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camels on route moyale-marsabit-kenya

Hitchhiking Northern Kenya by Truck (Moyale to Marsabit)

It was a journey I was NOT looking forward too. Why? Well the first time it was a real adventure back in 1994.

But now in 2013 …

Villages near Ethiopian border of Moyale in Northern Kenya (but many were abandoned).

Repeating this route – there’s no choice because of the lack of other viable border crossings – traveling across remote northern Kenya, from the Ethiopian border at Moyale to Marsabit and then onto Isiolo, was a rough journey of 500+km that I knew, would not be easy nor fast.

The most blissful part of the day … MP3 player in ear; sitting on truck, dust blowing a storm behind, hot-ish but cooled by the breeze of movement, under big skies …

Back then in 1994 I recall it being hot, dusty. Riding for days on top of bouncing cargo trucks; the only public transportation.

Stopped for lunch at one of the few settlements along the route to Marsabit in North Kenya.

And adding to the drama, was the threat of Shiftas – Somali bandits attacking vehicles.

But the same journey (going north to south; last time it was the opposite direction) in 2013 is not as arduous or as dangerous as yesteryear. (Although on the bus from Marsabit to Isiolo we had number of soldiers as an escort as inter-tribal warfare in the north has been threatening this route).

Women with caravans of donkeys going to collect water from a pump station in Northern Kenya desert.

Now, it’s just one day to Marsabit – by truck is the most likely transport but a daily battered-bus also crashes along the still rutted dirt track.

Samburu woman on route to Isiolo. RIGHT: pics from the journey in 1994. On truck + hiking amid the highlands of Marsabit (when there was rain; now, a drought for some years has turned the area brown).

I arrived too late to get the bus to Marsabit.

And so by 9 AM, I was again on top of a truck for the journey.

Chinese road construction teams will eventually seal the entire route – but at the moment only tiny sections are completed. Meantime we drive alongside recently-graded gravel section.

Now the Chinese have resurfaced about half the distance, so these days a few buses service the route.

camels on route moyale-marsabit-kenya
Camels across road – towards the distant highlands of Marsabit in northern Kenya.

In 1994, it was a crazy adventure riding trucks from Isiolo to Moyale last time (that story will emerge eventually within an e-book).

But this trip in 2013 was without drama and straight-forward, if still a bit long and uncomfortable.

Approaching the highlands of Marsabit – but we wouldn’t arrive until well after nightfall.

TRAVEL ADVICE – Traveling Moyale to Marsabit.


While things have changed since my journeys of 1994 & 2013, some probably have not.

If you want to leave early – the best option, as it will be a long journey – stay at a hotel in the Kenyan side of Moyale overnight. I stayed in Ethiopian Moyale and by the time you walk to the border, get a Kenya visa-on-arrival (for most nationalities @ $50) early buses have departed. (But there could be overnight buses by now?)

For the truck hitch, which is actually a paid ride, allow about $20 per person.

Take snacks. Definitely take WATER.

Use sunglasses, sunblock and hat or wrap your head in a sarong to avoid sun – and dust.

Have music and earphones to enhance the long trip.

If in the mood to socialize, buy some qat and beer to share with the locals on top of the truck; it can be quite a party!

Expect the journey to take all day (unless the asphalt road is finished).


Traveling across Northern Kenya Part #2: Marsabit to Isiolo is nearly over. Samburu males hovering by the roadside.

The second stage of what was one of the worst “highways” in Africa is traveling on to Isiolo.