A quick few Turkana notes:

We travelled this in December 2010.

For the full story of our travels, youíre welcome to have a look at the Blog on www.pictureafrica.org or http://africapicture.blogspot.com/. The purpose of this thread is to mention the places we stayed along the route past Lake Turkana, how much we paid and how we found it. Iíll also mention the annoyances of the area to hopefully prepare future travellers a little better.

Admin and process:
Coming from the south you need to stamp your passport and Carnet in Nairobi. Ask Chris at JJís about where to get that all done. The process is recognised and all official. Maralal is your last part of relative civilization, so stock up on fuel and water there. They still have Safaricom phone signal. Be prepared for blistering heat and high winds that blow 24 hours a day. We had the luxury of air-conditioning in the car and used it from 8am until we stopped at our camp sites. In Illiret you need to see Charles, the chief of police. He has to record your passport no in a register. He does not have an immigration stamp! In Ethiopia you need to detour to Omorate to get stamped into the country. You can not get a visa there! You should have done that from Nairobi already. At the time of writing the only way was to send your passport to your country of residence and have an agency get the visa for you. There is also no customs in Omorate, so you can not get your carnet stamped there. At the time of writing we were in Addis after two weeks in the country with no intention of stamping the Carnet. There is a camp site in Omorate if you run out of time, but itís seemed pretty basic and grubby. The route is pretty remote, but with a reliable vehicle in good condition and enough water I would not hesitate to do it solo. With a motorbike or bicycle I think youíll have a seriously hard time on the rocks and in the sand and with a vehicle bigger than a Land Cruiser/Land Rover I also think you might have issues in the deep sand and narrow tracks. Between the two vehicles that we had we had one puncture on the whole route.

Fuel food and water:
Bizarrely enough we found that fuel was about 10% more expensive in Nairobi than outside. For food stores we stocked up in Nairobi, but the route we travelled and the last major Nakumat Supermarket and fresh fruit and vegetable market in Nanyuki. Fuel was also readily available and cheaper there. The other route will take you up the lakes of the Rift Valley in which case I would guess that Nakuru would be the last of the big towns. We filled our water tank in Nairobi as well. Bogoria Spa had clean water, so you could fill up there. The two routes that we identified from Nairobi merged at Maralal where we met up with our travelling companions and found reliable fuel and water supply. Loiyangalani had fresh spring water and we refilled there. I did not ask about fuel. From Maralal to Jinka, your first reliable fuel stop in Ethiopia was about 800km total.

Road conditions:
Nanyuki to Maralal:
Typical bush tracks for most of the way. They wind through private game ranches and offers spectacular landscape views and plenty of wildlife... The last hour and a half was typical Kenya neglected gravel roads full of pot holes and evidence of people getting stuck in the rainy season. We took a total of 6.5 hours to drive 205km from Nanyuki to Maralal. Our companions drove from Robertís Camp by Lake Baringo to Maralal in a similar time.

Maralal to South Horr:
Hallo rocks! From Maralal you climb over a high mountain and lava flows and big rocks before descending into a sandy valley far below. It is slow going, but not too difficult and the views are spectacular! In the valley you can speed up on the sandy bush track. Toyota Corollas still drive this route. 143km took us 7.5 hours though.

South Horr to Loiyangalani:
The day starts with a sandy track which can be bouncy, but is mostly smooth. The sand is not deep and hardly challenging, but you canít expect to beat land speed records. That soon changes into lava flows and boulder fields your speed will decrease dramatically. The sharp rocks eventually give way to tennis ball sized round and slippery ball bearing like rocks and that is about the time youíll get the first glimpse of the Jade Sea. Not something you can ever be prepared for. The rocky track drops to the lake shore and continues along it to the oasis like Loiyangalani where safe camping and fresh water is available. 90km took us 6 hours, but we did stop for an hour to help a guy with a broken Diff.

