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  1. #1
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    Default Spontaneous trip to Turkana

    I thought I would share a short summary of a trip to Turkana I took a few weeks ago. I wasn’t actually planning on doing more travelling, however a work acquaintance had planned a trip and then spontaneously had a free spot (and, probably more important, lacked a car) so I could jump in. As a general advice I would like to remind you the Turkana region is still considered to be a high risk area and you should ensure appropriate security arrangements and constant access to real time situation reports when travelling.

    Day 1: we met up early enough in Nairobi and after a brief shock looking at the mountain of equipment piled up on the garage floor (easily remedied by a cappuccino) we started packing. That took more time than expected, luckily space turned out to not be a problem, even though we were only travelling with 2 cars for 6 passengers, my Defender and a LandCruiser. Another cappuccino took up some more time and so we were off to a very late start, leaving around 10:00. However our destination for the day was Nanyuki, where we planned to meet some friends for a bbq, so time was not a major concern. We arrived shortly before 13:00 with no major issues on the road.

    Day 2: Still feeling the effects of bbq associated drinks we were off for another late start. Leaving Nanyuki around 11:00 the drive on the highway towards Marsabit was really smooth, giving me the chance to test out my cars sixth gear for the first time (coming from a TD5 the Puma 2.2 is just amazing, actually feels like a car and less like a tractor!). Unfortunately the Cruiser tried to keep up on the inclining road which led to several unplanned stops due to overheating problems. We made it to Marsabit National Park gate. There is a large serviced campsite directly outside the park gate, however we only stopped there to pick up some fire wood and continued to the private campsite on the Bongole crater rim. No facilities there, but a fantastic spot, mostly safe from the strong winds, overlooking the crater with loads of buffaloes, zebras and elephants.

    Day 3: Even though we left the park early, a stop at the local Toyota garage took longer than expected. Finally we decided to just have the thermostat of the Cruiser removed, hoping that would at least lessen the overheating. Then, after an early lunch at a friends house it was again 11:00 until we finally got back on the road. The original plan was to cross Chalbi via Maikona / Kalacha / North Horr, however the evening before we were made aware of some security concerns on that road. The late start added to that and we decided to take the easier route via Hula Hula / Kargi. That was a good choice, as even this track was quite rough. Trying to escape the constant shake by going out into the sand did not proof to be a good idea, as it was hiding huge lava rocks and sink holes under its surface. Luckily we had not major issues with the car, except for an odd check engine light coming on for me. As I couldn’t find any problem with the engine I assume a relay must have gotten loose through the constant shake? We pushed the cars hard to make it in time to the lake and finally around 17:00 we could see the beautiful shore coming up behind the black sandy rocks. We drove on to Loiyangalani, where we were able to camp at Oasis lodge, a really interesting relict from a time when someone still believed the area would develop with tourism... the lodge has space for tents and also offers some basic huts. More important is the multi level pool (though only one is still maintained) filled from a hot natural spring. An amazing place to have a beer after sunset. That evening however we decided to just grab the beer and drive down to the lake shore. After thoroughly checking for crocodiles (aka waiting for some local kids to jump in) we could even have a dip in the lake at sunset!

    Day 4: We finally got an early start, buying huge junks of Nile perch from the local fishermen’s collective and exploring the few sights around. After a brief discussion we decided to not drive up further north to Sibiloi NP (so that remains on the bucket list) but turned back inlands up to Mount Kulal. We had heard the local community was trying to set up a small campsite there, and after some discussions at the settlements gate whether we would infect them all with COVID they actually decided to let us stay. The camping spot is located on the rim of the mountain range and took quite a bit of difficult off road driving to get there. We would have had the option to leave the cars behind and just hike up (some of us did the hike and it was really nice) but it seemed more sensible to take our RTT and heavy cooking gear with us. We spent the afternoon hiking and enjoying the amazing views over the rocky hills on to the huge blue lake at the horizon.

    Day 5: Another early start as it took quite a while to get off the mountain again. We then turned south on a great track that was very well maintained (probably so the wind farms up there can be reached without major trouble). After about 4 hours drive the worst case scenario happened. I changed gear to get up a small hill and experienced what sudden and full loss of power feels like, all i got was a nasty streaky noise when a gear was engaged. As gear changes still changed the frequency of said noise we concluded the MT82 output shaft had given up. A call to my mechanic in Nairobi confirmed that to be the most probable option. Calling around whoever we could think of there was no spare part anywhere around. So I got to experience the full Kenya Landrover experience: being towed behind an (again overheating) LandCruiser. As we had no sensible option of repair we decided to head to our planned destination in Ngurunit and see from there. The tow took about three hours, but we finally made it and that gave me enough time to convince my mechanic to send up one of this guys with the spare part. We left my car in the village and moved on to a nice spot next to a couple of natural pools fed by a spring a bit up the river. We had bought a goat from the community and had a real feast, even though I was a bit worried about how to get back home.

