Up the east side of Lake Turkana (Part 2)





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  1. #1
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    Default Up the east side of Lake Turkana (Part 2)

    DAY ONE: Robert's Camp at Lake Baringo to World's End View, Lesiolo, NW of Maralal


    With Stan's day-by-day reports loaded into my phone for easy reference, http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...09#post3530009
    Take doc: -Back up 3
    Then Page 192 ff, Stan's day 3

    we leave the milky waters of Lake Baringo and take the route around the NW of the lake, quickly seeing the rifle-toting shepherds. We wave and smile before they have chance to wonder if we're an enemy and they all wave back in a most friendly way. We don't feel too unperturbed, knowing any bullet action would seldom be directed at a tourist, the shepherds have other worries in this area.

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    Ahead of the report, we can say the pioneering days are almost over, if not alreay: the roads and tracks are much improved, even since 2015 and we are able to cover the kms easily more quickly than in Stan's, and others', reports. In Maralal we fill up our 100L tank of water and take enough diesel on board (we don't want to be over-heavy, ha ha!) to take us to Omorate and including some extra, calculating a worst-case scenario of 20L per 100km. These 240L are of course overkill... but this Ethiopian business was chewing at the back of our minds.


    It's in Maralal where we see our first ladies adorned with the traditional, decorative jewellery of the Samburu tribe. We're in a surreal picture book! The ladies' faces are worn with experience and sunlight, but not weary and they wear their many-hooped, brightly-coloured neck "collar" beautifications as unpretentiously as we might wear a polo-neck jumper. If we hadn't wished to appear rude we would have happily and openly gawped for many minutes. And had we not felt intrusive, we would have taken many more photos. Astonishing and impressive!
    (In the end we don't have any photos of our own, perhaps some videos, still to be sorted, but this is the sort of thing we saw a lot of. Photo courtesy of http://www.photostaud.com/africa/ken...ru-kenya.htmlU)
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    We continue just that bit further to the World's End viewpoint, where we're almost blown away, literally and figuratively! It is incredibly windy, and at this altitude, as soon as the sun goes down, cold. It's not going to be a night round the campfire tonight! The wind is howling so strongly we take our 'emergency' set up in the car:
    - the 'gangway' in the back has a false bottom, which we can take out then place on top of some narrow rails, making it flush with the bench on the right (inside which we store our tools and in a separate compartment, our pots and pans) and just below the cooker and sink in the left.
    - The left side is built slightly higher than the right, rending a better position when cooking or washing when sitting.
    - Cushions laid on top and you have a VERY cosy bed (90cm) for 2 or plenty of space for one (we've slept in stormy conditions with 3 of us in the car on previous occasions).
    Thus we're ready to climb into bed downstairs, wtihout opening the roof and 'destaibilising' the car, and it feels much more like an adventure and so romantic, sleeping so closely and under 2 blankets, if only it weren't for the thermal underwear we've just retrieved from our rooftop box.
    The wind shakes Bruce like he weighs 3 pounds rather than 3 tonnes and we're rocked to sleep like babies in a crib.
    (picture under day 2)
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    DAY TWO:
    World's End View, Lesiolo, NW of Maralal to Palm Shade Camp, Loiyangalani
    (7 ¾ hours, ca.220km, breakdown at the end of the day)



    The clouds are swirling like dervishes around us when we wake and there's no chance of enjoying the spectacular view again this morning. We are expecting a hard day, one of the more difficult for man and machine: not technically, but regarding road-conditions. After our daily luxury of a fresh, strong Italian cappuccino, we pick our way slowly along the track.


