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  1. #1
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    Default TR Kenya, January 2023 - Lake Turkana was not meant to be

    This was our third visit to Kenya. We have had two weeks available, between January 22nd and February 4th 2023, and our main goal was to visit the northern Kenya region around the southeast shore of Lake Turkana. As we will be traveling by the Samburu NP and Ol Pejeta in Laikipia, which we have both visited before (and like them very much), we intended to spend some time there. On the way back, we would also visit the Marsabit NP and Aberdares NP, which would also be new to us.

    So, our rough plan was: Nairobi - Samburu - Laisamis - South Horr - Lake Turkana (Loiyangalani) - North Horr - Kalacha - Chalbi Desert - Marsabit - Ol Pejeta - Aberdares - Lake Naivasha - Nairobi.

    We knew about the severe drought, which last in these northern regions for years now, and about the related security issues. There are quite frequent clashes and raids among the pastoralis in those regions, many with fatal outcomes. These tensions are generally not aimed against tourists, but the authorities usually don't want to risk anything, and after such escalations, they either close the region for tourists or require them to travel through insecure territory in police-escorted convoys.

    Even without the security issues, these parts around Lake Turkana are very remote and not frequently visited, so you really have to have a very reliable 4x4, and preferably travel in a convoy of 2 or more vehicles. Most rental companies even don't allow their vehicles that far north. We usually rent from Roadtrip Africa in Kenya, and they have recently removed this restriction for their cars.

    Knowing all this, we were aware that our originally planned itinerary is only tentative, and if Turkana will be inaccessible, we would need to improvise and spend our time in other regions. So, by no means our plans were cast in stone.

    We booked a Toyota Hilux with a canopy and RTT, kitted with a fridge and camping equipment. On the previous two trips in Kenya, we always rented Landcruiser. But since Roadtrip Africa introduced Hiluxes into their Kenyan fleet relatively recently, I thought that they might be newer and in better shape than their Landcruisers. I was wrong. A single look under the bonnet made it very clear, that the car might have a few surprises for us on this trip. I have never seen such a dirty engine in my life ("we didn't want to wash the engine, as something might stop working then" - not a very assuring statement if you are heading into the desert). The tires were in very good condition, though, as were the tent and camping equipment - even better than anticipated. Except for the fridge, which didn't work at all from day one.

    When we started our drive toward the north, the car soon showed its weak points. The engine produced very low power, and we were struggling with every steeper ascent, even on tar. Also, the clutch felt like it is very near o the end of its lifetime. And there was a constant squeaking and squealing from the right rear wheel. With all this, I was beginning to doubt if it is wise to try to go to Turkana. However, after a couple of days on the rough roads in Samburu NP, the car convinced me that it is not that bad, and we decided to try it anyway. Until the disaster strikes one afternoon. We stopped by a lodge to have a cold one, and when we wanted to leave, the car wouldn't start. It was a dead battery, although it showed absolutely no weaknesses until then. The car could only be started by pushing it. Luckily, this happened to us in front of a lodge, where we had no problems getting a push from a few strong employees, and not somewhere in the middle of the desert, with no living soul miles around.

    This made a cross over our Turkana plans. The next day we headed back to Isiolo, to get a new battery. They didn't have a suitable one there, so we continued to Nanyuki, being very careful to never let the engine shut down. After getting the new battery installed, we settled in the nearby Ol Pejeta conservancy for two nights. From there, we skipped the visit to Aberdares (due to the lack of power in our car for the steep and rough climbs there), and continued to Lake Baringo for another two nights.

    Next, we were headed to Masai Mara for a few days, with an interim stop at Kericho for one night. Soon after a short visit to Lake Bogoria, I made a very stupid mistake/misjudgment and damaged one of the tires. After putting on the spare one, we tried to patch the damaged one at a nearby garage. They put two patches from the inside and made a very good job, however, one of the holes was at the edge between the side wall and the tread, so it was very questionable if the patch will hold. And indeed it didn't, when we arrived at Kericho, it was obvious that it is leaking. So, the next morning we drove to the nearby tire center, where they made a professional assessment of the damage. As expected, they advise us to buy a new one. When I consulted the rental company, they were not very keen on me buying a new tire, as it would be of a different brand than the remaining three. Instead, they suggested that we drive to lake Naivasha, where tehy will deliver a new one of the same brand.

    They indeed arrived to our camp at Lake Naivasha that evening, but not with a new tire, but with a different Hilux (the same model). So we swapped the car there for the remainder of our trip in Masai Mara. That second Hilux had almost the double mileage on its odometer compared to the first one, but despite that, it was in far better shape than the first one. Powerful, reliable, and much better in any aspect. With that one, I would certainly not hesitate to head toward Lake Turkana. As we were later informed, Roadtrip Africa is actually getting rid of their two Hiluxes, and will only have Landcruisers in their fleet again. So, we were actually the last clients driving their Hiluxes.