Loiyangalani to Sibiloy NP gate.
From the time that you leave the oasis you can expect sandy tracks. Again, apart from a few dry river crossings, the sand is not deep and hardly challenging. We did use 4 wheel drive, but only really needed it two or three times. We did not drive on a road that was on any maps either. We followed the C77 north to N2 51.294 E36 42.214 and veered left. The tracks were quite clear and easy to follow. You basically keep the lake on your left and head north. At N3 17.398 E36 16.587 you need to turn right again. We carried on straight and ended in a quite aggressive village, Moite, with a totally impassable river at the end of it. We found the right road by backtracking to that point and headed through the hills. Some parts were very rocky but nothing rubber destroying. At N3 31.027 E36 24.933 you will find the main road from North Horr again and turn left towards the park gate. That is mostly sandy and easy to drive as well. Here you will start to see people and livestock again. 161km took us 8 hours and was horrifically windy.

Sibiloy NP gate to Illiret:
That was where things became interesting. The river crossings are dry but have very fine and very deep sand. You should not stop in the middle of them. A bit of savvy and a little momentum sort you sight out though but I would hate to try it on a bike or bicycle. We detoured to a Petrified Forest at N3 41.286 E36 20.185 which was good and the Koobi For a camp and research station at N3 56.872 E36 11.183 which was a waste of time. At N3 57.108 E36 11.847 we found the junction to a track that leads north along the lake, but be very aware! If conditions are even slightly damp you will not make it! Asking at the research station is a good idea. At N4 13.335 E36 15.397 you will exit the park (There is gate) and join the main Illiret North Horr road which is compacted sand and in good condition. 112km took us 6 hours and the wind was still relentless and never ending.

Illiret to Turmi in Ethiopia.
Probably the hardest part of the journey. From the Illiret police station you get into very deep and sticky sand. The tracks change every season, so follow the road most travelled rather than the GPS. One such example was where we ended in the middle of a cull de sac inside a village at N4 24.003 E36 13.315 where we should have turned right to avoid the houses. The tracks are sometimes not so clear and the language barrier is very prominent, so asking for directions is not always possible. However, your gps will show the dominant direction you need to go in, so use a little common sense and youíll be fine. There are some very serious dry river bed crossings and deep sandy holes and we definitely needed 4 wheel drive most of the way. We also got stopped by a boom across the road where a policeman tried to convince us that we needed an armed escort to Omorate. Refuse in a friendly manner for long enough and heíll get the message. At N4 44.901 E36 10.453 you will meet the main Turmi/Omorate road which is wide compacted gravel. Itís a little corrugated but 60km/h felt comfortable to us. Remember that you need to drive on the right side of the road in Ethiopia. After completing immigration (No customs) in Omorate you need to backtrack the 18km and head to Turmi where you can find accommodation and perhaps change some $ for Birr at a reasonable rate. The 158km, including immigration stop took us 6 hours.


Kogoni Camp (N0 01.253 E37 05.458)
We met up with a friend in Nanyuki and his company rented a block of rooms in the lodge. We asked the owner about camping which was possible at Ksh 500 ($6) per person. There were no facilities for camping, but you could use the toilets in the really nice restaurant. We ended up staying in a room rented by our friendís company, so I donít know the rate. We inspected the Sportsmanís Arms Hotel and the Nanyuki River camp and neither of them was nice at all. A little further south out of town the Mt Kenya Leisure Lodge and Camping (T4A S0 10.885 E37 05.400) was recommended to us, but we did not stay there.

El Kharama Ranch (T4A N0 12.366 E36 54.244)
RightÖ they try very hard to discourage camping and charge $100 for their campsite. I think that is for the whole site, so if the group is sizeable it may be worth it. It also includes a night watchman. They also have Bandaís on the river for Ksh 4 500 ($55) per person. We fortunately arrived when they were closed and managed to negotiate a very small fee for abusing their hospitality. The place was really nice and offered the cheapest beds in the area, but hardly catered for the independent traveller. It only took an hour to drive there from Nanyuki, so youíd be better off staying in town for cheaper and leaving an hour earlier.

Maralal Safari Lodge (T4A N1 04.804 E36 41.322)
The famous Yare Camel Club is no moreÖ. Rumour has it that they did not pay their taxes and that the town council closed them down. The only other camping we could find was at the Safari Lodge. They charged us Ksh 500 ($6) per couple. They also donít really have a camp site, but you can park by the swimming pool, use the toilets at reception and jumps in the cold water if you feel the need to get clean.