    Day 6: We had planned to stay in Ngurunit for two nights anyway, so while I was down in the settlement waiting for the repairs to be done the rest of our group enjoyed bathing in the natural pools, hiking and just relaxing from the long drives in the last few days. Around 14:00 my car was fixed again and after a quick beer run to the local bar I was also able to drive up the the camp site. If you ever need mechanical support with your Landrover I fully recommend Foley’s East Africa. Not only are they very thorough but they also provide great service like this.

    Day 7: The track back to the highway in Laisamis is very well maintained and there are works ongoing to put tarmac on part of it. So we quickly reached the high way and from there our last stop of the trip - Archers Post and the Buffalo Springs National Reserve. At the gate we encountered some problems. The rangers insisted on payment to a private MPESA number and refused any other way of payment besides cash. Not wanting to support such practices we turned around and drove back to the Samburu National Reserve where we had no issue paying to the proper paybill number. (We later heard that scheme has been going on for months and some bold friends suggested they usually pay the rangers and then revert the payment when inside the reserve. Not sure that is a good idea if you are planning to sleep there...) We spent another amazing night at one of the private campsites at the reserve and where woken up by a huge elephant rubbing on some trees inside the camp in the middle of the night.

    Day 8: Driving straight to Nairobi down the highway. The overheating problems came back, as expected on the long upwards stretch towards Timau. Still we made it home in about 6 hours including some breaks.

    All in all in east side of lake Turkana is definitely worth a visit and I am certain to return here to get to know more of the area. Make sure to carry enough water and fuel as both can be difficult to find.
    Last edited by chf; 2021/04/20 at 10:43 AM.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Spontaneous trip to Turkana

    Asante sana, chf, for this excellent trip report. It was very interesting to read about the improvements of the road due to the wind farm.

    So sorry to hear about the breakdown and the ignominy of being towed by a Land Cruiser! Well done Nick Foley for organising a repair in remote Ngurunit. I presume you paid the Milgis Trust for camping there? We have camped there at the natural pools on a camel safari.

    Hopefully next time you will get to Sibiloi. Another alluring destination.

    Many thanks.

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  5. #3
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    Default Re: Spontaneous trip to Turkana

    Thanks chf. It seems such a very long time ago that we were there .
    Stanley Weakley.
    Toyota Landcruiser 76SW 4,2L diesel.

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

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report https://www.4x4community.co.za/forum...-6-SLOW-DONKEY
    OR
    http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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  7. #4
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    Default Re: Spontaneous trip to Turkana

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    So sorry to hear about the breakdown and the ignominy of being towed by a Land Cruiser! Well done Nick Foley for organising a repair in remote Ngurunit. I presume you paid the Milgis Trust for camping there? We have camped there at the natural pools on a camel safari.
    Exactly, a really beautiful place there.

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  9. #5
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    Default Re: Spontaneous trip to Turkana

    Thank you for this - brought back some fine memories of camping at Oasis and further north.
    Asante sana.
    Tony Weaver

    1991 Land Rover 110 Hi-Line S/W 3.5l V8 carburettor
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    Previously Land Rover 1968 SII, 1969 SIIA, 1973 SIII, 1983 Toyota HiLux 2litre, 2006 Land Rover Freelander TD4 HSE.

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  11. #6
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    Default Re: Spontaneous trip to Turkana

    I was very interested that you camped at Gof Bongole in Marsabit NP. We have only camped at Lake Paradise (a veritable paradise) and, about 34 years ago, near the Ahmed Gate. Did you go up to Lake Paradise and/or traverse the park to Marsabit town?

    Oasis Lodge was a functioning fishing lodge in the 1970s and 1980s. I went to it in 1979 on my first trip to Lake Turkana although we camped on the shore, we had to go into Loiyangalani and the mission to use their workshop for repairs. Most people flew in to Loiyangalani on private charters to the airstrip. But there was also the Turkana Bus which was a converted Bedford truck taking younger more impecunious travellers on an adventure of note although they did not stay at Oasis. I think Oasis was owned by an irascible German. A trip to Turkana was a major undertaking in those days: before about the mid-1970s, the whole of the Northern Frontier District was a closed zone and permission had to be obtained to go into the NFD. Even when I first went in 1979, we had to sign in and out at Suguta Marmar south of Maralal.