    Next, we spend three exciting (but very relaxing at the same time) days in Mara Triangle, camping at Oloololo campsite. One morning we treated ourselves with a balloon ride over Mara. It is expensive, but an unforgettable experience.

    The last night we spent at Jungle Junction in Nairobi, and the morning of the last day before our flight back, we spent in Nairobi NP again. And again, this park, teemed with animals, made a very positive impression on us.

    Despite the problems, this again was a very enjoyable trip. The only new attractions for us were the Great Rift lakes (Baringo, Bogoria, Naivasha). For all other parks, it was our second or third visit. But I'm sure that in none of them, it was the last one. We will certainly be back to Kenya. After all, Lake Turkana remains high in our bucket list. Maybe even next year.

    In the next installments, I will write a short report about our stay in each of the parks.
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    24 hours in a day.... 24 beer in a case.... Coincidence?
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: TR Kenya, January 2023 - Lake Turkana was not meant to be

    Thank you Ortelius for the exciting introduction to your TR.

    It is really a pity that RTA has ruined your initial plans on visiting the Jade sea. I believe it was the third time you have rented from them, and on every occasion you had to resolve things that could be easily avoided if those cars would be simply serviced. When I saw that they had add some Hiluxes to the fleet, my thoughts were also the same as yours, thinking that perhaps they would be on a better state than the Cruisers. But it looks like a Cruiser is always a Cruiser, and it will last and last! In other way around I am glad it did not ruin the all trip (which could easily have happened, should you have gone to Turkana), and that once more you have enjoyed one more trip in Africa.

    I am anxiously waiting for the next installments.

    Thank you.

    AP

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  4. #3
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    Default Re: TR Kenya, January 2023 - Lake Turkana was not meant to be

    Asante sana, Ortelius, for the first instalment of your trip report. It was very bad luck about the vehicle and that you didnít get to Lake Turkana. However, despite the disappointment, I think it might have been a step too far to go to Turkana with the ongoing drought and security situation.

    I am very pleased you were able to visit some of the Rift Valley lakes and revisit the Mara and that you had a good time.

    Greetings from Nairobi!

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  6. #4
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    Default Re: TR Kenya, January 2023 - Lake Turkana was not meant to be

    Karibu, WW!

    Actually, after we realized we will not make it to Turkana, the disappointment really wasn't that great. Partly probably because we actually gave this part a very modest success rate prediction from the start of the planning phase, knowing about the drought and security instability. And I was even more at peace with it after your WhatsApp message from Amboseli, stating that we would very probably be turned around soon after Archers Post by the police anyway. And yes, there is never a shortage of fantastic destinations in Kenya, when a change of plans is needed.

    Enjoy your Nairobi time with your family, and safe journey back. Safari njema.
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  8. #5
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    Default Re: TR Kenya, January 2023 - Lake Turkana was not meant to be

    Samburu National Reserve

    We landed in Nairobi at 3:30 in the morning, with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul. As we were supposed to collect our car at 7 am, we had a couple of hours to spend at the airport. I used this time to buy some Kenyan Shillings and to buy a local SIM card with some data and airtime on it. I must say that the GSM coverage by Safaricom is excellent in most of the country, even inside the parks. We had a satellite phone with us, but never used it, as we had good GSM and internet coverage all the time. For the ride to the Roadtrip Africa workshop in Karen district, where we collected our car, we used Bolt - a platform, very similar to Uber, and very popular and cheap in Kenya.

    After collecting the car, we did our shopping at The Hub mall in Karen, and at around 11 am, we were ready to hit the road. It was Sunday and the traffic through Nairobi wasn't that bad. Once we were past the town of Thika, we had the road more or less to ourselves. After Nanyuki, the road climbs to almost 2600 m and our car was struggling a bit with the ascent and the thin air, but then the road turns down into a steep descent toward Isiolo. At that time it started to rain, but luckily, before we arrived at Archers Post, the rain stopped and the sky cleared again. It was already pretty late, and we figured it would be a waste of money to enter the park that evening, so we find ourselves a place at Umoja Samburu Womens Campsite, on the bank of practically dry Ewaso Ngiro, just past Archers Post, and only a few minutes before the Samburu entrance gate.

    Early the next morning we entered the park and spent the following two nights at the beautiful public campsite. Samburu is an exceptionally beautiful park, with Ewaso Ngiro, Kenya's second largest river, being its lifeblood. In this arid environment, animals concentrate along the river at all times. It has plenty of relatively easy game track loops. The density of animals is high, while the density of tourists is low. During our visit, the river was practically dry.