    As the sun rises higher the clouds are burnt away to nothing and we enjoy bumping along our way. After Baragoi we approach South Horr, where Stan stayed overnight, but it's only 1.30pm and we feel we ought to be pushing on. With hindsight this was a mistake and we should have camped at one of the places on offer and wandered around the village. The setting below huge, shady mango trees, arid hills in the background, crossing a couple of wide, sandy dry riverbeds, passing sheep, schoolkids tumbling out of a minibus, men in their jeans and t-shirts, girls in dresses, but also the traditionally dressed, again brightly bejewelled with colourful, beaded adornments, was simply idyllic. We will both regret that decision for a long time to come.
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    Lake Turkana has to be one of the windiest places on the planet! The 5 partners and an unknown number of financiers participating in building the wind generation plant, due to start some time this year seem to think so, too, with a project cost of between €623m to €742m (US$ 745.5m-900m) according to Wikipedia. 365 wind turbines are standing to attention waiting for the green light to illuminate for the project to begin generating power, though it looks as though there are still many km of cables to be strung between the poles.
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ID:	461768 The road takes you straight through the plant on best-graded gravel. You know when you've reached the end when the track reverts to bumps, holes then onto the boulders of the lava landscape just as you espy the green waters of the lake for the first time.
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    The huts of the local people appear so flimsy we're surprised they stay in place. Old plastic bags and hessian sacks form the outside layer and if not well secured they flap loudly and incessantly in the gales. The last 16km take an age, but at least the views of the lake are bewitching, until we finally roll into Loiyangalani, an oasis of palms and rubbish.
    These days there are at last 3 camps to choose from, though we didn't investigate the others, Palm Shade was the first we tried and suited us just fine.
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    We had another night downstairs in Bruce, our car, on account of the wind again, but it was far from the romance of yesterday. It's stiflingly hot and we clamber into bed with the doors wide open, not noticing the place is buzzing with mosquitos. The wind might as well be coming from a fan oven and we are the chickens roasting nicely. It's hot and sweaty and it's all we can do to try and stay well apart from each other tonight. Poor Jens is tortured by the insects and ends up with the sheet almost mummifying him, Tabard not bringing any relief at all. Jens is fortunately my human mosquito repellent and I only suffer from the heat and the shaking car, not the bites.
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    This wasn't the tough drive we were expecting. It was beautiful and varied as far as the fantastic scenery is concerned and often the track is in an excellent condition.
    Today's trip would certainly doable in a 2WD, though you might prefer some clearance and spare tyres. Jens said he would see no difficulty for a Mercedes transporter, like a "James Cook" or other people who have accompanied us previously.
    You could turn round and depart to Nairobi apparently, via an incredibly well-graded road, a long way to Nairobi. I believe the Irish guy said it was a day's trip, though he was probably gunning it.

    Route timings:

    World's View camp to Marti: 2 hours Marti to Baragoi: 1 ¾ hours
    Baragoi to South Horr: 1 ¾ hours
    South Horr to Loiyangalani: 3 ¼ hours





    DAY THREE: Loiyangalani to Koobi Fora Research camp in Sibiloi NP
    (8 ¼ hrs, ca. 210km)



    We've been warned here on the forum this trip is pretty isolated, though we've also been comforted by another traveller's report that you're never actually alone too long due to the presence of the pastoralists and their cattle. Nevertheless, we have no desire to have car troubles causing us to get stuck and having to wait for hours or days for a rescue. So far we've had some intermittent mobile reception but are pretty sure that won't be the case from here onwards.
    We try to ask the lad at the hotel if he'll send a rescue party if he doesn't hear from us within 5 days. (That gives us enough time to linger or get lost and have a breakdown and repair ourselves and hobble to a place with reception, we think).
    He doesn't fully understand the nature of our request but there's an Irish guest who is willing to act as port of emergency call. I actually thought he'd probably come and rescue us himself, he was just about to embark on a hike up the shoreline to Ileret with donkeys! Later we discovered his plans were scuppered due to rivalling tribes up the lake and the men in Loiyangalani refusing to go further than ?? (Maybe half way?) as they feared for their donkeys' lives!


    Feeling slightly more bolstered we begin at 9am.
    This turns out to be the best day of the tour, and one of the most exciting drives of the whole trip, even better than crossing the Kalahari.
    It's remote with varied tracks of good gravel to sand and rocks, an up-hill-and-down-dale kind of route. The intense heat glimmers on the horizon. We meet new tribes and watch donkeys haul kilos of water in plastic canisters.
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    At the entrance to Sibiloi NP we are greeted by a gently, well-spoken, higher-ranking Parks officer. It turns out he's the Park head and has some business to deal with regarding encroaching villagers and cattle and 2 lions outside the park boundaries, intimidating both people and livestock. We chat pleasantly while the formalities are taken care of, he recommends the trip to the petrified forest and he explains a detour we need to take (or a track we need to avoid) to arrive safely: there has been so much rain this year the washaways are too difficult to get around. We are assured there'll be no animals to see in this part of the park.
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    The campsite and 2 researchers who greet us at Koobi Fora are very nice and we can park Bruce around the side of one of the buildings to have some reprieve from the wind and can sit under the colonnade to avoid the snakes and scorpions! All the while congratulating ourselves on driving a Toyota.
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    Another rattly night but we're back upstairs with the wind blowing though our mosquito nets. The lake remains turquoise with white caps of waves from the wind. There's a belittlingly expansive, black but starry sky and we see a shooting star. We're loving the trip and only sorry it'll be over too soon.