Lekuka Campsite (T4A N2 05.760 E36 54.926)
It was described as having basic facilities and that was just what it had. There was a simple shower in a tin shed and a hole in the ground with a concrete floor in the next field. It all worked and was clean though. We paid Ksh 300 per tent ($3.60) for the night. The drunk owner wanted to charge us more for a guard but we refused. Privacy is NOT possible here as the camp site is not fenced and you will be the most interesting show in town. It is perfectly safe though. As we drove out the next morning we saw another sigh for another camp site around N2 06.275 E36 55.359 which would have been worth investigating. We were the first guest in 11 months to camp there.

Palm Shade Camp (T4A N2 45.385 E36 43.258)
Absolutely fantastic oasis in a very harsh area. We parked right on a thick grassy lawn in the shade of some huge trees. The fee was $12 per couple but the facilities were good. Clean long drop toilets and mineral water showers. You can drink straight from the taps and fill your tanks. The owner is a fantastic man and the beer is cheap! Beware of people offering to sell you fish or bread. Itís a scam to get money out of you and disappear with it. It was also insanely windy when we were there. Parking as far away from the palm trees as possible is the best way to get some sleep.

Sibiloy NP Korso gate (N3 39.413 E36 18.922)
OK, Park fees are $20 per person and they charge another $15 per person for camping. We somehow convinced the gate guard to let us camp at the gate (Not official camp site) for no charge. There is water tank and hole in the ground for a toilet and we managed to sneak our vehicles in behind the buildings for some shelter from the insane wind that never stopped. There was no obvious safe place to bush camp close by, but on the road between Moite and joining the main North Horr road you would be able to.

Illiret Catholic Mission (N4 18.738 E36 13.651)
Step one as you get into town is to meet Charles, the very impressive, friendly and nice police chief. You can free camp at the police station with no facilities or camp at the Catholic Mission for Ksh 500 ($6) per couple. Parking was on the top of a hill overlooking the traditional and poor community village and the lake. Once again, you will be the hottest news in town, so donít expect to be left alone. The mission boasted showers and flush toilets and had a lounge we hid in until the sun went down. The wind was relentless but completely died down once it was dark and the children also left after sunset. Robert, the manager came to socialize and told us long sad stories about poor children with no money. When we paid the agreed fee the next morning he was visibly upset.

Buske Lodge and Camping (T4A N4 58.384 E36 30.952)
Mango camp was recommended to us, but after establishing that we did not have local currency they wanted to charge us $50. Yeh right! We eventually stayed at Buske, which was the pick of the lot as far as accommodation is concerned. It was typical car park camping but we had access to communal cold showers and nice clean toilets. The price was $15 per couple. The Omo Valley has turned into a bustling tourist trap so donít be alarmed to find yourself in the middle of a sea of 80 series Land Cruisers with Farenji (Mzungu) packed inside. Entering Ethiopia without local currency was a great oversight, but apart from in Nairobi we had no chance to change currency.

Other places that had been recommended and where we did not stay:
Bushcamp 1: N1 34.267 E36 43.210
Bushcamp Rutters: N1 44.699 E36 52.258
Kurungu Camp: Approximate N2 09.826 E36 54.411
Bushcamp 2: N3 11.750 E36 47.302

If I had to do it all again:
We ran out of time on our visas so had to exit the country fairly quickly. If time was no issue I would have considered staying more inland and exploring more. The best part of the lake is south of Loiyangalani and that is also the part without the wind. Paying $20 per person to enter the Sibiloy National Park is ridiculous and I would highly recommend skipping that. The man who could advise on an alternative route is the owner of Shady Palms or if youíre coming from the north, ask Charles the policeman at Illiret.

Is it all worth it?
I would drive that route twenty times over rather than braving the Moyale Marsibit hell once. The tracks are mostly clear and smooth and the wear and tear on your vehicle will be minimal. The scenery is fantastically breath taking and that first glimpse of the lake is a truly life changing experience. From a security point of view we had no issues at all. Charles did say that in February/March there are usually some clashed between tribes because of stock theft. I think the route will be interesting, but not impassable in the wet season. You would need to get local advice on which tracks to use. If any overlander tells you long stories about a big river that you can not cross, they probably mean the Omo River, which you will only need to cross if you take the route on the western side of Lake Turkana.