    Unfortunately, the bridge over the river, very close to the public campsite, was damaged a few years ago in one of the floods, and nothing indicates that they intend to repair it any time soon. This is a pity, as there is another beautiful park on the other side of the river, Buffalo Springs National Reserve. Now, if you want to visit that reserve from within the Samburu NR, you have to drive on the insanely corrugated road all the way back to Archers Post, and enter it from that side.

    There were plenty of elephants around, plus an abundance of some of the less often seen northern species: Grevy's Zebra, Gerenuk, Reticulated Giraffes, Beisa Oryx, and Somali Ostriches. We saw plenty of lions, and on one occasion we were lucky to meet a coalition of three cheetahs in the soft light of the setting sun. Leopards eluded us this time.

    On the last afternoon there, the battery of our car died. We had to push-start it, and that definitely put an end to our hopes to visit Lake Turkana. Next morning we turned back south, in search of a replacement battery.
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    Last edited by ortelius; 2023/02/15 at 10:04 PM.
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  10. #6
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    Default Re: TR Kenya, January 2023 - Lake Turkana was not meant to be

    Ol Pejeta, Laikipia

    We first stopped at Isiolo, but they didn't have the corresponding battery in stock there. So we climbed again the steep ascent to the slopes of Mount Kenya, to Nanyuki, the capital of Laikipia County. There, we had our battery replaced, and replenished our food supplies.

    Immediate to the wets of Nanyuki lies the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. This is one of the many wildlife conservancies on the Laikipia Plateau, but the only one that welcomes self-drivers and self-catering travelers. It offers five very wild campsites. We got Ewaso campsite, which lies on the western bank of Ewaso Ngiro, which runs through the middle of the conservancy. The campsite felt very wild, and although some other campsites were also occupied, we never met any other tourist vehicle during our game drives there.

    We have visited Ol Pejeta for the first time six years ago, and we liked it very much back then, so we gladly returned this time. The main theme in Ol Pejeta is the rhinos. They have both white and black rhinos in abundance. But currently, this reserve is most famous for being the shelter to the only two remaining northern white rhinos. Fatu and Najin are two females, the only two left from their functionally extinct species. After the death of Sudan, the last living northern white rhino male, they are now trying to "artificially" create embryos from his frozen sperm and the eggs from both living females with feverish haste.

    During this trip, I was reading the book "The last two", by Slovenian authors Boötjan and Maja Videmöek, which deals exactly with the project of rescuing this functionally already extinct species. This excellent book is in great part dedicated to the devoted keepers of Najin and Fatu in Ol Pejeta. While there, we looked for the caretakers of these two special rhinos, including Zachary Mutai, the main guardian of Najin and Fatu, and one of the main characters of the book. They were all thrilled to browse through the book and its photos, despite the fact that they didn't understand a single word of it, as it is currently published only in the Slovenian language. The good news is, it will be published also in English very soon, at the publishing house Rowman&Littlefield.

    Besides the rhinos, Ol Pejeta is packed with other animals too. Large carnivores are also present, but in contrast to hyenas, which are relatively easy to find, leopards, cheetahs, and lions are more elusive and hard to spot. At one of our game drives, we were lucky to get into a conversation with a group of three rangers on their regular round, who asked us if we want to see the lions. Of course we do! All three jumped into our car, and off we went into a very remote corner of the reserve, where we indeed found a pride of lions. We would never have found them on our own.
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  12. #7
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    Default Re: TR Kenya, January 2023 - Lake Turkana was not meant to be

    Quote Originally Posted by ortelius View Post
    Samburu National Reserve

    (...)
    Early the next morning we entered the park and spent the following two nights at the beautiful public campsite. Samburu is an exceptionally beautiful park, with Ewaso Ngiro, Kenya's second largest river, being its lifeblood. In this arid environment, animals concentrate along the river at all times. It has plenty of relatively easy game track loops. The density of animals is high, while the density of tourists is low. During our visit, the river was practically dry.

    Unfortunately, the bridge over the river, very close to the public campsite, was damaged a few years ago in one of the floods, and nothing indicates that they intend to repair it any time soon. This is a pity, as there is another beautiful park on the other side of the river, Buffalo Springs National Reserve. Now, if you want to visit that reserve from within the Samburu NR, you have to drive on the insanely corrugated road all the way back to Archers Post, and enter it from that side.
    Hi Ortelius,

    Apart of the insecurity situation in the Northern area, there were a few rumors of incidents with tourists being robbed at Buffalo Springs. Did you feel any insecurity or heard of any recent issues, as this will probably be on my October itinerary!

    Really relishing myself reading this TR of yours. You are really fast!

    Asante sana.

