Blog# 23 From NW Kenya
I dreamed of Africa”, Out of Africa” and The Blood Sisters trigged in me a serious yearning for Kenya - The wide-open savanna, the yellow grass dotted with one lonely Acacia tree, the teaming game……. My preconceived idea of Kenya has been dashed with our last 10 days of travelling through NW Kenya. Instead of grasslands and open savanna we have journeyed through vast desert areas, thornveld, volcanic rocks, crater lakes and dry rocky terrain! But what a mind blowing visually stimulating time it has been!
On arrival in Kenya we felt attacked by the rushing frenetic cars on the road between Busia (Uganda) and Eldoret. A massive contrast to the calm peaceful Uganda roads. Kenya was a hive of activity and to be honest a shell shock! Our first stop was Eldoret, a town established by the Boers in the early 1900s. We stayed at The Wagon Hotel a place which in its heyday must have been a colonial hub! My favourite storey of this town is that the Boers (keeping their own Kruger rand currency) got a wagon to bring a safe full of coins all the way from RSA. But on arrival in Eldoret it somehow fell off the wagon and instead of moving the safe to where the proposed bank would be they built the bank around the safe!!!!
Being who we are, we took the road less travelled in a NE direction to Iten perched above the Rift Valley and affording us amazing views down to the Kerio valley. This tiny, would-be insignificant town is famous for hosting Olympic Athletes who come and train at the hot dry and high altitude. It was hilarious seeing these lyrca clad people with bright takkies/sneakers walking around amongst the locals!
Descending the Valley wall one eventually emerges in the hot valley floor We stopped at Cheblock Gorge for a simple lunch of beans and chipati which astoundingly our fussy Joshua even liked!!!
For once our technology failed us as we tried to navigate to a campsite. We found ourselves across the river from the campsite with no way of crossing the river!!!! But never fear…… we quickly discovered “bush-telegraph” is very real in Africa and very soon we had a friendly man telling us he had been phoned and asked to find some “lost Mazungu’s driving around aimlessly”!!!!! He very kindly showed us an awesome cleared area near a lake and allowed us to camp there for a nominal fee.
These wild camps near villages are a double edged sword – awesome, as the kids got to play soccer with the myriad of kids that also knew of our presence via bush telegraph, but negative as suddenly you become THE biggest highlight these people have seen in weeks and people arrive by the minute to come and stare and just watch you. It is quite hard to enjoy food or a drink with so many eyes watching you! But thankfully come dark we were left alone.
The following day took us around the swollen Lake Boringo (another lake which has flooded its “banks”) to Mugi’s Conservancy. A lovely campsite overlooking a dam but sadly very little game was seen.
Our 3rd day on the road was a long dry dusty one ranging from plantations to thornveld and finally a gorgeous wild camp in a field of flowers! (just before Baragoi village). This Wild Camping has been the highlight of Kenya, the fact that it is ok and the done thing to just camp anywhere on the side of the road - It is awesome and saves big bucks! My first night I was terrified and slept little, what with thoughts of bandits and armed herders attacking us. But thankfully sleep eventually came and with the new day all fears where swept away with the peace and tranquillity of where we were! The wind has been ever present since this day….. hectic manic blustery blowing harsh hot winds.
The next days drive was probably the best drive so far – camels wandering along the roadside, then through the colourful village of Baragoi with the first real evidence of the tribal people of the area – with their multiple layers of beads around their necks, brightly colour head gear, feathers in the men’s head gear – the Turkana, Rendile and Samburu people. Beautiful, strong and smiling faces. South Horr is another gem of a village hidden in an oasis of trees in the middle of the rocky terrain.
One eventually arrives at the majestic impressive Lake Turkana. Wow wow wow that first elevated view will stay with me forever. Dark volcanic rock (think the moon) and then this HUGE jade (blue) lake lying before you with an island or 2 in the middle of it and little to no vegetation for kms around the lake. We then drove north along the shore passing tiny villages somehow surviving in these extreme conditions. Relying purely on fish and some goats! We spent 2 nights at an awesome (super windy) spot on a peninsula jutting out into the lake. We went for the simple bandas (huts) as were terrified our “home trailer” might end up blow into the lake! The next day was spent exploring, swimming in a “safe area” with no croc’s, seeing rock art and visiting the village and a lot of just gazing at the lake! What a place!
It was sad seeing the last glimpse of Turkana, knowing that it is not probable Dev or I would be back…. But hopefully the kids might one day take their kids….
Once again a stunning drive through remote far out areas to get to North Horr. Honestly you cannot believe the places people live in and survive in and seem happy in…..It is SO harsh and one cannot imagine surviving with so little.
In North Horr we stayed at the Catholic Mission campsite just out of town which had the most massive swimming pool we have ever seen…. In the middle of the desert…. and filled by the big oasis nearby!!!! A swim in the pool was a real treat after a long hot dusty day. We visited some very cool sand dunes and the kids took the boogie board down it. Then we had an awesome sunset on the open plains with a game of baseball to end off the day.
We were super keen to drive through the Chalbi Desert but our luck was out… the desert is currently UNDER WATER,…… seriously????? Yes seriously!!!!! And under the thin layer of water is treacherous mud and not a tree in sight! So we had to take the main road (gravel and bumpy) to Kalacha.
Kalacha is this incredible spring on the side of the Chalbi Desert. As you arrive there you see this mass of Doum Palms, children playing in the channel of water and people filing up containers and drinking happily. Amazing atmosphere! From here we explored and went to “play” on the Chalbi Desert ,as much as the water would allow, and then found a wild camp in a secluded spot away from the howling wind and people. Another gorgeous little wild camp!
The next days drive to Masrabit was LONG and dry and terribly bumpy….. aaaaghh. And the corrugations would not allow you to go fast so we had to crawl along. A long hot windy day!
We are now in Marsabit and will be here for 3 nights as over the past 10 days there have been a lot of single night set ups, so we just chilling here before we start to head down south.
The past 10 days have been incredible The places we have seen, the different tribes, the scenery, the deserts, the lake, the people, the caravans of camels, the tiny villages, the vastness, the beauty, the relentless wind (which made my mind go boggy one day!!!!), the dust, the heat….. it is harsh and it is remote and it is testing. But so worth it!