    You could probably manage the beginning of today in a sturdy 2WD. But definitely no further than the park. It would be wiser to not venture too far north if you are not in a decent 4x4 vehicle or are a very confident off-road motorbiker: your GS is not going to do it, you need a light enduro. From here to the tar, 16km before Omorate in Ethiopia, 4WD is essential.

    If it's raining I wouldn't even attempt the route. You'll be quickly bogged down and there's no-one except shepherds, not famous for their heavy machinery, for pulling you out.



    DAY FOUR: Rescued!!
    Koobi Fora research facility to Mango campsite, Turmi, via immigration at Omorate, Ethiopia (ca. 200km)


    In the morning it's gusty but sunny. We're surprised we manage to sleep until 7.30am and take our time over breakfast and the daily luxury, cappuccino before bidding farewell to the new researchers this morning.


    Today's the day of sandy riverbed crossings, but we're optimistic about everything, just want to make sure we get the right track and not the washed away one. We'd love to spend more time on this tour but the wind is so strong, sending us back to the cover of the car wherever we arrive, that the evenings are not the long, relaxing evenings over a drink round the fire we had dreamed of and so we intend to get to Ethiopia today and really hope we'll get in.
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    We hadn't been en route for more than 45 minutes when we round a bend and see the sides riverbed crossing in front of us. And a Toyota bakkie stuck in the middle if it! We stop and I get out, a tree is now blocking my view. When I do see the vehicle a second later I see several men getting out, some of them in sandy camouflage, a number of them with rifles and a couple with balaclava type coverings over their faces.
    I suddenly don't feel quite so comfortable. This isn't a poor tourist rescue situation. In a millisecond I've gone through being kidnapped, held to ransom, robbed and even killed. But one of them is coming over with his had outstretched, "Hi, it's me, Robert, from the camp yesterday!" So it is, and his colleague. And all these other big, burly men! They're delighted and relieved to see us, having set off at 6.30am. I wonder they haven't radioed for help.


    They've managed to dig themselves into the sand and say they don't have 4WD, though I see a gear stick indicating they do. I can only presume it's broken. They want us to tow them. Jens isn't so keen, knowing the pressure it puts on the clutch and the gears, especially in the deep sand. In addition, the other side is steep and there doesn't seem to be an alternative approach. They say the way marked on T4A is even worse.
    Jens starts to let air out of our tyres: they're too hard for this soft terrain. He suddenly stops and walks back to their car with his pressure gauge. They look on inquiringly. 4.5 bar left back, 2.1 bar right back. He lets them down to 0.9 bar.
    The driver's raring to go and revs up like he's going to attempt the landspeed record, with his colleagues pushing from behind. Until Jens is standing in front of the bonnet screaming STOP!!
    First they walk together to the other side, to see what the plan is (take a new route), then they all push the car forward a metre or two, and the driver is told to reverse as far as he can. Again he's fully revved up and shoots off on his mission, across the sand over to the other side, he launches up the bank, front wheels in the air, like something from the A Team, and bounces back down, slaloming through the soft sand until he hits a firmer patch and everyone clambers in, though not before cheering and whooping as if they'd been stranded for days, and big handshakes all round for Jens.

    They say we can follow them to get the right track, but they're off like a rocket compared to our gingerly pace, so we don't spot them for another 10 minutes when they are just disappearing into the bushes going downhill. . We follow them down there and realise it's the "abandoned" camp Stan had stayed at, only this time it's fully operational and the hungry boys are tucking into porridge, which we politely decline.


