After a year of planning, dozens of visits to the garage and about a week of packing, it was D- Day. About a year ago we opted to visit Turkana again. In 2018 we visited Sibiloi and Loiyangalani, and after falling in love with the place, were told that the view on the other side of the lake would be even more fascinating. And just like that, the decision to do a big trip with a 56 car convoy to Eliye Springs with its sunny beach, palm trees and clear skies was born.
Our first destination was Naivasha where the fleet of 56 broke off into easily manageable groups. Thereafter, there were 284km ahead of us, taking a scenic route-less-travelled, to spend the night at the campsite at Rimoi National Park. The steep hills had a few brakes going “spongy” due to overheating discs and pads. More seasoned drivers with manual cars opted to engine brake while others locked their diffs and crawled down slowly. The sharp rocks took a few casualties, ripping through a few tyres. Seven hours later, we hit tarmac again around Marigat and headed to Rimoi. Not even the heavy rains could dampen our mood. We pitched our tents right next to the river at Rimoi Crocodile Camp and tucked in for the night, falling asleep to the soothing sound of the water.
Day two saw us drive through Kerio Valley headed to Marich Pass. The ascent was slow and scenic. The convoy snaked its way up the steep hills, closely watching their temperature gauges. We had two Range Rover classics- a 1974 and a 1984- five Landcruiser 80 series all more than 20 years old, and Land Rovers ranging from 1984 to 2014. Funny enough, the older vehicles seemed to behave as the drivers knew to go easy on the throttle especially considering that all the cars were fully loaded with a week’s supply of food, drinking water, clothes and clean fuel. Drivers with a heavy foot quickly learnt to ease off the throttle. Occasionally, we stopped at different viewpoints along the Kerio valley to get a bird’s eye view of what lay below.
In the distance, rain clouds gathered. We were indifferent as we were on the tarmac heading towards Iten. Typical of Bundu Rovers, we opted to take a detour and use some of the back routes seeing as we had made good time and would arrive at camp early. The views as we drove into West Pokot were rewarding.
We’re not ones to shy away from adventure, but logic had us opt to camp at a nearby school after we couldn’t cross one river that was only 10km from our would-be campsite. As the heavy downpour continued, we had to cook inside classrooms as others opted to sleep in their cars. We hit the sack a few minutes after midnight following a hearty communal meal, and those who couldn’t pitch their tents got help.
At the crack of dawn we sent out some scouts to find out if it was safe to cross the river. Unfortunately it still wasn’t, so we took a longer route that would meet up with the main road to Lodwar slightly past Marich Pass. The route was close to 124km through more lugers, river crossings, mad patches and thick bush. We got some forest rangers who accompanied us to the main road, 10 minutes out of the rendezvous spot in Kainuk. There, we were met by the county convoy that drove with us to Lodwar town, and eventually to Eliye Springs which would be our home for the next three nights. It was a pleasant evening; the first warm night since we left Nairobi.
Day four was set aside to drive to Lokitaung through Kalokol, the main fishing village on this side of the lake. We were up at the crack of dawn to watch the sunrise, then set off through the sand dunes, rocky cliffs and meandering desert tracks as we headed to the “cradle of mankind.” When we got there, Turkana Boy was a sight for sore eyes.
The fifth day was a chance to check out the sand dunes in Napeget and the “pyramids of Turkana.” To get there, we used the Eliye Springs-Kalokol Road. One would easily mistake the natural Wadach pyramids for their bigger brothers in Sudan and Egypt. Interestingly, one is made of soil while the other is made of sand. Photos of the sand dunes could easily be mistaken for those in Dubai or Egypt. Beautiful and sun kissed, they stretched as far as the eye could see. We set back to camp, having filled our small cups of adventure to the brim.
That evening we had a shindig, a “soul music” night on the beach that we called “Disco Vumbi.” We sat by the beach after dinner and watched the stars above until we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore.
Day six was for resting. During the day, we had highs of up to 44 degrees with 30% humidity. In the evenings, things settled to temperatures of around 27 to 30 degrees. We found a spot in the shade of palm trees right next to the lake where the water was slowly reclaiming the land. Every so often, steaks would hit the grills. The water was tepid, the drinks well chilled and the company was hilarious. Sometimes a siesta gave way to a swim. That evening, the county government hosted us for a cocktail party. We had to dress up in Turkana traditional attire, and word had spread in the nearby village so the women came decked in all sorts of intricate beaded ornaments, headgear and fabric. The county was grateful to have us visit in such numbers, the biggest to ever drive in. The final day, our destination was Saiwa Swamp and eventually back to Nairobi 1980Km later.
Thanks to Bundu Rovers and the Turkana County government for making this trip possible.