    When we were last in Loiyangalani in 2014 (on our way down from Ethiopia), we camped at Palm Shade. Oasis seemed very firmly padlocked and closed.

    Thanks again for transporting me from lockdown to the wilds of the NFD!

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  13. #7
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    Default Re: Spontaneous trip to Turkana

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    ...... But there was also the Turkana Bus which was a converted Bedford truck taking younger more impecunious travellers on an adventure of note although they did not stay at Oasis.....
    Just a day or two ago I was reading this account of the The Turkana Bus from 1981. Might interest some to read this account -
    https://www.safaritalk.net/topic/124...-sea/#comments
    Stanley Weakley.
    Toyota Landcruiser 76SW 4,2L diesel.

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

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report https://www.4x4community.co.za/forum...-6-SLOW-DONKEY
    OR
    http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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  15. #8
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    Default Re: Spontaneous trip to Turkana

    Thanks for sharing. Pity about the breakdown, obviously, however it's good that you got through it OK.

    Wondering about the LC overheating - engine or transmission? Never had a problem with our LC100s in very high temperatures (I've seen 58 C) in Algeria, however our LC80 transmission did overheat a few times on long uphill sections. The advice we received was to install a transmission cooler.
    Just a thought.

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  17. #9
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    Default Re: Spontaneous trip to Turkana

    Quote Originally Posted by alannymarce View Post
    Wondering about the LC overheating - engine or transmission? Never had a problem with our LC100s in very high temperatures (I've seen 58 C) in Algeria, however our LC80 transmission did overheat a few times on long uphill sections. The advice we received was to install a transmission cooler.
    Just a thought.
    It was clearly the engine, however we were until today unable to find a cause. Seems to continue to happen intermittently. If it was my car I would probably have tried to follow up on it...

  18. #10
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    Default Re: Spontaneous trip to Turkana

    Great report - where are the pics?

  19. #11
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    Default Re: Spontaneous trip to Turkana

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    I think Oasis was owned by an irascible German.
    Yup, his name was Wolfgang. On our way up to Turkana, we came across his Range Rover Vogue smashed to pieces on the very steep descent from the El Barta Plains (spelling?) to South Horr. His brakes had failed, and he was lucky to survive as a gas bottle and an outboard motor had broken loose and narrowly missed taking his head off. A Turkana guard had been posted to keep watch over the vehicle, and he asked us to deliver a pack of documents he had found in the bush, flung from the vehicle, to Wolfgang. We did so, and a heavily bandaged Wolfgang barely grunted when we delivered them. He then refused to sell us a cold beer or a Coke because he was keeping them for his fly-in guests.
    So I guess irascible is a good word to describe him!
    Tony Weaver

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    Previously Land Rover 1968 SII, 1969 SIIA, 1973 SIII, 1983 Toyota HiLux 2litre, 2006 Land Rover Freelander TD4 HSE.

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  21. #12
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    Default Re: Spontaneous trip to Turkana

    Was it you, Tony, who had the Thesiger-esque Empty Quarter hare’s liver moment with the last Coke at Turkana?

  22. #13
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    Default Re: Spontaneous trip to Turkana

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Weakley View Post
    Just a day or two ago I was reading this account of the The Turkana Bus from 1981. Might interest some to read this account -
    https://www.safaritalk.net/topic/124...-sea/#comments
    Thanks, Stan. I reread that report recently too. It’s great to be reminded how things were when we just headed off without mobile phone coverage, GPS, health and safety, Internet forums, and so on. Now the rich and famous helicopter up to Turkana on day trips.

    I’m glad I saw it back in those innocent - but dangerous - days.

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    Default Re: Spontaneous trip to Turkana

    I much prefer rascible people...

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    Default Re: Spontaneous trip to Turkana

    Quote Originally Posted by chf View Post
    It was clearly the engine, however we were until today unable to find a cause. Seems to continue to happen intermittently. If it was my car I would probably have tried to follow up on it...
    I have no doubt that my diagnostic skills are limited, however my reactions:

    - GVM too high?
    - Radiator (partially) blocked so inadequate cooling?
    - thermostat sticking so intermittently blocking flow?
    - fan problem - electric fan with intermittent contact?
    - fan problem - slipping drive belt?
    - gremlins...