    We continue on, enjoying our last glimpses of the lake, seeing hundreds of cows near the shoreline, which surprises us as we're still in the park and then we arrive at Ileret. As we're chatting to Christopher, the officer in charge at the police station, suddenly the Park head shows up and comes over to us first, Rm extended and thanking us for rescuing his men! Charming! We feel quite honoured that he knew already and that he remembered who we were!
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    Now we're free to head up to Omorate. There are a lot of tracks to choose from but we have a local hitchhiker on board who knows the way.


    Finally we arrive at the immigration office, warmly greeted and allowed in within 45 minutes of form filling. No question of paying deposits or the like!


    What a relief! And to think we'd be the rescuers not the rescued is great!


    Lake Turkana has to be one of the highlights of any trip we've done! I wouldn't say it's the most difficult trip of any tour and while remote, it's not fully isolated. If you take your time, it should be do-able for the majority of readers considering the trip in the first place.

    With the added exoticism of the tribes of Omo valley which followed, we now have a lifetime of colourful, happy memories and are immensely pleased we went ahead with our plan, encouraged by so many here and elsewhere.

    More photos and videos to follow in our blog in a couple of weeks.




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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Up the east side of Lake Turkana (Part 2)

    Thank you Helen!

    I have just read your post aloud to Pam over our morning coffee - a good way to start the day. I wish I could write as well as you do, we could almost feel the wind shaking our armchairs

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    Default Re: Up the east side of Lake Turkana (Part 2)

    Aww, thanks rod, I'm blushing!

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Up the east side of Lake Turkana (Part 2)

    Great to receive such a detailed report-back, thanks Helen and Jens. I am so pleased to hear you camped at World's End!

    Nothing in Africa remains exactly the same but it seems that your experiences were similar to ours and others. Well done to both of you on attempting the Eastern Lake Turkana Route solo and succeeding and also for being the first (I think) to solve the Ethiopian transit problem that suddenly reared its head.

    I concur with you that if at all possible this Turkana route should be taken leisurely and I would take even longer than our 7/8 days. We had some wind but not as much as you did. I am not sure if it is worse in certain seasons. Wazungu Wawili reminded us that if not for the wind one would be inundated by lake flies.

    Referring to Dick Barnsley of Barnsley's Guesthouse (in section 1 of your report back), he was just as helpful to us and anyone travelling in the west of Kenya would be wise to stay there and consult with him.

    Looking forward to updates from Ethiopia. Safari Njema!
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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  7. #5
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    Default Re: Up the east side of Lake Turkana (Part 2)

    Thank you Stan! Hmm... wonder which is worse, blown away or a eaten alive?!

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    Default Re: Up the east side of Lake Turkana (Part 2)

    Thank you, Helen, for posting on your trip up Lake Turkana. I am pleased you went to World's End. The view from there down into the Suguta valley is incredible. I am also interested to read that the road from Maralal to Baragoi and on to South Horr has, obviously, improved somewhat since we last did it in 2014. This was also the section that we chose to take an armed escort as there had been incidents of bandit attacks - particularly on the section between the Lesiolo and Marti, and Marti to Baragoi.

    It is, indeed, a shame that you didn't camp at South Horr. The valley there is beautiful with lovely acacia woodland and Mt Nyiru looming over it.

    Yes, the wind along the southern end of the lake is incredible as it whips off Mt Kulal, but, as I told Stan, we were once camping near Porr when the wind died down and the lake flies extinguished a gas lamp in a few minutes with the billions of dead flies.

    I am so pleased that all went well, and you had a great adventure.

    You will just have to come back to Kenya to visit the many places you didn't manage to get to on this trip!

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  10. #7
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    Default Re: Up the east side of Lake Turkana (Part 2)

    We honestly can hardly wait to come back!

    But as you see, everything is also getting much easier compared to even 3 years ago. If everything gets super-upgraded, i wonder how to keep the adventure part in.

    But we definitely still need to discover Kenya in any shape or form!

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    Default Re: Up the east side of Lake Turkana (Part 2)

    I must say that I have no major objection to the trunk roads being improved. It will allow one to spend longer periods of time at the more out of the way places. There will always be isolation even as Africa slowly opens up to overland drivers.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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