    AP

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  14. #8
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    Default Re: TR Kenya, January 2023 - Lake Turkana was not meant to be

    Hi Jurij, the standard of your TRs continues to enthrall me, as do the wonderful photos you post. Thanks so much, greatly appreciated. I'm looking forward to reading your Blog in due course. These are particularly pertinent bearing in mind our forthcoming trip to East Africa later this year. The only sad part of your thread was the absence of Stan's comments and appreciation of your posts, he would have loved what you have to say, it just feels like something is missing Safari Njema, John
    Last edited by Tedx2; 2023/02/16 at 02:02 AM.
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  16. #9
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    Default Re: TR Kenya, January 2023 - Lake Turkana was not meant to be

    @apfac
    Didn't hear anything about the issues in Buffalo Springs and surroundings. Also, there was no increased police presence noticed on the main road. There is one "standard" (and maned) police checkpoint just before Archers Post, but the officer there was in a very relaxed mood - we had a casual chat, and he didn't mention any insecurity issues. I was having an eye on Shaba National Reserve for a couple of nights potentially, but the battery issues ruled that out, so didn't ask specifically for it at the end.

    @tedx
    Thanks for the kind words. Funny you mentioned it, but Stan comes to my mind very frequently while writing this report...
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  18. #10
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    Default Re: TR Kenya, January 2023 - Lake Turkana was not meant to be

    Lake Baringo

    From Laikipia, we decided that our next stop would be Lake Baringo, from where we would continue toward Masai Mara, with an intermediate stop at the town of Kericho.

    If our car would be more trustworthy, we would choose the more intrepid route via Rumuruti and the Mugie conservancy to get to Lake Baringo. But with its issues, we had to settle for the normal route via Nyahururu and Nakuru. using main roads. Even so, the drive was very pleasant and relaxed, except for the mad traffic in the center of Nakuru, where we stopped to resupply our provisions.

    Lake Baringo is, after Turkana, the northernmost lake in the cluster of lakes in Kenya's Great Rift Valley. Together with Lake Naivasha, they are the only freshwater lakes in the system, while all other lakes are alkaline. In the last 10 years, its booming tourism was struck by a hard blow: for not exactly understood reasons, its water levels have risen dramatically, submerging many villages and tourist infrastructure on the shores. According to the official government report, its surface has actually doubled between the years 2010 and 2020! In the last couple of years, the water levels have slowly begun to subside.

    The main attractions of Lake Baringo are its birds. The best way to see the many bird species in the area is to arrange a boat trip to the lake. We were staying for two nights at Bushbaby Campsite, the successor of the once most popular, but now submerged Robert's Camp. The camp is very well maintained, and we could arrange a boat excursion directly with the camp owner Luka. We started the boat trip very early in the morning so that we could enjoy the sunrise from the lake. The boatman had a deep knowledge of the many bird species, and he knew very well where to look for them. There are a few islands in the lake, and we stopped at the largest one of them, to see its hot springs, the proof of very dynamic processes happening deep under the surface of that part of the earth. At one point, we bought a few small fish from the lone fisherman on the lake, and our boatman used them to lure two African Fish Eagles to catch them from the water.
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    Default Re: TR Kenya, January 2023 - Lake Turkana was not meant to be

    Ortelius, I am very much enjoying your report. It is incredible to see Samburu and Ol Pejeta so dry - when we were there in January 20 it was lush and green but it was an exceptionally wet year. On the other hand it made game watching more difficult...

    It is a pity that you missed the Aberdares but as you said - a good reason to go back to Kenya.

    Eagerly waiting for next installments!

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    Default Re: TR Kenya, January 2023 - Lake Turkana was not meant to be

    Kericho and Lake Naivasha

    It is too far from Baringo to Masai Mara for one day, so we have chosen the town of Kericho to be our intermediate night stop. We passed through Kericho 6 years ago, and we remembered it by the beautiful tea plantations that surround it. Kenya's tea ranks among the best in the world, and Kericho is the epicenter of its tea production.

    After leaving Lake Baringo early in the morning, we made a short diversion to another Rift valley lake, Lake Bogoria. We have hoped to see large flocks of flamingos there. However, when we came to the lake, we were informed that the original road along the lake shore is submerged and that we would need to take a new, but very rough road higher up the banks. Also, there are no more large flocks of flamingos on the lake, due to the changed chemistry of the water, caused by the flooding, and we would need to drive about 15 kilometers on that rough road to get to them. This wasn't to our liking, so we turned around.

