ice-fields at its summit, which ensure that there is always snow at the Equator.

As the road climbs, I can see that Wendy was right - a helmet of cloud is beginning to form around the top of the mountain and may well have concealed it altogether by the time we are close enough to film.

The scenery has once more undergone an amazing transformation. We could be in the American Rockies, with the towering crags of Mount Kenya on one side and rolling prairie on the other.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 89
  • Country/sea: Kenya
  • Place: Shaba
  • Book page no: 201

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