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  26. #16
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    Default Re: Spontaneous trip to Turkana

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    Was it you, Tony, who had the Thesiger-esque Empty Quarter hare’s liver moment with the last Coke at Turkana?
    Haha, good memory - yes it was. We tried to look the legend up the first time we were in Maralal, but were told he "had gone walking in the bush" (we did meet him briefly on a second visit). The hare's liver story was told by Thesiger to Mary Anne Fitzgerald, who wrote about it in her book, Nomad.
    For those who have no idea what this is about, here's the extract from a piece I wrote about our journey to Lake Turkana:

    Maralal is the centre of life in this part of the NFD. Zebra wander down the main street, crowds of nomadic Samburu lounge on the front porches of the sliding down trading stores looking beautiful. It is where Wilfred Thesiger, the Arabist and fearless wanderer, has made his home. In the sunset of his years he sits on his stoep and watches over the desert.

    Mary Anne Fitzgerald, in "Nomad", describes how she went to visit Thesiger: "Had he, I wondered to myself, acquired insights on life that would enlighten us all? It soon became apparent Thesiger wasn't long on philosophy. Prompted to name the pinnacles and troughs of his extraordinary existence, he swatted a fly with some plastic netting tied to the end of a stick and pondered.

    " 'Excitement,' he decided, and the shame of accepting a hare's liver from his Bedu companions in the Empty Quarter. 'It was more than my share,' he said with genuine regret."

    We knew the feeling.

    We arrived in Loiyangalani in the heat of midday. The temperature was hovering around 40 degrees. At the El Molo campsite, the man in charge was standing with three Cokes in his hand. They were lukewarm, but wet. We drained two, fast, then bought the third and shared it. Then, remembering the basic rules of African hospitality we asked him to produce more so we could buy him one too.

    "Sorry, so sorry," he said, "that is the end, there are no more Coca Colas in Loiyangalani."

    It wasn't quite the Empty Quarter, and it wasn't hare's liver, but we felt a kindred sense of shame.
    Last edited by Tony Weaver; 2021/04/21 at 12:50 AM.
    Tony Weaver

    1991 Land Rover 110 Hi-Line S/W 3.5l V8 carburettor
    Cooper Discoverer STT tyres, four sleeper Echo rooftop tent
    2012 Mitsubishi Outlander.

    Previously Land Rover 1968 SII, 1969 SIIA, 1973 SIII, 1983 Toyota HiLux 2litre, 2006 Land Rover Freelander TD4 HSE.

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  28. #17
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    Default Re: Spontaneous trip to Turkana

    We had the privilege of bumping into the great Wilfred Thesiger in Maralal in 1986. He had an “office” in one of the dukas opposite the only petrol station in what was, at that time, a small dusty outpost. When he saw anyone coming into the petrol station (which didn’t always have fuel, but there lies another story), he would come to talk about where they were going to and where they had come from. So, this tall, beaky-nosed upper-class Englishman in a tweed jacket and brogues would appear through a throng of traditionally-dressed Samburu.

    It is too sad to think that the last of the great explorers would eventually die in relative penury in Croydon, SE London. Many think he died in his flat in Chelsea, but he had to sell that. However, he had lived an extraordinary “Life of my Choice”.
    Last edited by Wazungu Wawili; 2021/04/21 at 01:18 AM.

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  30. #18
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    Default Re: Spontaneous trip to Turkana

    OT, however, we have an interesting familial (not related) link with Thesiger's Grandfather through the Roberts family (2nd Boer War) and the Knights of St. Patrick, (1st Earl Iveagh, Arthur Guinness, Baron Roberts, Earl Kitchener and John French,Viscount, later Earl of Ypres) and Ashford Castle where my family were regular guests of Guinness, one of whom, owned a steam powered vessel on the nearby lake. My mother has an autograph book with most of their signatures (other guests) as well as a paper with the signatures of the Knights of St. Patrick. Roberts' great great grand son was one of my childhood playmates.

    Chelmsford's signature is in there too. I have a book of Thesiger's photographs lying around somewhere.
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  32. #19
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    Default Re: Spontaneous trip to Turkana

    These stories of the "ancient" past are so interesting to read, please keep them coming! I'm sure chf will not feel that his thread has been highjacked by them.

    Incidentally, chf, during one of those "severe African deprivation" moments under the Covid lockdown at the end of last year, I seriously started to plan a very similar trip from Nairobi to Turkana via Marsabit. I even mentioned my plans to WW at that time, and of course, she gave me some valuable info about the region. However, the Covid crisis didn't improve as I was expecting, on the contrary, it got worse, so I had to abandon those daydreams. At least for now. But the flame of Turkana is still burning in me, and sooner or later we'll try to visit it. At that time, your info from this thread will come very useful. Thanks.
    24 hours in a day.... 24 beer in a case.... Coincidence?
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  34. #20
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    Default Re: Spontaneous trip to Turkana

    The problem it will be “who will rent a 4x4 “ to go all that way? Most of the rental companies I know of will not rent that far.

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