    Soon after returning to the main road, another disaster struck our car. But this time it was entirely my fault. At county borders in Kenya, there are often traffic spike barriers across the road. Their purpose is not entirely clear, as most of the time, there is a free passage in the middle of the barrier. So, all you have to do is to reduce the speed and drive past the spikes through such a free passage. At one such spike barrier, I wanted to stop the car in the shade of a tree immediately after it. When we were past the spikes, I swerved sharply to the left. But the rear wheels did not pass the barrier yet, so the left rear wheel run directly over the spikes. Of course, it suffered large punctures. After mounting the spare wheel with the help of some locals, we stopped at the nearest fuel station to see, if they can patch the punctured tire. Indeed they put two patches from the inside of the tire, and it looked like it will hold. However, when we reached Kericho a few hours later, it turned out that the tire is still leaking. So basically we were without a spare tire, and we didn't want to go to Masai Mara without one. We needed to find a solution the next day in Kericho.

    We found our camping spot at Rays Plce Inn, about 2 km before Kericho. It's a Lodge inside a large tee plantation, which also offers camping. Despite the proximity of the main road, it is a very peaceful place.

    The next day we visited a professional tire center in town, and they estimated that it would not be possible to repair the tire with sufficiently large confidence that the patches will hold. So we decided to buy a new one. But when I contacted the rental company, they weren't very enthusiastic that we would buy a new tire of the same dimensions, but of a different brand than the remaining three. They suggested that it would be better if we could instead drive to lake Nivasha, and they would deliver the new tire there. We agreed as we intended to visit lake Naivasha anyway, just after the visit to Masai Mara.

    So we drove to Naivasha via Nakuru, and settled at Carnelly's Camp campsite on the southern shore of the lake. The camp is beautiful, and we were practically the only campers there. We were entertained by the troop of Black-and-white Colobus monkeys, many birds, and an odd hippo in the lake or on the shores. We also treated ourselves to tasty lunch at their restaurant.

    In the evening, the car from Nairobi indeed arrived, however, they didn't bring a new tire. They rather decided that they will take our car back to Nairobi, while we will continue our trip with the Hilux they just came with. We didn't object, and the next day we found out that this second car is in fact much better than the first one. If we would be assigned that one from the start, we would probably be able to stick to our original plan with Turkana and Aberdares.
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    24 hours in a day.... 24 beer in a case.... Coincidence?
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  24. #13
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    Default Re: TR Kenya, January 2023 - Lake Turkana was not meant to be

    Thank you for your reports! So good to see. I confess I haven't had time to read them properly yet, but I am looking forward to sitting down with a nice coffee to savor them.
    Blog of our African travels: stuckinlowgear.com

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    Default Re: TR Kenya, January 2023 - Lake Turkana was not meant to be

    Masai Mara

    We initially intended to approach Masai Mara from the north, through the Oloololo gate, but due to our detour to Naivasha, we had to get there on the most commonly used route through Narok. In Narok, we filled our tank to the brim and then breezed to the Sekenani entrance gate. The 90 km road from Narok to Sekenani Gate used to be a nightmare of the worst corrugated dirt road one can imagine, and required three hours of excruciating "African masaaaage". Now, it is a brand-new tarred road, requiring not much more than one-hour of comfortable driving.

    As we intended to stay in Mara Triangle, the western part of the reserve, which is managed by a different authority (Mara Conservancy), we got a 2-hour free pass through the eastern part of the reserve and then paid our entrance and camping fees at the Purungat Bridge gate. From the Purungat Bridge, we gave a lift to a ranger, who needed to get to Oloololo gate, which also happened to be our destination.

    Oloololo Campsite felt like a home from home. This was our third time camping there. It is positioned at the edge of the vast savannah plains, under the Oloololo escarpment, in the northernmost corner of the Masai Mara reserve. Campsite has a basic ablution block with running water and a small covered cooking area. A couple of old trees provide the much-needed shade in the heat of the day. Otherwise, it is completely unfenced, and wild animals can freely pass through it. Few zebras were grazing fearlessly right at the campsite every day.

    Roads and game tracks in the Mara Triangle are very well maintained, much better as in the eastern side of the reserve. And there are only two lodges in Mara triangle, so the density of tourists s much lower here. This made most of our wildlife sightings much more intimate.

    One of the mornings we treated ourselves to a balloon ride. We took off about half an hour before the sunset so that we could observe the magic of the sunrise from the sky. Vistas over the open savannah and the forests around the Masai Mara river in the soft morning light were breathtaking. Sharing the sky over one of the most beautiful corners of our world with the birds was unforgettable. The exciting landing, followed by a gourmet breakfast, and a guided game drive afterward, only added to this wonderful experience.
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    Last edited by ortelius; 2023/02/17 at 10:43 PM.
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  28. #15
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    Default Re: TR Kenya, January 2023 - Lake Turkana was not meant to be

    Thank you very much for sharing your recent Kenya adventures with us. I admire how you take all the problems thrown your way in stride and adjust very well to the new circumstances. What most people would call stress, you just shrug off with a smile. Well done!
    Iím also enjoying your beautiful pictures and I think your photography has been improving over the many trips you guys have taken.
    I was smiling when I saw the new aluminum table you were given by RTK rather than the rickety old and heavy wooden tables you and we were given. This is quite an improvement.
    Sadly though, where it counted the most -your car- RTK let you down with a badly serviced model. Been thereÖ had thatÖ
    TIA is just a bad excuse, I think.
    Thank you very much for sharing another amazing trip with us.
    best greetings from Katrin

    PS. Stan stated a while back that he is suffering from some health
    problems and is less active on this forum. We all hope he gets well quickly and will add his takes to the conversations. We all miss him.
    If life is a journey, be sure to take the scenic route!

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  30. #16
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    Default Re: TR Kenya, January 2023 - Lake Turkana was not meant to be

    Thanks, Katrin.

    Regarding my taking on the unforeseen problems on such a trip: well, to be honest, such a trip is usually full of stress for us, too. Many nights on a trip like this, I have problems sleeping, playing all possible scenarios (mostly bad ones) of the next few days in my head. And when the disaster strikes, for a few moments I often feel like "Do I really need this? This is supposed to be a vacation!". But luckily, so far we could easily find a solution for every problem that was thrown at us. And soon, such a misfortune transforms into a nice and entertaining memory, which we will remember forever.

    Maybe stress is not the right term. For us, such incidents are probably more of a huge dose of adrenaline. And I need some adrenaline on my holidays. I would probably die of boredom, if I would have to spend my holidays lying on some sandy beach, sipping cocktails, and doing nothing but reading a book.

    And I am exceptionally lucky that my wife shares the same sentiments. She is much more cautious than I am, and she is far from being an adrenaline junky like myself, but in critical situations, she stays calm and focused. And she has confidence in our ability to overcome the problem. She rather documents the problematic situation by taking photos (the last thing that usually comes to my mind on such an occurrence), than give up in despair.

    PS.
    Sadly, a week ago, Stan parked his Slow Donkey forever. https://www.4x4community.co.za/forum...P-Stan-Weakley
    Last edited by ortelius; 2023/02/18 at 11:26 AM.
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  32. #17
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    Default Re: TR Kenya, January 2023 - Lake Turkana was not meant to be

    Quote Originally Posted by ortelius View Post
    Thanks, Katrin.

    Regarding my taking on the unforeseen problems on such a trip: well, to be honest, such a trip is usually full of stress for us, too. Many nights on a trip like this, I have problems sleeping, playing all possible scenarios (mostly bad ones) of the next few days in my head. And when the disaster strikes, for a few moments I often feel like "Do I really need this? This is supposed to be a vacation!". But luckily, so far we could easily find a solution for every problem that was thrown at us. And soon, such a misfortune transforms into a nice and entertaining memory, which we will remember forever.

    Maybe stress is not the right term. For us, such incidents are probably more of a huge dose of adrenaline. And I need some adrenaline on my holidays. I would probably die of boredom, if I would have to spend my holidays lying on some sandy beach, sipping cocktails, and doing nothing but reading a book.

    And I am exceptionally lucky that my wife shares the same sentiments. She is much more cautious than I am, and she is far from being an adrenaline junky like myself, but in critical situations, she stays calm and focused. And she has confidence in our ability to overcome the problem. She rather documents the problematic situation by taking photos (the last thing that usually comes to my mind on such an occurrence), than give up in despair.

    PS.
    Sadly, a week ago, Stan parked his Slow Donkey forever. https://www.4x4community.co.za/forum...P-Stan-Weakley
    I was also just about to respond how well you both take all the bumps in the road in stride. You still do, but I confess that it is nice to hear that you are like the rest of us, a bit stressed in the moment. We agree though, incongruously it is these moments that make things interesting and keep us hooked. "Mandatory participation" of sorts, where you are integral to the outcome, entirely changes ones' experience and attitude. I think that is why when our friends have joined us for trip in Africa they always come in thinking they are there to see some elephants and go camping (that too) but find that the real drug is making your own way in this neck of the world is challenging and fun. Perhaps this is a bit vain and masochistic, but we like it all the same.

    Thank you for your reports! Some great photos. I particularly like the Oloololo at sunrise in the first post, the hippos from the air, the elephant and calf together at Ol Pejeta, the malachite (because they are one of my very favorites, and so hard to get a decent photo of), the second Oloololo sunrise and the lone balloon.

    I am torn about RTA. In one way they seem to be the only real option for rentals in most of E. Africa, but you and many others have had a lot of troubles that seem unnecessary. If feel they are so close to being very good. For what it's worth they had a new Hilux in Uganda that our friends rented and it was perfect.

    At the Castle Forest Lodge we met the owner of Ultra Red Outdoors, a Kenyan 4x4 equipment maker, and he mentioned Intu, which I think mostly imports 4x4 gear from South Africa and sells to the Kenyan market. But it does appear they are trying to do rentals as well, I hope they succeed. I follow them on Instagram and they seem to get up to some interesting trips. I wonder if anyone has experience with them: https://www.intu4x4.com/4x4-rentals/

    Thanks again for the reports, I need to sign off so I can go strategize on how/when the heck we can get back to Africa (and to work on the blog)
    Blog of our African travels: stuckinlowgear.com

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  34. #18
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    Default Re: TR Kenya, January 2023 - Lake Turkana was not meant to be

    Ortelius does write very well and is to be congratulated on not dwelling on the stressful moments. I find the most stressful moments are driving on main roads! The biggest danger in Africa is other road users.

    I had always assumed that driving a rental car would be less stressful as it was up to the hire company to get you out of a sticky position. And there is mostly always good phone signal in Kenya. And someone will always come along at some stage - or there will be a fundi nearby.

    I do think that Road Trip Africa (RTA) should be boycotted despite being one of the few rental companies with camping equipment. As I have said before, it is a tiny market in East Africa for fully-equipped self-drive 4x4s with camping equipment, but RTA seem to be unethical and unprofessional. I wonder if they even have the required licences for tourist rental vehicles? Did this vehicle have a sticker saying TSV on it? Standing for Tourist Service Vehicle. Like buses and matatus have PSV (Passenger Service Vehicle). There is a lot of red tape in Kenya. We have towed RTA vehicles out of the mud in the Mara in the past as they either didnít have the equipment or the drivers didnít have the experience or knowledge of what not to go into - or how to extract themselves once mired in the mud. No wonder their vehicles are in such poor state, but that doesnít excuse them hiring such a sub-standard vehicle to Ortelius.

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  36. #19
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    Default Re: TR Kenya, January 2023 - Lake Turkana was not meant to be

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    Ortelius does write very well and is to be congratulated on not dwelling on the stressful moments. I find the most stressful moments are driving on main roads! The biggest danger in Africa is other road users.

    I had always assumed that driving a rental car would be less stressful as it was up to the hire company to get you out of a sticky position. And there is mostly always good phone signal in Kenya. And someone will always come along at some stage - or there will be a fundi nearby.

    I do think that Road Trip Africa (RTA) should be boycotted despite being one of the few rental companies with camping equipment. As I have said before, it is a tiny market in East Africa for fully-equipped self-drive 4x4s with camping equipment, but RTA seem to be unethical and unprofessional. I wonder if they even have the required licences for tourist rental vehicles? Did this vehicle have a sticker saying TSV on it? Standing for Tourist Service Vehicle. Like buses and matatus have PSV (Passenger Service Vehicle). There is a lot of red tape in Kenya. We have towed RTA vehicles out of the mud in the Mara in the past as they either didnít have the equipment or the drivers didnít have the experience or knowledge of what not to go into - or how to extract themselves once mired in the mud. No wonder their vehicles are in such poor state, but that doesnít excuse them hiring such a sub-standard vehicle to Ortelius.
    In fact I think RTA should make Ortelius an "ambassador" for being such a loyal customer and be given future rentals for free!

    Do rental regular rental cars from Hertz, Avis and the like require those TSV stickers? You of course know more than I about these things, but I wonder if this is the difference between a more traditional safari vehicle and the RTA cars. They are a mystery, as they are clearly savvy enough to setup a multi country rental fleet, but then not so thorough on the day to day. So close!
    Blog of our African travels: stuckinlowgear.com

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  38. #20
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    Default Re: TR Kenya, January 2023 - Lake Turkana was not meant to be

    Quote Originally Posted by CalDriver View Post
    I was also just about to respond how well you both take all the bumps in the road in stride. You still do, but I confess that it is nice to hear that you are like the rest of us, a bit stressed in the moment. We agree though, incongruously it is these moments that make things interesting and keep us hooked. "Mandatory participation" of sorts, where you are integral to the outcome, entirely changes ones' experience and attitude. I think that is why when our friends have joined us for trip in Africa they always come in thinking they are there to see some elephants and go camping (that too) but find that the real drug is making your own way in this neck of the world is challenging and fun. Perhaps this is a bit vain and masochistic, but we like it all the same.
    Thank you, Andrew, to write things so eloquently. It's exactly how I would put it, but unfortunately, I'm often so clumsy with my English. But you really did hit the nail on the head with this description


    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    Ortelius does write very well and is to be congratulated on not dwelling on the stressful moments. I find the most stressful moments are driving on main roads! The biggest danger in Africa is other road users.

    I had always assumed that driving a rental car would be less stressful as it was up to the hire company to get you out of a sticky position. And there is mostly always good phone signal in Kenya. And someone will always come along at some stage - or there will be a fundi nearby.

    I do think that Road Trip Africa (RTA) should be boycotted despite being one of the few rental companies with camping equipment. As I have said before, it is a tiny market in East Africa for fully-equipped self-drive 4x4s with camping equipment, but RTA seem to be unethical and unprofessional. I wonder if they even have the required licences for tourist rental vehicles? Did this vehicle have a sticker saying TSV on it? Standing for Tourist Service Vehicle. Like buses and matatus have PSV (Passenger Service Vehicle). There is a lot of red tape in Kenya. We have towed RTA vehicles out of the mud in the Mara in the past as they either didnít have the equipment or the drivers didnít have the experience or knowledge of what not to go into - or how to extract themselves once mired in the mud. No wonder their vehicles are in such poor state, but that doesnít excuse them hiring such a sub-standard vehicle to Ortelius.
    WW, I totally understand your feelings and your reaction re RTA. However, you can call me a masochist, but I'm already planning our next trip to Turkana, most probably again with renting from RTA. I agree, they blew it totally with this rental, yet I'm still willing to give them a second chance. It shouldn't be the case (and there should be no excuse for this), but I think this time we were just a bit "unlucky". If we would be given the Hilux that we were driving at the end of our trip, we probably wouldn't be discussing their bad vehicles at all. We simply wouldn't know about it at all. Yes, I agree, a car in such a bad state as our first Hilux shouldn't be rented to clients at all. And that was totally unacceptable from their side. But still, they are the only ones (as far as I know) that are willing to rent a vehicle to go as far north as Lake Turkana. And if one has such a crazy wish to go there in a rented vehicle as I do, well, there isn't much choice. After our trip, I did write to them a detailed post-mortem report, as I always do to a rental company. And they responded very apologetically, knowing that they have done wrong with this rental. And they offered a fair rental compensation in cash, which I rather converted into a balance bonus for our next rental with them. Again, you can call me a masochist or a fool.

    Andrew mentioned a Kenyan rental company Intu. Just before our trip to Kenya, they were mentioned somewhere on this forum too, and I contacted them to get their pricing. For our future trips. They responded promptly, and also their website looks very professional. And their vehicle looks in top shape. Their prices are about 40% higher than those of RTA. This price difference certainly wouldn't be a deal breaker for me, as I much rather pay a higher price for a better service. However, a real deal breaker for me in this particular case is the fact that they don't allow their vehicles north of Archers Post.



    Regarding RTA's papers (TSV license): I can't say for sure, but I think they are perfectly covered legally. Why? When returning from Masai Mara, we were stopped by the police, as apparently we were speeding a few kilometers back. They didn't have a speed gun at the police checkpoint, but they had our car plate number and a "tip" that we were driving more than 100 km/h. We were brought into a police station and were told that we will need to attend a court hearing on Monday (this was Friday). A typical African scam, I thought to myself. I objected that this is simply impossible, as our Hilux can never produce 100 km/h. And how did they measure this at all? Then I remembered, that at one of the long and steep descends, I indeed overtake a slower vehicle, with one shiny civilian brand new Landcruiser following us. After the overtaking, I saw flashing blue lights from that following vehicle in my rear mirror, and I pulled to the side of the road, just in case they were police (of which I was not sure, as it was a normal civilian vehicle). However, they just passed by. In retrospect, what really happened was: on a long descent, overtaking a slower vehicle, I probably indeed went over 100 km/h (a speed limit at that part of the road). The policeman in the civilian vehicle behind me noticed this, and engaged the blue lights to stop me. But then, seeing me pulling over, he rather radioed my plate number and my speeding offense to the next police block, and simply passed by us. Why I am telling you this? Because at that police block, our documents (driver's license, passport) as well as car documents, were checked very thoroughly, and they would certainly notice a missing TSV license, as I told them the car was rented.

    And BTW, how that "typical African scam", with a threatened court attendance, ended? It turned out that the head of the police office (it was a she) was actually not fishing for a bribe. After I explained that we are just on a short vacation in Kenya and that we have a flight back home on Sunday, she let me go without hesitation, with just a "warning".

    And BTW, to RTA's defense, it has to be said that their 24/7 telephone support was impeccable. Whenever we phoned them, they always responded immediately and were always eager to "make a plan" to find a solution for the situation. Also, for the replacement battery, we didn't have to pay anything on the spot, as they covered all the expenses remotely (Mpesa in Kenya really makes wonders).

    Bottom line: yes, RTA blew it big time on this occasion, but they admit it and are apologetic about it. And I think I will give them another chance.
    Last edited by ortelius; 2023/02/18 at 09:07 PM.
    24 hours in a day.... 24 beer in a case.... Coincidence?
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